Public Encouraged to “Decide Their Ride,” Help Shape Regional Transit Look for Generations to Come MARTA is seeking public input on many of the interior features that will be designed into the fleet of new rail cars, the first of which will arrive in metro Atlanta in 2023. While some interior elements of the rail car have been decided—for example, each pair of cars will have an open gangway—there are a variety of design solutions for other elements. Daily riders, occasional riders and potential future customers can navigate to a crowdsourcing platform through the MARTA homepage, at www.itsmarta.com/yourride or on MARTA’s social media pages. Participants can express their priorities and preferences by voting on options for seating, luggage storage, bike areas, maps/wayfinding, handrails/stanchions, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility. In the coming months, the public will be asked for input on exterior features of the new rail cars. “Most importantly, these new rail cars will provide a safer, more efficient ride, improving reliability and reducing rail delays caused by the aging fleet,” said MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker. “We also want these trains to be comfortable, look good, and have all the bells and whistles that make riding convenient and enjoyable.” MARTA entered a contract to purchase 254 rail cars from Stadler US in November 2019 for $646 million, representing the single largest procurement for either organization, and a milestone in MARTA’s capital improvement program aimed at more efficient performance and enhanced customer experience. The new rail cars will complement other investments aimed at enhancing the customer experience such as a new station audio-visual information system, systemwide elevator and escalator upgrades, restroom modernization, and rehabilitation and restoration program to refresh MARTA rail stations. This is sponsored content.
No one anticipated the myriad of events of the past 14 months. Some may have anticipated one or a few, but no one saw them all coming down on us seemingly at once. For many it’s felt like wave after wave has been rolling over them and they’re doing all they can to keep their heads up from drowning or being taken in by the undertow. The Pandemic. Violence Against Black Americans. Latin X Facing Barriers to Immigration, Political Turmoil of Epic Proportions. Catastrophic Environmental Events. Violence Against Asian Americans. And the list goes on… The fallout has led to an untold number of consequences – lost jobs; failed businesses; children falling behind in their education; despite stimulus checks, families still struggling to pay the bills; and while the promotion of self-care and need for mental health care has grown, so has all of this taken such a toll on so many that the need for therapy and need for mental health assistance risen to unmeasurable heights. While the past year has led to problems for many families, for those that were struggling before March of 2020, it’s made their lives that much more fraught. For 131 years, Families First has been serving the Atlanta community by helping clients navigate comprehensive and sustainable solutions that improve child well-being and family self-sufficiency through adoption, parenting classes, education support, supportive housing, counseling and mental health services. Our focus is to build resilient families so that they can not only weather the current storm, but future ones that may come their way and in turn teach their children and future generations how to do the same. Through our services, we’re helping them make their way from surviving to thriving. Just like so many of the problems that the world is facing right now, we realize that we can’t solve them all on our own. To move forward and to make an impact, we need to work together, whether it’s racial equity, health services, education, or the number of other challenges the world faces, overcoming them will happen sooner and have a greater effect, the more people, organizations and businesses unite to face them. At Families First, we’ve realized that to best serve our clients, we can’t do it alone. By collaborating with other nonprofits that offer complimentary services, we can ensure that our clients receive the comprehensive care that meets their personal needs for their journey to resilience. Some of our key partners to create a continuum of care within the Navigator Care Model include the Westside Future Fund, the Community Foundation of Northeast Georgia, the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, WorkSource City of Atlanta and Raising Expectations. While all of those involved provide outstanding services to their clients, we’ve realized that by collaborating, we’re providing our families and future generations the best opportunities for a better and more resilient future. As we look forward we know that when we unite together we can make lasting change. On June 9 at 9:00 am, Unity for a Difference brings together next generation voices, honoring top leaders in Atlanta focused on social equity, a look at how our city defines Unity and creative performances all focused on galvanizing our community to make lasting change. A common thread throughout is the true power of resilience. Families First believes that resilience is the foundation of building strong families and strong communities. Honorees include: – Pat Upshaw-Monteith, Leadership Atlanta President and Chief Executive Officer, with the Community Impact Award – Carol B. Tomé, UPS Chief Executive Officer, with the Social Equity Award – Venessa Harrison, AT&T Georgia President, with the Making a Difference Community Service Award – Jim Curry, Families First Board Chair Emeritus and Ann Curry, Founder Coxe Curry & Associates, with the Montag Family Volunteerism Award Join our host Ella Dorsey, WGCL/CBS46 Meteorologist, and our chairs Dan Gordon, co-chair and Atlanta Headquarters Lead at Jabian Consulting, Victoria Forbes-Roberts, co-chair and Senior Vice President for Reservations and Customer Care Delta Air Lines and Shan Cooper, honorary chair and Executive Director of the Atlanta Committee for Progress for an inspiring morning. While this past year has taken so much from so many, when we unite, we realize that we still have more to give and working with others that we can make a greater difference. We’re all looking towards the future and how we can be resilient through whatever challenges may come our way. If we can focus on unity and collaboration instead of isolation and division, our communities as a whole can become not only stronger but better able to overcome difficulties and create positive impacts for generations to come. We invite you to join us for Unity for a Difference on June 9: Unity for a Difference – Families First This is sponsored content.
Last week, the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) announced ATL Action for Racial Equity, a multi-year, multi-step action plan designed to help address the ongoing effects of systemic racism impacting the Black community. In just a few days since launch, 30 additional metro Atlanta-based companies ranging in size and industry joined the initiative – to-date totaling more than 180 participating organizations. These companies and leaders will leverage the size, scale and expertise of the region’s business community to advance racial equity. Invitations to the initiative remain open, and MAC is inviting all businesses across metro Atlanta to sign on. ATL Action for Racial Equity focuses on measurable actions across corporate policies, inclusive economic development, education and workforce development – critical areas in addressing the region’s immobility and inequity challenges. See quotes below from the region’s business leaders on why they chose to participate and why this initiative is important, now more than ever. Reach out to [email protected] to learn more. Ed Bastian, CEO Delta Air Lines and 2021 Board Chair, Metro Atlanta Chamber: “In metro Atlanta, our differences are our strength. We work together to make our community and the world better. We are not perfect, but we are committed to preserving and holding up this region’s legacy, especially now. As we tackle economic recovery, public health and the disproportionate impacts on our Black community, our business community must do its part. This is a moral and economic imperative as we work to grow our region’s competitiveness today and into the future.” Jimmy Etheredge, CEO North America, Accenture: “Accenture is proud to collaborate with the Metro Atlanta Chamber and business leaders across Atlanta to take action on building a more equitable future for our community. Together, we are acting, we are leading, and we are driving change.” Steve Koonin, CEO, Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena: “We proudly support ATL Action for Racial Equity and promise that our franchise will continue taking the steps and supporting the causes that lead to equity for all in our city.” Rohit Malhotra, Founder and Executive Director, Center for Civic Innovation: “The Center for Civic Innovation mission and day to day operations are designed to fight for an equity-centered Atlanta. The business community in Atlanta has a long and complicated history with equity in our city— we’re glad to see the Metro Atlanta Chamber call on companies and institutions to take measurable actions that align with their publicly stated values and sentiments. It is in this city’s best interest for this effort to succeed.” Jenna Kelly, President, Truist Northern Georgia Region, Truist Bank: “At Truist, we firmly believe in building more just, inclusive, and equitable communities by standing for social justice, denouncing racism in all forms, and partnering with people and organizations who are as committed to equity we are. As we continue to have intentional dialogue around the role we can play in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, we’re excited to join the ATL Action for Racial Equity to do our part in making a positive difference throughout Atlanta.” Mary Schmidt Campbell, President, Spelman College: “If metro Atlanta is to close the region’s stark wealth gap, we all have to commit to bold innovative solutions. Spelman College, committed to the educational excellence of the 2000 Black women who attend the College, is also committed to the educational excellence of students in our neighborhood schools. For the past three years, our students have enjoyed major success in improving the reading scores of students in our neighborhood Washington Cluster Schools. We intend to launch a program that will accomplish improvements in math proficiency. This commitment to the improvement of K-12 education is aligned with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce’s business and community imperative to advance racial inclusion. We are proud to partner with MAC in their strategic approach to advocating for equity.” Kyle Porter, CEO, SalesLoft: “The social justice and equity issues facing our companies, city, and nation are complex and intense. At SalesLoft we are committed to the necessary introspection, self-reflection, and action to be a more inclusive company because we believe it’s the right thing to do for our team, customers, and marketplace. SalesLoft is joining the ATL Action for Racial Equity because our internal efforts will be magnified and our progress accelerated through collaborative community work. Our community will become our ally and accountability partner providing the space to heed best practices, share wisdom, and generate ideas that will positively impact us all. Russ Torres, President, Kimberly-Clark Professional: “At Kimberly-Clark, we believe racial equity and justice are moral issues that must be addressed through comprehensive actions to enact meaningful and sustainable change. We are moving with urgency. Therefore, we are proud to partner with ATL Action for Racial Equity in this mission. Their disciplined, multi-year plan leverages the collective strength of metro Atlanta employers to support focused corporate policies that foster inclusive workforce and community development. With more than 1,500 Kimberly-Clark employees in the metro Atlanta area, this initiative is uniquely personal to us. We believe the success of our company depends on creating workplaces, communities, and experiences where inclusion and diversity are evident and thriving. Together with ATL Action for Racial Equity, we look forward to creating a vibrant and more inclusive region that offers opportunity, growth, and long-term value for all.” Elie Maalouf, CEO, Americas, InterContinental Hotel Group: “We applaud the Metro Atlanta Chamber on this initiative and stand with our peers in the Atlanta business community to advance diversity and inclusion. This commitment and collaboration reflect IHG’s values and inclusive culture, and builds on our own efforts to bring lasting, sustainable progress for the region and our colleagues.” Paul Bowers (Chairman and CEO) and Chris Womack (President), Georgia Power: “At Georgia Power, we deeply value the diversity of our team and the communities we serve. That’s why we are committed to creating an environment where employees and customers feel a sense of belonging and can be their true authentic selves. We’re proud to be a part of the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s ATL Action for Racial Equity efforts to do the same here in Atlanta. We believe businesses working together to ensure equality is how we can make a collective impact, and we’re …
By Livable Buckhead and Buckhead Business Association In a year defined by the global coronavirus pandemic, businesses and their employees faced countless challenges that tested their creativity, adaptability and resilience. Two Buckhead organizations – Buckhead Business Association and Livable Buckhead – recently honored local businesses that exemplified those qualities in 2020. On April 15, Livable Buckhead recognized Crocker Partners and Cumulus Media for their efforts to improve sustainability and mobility. “It was an incredibly challenging year, but it also presented amazing opportunities for companies to take a fresh look at their operations and find ways to improve,” said Denise Starling, executive director of Livable Buckhead. “Crocker Partners and Cumulus Media embraced those opportunities and didn’t just keep things running but made improvements to sustainability and mobility that will continue to pay off in a post-pandemic world.” Crocker Partners Property Management earned the Triple Bottom Line award for its work at Prominence Tower. Numerous updates to the building ensured the health and safety of its occupants during the pandemic, while recycling and waste management programs, use of renewable energy sources, and water reclamation and greywater irrigation improve environmental performance for the long haul. “Although the majority of our tenants continue to work remotely right now, I feel we’re well positioned to welcome them back to a safe and healthy building,” said Amy Timms, senior property manager with Crocker Partners. Cumulus Media earned the Buckhead Mobility Champion award for its successful telework program, which the company created in consultation with Livable Buckhead in 2018. “We chose to take the steps to have a more programmatic approach to teleworking rather than one-offs where we figured out along the way,” said Todd McCarty, CHRO and SVP of human resources for Cumulus Media. “We were realizing that more was to come – we didn’t know how much more was to come – but that was the impetus for us to put together a program.” Cumulus implemented policies and procedures to enable about 20 employees to telework on a full-time basis, and another 100 employees to telework occasionally. These guidelines created consistency across the organization and built trust in the program, which was a critical factor in the Cumulus’ ability to quickly and successfully scale it to all 4,000 employees during the pandemic. On April 22 and 29, the Buckhead Business Association presented its annual awards in a virtual setting, highlighting four local businesses and their recent success. “This year was indeed unique compared to past decades of our annual luncheon, but the award recipients are just as deserving,” said BBA President Michael Moore. The Burgess Hotel is noted for its exquisite decor, Fia Restaurant and Mr. B Bar. Originally opened as Wingate by Wyndham more than 20 years ago, the owners decided to reimagine it as a unique, boutique hotel for Buckhead. “We wanted it to have a very homey feel,” said Burgess and Freny Johki, owners of The Burgess Hotel. “Everything you see is a personal reflection of our home and it is our way of inviting guests into our home and for us to be here to welcome them.” The hotel is also an important part of the Buckhead community, frequently welcoming Zone 2 officers with Atlanta Police Department for on-duty breaks. Le Colonial Restaurant combines upscale French Colonial decor with a menu featuring Vietnamese cuisine to create a unique dining experience. Like so many businesses in the hospitality industry, Le Colonial faced numerous challenges during the pandemic, pivoting to offer delivery and to-go items, while also providing much-appreciated meals to first responders at Northside Hospital. “I think it’s really important that we’re part of the community and that we can be part of everything that is considered Buckhead,” said Paul Dunn, general manager of Le Colonial. Steve Penley of Penley Art has been producing art since he was a child and is grateful for the opportunity to make it his career. Penley paintings are in corporate and private collections around the world, depicting his unapologetic love for America and our icons. He has found a supportive customer base in Buckhead and credits them for his success. “I’m here to serve this community,” Penley said. “The truth is my clientele, the people who believe in the artwork I do… are the ones that made me.” Penley is a generous supporter of community causes, donating $500,000 of his work to art auctions in a single year. The Entrepreneur of the Year Award was presented to Jennifer Morgan for her development, founding and execution of Eleanor’s Place, a private, all women’s co-working and social space. Designed for collaboration for both stay-at-home and working mothers, Morgan had to reconfigure Eleanor’s Place and adapt to the COVID circumstances that made 2020 a difficult time for gathering. “To be a stay-at-home mom returning to work can be a very vulnerable place to put yourself in,” said Morgan. “To be recognized by the Buckhead Business Association was a real honor, and to have these successful businesses acknowledge your work and your dreams was an incredible compliment.” Anyone who would like to nominate a thriving, unique Buckhead business that is less than five years old, can contact Buckhead Business Association for 2021 year-end consideration. The business public is also invited to join BBA’s Thursday morning Second Cup events each week at 10 a.m. This is sponsored content.
The COVID-19 crisis disrupted lives and livelihoods in ways not seen in nearly a century. Middle- and upper-income families can often sustain themselves during temporary disruptions, but the pandemic has meant disaster on several levels for low-income families. Many lost jobs or had their work schedule significantly reduced, and childcare programs were put on hold, giving parents fewer options for finding new work. With support from the United Way of Greater Atlanta and Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, NeighborWorks America and Center for Disaster Philanthropy, ANDP provided much-needed support for its rental tenants during the crisis. Yessenia and her two children were among those who struggled financially in 2020. She lost her job as a scheduler, which meant she also lost her child care from a program that requires continuous employment. “When you are a single mother, it’s always hectic to stay on top of things financially. But this has been especially hard. Losing your job and childcare – it’s a double-whammy. It impacts your mental health and your positivity.” For tenant services, the pandemic meant an immediate shift from afterschool programming to more life-sustaining support. ANDP coordinated food assistance; provided delivery of personal protective equipment and toiletries; published and distributed a weekly pandemic resource guide, and offered financial rental assistance to maintain stable residency. “I’m glad my family hasn’t been put out on the streets,” said Yessenia. “The rental help has been a huge help.” Yessenia is one of dozens of ANDP rental families who received rental assistance and guidance through the organization’s Help Line – a phone line established to help connect tenants to aid for food, utilities, unemployment, tax filing, and more. ANDP continues to provide rental assistance, distribute a pandemic resource guide, and coordinates on-site COVID-19 vaccinations for its tenants. ANDP is very appreciative of the support provided by The Center for Disaster Philanthropy, United Way of Greater Atlanta and Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, NeighborWorks America and others. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s mission is to leverage the power of philanthropy to mobilize a full range of resources that strengthen the ability of communities to withstand disasters and recover equitably when they occur. CDP manages domestic and international Disaster Funds on behalf of corporations, foundations and individuals through targeted, holistic and localized grantmaking. For more information, visit: http://disasterphilanthropy.org, call (202) 464-2018 or tweet @funds4disaster. This is sponsored content.
Operation HOPE today announced that Craig Boundy, Chief Executive Officer of Experian North America, has joined the HOPE Global Board of Advisors. Boundy leads Experian’s North American business lines, and plays a key role in driving the company’s commitment to helping marginalized communities get fair and affordable access to lending. In October 2019, Boundy led Experian to join Operation HOPE as a partner to enhance financial inclusion across the United States. This partnership combined Operation HOPE’s education and counseling programs with Experian’s credit education knowledge, capability and services like Experian Boost. Joining the HOPE Global Advisory Board is another step for Boundy to carry out his vision for Experian’s corporate responsibility and commitment to increasing financial literacy and using data and analytics to help people manage their financial lives. Boundy joins a distinguished Board that consists of some of the country’s top executives in business, banking, nonprofits and NGOs. HOPE Global Advisory Board members provide guidance and support for Operation HOPE in its commitment to provide financial literacy education and economic empowerment for individuals and small business owners living in under-served communities. “Having a strong board culture is vital to Operation HOPE’s long-term success. This requires the addition of leaders, like Craig, who’s values align with our overall vision,” said John Hope Bryant, Operation HOPE founder and CEO. “As we continue to grow and serve communities in need, his unparalleled expertise will also accelerate our ability to disrupt the status quo and affect meaningful change.” “I am proud to join Operation HOPE’s board to help further its mission of empowering the financial health of diverse communities,” Boundy said. “Together, we can help improve access to financial education, tools and services that ultimately benefit society as a whole.” An accomplished global business leader, Craig joined Experian in 2011 as Managing Director of Experian UK and Ireland before becoming CEO of North America in 2014. Prior to Experian, Craig was CEO of Logica in the United Kingdom, having joined the organization in 2008 as CEO of Global Operations. Before that, he served as Chief Operating Officer for Cable & Wireless’ business in Europe, the United States and Asia. Previously, Craig served as Sales Director and then COO at Energis. His early career was with British Telecommunications. Experian North America prides itself on its workplace culture of inclusion and recently received its recertification as a Great Place to Work for the third year in a row. The company ranks in the top 40 Fortune Best Large Workplaces in Financial Services and Insurance, and the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For 2021. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation granted the company a perfect score in its Corporate Equality Index, and Experian has been named by Forbes as one of the top 100 Most Innovative Companies in the world. About Operation HOPE, Inc. Since 1992, Operation HOPE has been moving America from civil rights to “silver rights” with the mission of making free enterprise and capitalism work for the underserved—disrupting poverty for millions of low and moderate-income youth and adults across the nation. Through our community uplift model, HOPE Inside, which received the 2016 Innovator of the Year recognition by American Banker magazine, Operation HOPE has served more than 4 million individuals and directed more than $3.2 billion in economic activity into disenfranchised communities—turning check-cashing customers into banking customers, renters and homeowners, small business dreamers into small business owners, minimum wage workers into living wage consumers, and uncertain disaster victims into financially empowered disaster survivors. Project 5117 is our multi-year four-pronged approach to combating economic inequality that aims to improve financial literacy, increase business role models and business internships for youth in underserved communities, and stabilize the American dream by boosting FICO scores. Operation HOPE recently received its seventh consecutive 4-star charity rating for fiscal management and commitment to transparency and accountability by the prestigious non-profit evaluator, Charity Navigator. For more information: www.OperationHOPE.org. Follow the HOPE conversation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Media Contact Lalohni Campbell Per Se Media Group [email protected] This is sponsored content.
By Hannah R. Buchdahl When the CDC Foundation first reached out to jurisdictions across the United States to assist with COVID-19 response efforts, American Samoa didn’t need the type of surge staff the Foundation was hiring for its COVID-19 Corps. At that time, the unincorporated U.S. territory in the South Pacific didn’t require contact tracers, case investigators or extra epidemiologists— American Samoa had zero cases of COVID-19 and planned to keep it that way. In March of 2020, as the pandemic started its global rampage, American Samoa closed its borders, effectively shutting out the virus, as well as more than a thousand American Samoans stranded in Hawaii, the U.S. mainland and abroad. Their repatriation, or safe return home, would take some strategic planning—and time. Toward the end of 2020, American Samoa was ready to gradually let its citizens come home. And that’s when the CDC Foundation re-entered the picture, to help with the repatriation effort. For this effort, the CDC Foundation team worked with the American Samoa Department of Health (AS-DOH) on a customized solution to address the territory’s unique, emerging staffing needs. The Foundation hired four people based in Honolulu to help coordinate a complex, voluntary repatriation plan that involved testing and quarantining groups of American Samoans at a hotel in Hawaii for two weeks, before putting them on a chartered flight home. “CDC Foundation not only provided the needed funding for competitive staff wages and benefits, the organization’s reputation as a direct employer played an important part in recruitment and attracting health care workers to what would otherwise be seen as an ‘unattractive’ high-risk, temporary employment opportunity, involving development and implementation of a new pre-travel quarantine program from ground zero,” said Cecilia Alailima, MD, head of the repatriation program for the AS-DOH. Alailima praised the Foundation’s awareness of and respect for cultural sensibilities, adding, the four hires “are all women of Samoan ancestry who each openly expressed a sincere commitment to the mission to keep repatriated travelers safe, and to keep the territory COVID-free.” On February 1 of this year, the first repatriation flight arrived in the capital Pago Pago, with all 159 passengers testing negative for the coronavirus. “They are literally miracle workers,” said Leiema S. S. Hunt, MPH, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in describing the Foundation staff. Hunt is based in American Samoa and serves as the primary point of contact for the CDC Foundation and AS-DOH. “It’s amazing the work they have done. They managed to oversee 159-plus people and not break the bubble.” Those ‘miracle workers’ are: Ipo Hemaloto, RN, MD, COVID-19 Corps public health nurse manager; Salilo “Lilo” Foifua, COVID-19 Corps public health nurse assistant; Hotavia “Ginger” Porter, COVID-19 Corps logistics team leader, and Faauliulito “To” Tuala-Tamaalelagi, COVID-19 Corps inventory management specialist. All completed their assignments at the end of March 2021, having helped establish a successful model for safe repatriation. The team managed the administration of the day-to-day needs of American Samoans in the process of repatriation—everything from daily health assessments, COVID-19 testing and monitoring, to travel assistance, lodging, and socially-distanced activities throughout a two-week quarantine. “We really did put our heart and soul into this effort,” explained Hemaloto, who just recently earned her medical degree. “It’s very dear to us to be able to help our people, especially our stranded citizens return home, and we look to them as family members.” The four women built what they describe as a “community” reliant on partnerships, collaboration and cultural respect. “This was a whole community effort, reaching out to different partners, agencies and nonprofit organizations,” Porter explained. “All assisted in whatever way they could, knowing that the goal is to get people home safely.” Porter worked hand-in-hand with the Governor’s Office, Hawaiian Air, the Transportation Security Administration, the Hawaii State Department of Health and others to assure both physical and emotional needs were met as American Samoans went through the final stretch of a stressful and long-awaited journey home. To keep their spirits up, Porter organized safely-distanced exercise classes, and even secured loaner iPads for the kids. “Being part of this operation has been a great experience,” said Foifua. “For a whole year we’ve been hearing our people—hearing their plea—wanting to go back home to their families and having all these challenges. So at the beginning of the operation, when we got to call and let people know they have the chance to be on a certain flight, it’s an overwhelming thing, a GOOD overwhelming thing. Being that voice, telling them ‘hey you’re going home now’, it’s such a good feeling.” And that, they all agree, has been the ultimate reward. “I feel thankful and blessed,” said Tuala-Tamaalelagi on her last official day as a member of the CDC Foundation surge staff. “We carried out the CDC Foundation mission with pride.” This article is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $68,939,536 with 100 percent funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, CDC/HHS or the U.S. Government. This is sponsored content.
By Paul Donsky It’s been over a year since so many of us left the office for the last time and set up shop in our living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, and home offices. Now that COVID cases are on the wane as vaccinations pick up, organizations are thinking about returning to the office – and how much teleworking will remain in place. A series of surveys taken in the past year by ARC’s Georgia Commute Options program shed light on what office culture in metro Atlanta will look like the post-COVID world. Read on, for highlights of the survey results. This is sponsored content.
Our Public Policy team has been following every twist and turn of President Biden’s first 100 days in office, captured in this primer that examines the landscape in Washington, DC, currently, and also assesses Congressional and Administration priorities through the remainder of 2021. Features of this report include: Biden Administration: Status of First 100 Days Priorities President Trump Executive Orders Revoked by President Biden Biden Administration Nominations Tracker Assessment of the Next 100 Days 117th Congress Departures American Jobs Act vs. GOP Infrastructure Framework View Report This is sponsored content.
By Bradley Roberts, Content Manager, United Way of Greater Atlanta Jerry Jenkins shifts her weight in a folding metal chair and starts to get comfortable as she waits to hear her name called. She peers out over the top of a blue facemask and holds the content of a manila file folder securely in her lap. Jenkins is waiting to be called next to the desk at this Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) center at the West End Mall in Atlanta. The room of an old retail shop in the corner of the mall has been taken over by a team of masked volunteers sitting at desks divided by clear partitions, in front of chairs evenly-spaced out and routinely wiped down and sprayed with Lysol. Each year, United Way of Greater Atlanta provides free tax preparation services to the community through a partnership with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The VITA program provides people in Greater Atlanta and their families these services for those with low-to-moderate income, and those tax services are done by IRS-trained professionals and certified volunteers. These physical locations are usually packed throughout the week, but things have obviously changed this year because of the Coronavirus pandemic and guidelines put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. VITA is designed to make sure you take home all of your tax refund without worrying about fees. That’s what brought Jenkins, who is decked out in full green from head to toe on St. Patrick’s Day, here to this site—well, that, and her daughter Stephanie Sanchez, who physically brought her to the site. “I had no experience with this [VITA] before,” Jenkins says. “But I had heard about it through my daughter. I’ve done programs like this with AARP in the past.” The COVID-19 pandemic had changed the typical plans for what these VITA locations and other similar programs may have done in the past, but Jenkins says she knew she could feel safe coming to this site on the Westside. “I felt like I could come here and be more secure, and feel secure giving them my information—plus, it’s free,” she says with a laugh. Jenkins and Sanchez have lived in the Atlanta area their entire lives, and Sanchez says she has continually taken advantage of the free services offered by United Way. She’s familiar with United Way and had worked with different children’s programs in the past that had been partners with United Way of Greater Atlanta, she says. “For one, it’s free; two, you feel safe,” Sanchez says. “You can trust that they are experienced, and you can feel safe giving them your information.” Jim Currie is one of the volunteers at this site at West End Mall who ensures safety and security at this VITA location. Currie is a technology consultant and makes sure all of the computers, printers and other equipment are operating efficiently. He’s been doing this for about 12 years—he got his start in this specific role with the Atlanta Community Food Bank before merging with United Way, he says. “I’m here to make sure that all of the equipment works and that we have a process to get people in and out,” Currie says. Currie, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, is 90 years old—he’ll turn 91 in July— and after his time in the military, Currie worked for IBM for 22 years. He says he wants to volunteer with VITA for “as long as [he] can.” In his 12 years volunteering, a lot has changed, but no year has been quite like this one, he says. “It’s different—It’s different because of the virus.” he says. “But one thing we want to make sure of is that everyone feels safe. It’s a safe environment, people are wearing masks, keeping their distance and they’ll take care of you. The attention put on safety, security and the overall professionalism is what brought Sanchez back again, this time with her mother. It’s been a difficult year, of course, and filing your taxes is more important than ever. This year, because of CDC guidelines for COVID-19, VITA is serving Greater Atlanta with free virtual tax prep opportunities as well as free limited in-person tax prep, by appointment only. You can also do it yourself with help from an IRS-Certified Volunteer. “It’s important to me to get the most out of [your tax return] as you can,” Sanchez says. “I mean, it’s the law, you have to file your taxes every year. You want to get it done where you can feel safe—there are so many scams out there, and you don’t want to just hand out your information to anybody. “Overall, VITA has been very convenient for me.” On March 17, the IRS announced an extension of Tax Day to May 17. Take the time now to learn more about VITA, the Earned Income Tax Credit and how you can find an in-person drop-off at a number of locations across Greater Atlanta. United Way also partners with My Free Taxes so you can file personally from your own home. This is sponsored content.
As an Emory Pipeline Collaborative (EPiC) graduate, Emory University sophomore Jamal Hilaire appreciates the in-depth view of health care that the program provided and for which it is principally known. However, his participation yielded so much more. “I associate so much of what EPiC is with who I am today,” Hilaire says. “I feel pride about what I’ve become and what I want for the future.” EPiC is a federally-funded program to prepare high school students for college success and entry into health careers by increasing students’ academic achievement, college readiness, social support/mentoring, and health career awareness and self-efficacy. The program, which entails a three-year commitment, is open to Atlanta Public Schools students from Carver, Douglass, Jackson, South Atlanta and Washington high schools who meet eligibility criteria. Hilaire is refreshingly honest about what led to his involvement in the program — a couple parts happenstance, a dedicated teacher and a mother who worked at Emory. “I was introduced to EPiC by my chemistry teacher. I didn’t know what it was at all. However, I applied because it had to do with Emory, and my mom was working there at the time,” he explains. As he considers career options today, Hilaire is thinking about supply chain within the medical field, but he also ticks off other interests: software developer, data analyst or lawyer. And if Hilaire chooses a career outside the medical field, no one will be disappointed. EPiC will once again have succeeded in assisting a student with enormous potential find his way more easily. In October 2018, Emory received a five-year, $3.25 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to establish a National Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) Academy, which represents a partnership among Emory University School of Medicine, Rollins School of Public Health, Atlanta Metropolitan State College, Atlanta Area Health Education Center and the Urban Health Initiative. “Emory sees the program as a great way to give back to the city, contributing to our base of education and to the people who will continue to build Atlanta. There are so many things that bypass so many students, which is why I am grateful that Emory opened its doors to us,” says Hilaire. The National HCOP Academy is administered by Yolanda Hood, director of Emory School of Medicine’s Multicultural Medical Student Affairs, and J. William Eley, executive associate dean for medical education and student affairs. EPiC recently was the beneficiary of $25,000 from the Ford Motor Company Fund. According to Allen Lee — program manager for EPiC, recipient of the Ford Freedom, Unsung Hero Award and author of the proposal — the fund will be used to attract more African American males to the program. In addition to a 10-session after-school program, students take part in an extensive summer program involving SAT preparation presentations from medical health professionals, simulated clinical experiences, creation of a college and career portfolio, as well as tours of local educational institutions and health care facilities. “This national academy model has effectively built on Emory’s distinctive qualities, including its emphasis on research training as well as a noted focus on care of the underserved,” says Hood. Watch a video about Hilaire’s experience: This is sponsored content.
Blythe Keeler Robinson President and CEO, Sheltering Arms “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin Our nation continues to grapple with racism or the unfair treatment of people of a different race. Over the last month, we saw the serving of food to white children in a childcare center while the black children watched and waited. We learned about the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop. We watched the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd and the indictment of the suspects in Ahmaud Arbery’s shooting death. The topic of racism is still very timely and relevant. In February, Sheltering Arms hosted Dr. Iheoma Iruka, Founding Director of Equity Action Research Coalition, FPG Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as we talked about anti-racism in early learning environments. With an overwhelming response from the audience, we brought back the conversation in April for Part II – this time, answering “What Now?” People wanted to know how they could play a role in helping our community heal and address this topic for the betterment of ourselves and our children. Here are some of the questions from the audience and the responses from my chat with Dr. Iruka: How do we respond to children’s curiosity about race? “Children are scientists. They are always learning and are primed to be curious. It’s up to us as adults to engage them in conversations with us. They notice our gestures, our tones, what we do and don’t say. Start by talking with them and being honest with them. “It’s important for us to be more racially literate and ask ourselves the questions, ‘What does it mean for students to have different skin tones?’ and ‘What does it look like to have different physical abilities?’ If we don’t talk about it, then we set it up for students to naturally not want to have these conversations.” One resource we referenced is Dr. Iruka’s book, Don’t Look Away: Embracing Anti-Bias Classrooms. Learned behavior and racial/ethnic socialization. What can families do to have these conversations? “Families have a language. Engage in discussions about race and white privilege. What are some of the privileges that I have? What are some privileges that I don’t have? Parents and adults should then explore their lives. Where do you go shopping? Who do your children see as important to their community? Who are your doctors? What kind of books are on your bookshelf? Who are your children seeing while they read? In the first five years, those are the most important stages. It’s up to white parents to educate their children as well and have conversations about power and privilege. It’s about being real and checking ourselves. Check our biases and see the ways that we react in real time.” What can teachers and early childhood educators do? “Both educators and families are leaders in the conversation of equity. There needs to be a place where white supremacy is challenged. We need to create a space where families gather information and shape the agenda on important topics like police brutality, racism and inclusion. We can’t just sit on the sidelines and make Twitter statements.” I added that it’s a process. As part of our Race & Equity initiative, Sheltering Arms is doing several things to address racial equity and white supremacy. We are conducting four-day trainings with our staff on racial literacy. We have mandated reporters where we require our team members to say something if they see or hear something. We’re starting to incorporate the anti-bias framework into our mission, and our leaders are participating in United Way’s 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge. How do we address the bias of staff? “Have them engage in self interrogation. You can also have the do the implicit attitudes association test on the Johns Hopkins website. Perhaps host a book club featuring books that challenge racism, and invite them to participate in forums like this one.” We wrapped up this conversation with ideas on how to make early childhood education more equitable that include mobilizing the workforce, inviting white leaders to talk about the systems that are in place and addressing issues around equitable funding so that resources can be provided to all students and teachers. Some of these require changes to policies or the creation of new ones. As a community, we have a role and a responsibility to check our own biases, to learn from conversations like these and to address systemic racism. It’s for our children and their future. This is sponsored content.
By Aron Levine, Bank of America, President, Preferred and Consumer Banking & Investments For our inaugural Bank of America Preferred Insights: Hindsight is 20/20 Personal Finance Report, we asked affluent Americans to reflect on their financial decisions over the past two decades and share their thoughts and feelings about how their past financial decisions could help inform their financial future. The study revealed that many feel confident about how they have managed their finances over the years. In fact, many Americans have reached or expect to reach financial milestones earlier than their parents, despite challenges imposed by the pandemic. However, given the events of the past year, many are still anxious about factors outside their control that may impact their financial situation in years to come. This uncertainty about the future and ongoing concerns about the pandemic may be why many Americans are re-evaluating their financial lives and re-committing to saving. Our report found that over the past year, many Americans took the time to get their finances in order, scaled back their discretionary spending and reallocated those funds toward savings accounts and emergency funds. The study, that included an oversample of Atlanta residents, gave insights on retirement and lifestyle in the community. Results show that nearly three out of four (74%) respondents plan to or have already retired in Atlanta, a decision driven by comfort and financial stability – namely proximity to family and friends (54%), the belief that it does not make financial sense to relocate (47%) and access to good health care (36%). And more than two out of three (68%) agree that Atlanta offers greater earning potential compared to other metropolitan areas. Additionally, more than half (58%) say they would not be willing to take a pay cut to avoid their commute and work remotely in the future, which indicates a preference for money over convenience. In light of the shifting economy and their renewed focus on financial goals, Americans are turning to professional guidance, digital tools and resources to help manage their banking and investing needs. Many are taking a self-directed approach to investing, while others seek expert advice through a combination of in-person help and digital tools. In addition, the report found many investors are now considering sustainable and impact investing — a trend that is particularly prevalent among younger generations. At Bank of America, we are committed to helping our clients navigate their unique financial needs in support of their life priorities and become more informed and confident investors. Through a full range of banking, lending and investing capabilities, personalized experiences and educational resources, we provide advice and guidance that evolve as our clients’ needs change throughout their lifetime. While hindsight is 20/20, the lessons learned from the past can help us plot a course for our future. As we look at the possibilities ahead, and set new and exciting goals for ourselves and our families, we can make more informed decisions that will empower us to pursue our best financial lives. This is sponsored content.