Column: Bill Bolling ‘shifting roles’ at Atlanta Community Food Bank

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on May 23, 2014

After 35 years at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Bill Bolling has told his board and his staff that he will be stepping down from his day-to-day role of executive director so he can step up his community work in the next year.

As the founder of one of the most successful food banks in the country and one of the most successful nonprofits in Atlanta, Bolling has been a pivotal player in the state and the region.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Bolling said in an interview. “I’m just shifting roles. I’m going to continue to work just as hard around the same issues I’ve been working on for 40 years in Atlanta.”

Bolling’s work has been focused over four decades on the issues of hunger and poverty. But when he started the food bank 35 years ago, he made sure to include the word “community” as part of the name of the organization.

He actually envisioned the food bank serving as a community table where issues could be discussed in a safe environment — a vision that has come true.

Bolling has used his nonprofit as the platform to build bridges with the business community and government leaders throughout the state and region. He also has made it a launching pad to work on related issues, such as affordable housing, planning and tax services for the working poor.

Bolling said he’s been preparing for this transition for the past two years, preparing his board, reorganizing the food bank’s operations and restructuring the nonprofit’s leadership team.

Together they have been working to make sure the food bank has a strong understanding of its culture, its values and its identity. Bolling said he has been asking the staff to define what is precious about working for the food bank. By going through that exercise, the team will be able to make sure the new chief executive captures the essence of the organization.

The next step is for the board to select a search firm that will find a successor for Bolling. It will conduct a national search, although Bolling expects the board will consider internal candidates as well as leaders from the Atlanta region.

Because he plans to continue working on the same community issues, Bolling said he will try to find the appropriate balance of being available when he is needed but not get in the way of the new leader who will be running the nonprofit. He can see himself evolving into a “senior adviser” role for the organization and help mentor the new executive director.

“They know I’m not going anywhere. I’m just shifting my responsibilities,” Bolling said. “I’m going to have more time for the community roles I have played.”

Over the next several months, Bolling will be solidifying what his next venture will be — either working collaboratively with other nonprofits or establishing a civic roundtable where collaboration can take place. “There are lots of ideas,” said Bolling, who has strong relationships with Atlanta’s largest foundations. “I want to go where can I have the greatest impact.”

Boys & Girls Clubs closing arts gallery

Ever since 1996, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta has operated the Youth Art Connection Gallery in downtown Atlanta, enlivening the street level of the United Way parking garage on Edgewood Avenue. But that gallery will be closing its doors May 31.

“United Way originally provided the space as a part of our larger rental agreement when we were in the building over in Edgewood (at a very manageable rate),” said Melanie Buckmaster, a spokeswoman for Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta, in an email when asked about why the gallery was closing. “When we moved to Midtown in 2012, they let us keep the space for a couple of years at no cost.”

Then there is the price of progress.

“Now, with the area really seeing this revival with the streetcar and BeltLine, I think the space is pretty premium, and they were hoping to lease again,” she added. “We were trying to come to an agreement on how much they need to get for the space versus how much we could afford to pay, and we just couldn’t get there.”

Buckmaster, however, said the nonprofit is not abandoning its art program. Just the reverse.

The nonprofit recognizes that the Youth Art Connection has provided critical learning opportunities for its kids and teens, serving thousands of youth and “helping to spark and sustain a passion for the arts. All of us have been touched by this magical space … and our kids have too.”

Buckmaster then went on to say that although this door is closing, it is opening up many others. The nonprofit remains fully committed to the arts and cultural enrichment in and around the Atlanta community, Buckmaster said, adding that the arts will continue to be a strong focus at its 27 clubs across the city.

“We thank all of the partners and friends who have supported the Youth Art Connection over the years and helped make it such a welcoming and inspiring place for our children and teens,” said Missy Dugan, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta, in a statement. “We remain faithfully committed to arts and cultural enrichment for the kids who need us most.”

Girl Scouts board

The Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta held its 2014 annual meeting in early May at the Home Depot Store Support Center, electing a new slate of directors and officers for its 2014-2015 fiscal year.

The chair of the board, Myra Bierria of AGL Resources, presided over the meeting.

“Our delegates are voting members of Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, and their responsibilities in the governance process is vitally important to our organization as we continue to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place,“ said Amy Dosik, CEO of the organization.

The board officers include Mary Plant, vice chair; Sonnet C. Edmonds, secretary; and Laurel H. Hill, treasurer.

The executive committee includes Andrew J. Murphy, fund development chair, UBS Financial Services Inc.; Moanica Caston, human resources committee chair, Georgia Power Co.; and Narinder Dhaliwal, board development committee chair, Colopast.

Board members plan to cultivate stronger relationships with corporations, foundations and philanthropic individuals in greater Atlanta for the upcoming year.

Their primary focus will be to increase the membership base and continue to grow Girl Scout leaders both locally and globally.

ABL’s CEO Appreciation lunch

Maybe it’s because the Atlanta Business League held its 36th annual he CEO Appreciation Luncheon on Election Day (May 20). But when Tommy Dortch introduced Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell as the Catalyst Award winner, he added a line: “the next mayor of Atlanta.”

Even Mitchell, who has not made any announcement that he plans to run in three years (maybe he doesn’t have to), was caught off guard.

“Oookay,” Mitchell said as he tried to regain his composure. Then he brought up a theme that might come up if and when he does decide to run for mayor. He said Atlanta must aspire to be a great, world-class city and not settle for mediocrity.

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