CLINE: No need to throw stones at church over gridlock

Todd Cline

Todd Cline

Well, that didn’t take long.

Last week, prompted by the story of a local soldier returning home from Afghanistan to spend Christmas with his family, I wrote about the good feelings of the season. My take was that we're all looking for the good in others and prone to act better than usual this time of the year. I also anticipated that feeling dissipating once the new year rolled in. I should have added "or bad mall traffic -- whichever comes first."

This week the talk of the county is Mallmageddon, the monstrous traffic jam that snarled the roads surrounding the Mall of Georgia on Saturday. It was epic, frustrating and in some cases anger-inducing. That so much anger, sometimes downright venomous in posts on the Daily Post website and on social media, was directed at 12Stone Church is disconcerting.

The church recognizes its program to feed 6,000 needy families contributed greatly to the clogged roads. With the distribution point being Coolray Field, located just down the road from the mall, it's silly to argue otherwise. But it's just as silly to lambast 12Stone for a productive program that exceeded all expectations -- a promotion that went viral like some kind of YouTube singing cat video.

"We're not surprised people were frustrated. We were too," said 12Stone Chief Financial Officer Norwood Davis, adding that part of the problem stemmed from an email detailing the event that got passed around, taking on a life of its own. "We're not dismissive of that.

"What people might not know is that we did this last year and we didn't have these same kind of issues. We worked on a traffic plan (for this event) for a month."

His point is that there was nothing haphazard about the planning of Saturday's event. But some criticized the church in a way that suggested it was some sort of sinister plot, designed to impede shoppers and other Saturday drivers from their pursuits. Obviously, that couldn't be further from the truth, and the organizers are sorry for what happened.

Davis took to posting on the Daily Post website as a way to apologize for the church's role in the traffic nightmare. He said 12Stone is open to suggestions on how to improve next year's event, and said that of the 50 or so comments that have been sent to the church, the majority have been nice and/or included ways to improve the event. Only "six or seven were really negative," he said.

"Most of them are of the tone 'We appreciate you doing this, but here's some things we might suggest,'" Davis said. "As people give us constructive criticism, we welcome those."

Constructive criticism is one thing, nastiness quite another. I can only imagine the frustration of sitting in traffic for up to three hours to move only several miles. (Full disclosure: I needed to go to the mall on Saturday but blew it off. In this case, the better part of valor was laziness.) Posters wrote of missing family get-togethers, appointments and even funerals. And 12Stoners weren't immune. Davis said his wife missed an out-of-town wedding due to the gridlock.

I've heard many horror stories firsthand. A boss who got stuck trying to get home. A co-worker who couldn't get back from the airport. When I went to the mall on Sunday, store employees spoke of shoppers staying because they couldn't get out of the parking lot, creating people traffic inside the mall that rivaled the car traffic outside. Those who work in and around the mall were also adversely affected, not able to get to their jobs on time.

In short, it was a mess. One of huge proportions.

But to accuse the church of being some sort of Grinch-like entity for trying to feed the needy for Christmas seems more than a little misplaced. Not to mention out of step with the season.

In my opinion, 12Stone has handled the aftermath of the Great Traffic Standstill of 2011 with aplomb. The organizers are sorry and vow to take precautions to prevent it from happening again. They've taken their lumps, listened to ways to improve and rejoiced for being able to fulfill their mission.

With Christmas a few days away, seems like a good lesson to me.

Email Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.


kmsimpson 2 years, 3 months ago

As one of those stuck in that joyous event, I have a few comments. First, this is not the first time 12 Stone has done damage to the local traffic, it just happens to be the most in depth. Routinely every weekend 12 Stone messes up traffic in the area. I happen to live very close to 12 Stone, and without fail, I have difficulties getting places on Sundays due to 12 Stone. We in the local neighborhood have to time OUR schedules around them. One weekend, I was literally trapped in my subdivision! Lately, they have taken to also blocking traffic on SR 20 on Saturdays and Wednesdays. No offense sir, but we, too, have lives.

Second, had 12 Stone REALLY wanted to help out the community, they could have checked to see if any of the local people needed help. We have a battered women's shelter here in Lawrenceville, along with several other places that probably could have used the food, never mind that I'm sure many of their actual neighbors may have needed the food. Instead, we had people coming in from Oconee County, and other places. That does nothing for the local community.

The reason so many people are so upset with 12 Stone is not because of this weekend in particular, but because overall, they are inconsiderate, rude neighbors.


Sthrnldy 2 years, 3 months ago

Why are you admonishing people for posting comments? Don't allow people to sign up and post comments then. What is the point if you are going to spank their hands if you don't like what they have to say?


R 2 years, 3 months ago

There‘s no problem in posting comments, but the content of a very few really seemed selfish and pointing that out is NOT a bad idea. Let’s see what happened in a quick review shall we? A Church puts together a Million Dollar project that feeds 6000 unemployed families with a week worth of groceries. The effort is 100 percent private; no government funds were used or abused. The need is so great, all attempts at planning were overwhelmed and many more that needed help were turned away. (I was in the traffic for 4 hours) Tempered responses in light of the action is one thing, but shopping in and of itself is not really "the reason for the season".

However, many residential property owners around the stadium pointed out that the facility is not a good neighbor at times and it amplified the fact that they, and others in Gwinnett, had no say in its development or placement. Perhaps this take away should be remembered by our commissioners going forward in other future projects, where the impact will far outlast their terms in office.


kmsimpson 2 years, 3 months ago

@R - You commented that Coolray Stadium can be a bad neighbor at times, yet admonished people that feel the same about 12 Stone Church. When the Braves play, the stadium has a plan n place for the traffic and congestion. Routinely, they fill an empty the lot and the surrounding areas in very little time.

The same cannot be said about 12 Stone Church. The church routinely puts it neighbors out. I can drive by Cooray Field after a game and still get when I need to be. Traffic will be heavy, but that's about it. On the other hand, if I drive by 12 Stone during any beginning or end of service time, I am stopped on a state highway to allow the parishioners out first. The local traffic is made to wait while 12 Stone lets out. They clean out the lines in 12 Stone's driveways while backing traffic up on SR 20, and make people stop at EVERY entrance while the police allow their parishioners out first.

I recently spoke to one of their parishioners about this. Her response? "I don't care." That is 12 Stone's attitude towards it's neighbors, and THAT is the problem. 12 Stone does not care about it's neighbors, only about grandstanding.


Tammy52 2 years, 3 months ago

Maybe plan the events for during the week. Most churches have ministry opportunities during the week rather than on a saturday. I go to a huge church, and like one of the posters said, GO TO THE POOR, rather than have them come to you. That's what my church does, and they feed and give upwards in the thousands upon thousands. Our recipients know who we are and what we are about. We seldom advertise. While I think it was an awesome idea, I think we the church needs to get back to not letting our right hand know what the left hand is doing. Otherwise, we bring out the nasties in those who enjoy fingerpointing laying blame and win few to the real spirit of the season


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