The Coca-Cola Company has donated its old bottling plant on Pine Ave. to Sherwood Baptist Church. The 60,000 square foot building, valued at $590,000, had been on the market for the past two years. Sherwood's Facebook page says the church plans to use the facility as an outreach center.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Vacant for about five years, the Coca Cola bottling plant on Pine Avenue will soon be used to benefit the community and build a stronger local economy, said Brett Kirkland, director of local missions at Sherwood Baptist Church.
The structure, which Kirkland believes was built in 1940, was donated by Coca Cola Consolidated. According to company sources, CCC is the nation's largest Coca Cola bottling company.
Kirkland, a member of Sherwood for five years, has been tapped to head the ministry project, which so far has neither a name nor an estimated completion date. Kirkland says he hopes the first of the several ministries envisioned for the site can begin this fall.
Kirkland, during a speech Monday to members of the Dougherty Kiwanis Club, said the project's main target of ministry lies between the 60,000-square-foot Coke building and Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. The area was selected for the lower economic status of its residents and its proximity to the new ministry building.
In order to be effective, the new ministry, once implemented, would be "biblically-based," with a "holistic approach," Kirkland said, emphasizing that similar ministries elsewhere have failed because of their over-reliance on religious points of view.
"That approach doesn't work," Kirkland said, "and it's turned a lot of people off to the church. The approach that does work is meeting immediate needs -- recognizable needs, then earning the right to speak truth in people's lives. You'd rather people love you than beat you over the head with a Bible."
According to Kirkland, the Sherwood project will incorporate primary "drawing points" such as a soup or lunch kitchen, after-school tutoring, adult education, job training, health and recreation programs and "adopt a block," a concept where a city block within the Sherwood ministry is "adopted" and cared for by an individual church or other organization.
"Whatever the needs of your block, go do it," Kirkland said. "Build relationships. Demonstrate love to a group of people who sometimes don't feel much love from their community."
Kirkland said the Albany Housing Authority is currently considering the demolition of government housing in Sherwood's target area and rebuilding as mixed income housing, which according to Kirkland, has been more effective nationwide in decentralizing local poverty.
To help provide needed medical care, Kirkland believes Sherwood will be able to partner with Phoebe Putney Hospital and Mt. Zion Church, which he says is connected with the Samaritan Clinic.
"Sherwood cannot fix the ills in our community working by itself, but the Christian community working together can make a huge impact and change the culture here," Kirkland said.
"Can you imagine the area between Phoebe and the Coke plant being completely revitalized? A totally different living environment. A totally different economic environment. How much of a positive impact would it have on Albany?"