SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Chuck Taylor says he has lived through it and nearly died in the streets of Cedar Grove.
“You see it on TV, but you’ve got to live here to see what’s going on,” he starts out, describing a couple near-death experiences in his younger years.
“Man, I don’t know where to start. I got hit by a car,” Taylor says.
“Me and a friend were walking up the street one day and a gentleman started firing gunshots at us.”
Neither Taylor nor his friend were hit.
But beyond the bullets, Taylor’s life still was a daily struggle.
Until the one day that he and a friend walked the streets of Cedar Grove to Common Ground Community for a meal.
“It was a tough time at my Dad’s house with no lights, no water. Well, we were stealing water,” Taylor remembers.
Common Ground has been serving meals and providing groceries, clothing and youth and adult ministries the past 30 years.
The program started by Grace Community United Methodist Church of Shreveport now is supported by various churches and organizations from throughout the city.
“It’s really important for the group that started this ministry to build relationships with people,” explains Sarah Shoup, operations director at Common Ground Community.
“It wasn’t just about giving out food. It was about building relationships and building a community together.”
Shoup says they do that by allowing neighbors in need to shop for their groceries in the Common Ground pantry with the help of a personal shopper.
“They get to have a conversation with someone. It’s just not transactional.”
And it allows neighbors to select exactly what they need to help eliminate waste.
“I tell my wife every day we live in Cedar Grove, but we are not in Cedar Grove,” Taylor notes.
They choose to live in the neighborhood while he now volunteers his services as a mentor and youth basketball coach.
It’s truly a round trip through the Cedar Grove neighborhood for Taylor, who once came to Common Ground for help.
“It was God, it was God,” a tearful Taylor says when asked how he made it from the streets to helping others get off the streets.
“I just know had it not been for him coming around here, getting a meal and him being hungry physically, it turned into him being fed spiritually, emotionally and physically,” says Taylor’s sister Sheira Foster.
Foster now works as a cook in the Common Ground kitchen.
And it’s been full circle for Shoup, whose father and mother, John and Marie Williams, used to pastor Cedar Grove United Methodist Church, which used to exist in the very building where Common Ground Community is today.
“I had no idea I’d be back here. The minute I walked through the doors of Common Ground, I knew this was a place I was called to be.”
If you would like to donate or volunteer time with Common Ground Community, call (318) 227-7816 or click here.