Update on the Penny Hill and Mercy


June 2016 Celebrating every little success

It has been a while since I updated you but I assure you that Penny’s influence has not diminished. I told you about Mercy Community Church ( https://mercyatl.org/ — that is a church primarily of homeless folks in our neighborhood that Penny and I have supported for years. They hoped to purchase the large boarding house of the Open Door Community two blocks from our home, but Mercy did not have the winning bid. This put us back to ground zero to find a property.

We have located a possibility at 101 Boulevard (https://www.bing.com/maps?FORM=HDRSC4 ) . This is a more manageable church building near the King Center. So the location is ideal. It is more cost effective than other comparable properties though it will require substantial renovation. Mercy is not in a rush however and is waiting on its primary benefactor to get back to Atlanta as she does not live in Atlanta and is caring for a new grandchild in Europe.

penny-hill-and-mercySo, please remain in prayer and spread the word. In the near future we hope to be raising support from churches, individuals and community partners to acquire and renovate this old church building known as the “City on the Hill Church” to become the “City on Penny Hill.” (Our friends and Presbyterian churches so far have pledged $120,000 ) This will become a hub for spiritual nurture of homeless neighbors as well as encouraging a new generation of justice workers to enhance the well-being of our city. We will need prayers, help from structural engineers, architects, contractors, and worker-bees to help in all sorts of ways.

So, pray that Penny’s continued influence will spur greater good and justice to be done for our city.

With God’s continued blessings,




Lord, Have Mercy!

Some of you have asked me what is going on since Mercy Community Church was not the winning bid for buying the Open Door Community property on Ponce de Leon Ave. We are still searching for a property to create a site that will be named “Penny Hill,” but it will take time, patience and prayers.

Here is a quick update to keep you all informed.

  1. Thanks to your generosity we amounted pledges totaling over $113,000(I only put word out through this blog so almost all of this response is through you–I will expand the request for support when more specific details are set). Actual checks and contributions are not needed yet. Wait until we find and have a contract on a new property.
  2. Our real estate agent is searching for properties between Virginia Highlands and downtown Atlanta which is the area where Mercy members live. Some potential properties have been identified; however, it will take time to consider each property and decide how it might be configured for Mercy and our other collaborator’s needs. Once a property is decided upon, we will inform all our supporters.
  3. Since you all know Penny, but don’t really know Mercy, here is a site that you can find the formal proposal for the “Penny Hill” ministry as well as a Lenten Devotional from Mercy that you might use. (https://mercyatl.org/). Th2017 Lenten Devotional-covere website can help acquaint you with the incredible ministry of this unusual church in the city. It represents the embodiment of Penny’s desire to love and inspire love in our city and to raise up the greater call for justice for all in our midst.

I look forward to working with Mercy and establishing a lasting legacy from Penny. Her spirit was always contagious, and I know her passion is still inspiring all of us. So, during this Lenten season, I hope you will patiently wait and pray with hope that Christ will stir up good and lasting work from our efforts.

Live, Love, Laugh–today!




Mercy is in God’s Hands

Last week the Presbytery committee met and unanimously chose a different bid than Mercy’s for buying the Open Door property. Pastors Maggie and Chad with Mercy Community Church and their church members are disappointed as they had such a clear vision for continuing the legacy of the Open Door to the homeless in our neighborhood.

However, I have reminded Maggie and Chad that Mercy’s future is in God’s hands. And this whole process has spurred so much  excitement and created a whole new base of support. This will launch Mercy into a new future that God holds for this unique church and ministry. We are still confident that Mercy will find a suitable new home to create the collaborative space for “Penny Hill.”Mercy’s real estate agent is identifying other properties that will be suitable and convenient to the members of the church.

I will keep you posted as soon as a new property opens up, and we will continue the momentum moving forward. Thank you so much for your generous support. I am committed to see Penny’s legacy become a reality. And to date, we have well over $100,000 pledged in support and numerous others still interested in joining the campaign.

Keep praying for God’s guidance and will.

That all in our neighborhood might Live Love and Laugh!


Incredible Generosity

Thank you all for your incredible display of generosity. In three days responses to this blog brought in pledges of $92,030 to support the effort to purchase the old Open Door Ministry for Mercy Community Church in collaboration with other homeless ministries. Penny did not think her name was worthy to be the title as many others have done much more for justice around here. But she did bless this effort and told Mercy if her name could be beneficial, she was glad to help. She truly longed to see this happen.

As our family and friends, you have stepped up in an amazing way. Thank you so much. I am in awe of your love and support and desire to see Penny’s life left with such a fitting legacy that inspires love in our city–that was Penny’s ultimate calling.

So, the bids are in for the building. The Presbytery team that makes the decision will not meet until next week to choose the winning bid. So, please be in fervent prayer that God will and is doing a new and wonderful work right here. And anyone who still wants to pledge, please send me an email (rhillrev@gmail.com).



Almost There

Two days ago, I posted that we have the opportunity to secure a large grant to create a new homeless and justice center that they want to call “The Penny Hill.” Mercy Community Church is a worshipping congregation primarily of homeless people in our neighborhood and Penny and I have supported them for several years and value their leadership in our penny-hill-and-mercycommunity. All of the other valued homeless ministries in our neighborhood have recently closed, and the opportunity has come up suddenly for Mercy to purchase an old boarding house that is zoned for homeless ministry and two blocks from my house. Mercy asked and received Penny’s blessing to call it “The Penny Hill” and here is the drawing one of their members made and gave to Penny.

The challenge is to raise $80,000 by the end of today. After an exhausting and exhilarating two days, our family and good friends from churches and high school and life have pledged $59,920. That is unbelievable and so appreciated. Pledges are still coming in today and can be emailed to me at rhillrev@gmail.com. Donations are only needed if the benefactors bid of about $2 million is accepted and she secures the property. Then, folks can donate over the course of the year.

I have told Maggie and Mercy to go ahead and assure the benefactor that I will come up with the remaining portion of the $80,000 that will assure her that the expenses of the utilities, insurance and such will be covered for the first year. So, if anyone cares to still pledge, please join the effort. I would hate to lose such an incredibly generous gift from a stranger to me, Penny, Mercy Community, and Atlanta. I have been amazed at the variety of friends, old and new, who have pledged–we will make this happen and Atlanta will be left with a hill of justice and mercy named after our Penny.

Blessings to all,


A Legacy Opportunity for Penny

This has been an eventful weekend. Yesterday, we interred Penny’s ashes at Peachtree Christian Church in the columbarium next to her mother and sister. Along with a beautiful service, we were able to watch a short video that we just received that was shot in August and edited by Catie Beck who is a friend and NBC reporter. Here it is:

Also, on Friday, I met with Rev. Maggie Leonard and Rev. Chad Hyatt who are pastors for Mercy Community Church. This church is primarily homeless folks from Virginia Highlands and has met for 10 years in the basement of Druid Hills Presbyterian Church. With the Open Door Community (a homeless ministry in a large boarding house on Ponce de Leon which is two blocks from my house also) closing a few doors down, Mercy’s vision is to buy the property and host a collaborative of nonprofit justice ministries focused on homelessness. In August, they asked Penny if they could name it after her, knowing that she regretted that she would not be able to use her position as Executive Presbyter of Greater Atlanta to leave a legacy of greater justice ministry. So, Penny admitted there were others more worthy, but if it would help, they could use their name.

So, here is the incredible news! A benefactor has come to Mercy and offered to purchase the property. The bids are due on Wednesday. The sole request of the benefactor is that Mercy get pledges by Wednesday to cover the utilities and carrying costs for the first year. The challenge is to get pledges totaling $80,000 by Tuesday.

My family has pledged $12,000 and hope some of you will join us in assuring this continuation of ministry and legacy in Penny’s name. This is one of those once in a lifetime opportunities and what a legacy that is being offered for Penny’s love of Christ and all people. So, if you care to join us, please email me (rhillrev@gmail.com) your pledge by the end of Tuesday or directly to Rev. Maggie Leonard  (mbleonar@gmail.com).

This is such a work of God and grace. You know, Penny could always get us to do “more than we asked or imagined.”

Grace and Hope,




Too late for us but “Our Labor is not in vain”

Penny and Subbiah.celebrate.Mar16

This week we will celebrate: on Tuesday President Obama will sign the 21st Century Cures Act with strong bipartisan support for $6.8 billion to research for cancer, Alzheimer’s, mental health, opioid addiction, etc. Early on, I also discovered that the greatest impact on medical research is the Federal budget and “our” tax dollars. So, I joined the American Cancer Action Network promoting what has become the “Moonshot for a Cure” for Cancer.” And I am celebrating.

I have been harping about the same perspective Representative Steve Cohen recently eloquently stated, “My secretary of defense is Francis Collins, because the true enemy of each and every one of us isn’t somebody in South Korea or somebody in Iran or ISIS. It’s cancer, it’s Alzheimer’s, it’s AIDS, it’s diabetes, it’s heart disease — all those dreadful, awful diseases that N.I.H. is looking for cures for.”

When Penny was diagnosed two years ago this week, we knew the odds were astronomically against us to even make it two years. We told all of you that our only hope was research, and we have been plunged into the bowels of two of the greatest research centers in the world–Winship and MD Anderson.

But what has puzzled me is why we give up fighting these diseases that rob us of our loved ones when the battle is over. My grandfather died of prostate cancer in ’84. Penny’s sister died of brain cancer in ’91. My mother died of pancreatic cancer in ’13. My cousin, Bo, a year later. My longtime boss, Lane, earlier this year. And now Penny. And with each death, we made a donation that year to some cancer organization in their name. I joined a walk one year for Pancreatic cancer. And then, we did nothing. I guess we feel hopeless to effect change. It’s just inevitable.

Early in our fight, I also discovered that the greatest impact on research is the Federal budget and “our” tax dollars. So, I joined the American Cancer Action Network promoting what has become the “Moonshot for a Cure” for Cancer.” I have never been extremely political in terms of national efforts. And I was surprised how few people, even cancer survivors, had heard of the American Cancer Society’s campaign to dramatically increase funding for cancer. Unfortunately, it was Joe Biden’s son’s death that gained attention for the Moonshot, and then again, we realize that Beau Biden and others did not live in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).

I have not cried much at all, but I am today. This new moonshot to cure cancer is what Penny and I prayed for and hoped for. It won’t help Penny, but she too did not die in vain. These new efforts will help the rest of our family and friends. It will serve my boys. It will serve those ravaged with Alzheimer’s, mental illness, and opioid addictions, all of which Penny and I have grieved over with many families. I only regret we did not come up with the will to increase funding ten years ago. And I hope we will not give up.

So, this week is cause for incredible celebration! We, as a nation, are finally getting behind the efforts of our research scientists and medical specialists to enable them to fight the battle every one of our families will face. And this is a war we can all support.

I won’t post much more and will not abuse this blog with political rant to all our friends and family who have been so supportive. But I do encourage you to continue the spirit of Team Penny. Congratulate our senators and representatives! And don’t give up on our local institutions and give directly to support Winship, MD Anderson and other centers. Because the Federal budget will not solve this alone. And these hospitals are still underfunded for many of their efforts for care and support. And, they need our volunteer efforts.

I will volunteer at Winship as a Peer Partner and continue to be generous in donating to their research and that of MD Anderson.img_0012

So, let’s celebrate but don’t give up the fight as Team Penny till there is

Stage IV to No More!