Ann Stallard, United Way and UPS — an Atlanta trio

The UPS headquarters in Sandy Springs was the perfect place to throw a “hometown” celebration for Ann Stallard, who recently became chair of United Way of America.

Stallard, CEO of Graphic Communications of Lawrenceville, is an Atlanta treasure who has been a longtime civic player in women and social issues. There was a lot of local pride Wednesday evening that she had been tapped by the national United Way to chair that board.

So why was UPS the ideal place to celebrate Stallard’s new role?

The Atlanta-based Fortune 500 company has been the top donor to United Way of America for at least eight consecutive years.

According to Ken Sternad, president of the UPS Foundation, the company and its employees have raised a total of $931 million for United Way of America and its affiliates over the years.

It is expected that in the next couple of years, UPS will become the first $1 billion donor for United Way of America. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that were to happen during Stallard’s tenure as board chair?

The UPS/United Way story is even more amazing when one realizes that 28 years ago, UPS had a policy prohibiting employees from raising philanthropic dollars in the workplace. That meant that United Way could not run a UPS campaign to support its social service partners.

But in 1981, George Lamb, UPS’ CEO at the time realized that employees weren’t donating much to charity outside of work.

“George concluded the need was so great in the community and that employees at UPS had a financial capcity to help,” according to Kent “Oz” Nelson, who served as CEO of UPS from 1989 to 1996 and who headed the company when it relocated its headquarters to Atlanta.

“We had created a lot of personal wealth for people, and we had not set up an opportunity to give,” Nelson told me in 1997. So when UPS ran its first United Way campaign in 1982, it was pleasantly surprised that its people raised $2 million.

By 1997, UPS had raised $35 million for United Way nationwide, put it second to only General Motors. A few years later, UPS took the top position.

Nelson was on hand Wednesday evening to officially introduce Stallard to her hometown friends by recalling when they both served on the board of Atlanta’s United Way. “She somehow makes it fun,” Nelson said.

In her remarks, Stallard recognized the cutting edge initiatives that sprouted in Atlanta and have since been adopted by United Ways across the country, such as the 211 service that people can call to give or receive help.

As Stallard said: “Atlanta took the opportunity to ake the table bigger.”

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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