Column: Aaron’s Loudermilk to get Four Pillar Award

By Maria Saporta
Friday, June 17, 2011

R. Charles Loudermilk Sr., founder of Aarons Inc., will receive one of the premier awards of the year.

The Council for Quality Growth will give Loudermilk its 2011 Four Pillar Award on Oct. 6 at a dinner at the Georgia World Congress Center. The award is given to people who have excelled in these four pillars: quality, responsibility, vision and integrity.

“That’s Charlie Loudermilk,” said John Portman, Atlanta’s well-known architect and developer. “He scores out of sight on all of those things.”

Michael Paris, president and CEO of the Council for Quality Growth, said several former recipients nominated Loudermilk for the award.

“Charlie is one of the stalwarts in our city’s history — a self-made man who’s love for Atlanta is symbolized through his hard work and commitment to providing an equal opportunity for every one to succeed,” Paris said.

Developer John Williams, a former Four Pillar Award recipient, was one who had entered Loudermilk’s name.

“Charlie is my neighbor,” Williams wrote in an e-mail. “He is a great friend and has done as much for Atlanta as anybody I know.”

Loudermilk founded Aaron’s in 1955 after borrowing $500 to purchase folding chairs and renting them for 10 cents a day to auction houses. Today, Aaron’s is a $1.8 billion-annual revenue company.

In addition to his business interests, Loudermilk has become a leading philanthropist, donating more than $17 million to local charities and causes. Loudermilk also gained recognition in 1981 when he was the leading white businessman who supported Andrew Young’s successful mayoral campaign, a stance that put him at odds with some of his closest friends. That led to him chairing MARTA’s board in the mid-1980s.

“What I like about Charlie is that he’s genuine,” Portman said. “He is who he is. He never tries to spin you. He’s just Charlie. There are so few people like that.”
Portman said he and Loudermilk are a bit like the “odd couple” who love to needle each other.

For example, it was once reported how Loudermilk invited Portman to go hunting on his plantation. Portman said he didn’t want to kill anything. After the trip, Loudermilk sent Portman a letter with the greeting: “Dear Candyass.”

Former recipients of the Four Pillar Award include Arthur Blank, Shirley Franklin, Tom Cousins and Johnny Isakson.

Coke foundation grants

The Coca-Cola Foundation has awarded a total of $27 million in community grants to help communities around the world prosper and thrive as part of its Sustainable Communities Initiative.

Of that $27 million, $3 million went to Georgia organizations that promote healthy living, education, civic and youth development initiatives.

Among those receiving the grants were the Children’s Museum of Atlanta, the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, The University of Georgia, Morehouse College, the Wesleyan School, the Atlanta Historical Society, the National Black Arts Festival and the Woodruff Arts Center.

The Atlanta-based company also gave $550,000 to assist with disaster relief efforts in tornado-affected areas, including communities in Georgia, Alabama and Missouri.

Worldwide, $12 million went to water stewardship projects, $1.2 million for fitness and nutrition programs, $1.6 million for community recycling programs, an $6.8 million for educational initiatives.

Davis awards scholarships

Outgoing Georgia Board of Regents Chancellor Erroll Davis is putting money where his heart is.

The Davis Family Foundation recently awarded $21,500 in “need-based” scholarships. The scholarships target students who are from under-represented groups who have shown great academic potential, but whose high school performance may not have qualified them for other grants, such as HOPE.

The foundation, which has been around since 1986, awarded scholarships to 10 students graduating from Georgia high schools. The foundation also provided grants to two continuing scholars: Martinque Catrice Douglas, who is attending The University of Georgia, and Jasmine Worthen, who is attending Wesleyan College.

Impact Day at Deloitte

On June 10, Deloitte held its 11th annual IMPACT Day, an annual event when the accounting firm celebrates its yearlong commitment to the community.

Thirteen hundred volunteers spent the day working with 23 nonprofits. The firm allows professionals to set aside their client work and spend the day volunteering — often doing “skills-based” community work.

Deloitte also held three main events that day. It held a forum on “The Power of Pro Bono” where Deloitte employees shared what they had learned from giving about $50 million in pro bono work to community groups in the past three years.

The Deloitte Center for Leadership and Community Forum hosted about 150 nonprofit leaders in seminars and breakout sessions led by Deloitte consultants. Deloitte also held the Posse Foundation to prepare college students with at risk backgrounds for successful careers.

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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