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How Chick-fil-A Foundation’s decision will affect local restaurants, charities
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Chick-fil-A drive-thru team leader Melissa Satterfield takes customers' orders outside Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, at the Oakwood restaurant. - photo by Scott Rogers

Chick-fil-A’s decision to stop donating to three faith-based organizations described as anti-LGBTQ won’t prevent local Chick-fil-A franchises from donating to those organizations in Hall County.

In a Nov. 18 statement, Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A said that in 2020, it will focus its giving on just three areas: hunger, homelessness and education. Instead of supporting myriad organizations, it will expand its relationship with Junior Achievement USA and Covenant House International as well as focus on food banks in the areas it opens new restaurants.

That means Chick-fil-A is cutting ties with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, The Salvation Army and Paul Anderson Youth Homes.

“Giving (to) and helping our communities are an important part of our mission and corporate purpose,” Bobby Shoemaker, operator at Chick-fil-A’s two Gainesville locations, said on behalf of all the Hall County franchisees. “One of the many things that we appreciate about being  franchise operators is that we get to choose where we give back to in our communities.”

In 2017 and 2018, the Chick-fil-A Foundation gave $2.4 million to the Missouri-based FCA for sports camps for underserved youth and $165,000 to The Salvation Army to buy Christmas gifts for needy children. The foundation also gave $6,000 to Paul Anderson Youth Homes.

Many of the groups supported by the Chick-fil-A Foundation are Christian organizations, but their mission statements and professed beliefs — including how they view traditional marriage — vary.

Chick-fil-A operates around 2,400 restaurants and has been feeling heat from opponents. Earlier this year, airports in Buffalo, New York and San Antonio blocked the restaurant from opening at their sites because of the company’s gay rights record. Some college campuses have banned the chain. A location in the United Kingdom is closing because of protests.

Along with Andrew Farr, operator at Chick-fil-A’s Oakwood location, and Frank Harney, operator at the Flowery Branch location, Shoemaker said the Hall County Chick-fil-As will continue their support of local organizations and schools just like they always have — including Greater Hall FCA.

“Locally, we have not changed any of the organizations we support, including the levels, and there is not instruction for us to change from Chick-fil-A,” Shoemaker said. “The decision of the foundation is independent of what we do locally.”

Hall County Chick-fil-As also support Hall County Schools, Georgia Mountain Food Bank, Young Life, Thumbs Up Mission, Chick-fil-A Leader Academy and others.

FCA, a national faith-based organization, has a vision “to see the world transformed by Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.”

Many student groups meet weekly at schools, and the organization hosts sports camps throughout the year.

“FCA is grateful to partner with many businesses, organizations and individuals,” said Clint Fair, metro director for Greater Hall FCA. “Chick-fil-A has been one of those appreciated partners of FCA in the Greater Hall and North Georgia areas for almost 14 years, and we are thankful for that. We believe the relationship we have with local Chick-fil-A operators and staff will continue to impact our communities.”

In FCA’s statement of faith, it references Bible verses like Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5-6 and  Mark 10:6-9, all of which have to do with a man leaving his parents and being “united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” — verses often quoted at traditional marriage ceremonies.

Its statement of faith clarifies its stance on the issue of same-sex relationships.

“God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society,” it says. “For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.”

Meanwhile, The Salvation Army describes itself as a faith-based organization, and André Pereira, corps officer with The Salvation Army of Gainesville, shared the group’s national statement, saying that it serves “more than 23 million individuals a year, including those in the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, we believe we are the largest provider of poverty relief to the LGBTQ+ population.”

As an organization, it said it was “saddened to learn that a corporate partner has felt it necessary to divert funding to other hunger, education and homelessness organizations — areas in which The Salvation Army, as the largest social services provider in the world, is already fully committed.”

It said the decision to do so was based on “misinformation.”

In Gainesville, the decision won’t have much of an effect on The Salvation Army, as that has not been one of the organizations heavily supported by the local operators. Pereira said the only support from the local Chick-fil-As he can remember is receiving food donations a few years ago.

“As far as I am concerned, we have not had many opportunities to collaborate,” Pereira said.

And as far as Chick-fil-A is concerned, the decision to stop donations to organizations including FCA and The Salvation Army was to become more focused in its giving. The foundation said it will still consider donations to faith-based groups, but wouldn’t say whether it will consider an organization’s position on gay rights before donating.

“This decision was made to create more clarity — and to better address three critical needs facing children across the communities Chick-fil-A serves,” the company said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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