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Column: Nearly 40,000 Rotarians from around world coming to Atlanta

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on June 2, 2017

Don’t be surprised if from June 5 to June 14, Atlanta looks more international than usual.

Rotary International will be holding its 108th annual convention in Atlanta — commemorating the 100th anniversary of the launch of the Rotary Foundation — which happened at the Rotary convention held in Atlanta in 1917. That’s when Arch Klumph proposed creating an endowment with a purpose of “doing good in the world.” The foundation began with a war chest of $26.50, but today it has assets of more than $1 billion, and that’s after it has invested more than $3 billion in philanthropic causes in virtually every corner of the world.

Rotary flags

Rotary displays its flags of the world at its 2016 international convention in Seoul, Korea (Special: Rotary International)

Atlanta will host about 37,500 Rotarians for meetings, tours and events in Atlanta — some starting days before the actual convention, which runs from June 10 to 14. The board of Rotary International will hold its meetings here, beginning on June 5.

“When you go to an International Convention, you see people from Uganda, Nigeria, Haiti, Honduras — people from all over,” said Robert Hall, chair of the Rotary International Host Committee. “The people in Third World countries really want to meet you to let you know about their projects. My wife and I will be going to Aruba at Thanksgiving to work on one of those projects.”

Rotary International literally will bring the world to Atlanta — and the focus will be on some of the ambitious efforts the organization has undertaken, for example, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

On Monday morning, June 12, at the Georgia World Congress Center, there will be the “Drop to Zero” event when global leaders “will pledge new resources and reaffirm their commitment to achieving a polio-free world.

Philanthropist Bill Gates, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been matching Rotary’s anti-polio donations 2 to 1, will headline the event.

Then there will be a celebratory session with 25,000 Rotarians who will herald the progress that’s been made.

In 2017, only five cases of polio have been identified in two countries around the world — in Pakistan and Afghanistan. One case was found in Nigeria last year, so it has not been declared polio-free. A country has to go three years without any new cases before it can be declared free of polio.

Rajashree Birla, chair of the Aditya Birla Centre for Community Development, has given about $9 million in India to help eradicate the disease. She will be on the Monday program.

Other highlights of the Rotary International Convention will include another Monday morning session on the “End of Modern Slavery” with a panel that will include U.S. Sen. Bob Corker; Gary Haugen, CEO of the International Justice Mission; and actor Ashton Kutcher.

On Tuesday morning June 13, The Coca-Cola Co.’s CEO James Quincey will give his first external speech in Atlanta since he assumed his new role. Golf icon Jack Nicklaus also will be on the program that morning.

Hall said Atlanta will be unique among the International Conventions he’s attended because the meeting hall (GWCC Hall B) will be adjacent to the House of Friendship, where Rotarians from different countries congregate and display their various initiatives and programs.

Bill Foege Global Health Awards

Piggy-backing off the Rotary International Convention, an inaugural event will be held on Sunday evening June 11 at the Delta Flight Museum.

David Ross Bill Foege

Dave Ross, incoming CEO of the Task Force, speaks with Bill Foege, its founder (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Georgia-based MAP International is launching the annual Bill Foege Health Awards in honor of Atlanta’s own Bill Foege, a legend in global health circles for being the person most responsible for the eradication of smallpox.

The inaugural award winners will be Rotary International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Interestingly enough, the two were brought together by Foege himself.

The award also is part of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s new initiative to showcase Atlanta as the center for global health. The honorary program chair is former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, who also served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the administration of President Jimmy Carter.

“We applaud these individuals and organizations for their substantial work eradicating polio and bringing inclusive health care to all communities,” said Steve Stirling, president and CEO of MAP International. “As a polio survivor, it’s an honor to have the Bill Foege Global Health Awards serve as a catalyst to inspire more individuals and organizations to make much-needed changes in health care globally.”

All proceeds from the Bill Foege Global Health Awards will support the mission of MAP International, a Christian organization that provides life-changing medicines and supplies to people in need around the world.

Leading Atlanta companies have stepped up to support the Bill Foege Global Health Awards, including Chick-fil-A, The Coca-Cola Co., Delta Air Lines Inc., General Building Maintenance, The Home Depot Inc. and The UPS Foundation.

Atlanta Habitat’s new board members

Atlanta Habitat for Humanity announced new board members, who represent companies with important operations in Atlanta.

Danielle Chang

D. Chang

They are Danielle Cheung, senior vice president/market executive for Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Melissa Hall, senior vice president of National Commercial Services for Fidelity National Title Group; Jerrold Hill, vice president of Human Resources for Southern Company Gas; and Andrew Kantor, procurement director of Novelis North America.

Melissa Hall

Melissa Hall

“We are honored to have these four leaders in their profession join Atlanta Habitat on our mission to be a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization,” says Darryl Hicks, who chairs the board for Atlanta Habitat.

The new Habitat directors will serve three-year terms on the Atlanta Habitat board, which is responsible for setting the overall direction of the organization including strategic goals, finances and governance policies.

Jarrold Hill

Jarrold Hill

“Their input and leadership will be valuable to our organization’s three strategic goals, which are to increase homeownership, focus on targeted neighborhoods such as Atlanta’s historic Westside, and to build our capacity to offer quality affordable housing for future home buyers,” said Lisa Y. Gordon, president of Atlanta Habitat.

Andrew Kantor

A. Kantor

In 2016, Atlanta Habitat built 50 new homes and completed more than two dozen critical repair projects. The organization made an annual $6 million economic investment in Atlanta last year. It is one of the largest affiliates of Habitat for Humanity International, which is also based in Atlanta.

Meria Carstarphen and Erika Shields

A recent lunch meeting at the Commerce Club with Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and Atlanta Police Department Chief Erika Shields was filled with intrigue.

The person who brought together the two influential women leaders was Dave Wilkinson, president of the Atlanta Police Foundation.

“It was a great conversation and meeting of the minds to really ensure that the Atlanta Public Schools and the Atlanta Police Department are on the same page on the overall youth initiative for the city,” said Wilkinson, when asked about the meeting.

Meria Carstarphen, Dave Wilkinson, Erika Shields

A recent lunch meeting between APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, APF’s Dave Wilkinson with Police Chief Erika Shields at the Commerce Club (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Wilkinson said the three of them spoke of ways the APD could work with the APS resource officers (its own police force) from an emergency response standpoint.

Lastly, Wilkinson said APS has more than 5,000 cameras, and the three of them spoke of how to get the school system’s cameras incorporated into the Operation Shield Video Surveillance Network.

“As we deal with youth in this city, it was important for two strong leaders in our city to come together and get to know each other,” Wilkinson said.

But apparently APS is not considering going back to having the city’s police being in charge of security at Atlanta’s public schools.

Kiwanis International Award

Camille Gaffron, executive director of Villa International, received the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta’s 2017 International Relations Award on May 16.

Kiwanian Tony Callaway, who is active with Villa International, called the award the most prestigious one given by the Club. Several members of Kiwanis either serve on the Villa’s board or provide support to the organization.

Saffron has worked with international visitors to Atlanta for 17 years, and more than 17,000 international visitors have stayed at Villa International during her tenure as executive director.

The Kiwanis Club established the International Award in 1996 to honor the Olympics in Atlanta. Previous recipients have included John Portman, Robert Shaw, Billy Payne, James Laney, Sam Nunn, and Tom Frieden.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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