East Lake Rising

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“What a day in East Lake.

The neighborhood known best to most of the world as the home of The Tour Championship at East Lake and the legendary Bobby Jones is so much more. The Sanctuary team was fortunate enough to be hosted by one of the pioneers of modern day East Lake, Charlie Harrison. Harrison- a golfing legend in his own right– has been instrumental in the redevelopment of East Lake, through both the East Lake Foundation, as well as The First Tee Program.

Drew Charter School: the first of its kind in Atlanta. A special, inspiring place.

We spent the morning learning about the work of the foundation, and the progress that’s been made in a neighborhood that not long ago was considered by many to be hopeless. Through the work of the East Lake Foundation, and the phenomenal Drew Charter School, the neighborhood has become a model for change that is being replicated across the country. Not familiar with the story? It’s nothing short of remarkable…

East Lake, in 1995:

  • There were 650 dilapidated, dangerous public housing apartment units.
  • The crime rate was 18 times higher than the national average.
  • The employment rate was only 13.5% and only 4% earned incomes over the poverty line.
  • 59% of adults relied on welfare.
  • Only 5% of the fifth graders at the local elementary school were able to meet or exceed state standards for math.
  • Fewer than a third of the students in the neighborhood graduated from high school.

East Lake, today:

  • The Villages of East Lake is a beautiful and thriving, mixed-income community.
  • Violent crime has been reduced by 95%.
  • All adults receiving government housing assistance are working or in job training.
  • Only 5% of adults rely on welfare.
  • 88% of Drew Charter School students meet or exceed state standards for reading and 74% meet or exceed state standards for math.
  • 100% of Drew alumni attending Atlanta area high schools are on course to graduate.

After touring the beautiful East Lake YMCA (perhaps the first time anyone has used the words “”beautiful”” and “”YMCA”” in the same sentence since a Village People show back in the day…) and the Charter School, we had lunch at the hallowed grounds of East Lake Country Club. Known globally as one of the shrines of golf, many Atlantans never get to see the inside of the Neel Reid designed club house. It’s not often that an everyday schlep like myself gets nosh on a club sandwich and hang out with Bobby Jones’ trophies up close. Our gracious host, Charlie Harrison, is the unofficial historian of both the club as well as the area, and gave us an insider’s history that we won’t soon forget.

After lunch, Charlie took a group of us over to Meadow Nook, his personal residence and the second oldest home in Atlanta. Built by Colonel Robert A. Alston in 1856, the home was a gift to his bride, and was occupied during the Civil War. Check out the rifle butt marks on the staircase handrail:Overall, I walked away from my day in East Lake inspired and optimistic about the future. It’s become easy to be a pessimist these days. We all read the paper or watch the news (I think), and the silver linings always seem few and far between. If you’re looking to be inspired, check out East Lake. Or at the very least, click here and watch a video or two about its revival. It’s an absolutely fantastic neighborhood with an equally compelling story.

Interested in living in East Lake? Charlie’s renovation company, Meadow Nook, has an impeccable renovation right across the street from the Club. The four bedroom, two-story bungalow is large enough to sleep your favorite golfers during Championship week (imagine Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh sitting at the granite breakfast bar prior to walking across to tee off). Check it out:

Photos: Drew (UGA Alumni Site), East Lake (East Lake CC Site), Handrail (Meadownook Properties). Facts courtesy of the East Lake Foundation

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