Community Advocate Christal Reynolds’s Ambition to Create Change Started at Home

CHRISTAL REYNOLDS | February 24, 2018

Community Advocate Christal Reynolds’s parents would often take in strangers who needed a warm place to sleep and a hand up. Decades later, the example her parents set guides her work in Thomasville Heights. 

Community Advocate Christal Reynolds assists Thomasville Heights residents at the January 2017 Turn Up & Turn Out event.

Have you ever said, “I’ll never be like my parents?” I have.

As a little girl, I watched my parents open our home to women that were in need of housing and a hand up. I observed their interactions with folks in the community that were in crisis or just needed a listening ear. I’d often call them “help-aholics.”  Little did I know that their passion for serving and assisting others in need would translate to my life.

My dad was a healthcare worker who dealt with patients fighting addiction. My mom is a nurse; she has cared for everyone from the terminally ill to the elderly to pediatric patients. Beyond that, she led the Mission Society at our local church. I never heard them complain about their long hours or the emotional and physical stress they endured daily. Despite their busy schedules, they managed to give their time to support many people–with their presence, time, money, and talents. Watching their everyday altruism, I learned to give with no strings attached.

Recently, I began interviewing my mom and dad about their childhood. My mom grew up in a household with a single mom and several other children. It was a painful time. She would often have to fill in for my grandmother at work when she’d go missing. She doesn’t have much recollection of home-cooked meals, but she does remember their landlord threatening eviction. But next to these painful memories are recollections of neighbors and family members coming together to provide for my mom and her siblings. 

When my mom was younger, she worked in the National Guard. When I put my boots on in the morning, I think about her. I move in step as I fight against injustice. 

When people ask me why I do this work, I tell them I would rather do something that complain about it. 

My dad was raised by two parents, but his father died when he was young. Afterwards, his mom cared for her children as best she could. Although he felt loved, there was never much affection. My dad still inherited his father’s charisma and an undying passion for connecting with others. 

I distinctly remember the first time I realized that a stranger was moving into our home. She was probably in her early twenties, and I didn’t know much about her. Even at that age, I knew not to ask “why” or “for how long.” After all, I wasn’t paying the bills. But I quickly saw a genuine concern for the well-being of our guests and a high level of respect for my parents and for us. On lady, in particular, became like a sister to us. 

Working as a community advocate for Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation in Thomasville Heights brings me face-to-face with the ills of society, but it also affords me the opportunity to participate in transformative change. Every client, parent and community member is considered a sister or brother. When it comes to connecting clients to much-needed resources, no stone is left unturned. When people ask me why I do this work, I tell them I would rather do something about the injustice I see daily than complain about it. 

When my mom was younger, she worked in the National Guard. When I put my boots on in the morning, I think about her. I move in step as I fight against injustice. 

Walking the halls of Thomasville Heights Elementary School and the property of Forest Cove Apartments, I am faced with opportunities to help. Do I walk past the kid sitting in the hallway? No. We have a conversation. Do I settle for phone conversations with clients? No. I show up at their doorstep to check on their well-being and housing situation. Do I respond to the teacher that needs a moment to vent about their housing situation? Yes.

All because I do want to be like my parents–ready and willing to make a difference in the world. 

Each of our staff members has a story to tell. Want to read more like this? Check out other stories about what led staff members to AVLF. 

Christal Reynolds

Community Advocate

Check out more from this author. 

Christal embraces the saying “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” She is a Community Advocate with AVLF’s Standing with Our Neighbors program, based primarily in the Thomasville Heights neighborhood in Atlanta.

Prior to this role, Christal served as the Strategies Manager for Communities In Schools of Georgia, a dropout prevention organization.