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Finding common ground: during summer break through life skills, books and art

Clint Free had a vision for what community ministry would look like in Troy.

Today, that vision is reality on Common Ground.

Four days a week during summer vacation, young boys come together at a common place, where it matters not what their backgrounds are, or the color of their skin.

“Common Ground Troy is a non-profit community ministry with the mission of breaking the cycles of economic stress that our participants might be experiencing,” said Free, executive director. “At Common Ground, our mission is to empower, equip and encourage these young people through gospel-centered relationships. Here, we are on Common Ground. Everyone is welcome and everyone belongs.”

Free is originally from Luverne. He and his wife, Alyssa, are alumni of Troy University. For four years, he worked with Trinity Family Ministries of Mobile, serving an under-privileged neighborhood outside Pritchard. He interned with Common Ground Montgomery and was a mission’s partner with First Baptist Church of Troy for three years and visited the church’s Global Impact Celebration. It was through those visits that Free said he was drawn back to the community.

“Troy has a lot of resources but there was a lack of opportunity for underprivileged families,” he said. “It was important to bring those resources to the people, to a common ground, instead of them having to go out and find them.

Common Ground meets at the First Baptist Troy Family Life Center and brings the resources to its participants that are referred to the program by teachers and, at times, social media. There is a limit of 25 participants, based on staffing and funding.

The program includes life skills, math, reading, enrichment, financial literacy and art under the leadership of two teachers of the Troy City Schools.

“We also have speakers who come in to talk with our participants about different topics,” Free said. “The art class is popular with all our participants. It allows them to be expressive in a fun and positive way.”

Jennifer Lindsey, who teaches the art class at Art by the Tracks, said, too, that the art opportunity opens a new and different avenue of expression.

“The boys really enjoy the art class,” she said. “They are attentive and appreciative of the opportunity to do something different and they enjoy the challenges that art presents.”

Lindsey said the students readily tap into the opportunities to express themselves creatively.

At this time, they are in the process of completing mosaics they “imagined” and created.

“Our hopes are to display their artwork, award ribbons and invite the community to view their art,” Lindsey said. “We might decide to sell some of the collaborative pieces or donate them. But, we are really looking forward to showing their work to their parents, friends and the community.”

The Common Ground art class is supported, in part, by a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

Free said it truly takes a village to raise a child and it’s amazing to see that played out, day to day.