Local News Archive
Print Issue: September 6, 1973
St. Francis Conference
By Michael Motes
When Joe Murphy wrote his personal check for $90 in October 1970 to pay one months rent on a run-down eatery in the Reynoldstown section of Atlanta his hopes were high.
He had launched a one-man organization known as the St. Francis Conference aimed to help the residents of the Reynoldstown, Cabbagetown and Grant Park areas of the city.
The first step was to open a thrift shop to aid the local poor in finding suitable clothing and household items. The diner site proved to be a desirable location and after removing counters, booths and restaurant equipment the doors opened at 906 Wylie Street and the first of the conferences thrift shops went into business.
That became the only thrift shop in the area and about the only one in town that could help those with such limited means, recalls Murphy.
One full-time employee was hired and Murphy helped man the operation on Saturday.
In October 1970, the house next door to the shop became vacant and Murphy, seeing an opportunity to help remedy the housing shortage in the Reynoldstown area, began negotiations for the conference to purchase the property.
After the property was obtained, the dilapidated house remained vacant for almost a year. There was no heating in the house and it could no longer just sit and give way to the ravages of time.
A decision had to be made whether to tear down the house and build anew on the property or remodel the existing structure.
We discovered a lot about city housing codes, said Murphy. We could not legally build a new structure in the neighborhood, so we had to say we were in the process of remodeling.
The remodeling involved the actual construction of a new house. First the back section of the house was torn down and rebuilt, then the front portion.
The entire project helped benefit the residents of the area, says Murphy. Local brick masons, painters and carpenters were used, so the money went back to the neighborhood.
The project evidently generated a spark of pride throughout the neighborhood. During the entire time the work was in progress, none of the building material was removed from the site.
The store might be broken into periodically, but none of the construction material was taken from the site not even one nail, Murphy beamed.
The finished project is a comfortable, three-bedroom brick house that has become home to Mrs. Clara Adams and her son. Mrs. Adams operates one of the conferences thrift shops.
And thats another good part of the groups interesting story. Today the conference operates three shops and two warehouses store surplus items.
The shops are located at 562 Boulevard, 487 Edgewood Avenue and 1190 Memorial Drive. The original store at 906 Wylie now serves as a warehouse. The shops are open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
One of Murphys chief aides since the beginning of the St. Francis Conference has been Joe Laudicina who supervised the groups first housing project and serves as operations manager of the conference.
The conference comprises Laudicina and his wife, Alvin Arnold and Father Matt Kemp, all of Our Lady of Lourdes parish, and Murphy, who attends Christ the King.
Father Raphael McDonald, O.F.M., director of the resettlement division of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, recalls a long and happy friendship with Murphy.
Over the years the Franciscan priest has received much help from the St. Francis Conference in his work with Cuban and Ugandan refugees.
Joe has helped us many times by providing clothing and household items for refugees, Father recalls.
Their friendship goes back to 1963 when Father McDonald arrived in Atlanta. At that time Murphy had formed a group to aid Cuban refugees.
Today Murphy is looking ahead to the conferences next housing project, still seeking items for the thrift shops, working with the conferences 10 full-time employees and still coming to Father McDonalds aid when items are needed for refugees.