Authority Establishes New Procedures to Prevent Incidents, Better Address Issues By MARTA As an agency that moves millions of people a year by rail and road, taking steps to ensure the safety of customers, employees, contractors, and everyone on metro Atlanta streets is paramount. MARTA has renewed its commitment to systemwide safety with the development and implementation of a new, more comprehensive Agency Safety Plan (ASP), recently approved by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and MARTA Board of Directors. As required by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), MARTA developed a new plan that takes a collaborative approach to managing safety to better control risk, quickly detect and correct safety issues, and more precisely measure safety performance. “This safety plan is the result of every department at MARTA taking a hard look at processes and coming up with a better, more effective way to prevent incidents and swiftly address safety issues. It corrects procedural flaws in the old plan and establishes systemwide procedures that are scalable and flexible, resulting in a safer transit system,” said MARTA General Manager and CEO Jeffrey Parker. The ASP is based upon the Safety Management Systems (SMS) principles of Safety Policy, Safety Risk Mitigation, Safety Assurance, and Safety Promotion. These pillars emphasize identifying hazards, mitigating risks, and employee involvement through reporting avenues such as MARTA’s Safety 1st Program and Safety Hotline which allow for anonymous reporting of safety hazards. It also features a new Anti-Retaliation Policy for those who report non-compliance of the ASP. “The board took great care assessing every part of this plan during the approval process to ensure that it not only met federal safety rules but that MARTA’s voice was still evident within its pages,” said MARTA Board of Directors Chair Freda Hardage. “This is a strong, proactive plan that will reduce the likelihood of safety incidents.” An implementation plan was developed alongside the ASP so MARTA could begin the transition to it immediately upon approval. Several actions are already underway such as a new Continuous Improvement Business Unit, establishing a Safety Hotline, and hiring a new Manager of SMS. “We will be deliberate about the safety of our customers and employees,” said Gena Major, Assistant General Manager of the Department of Safety and Quality Assurance (DSQA). “We’ve developed an Authority-wide slogan to accompany the Agency Safety Plan, ‘Safe by Choice, Not by Chance’ and as the Chief Safety Officer here, I’m committed to choosing safety and this new plan is our roadmap.” The groundwork for the ASP was laid in August when MARTA’s DSQA achieved the prestigious International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001:2015 certification of its Quality Management System (QMS). QMS helps coordinate and direct an organization’s activities and meet customer and regulatory requirements and improve its effectiveness and efficiency on a continuous basis. These standards serve as the foundation of the SMS which provides the principles of MARTA’s new Agency Safety Plan. This is sponsored content.
By Metro Atlanta Chamber The Atlanta Sports Council (ASC) announced today that the city has won the bid to host the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Regional, including the Sweet 16 and Elite 8, at State Farm Arena in 2025. The winning proposal was submitted in February and crafted by the ASC in partnership with the Atlanta Visitors Convention Bureau, Georgia Tech and State Farm Arena. Georgia Tech will serve as the host institution for the games. “We are thrilled to work with the NCAA and the city of Atlanta again to bring the Men’s Division I Regional Basketball games back in 2025,” said Dan Corso, president of the Atlanta Sports Council. “After the unfortunate cancellation of this year’s Final Four, we are thrilled to bring a key part of the NCAA Tournament back to metro Atlanta. We are thankful for our partners at the Atlanta Visitors Convention Bureau, Georgia Tech and State Farm Arena for assisting us in creating another successful bid to bring a premier sporting event here.” The ASC plans to oversee the execution of the 2025 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Regional under the organization’s Championship Hosting Division which has been utilized for the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship, Super Bowl LIII and the 2020 NCAA Men’s Final Four. The ASC has partnered with the NCAA on several events in recent years. In 2018, Atlanta hosted the Division I Regional, where basketball fans watched a Cinderella story unfold as No. 11 seed Loyola (Chicago) advanced to the Final Four®. The city was also set to host its fourth NCAA Men’s Final Four in 2020, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event would have been the first basketball game at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Atlanta Sports Council hopes to bring another NCAA Men’s Final Four event to the city in the near future and is turning its focus to baseball as the city hosts the 2021 MLB All-Star Game at Truist Park. Additional information about the Men’s Division I Basketball Regional and the MLB All-Star Game will be released as available. About the Atlanta Sports Council The Atlanta Sports Council (ASC), a division of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, facilitates the growth and development of sports in metro Atlanta by serving as a recruiter for major regional, national and international sports events. The organization plays an important role in improving the quality of life for residents in the region through sports, working to drive economic growth and visibility and acting as an advocate for area teams and annual sports events. For more information, visit https://www.metroatlantachamber.com/councils/atlanta-sports-council. This is sponsored content.
By A.J. Robinson We’re still in a pandemic and flu season is almost here. If we want a healthy community and a healthy economy, we need to get as many people vaccinated against the flu as possible. 2020 just doesn’t let up. Reducing the strain on our healthcare system during the flu season is our No. 1 priority. The flu vaccine reduces the risk of having to visit the doctor by 40 to 60 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vaccinating people over the age of six months is the best weapon in our arsenal to fight against the flu and its compounding influence on COVID-19 infections. Here’s the good news. Georgia’s COVID-19 positivity rate is down to 9.8 percent from 23 percent at the beginning of April. At our peak in mid-July, Georgia averaged more than 3,700 COVID-19 cases a day. Our current seven-day daily average is down to just over 1,274 cases. After straining for months under the weight of this pandemic, we’re finally seeing positive gains and our economy is getting stronger. While Georgia saw a slight increase in unemployment claims last week, that followed seven straight weeks of decline in unemployment benefit claims filed here. We clearly can’t let our guard down. That’s why the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Georgia Hospital Association, and Central Atlanta Progress launched Get Georgia Well, an effort to generate support in the private sector to raise public awareness of behavioral change that can slow the spread of COVID-19. We want to stop the spread of the virus, both for the health of our community and for our economy. During the peak of the pandemic in July, some Georgia hospitals were overwhelmed with patients. As reported by GPB, Navicent Health in Macon had stretchers lined up against walls in the ER. Staff reached out to ICUs in other counties and states to handle their influx of patients, shipping patients all the way to Orlando, FL, in order to find open beds. Will our hospitals be able to handle a spike in both flu and COVID-19 cases? During the 2019/2020 flu season, 2,519 people were hospitalized with the flu in metro Atlanta alone. It’s not just hospitals. Many of us infected with the flu stay home and heal with over the counter medicine and rest. But because of the similarity in symptoms between flu and COVID-19, people will justifiably be concerned and could inundate their healthcare providers when infected with COVID-like symptoms. As our economy finds its footing, maintaining a healthy workforce is essential. According to a study published in the medical journal “Vaccine,” Americans miss 111 million workdays annually due to flu. The economic impact is $16.3 billion lost annually. Being infected with both viruses creates a host of problems. Coinfection can speed the spread of both viruses. Since 40 percent of people infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, they may unknowingly spread both viruses when coughing, sneezing and talking while infected with the flu. And it’s not just spreading the virus that is a concern. Flu affects the respiratory system. COVID-19 affects the vascular system as well which can lead to blood clots. “Coinfection of influenza and COVID-19 can affect multiple organ systems at the same time,” says Amber Schmidtke, who holds a PhD in Medical Microbiology and Immunology and is a former expert for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. “It’s not a situation you want to be in.” The CDC recommends getting the flu vaccine yearly. Children six months to eight years may need two doses, everyone else needs only one. It takes about two weeks to develop antibodies and get the full protection of the vaccine. Don’t wait until the end of October when the flu season starts to gear up. Get the flu shot now. Make a plan to help employees get the flu shot. Consider hosting a free flu vaccine clinic on-site. If that’s not an option, offer flexibility during working hours to get a flu shot in the community. Send out communications to employees encouraging flu shots and where they are available. We can work together to keep the flu virus from spreading but if we fail to take action, we risk overwhelming our hospitals, dealing with coinfections and potentially causing more cases of COVID-19. Thankfully, we can be proactive against influenza. According to the CDC, the “flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related visits to the doctor each year.” We all want to keep our community healthy and see our economy stay on track. If a simple flu shot can help, take the time to get one today. This article originally appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Thursday, October 15, 2020 This is sponsored content.
By Kelsi Eccles and Stacia Turner, The Conservation Fund 2020 has been a rainy year in Atlanta, and it’s on track to be one of the city’s top five wettest years on record. More water more often—with 2018 being the second wettest year on record—heightens the need to address aging or inadequate infrastructure, manage increased demands on transportation and stormwater management systems, and plan for climate related impacts. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted these pressures and their impacts on public health. Neighborhoods facing the greatest adverse environmental and health outcomes are frequently those that have historically been plagued with economic and social inequities and are often communities of color. In the last decade, growing cities like Atlanta have recognized that urban conservation efforts must be inclusive of these challenged communities and focus on increasing accountability and transparency that ensures conservation outcomes address the needs of both current and future residents. The Conservation Fund’s Parks with Purpose initiative has demonstrated innovative and inclusive urban conservation by partnering with government and grassroots organizations to create new parks and greenspaces that address environmental justice and climate-related issues at a neighborhood level. While these park projects take time to develop, along the way we have learned some valuable lessons that help to ensure long-term community benefits that honor our diverse neighbors, partners, and planet. Lesson 1: Get back to nature – replicate natural systems to increase climate and community resilience. Climate science is pointing to increased frequency of intense weather events and conditions including heavy precipitation, prolonged drought, and higher temperatures. Urban parks can address multiple climate change challenges through ecosystem services, such as mitigating urban heat island effects, filtering stormwater runoff, and allowing more natural cycling of water with green infrastructure investments. By restoring natural systems that help to cool our concrete jungles, we can reduce the current impacts of sewer overflows and stormwater flooding in these communities. The Fund is working with numerous private and public partners in Atlanta to reconnect economically distressed urban communities with their natural waterways. Atlanta’s Proctor Creek Watershed is identified in the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, (something is missing here) working to amend the legacy of water pollution from sewer overflows and stormwater runoff from streets, buildings and parking lots that disproportionately impact lower income neighborhoods. Green infrastructure investments, like tree planter boxes and bioswales, are adding stormwater infrastructure capacity and helping manage urban flooding. In addition to supporting more resilient municipal systems, green infrastructure in the form of new parks also provides access to healthy, nature-based recreational opportunities, providing safe places for kids to play, families to gather, and neighbors to build social bonds. Residents in many of Atlanta’s most challenged neighborhoods lack access to quality parks, and COVID-19 has further emphasized the impact of these community inequities. Urban parks provide a significant opportunity to work alongside communities to increase access to nature-based programming, park planning, and natural resource decision making. “Almost every Thursday I collect samples of the [Proctor Creek] water at Lindsay Street Park and take it to Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. They test it for E. coli and post it on their website. The creek was healthy when I was a kid and that’s what I want to see again,” said Juanita Wallace, Proctor Creek Stewardship Council, Clean-up and Community Science Committee Chair. Lesson 2: Invest in people – foster community-centered environmental stewardship Traditional environmentalism is focused on protecting and preserving pristine landscapes for wildlife and biodiversity. These lands area often managed by state and federal partners as National Parks and Wildlife Refuges and supporters are outdoor enthusiasts with a love of nature. Urban conservation is different. Parks with Purpose projects are in communities that have been historically impacted by environmental, social, and racial injustices and the properties are often degraded and polluted. Residents have been subjected to greenspaces that are often overgrown, trash-filled, and dangerous. The Parks with Purpose model not only restores degraded urban landscapes, but also invests in growing the capacity of community leaders and grassroots organizations who champion environmental stewardship. The Conservation Fund recognizes that supporting environmental resiliency in urban neighborhoods means providing resources to communities that face underinvestment but hold expertise in land stewardship and community organizing. This includes supporting environmental education, community science, workforce training, and resident based planning and visioning activities that build an inclusive network of community leaders who are passionate about urban conservation and who will champion the activation and stewardship of these new parks and greenspaces. “When the pandemic hit, our community lost a lot of the large group volunteer days that we usually have in the spring. But we were able to get resources to help hire our neighbors that are trained to clean up parks and green infrastructure to fill that gap,” said Vanessa Booker, Park Ambassador Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park. Another innovative approach that The Conservation Fund has taken to overcome barriers in engaging urban communities in the decision-making and stewardship of parks and natural resources has been to create space for community voices at the decision-making table. They become partners in planning and developing the projects instead of responding to solutions proposed by municipal partners. By engaging community partners in the early stages of a project, local knowledge and expertise become a prominent feature of the park design. This type of community involvement builds connections between residents and their local parks as well as a sense of ownership and pride, which enhances the place keeping impact of these neighborhood hubs. Thanks to partnerships in Atlanta with Park Pride, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance and Eco-Action, we are helping communities shape visions of new parks, stream corridors, and greenspaces. We rely on the expertise of community-led organizations to help educate and engage residents in green infrastructure, watershed stewardship and local natural resources. Through nature-based learning programs, grassroots partners help reconnect residents with outdoor spaces. Once residents are engaged with the project, The Conservation Fund partners with Park Pride’s community park visioning team to conceptualize how a park can make an impact on …
By: John Hope Bryant Disasters are unpredictable. Even with prior warning, we are rarely, if ever, prepared for the mental and emotional tax excised on us individually and collectively as a community. Right now, we find ourselves in the middle of a global health crisis, an economic shift felt by millions, and in the throes of battling a series of back-to-back natural disasters. Amidst these trying times, we must remember – disasters do not stop, and we cannot sit by idly, becoming victims of circumstance. The best way to fight back against the unknown is by being prepared. Devastation strikes without discrimination and it is never clear when it will impact you and your community. It is often said that the best offense is a good defense, preparedness is just that. Financial preparation for emergencies can save you and your family tremendous heartache and stress after disaster strikes. The simple actions you take, or do not take, today can greatly affect your future and way of life. Recently, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recorded that more than 25 million Americans were impacted by a natural disaster in 2017; and, in the past three years alone, natural disasters have accounted for nearly $500 billion in damage and losses. While it is not possible to control the disruptions that nature can sometimes bring into our lives, we can control our response to them through financial literacy. Financial literacy is the cornerstone of preparedness; the two go together. When you understand the mechanics of money and resources – and how it can be leveraged to bring you to your desired future – you attain a sense of control and empowerment you may not have had before. Many times, individuals can tend to focus on what they do not have as a reason for delaying emergency preparations. Rather than focusing on what you do not have, think about shifting your focus on what you do have and maximizing its output and potential. Remember, consistently taking small actions yields big results over time. Here are a few things that you can do to be prepared for any kind of financial emergency you may find yourself in: Make saving a priority. It is important to understand that federal disaster assistance will not make you whole after disaster strikes – you must make saving and proper insurance a priority. For your savings, consider creating an additional “cash-on-demand” savings account that you add to periodically that you can take with you in case you are required to evacuate in a hurry. Maintain insurance. After Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the average flood insurance payout to homeowners who flooded was $120,000. Conversely, homeowners who took on water and applied for FEMA for federal financial assistance through FEMA received $4,000 to 7,000 on average. Therefore, it is important to understand your risks and ensure your assets have the proper level of coverage. Review your policy options, policies, and other relevant paperwork consistently to ensure that information is up to date. Have a written plan. A comprehensive financial plan serves as your road map reminding you of your desired destination and the actions required to get there. Make copies of all important financial and legal documents. Many times, when disasters strike, property is severely damaged or destroyed. Unfortunately, for many, they lose access to important documents like mortgage information and birth certificates which are helpful in applying for recovery assistance. Additionally, in today’s technological environment, make sure your important documents are available digitally by storing them in the cloud, email, or mobile device. If you need assistance in this process, Operation HOPE may be able to help. For nearly three decades, Operation HOPE has been empowering Americans through financial literacy with a standing commitment to prepare individuals and families for financial disasters, of any kind, and seeing them through to recovery. Through HOPE Coalition America (HCA), the organization provides preparation coaching, at no cost to clients, to help them get back on their feet should they be adversely affected by disaster – be it natural or manmade. Additionally, their financial wellbeing coaches are trained to walk alongside clients in their most vulnerable times to help them regain a sense of dignity and normalcy in their lives. They can help clients build emergency financial plans, negotiate their mortgage payments, apply for eligible post-disaster FEMA assistance, speak to lenders concerning the terms and condition of their loans, and more. Life is an adventure, plan for it and be ready for the unexpected. September is National Preparedness Month and it is the perfect time to make a commitment to ensure you and your family are financially prepared – by doing so, you are investing in your future. For more resources, visit the Ready Campaign and the Financial Literacy and Education Commission.
By Charles Redding, MedShare CEO & President I cannot recall a time when so much focus has been placed on primary health care, or the lack thereof, as it is now. The global Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the ongoing struggle in many communities to address underlying health conditions before they lead to catastrophic outcomes. This is especially true in low-income and marginalized communities. The concept of primary health care has been repeatedly reinterpreted and redefined. In some contexts, it is referred to as the provision of ambulatory or first-level personal health care services. In other contexts, primary health care is understood as a set of priority health interventions for low-income populations. Others consider primary health care to be an essential component of human development, focusing on the economic, social and political aspects. The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a cohesive definition based on three components: Meeting people’s health needs through comprehensive promotive, protective, preventive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative care throughout the life course, strategically prioritizing key health care services aimed at individuals and families through primary care and the population through public health functions as the central elements of integrated health services; Systematically addressing the broader determinants of health (including social, economic, environmental, as well as people’s characteristics and behaviors) through evidence-informed public policies and actions across all sectors; and Empowering individuals, families, and communities to optimize their health, as advocates for policies that promote and protect health and well-being, as co-developers of health and social services, and as self-carers and care-givers to others. All too often, primary health care is a weak link in health systems. Over 400 million people worldwide lack access to essential health services typically delivered through primary health care. According to WHO, over 10 million children under the age of five who live in developing nations die annually due to inadequate medical care. In some instances, potentially life-saving surgeries have to be cancelled due to the lack of basic supplies like sutures, clean needles, gauze and alcohol wipes. Often, people living in medically underserved communities are sicker and live shorter lives due to lack of access to basic services, including health care. Closing the gap in quality primary health care is essential to improving global health outcomes. Active primary care health systems are where people go in their communities to stay healthy and to receive care when they become ill. When quality primary care is available, it fosters healthier communities. For these reasons and more, MedShare’s Primary Care Program focuses on: Decreasing global health disparities by improving access to quality medical supplies and equipment Increasing the capacity to effectively treat and care for patients in local health care systems Strengthening global health systems so they are prepared to treat patients during future health crises Improving health outcomes for patients by improving the standard of care MedShare partners with hospitals, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and in-country health ministers to fulfill our mission. By working with these health partners, we help them reach more patients and perform more routine and life-saving medical procedures. Since 1998, through our Primary Care Program, we have been able to help strengthen health systems and improve the standard of care in 117 countries and territories by: Delivering nearly 1,900 shipments of quality medical supplies & equipment valued at $238 million. Provisioning almost 4,000 medical mission teams to provide care in resource-challenged communities Providing over $3.2 million of medical supplies to local safety-net clinics via our on-site Primary Care Supply Centers Quality health care should not be a choice. Rather, it should be provided as economically as possible to all those in need. Without it, the rate of disease and chronic illness affecting people around the world will continue to increase, and pandemics and other health crises will continue to disproportionally impact those living in underserved communities. This is sponsored content.
By Paul Donsky Better traffic signals. Enhanced bus service. Improved roads. These are a some of the projects included in this year’s list of transportation projects slated to receive federal funding. In all, $44 million from Uncle Sam was recently allocated by the Atlanta Regional Commission toward a range of projects. Here are some highlights: Widening Lee Road in Douglas County, from Fairburn Road to Monier Avenue, to create a four-lane roadway divided by a 20-foot raised grass median, sidewalks and a multi-use trail on the east side of Lee. MARTA improvements, including: Arterial Rapid Transit on Metropolitan Parkway, from the West End MARTA Station in the City of Atlanta to the City of Hapeville; and enhanced bus service in Clayton County. Bill Gardner Parkway Widening, scoping activities, from SR 155 to I-75 South in Henry County. When construction, Bill Gardner will be four lanes from SR 155 to Lester Mill Road and six lanes from Lester Mill to I-75. Other projects in line for funding include: Phase 1 of a traffic enhancement signal program in the City of Atlanta; the Global Gateway Connector in the City of College Park; and vehicle expansion on bus route 50 in Gwinnett County. The region’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) allocates federal funds to be used in the construction of the highest-priority projects in the long-range Regional Transportation Plan, which includes $173 billion in funding through 2050. The TIP is updated several times a year. This is sponsored content.
By By John Russell, Eric Tanenblatt, Thurbert Baker, David Quam, Polly Lawrence, Ceasar Mitchell, Rob Vescio and William Kaneko, Dentons Dentons’ Public Policy group has provided a synopsis of the political landscape for each state prepared by members of our Dentons 50 network — experts from all 50 state capitols with a pulse on federal, state and local races in their respective states. We also highlight the states with governors races, attorneys general races and the 22 state chambers considered “battle grounds” with their current majorities. Click here to view report (PDF) This is sponsored content.
By Bradley Roberts, Content Manager, United Way of Greater Atlanta David was experiencing shortness of breath. As an undocumented American, he was afraid to leave for the hospital and afraid to leave his family alone—so he called the Latino Community Fund of Georgia. He was desperate, and he thought this could be one of the last phone calls he ever made. He needed it to count. His eight family members, all undocumented, were living in an apartment together. David wanted to make sure his family was supported and taken care of in case he died. A representative with the Latino Community Fund reached out to the Grady Health System for a health professional who specializes in assisting undocumented clients like David. Over the course of two conversations, the health professional encouraged David to seek treatment. David survived his bout with the coronavirus, but he had been left with an $81,000 bill. Now, the Latino Community Fund is working with him to understand and negotiate his expenses and help as he and his family move on from this. The Latino Community Fund was one of the most recent recipients of grant funds made possible through the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, a joint effort from United Way of Greater Atlanta and Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. On Aug. 11, United Way and Community Foundation announced the seventh round of grants for the COVID-19 response. Latino Community Fund received $200,000 to provide emergency financial assistance for Latinx communities throughout Greater Atlanta. The seventh round of grants totaled roughly $1.13 million and targeted emergency financial assistance for housing-related costs. The grants went to 10 organizations in response to the region’s needs as a result of COVID-19. About two weeks into March, major cities across the country began shutting down restaurants, bars, gyms and schools in an attempt to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. As of Aug. 13, COVID-19, which is a respiratory illness with symptoms such as cough, fever and in severe cases, difficulty breathing, has infected more than 5 million people nationwide and killed more than 165,000. This seventh round of grant funding from United Way and Community Foundation allows organizations to provide emergency financial assistance in response to this crisis for a period of up to four and a half months. Nine of the grants provided emergency financial assistance and legal support to combat evictions for some of our most vulnerable, low-income populations — undocumented and immigrant families with children, families who may face threats from domestic violence, families who live in extended stay motels and families without formal leases. David’s employer has not hired him back, and he currently has no job to provide for his family. There are many other stories like his around Greater Atlanta. To help those in need, donate to the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund. If you would like to empower communities of color in Greater Atlanta impacted by decades of systemic barriers and disinvestment, donate to the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund. You can also ensure that all children in Greater Atlanta have access to the same resources and opportunities by donating to the Child Well-Being Impact Fund. This is sponsored content.
ATC’s Family Connection Virtual Townhall Educates, Engages Students and Staff By Atlanta Technical College For many organizations, the practice of social distancing has redefined the idea of community and connectivity among colleagues and peers. Even with the creative hybrid learning environment at Atlanta Technical College (ATC), many students and faculty members are embarking on a reimagined school/work experience and learning to balance their new daily reality. Technology has helped ATC blaze a path that has ushered in a renewed sense of culture through virtual conversations focused on social, mental, political and health-related topics that draws hundreds of students and staff to log in and take part in the new “community” each month. ATC’s Family Connection is a series of virtual town hall meetings that have created a new sense of unity among students, faculty and staff as college leaders and local experts discuss important topics and share valuable resources. Initially created to address the regional and national protests in response to police brutality, ATC first launched the virtual meeting series in June of this year. “This year has been a whirlwind of unforeseen challenges due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and global movements around police brutality that have emotionally impacted many of our team members and students,” said ATC President Dr. Victoria Seals. “Our goal with the Family Connection series is to shift our current challenges into opportunities to create a safe space for the ATC Family to find help, share their concerns, learn more about important topics, and engage with their peers.” Over the last four months, college members have connected around such topics as mental health awareness, domestic violence, COVID-19, and voter suppression. Although ATC has launched a hybrid learning schedule that allows students to periodically come on campus to take technical courses, many students have decreased daily face-to-face interactions with their peers. “We want to be deliberate about creating a culture and community that fosters learning and growth for all,” said Dr. Seals. “I believe the virtual environment has actually helped draw more people into the larger conversations and has enabled our greater Atlanta community to engage our students and staff in a dynamic way.” With October being recognized as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, ATC joined forces with Partnership Against Domestic Violence to bring the topic to the forefront by inviting leaders to advocate to share their stories, resources, and warning signs. “Now more than ever, we wanted to be intentional about creating a pathway for success. You never know what people are dealing with or experiencing, so our goal is to find ways to connect with our village even though we have to commune in a different way,” said Dr. Sonya McCoy-Wilson, dean of arts and sciences, who served as the moderator for the domestic violence town hall. As Georgia continues to break records for absentee and early voting, ATC is also preparing their student body to be more engaged and informed voters. Joel Alvarado, who served as a panelist during the Oct. 15 Family Connection virtual town hall and has worked in community development and advocacy, said that community and technical colleges are the “starting point” for creating awareness and spreading information to others. “The best way to contribute to democracy is through voting,” Alvarado said. “The evolution of organizational culture will be studied during and after this pandemic,” said Dorna Werdelin, associate vice president of communications, marketing & public relations. “What I believe will be revealed at ATC is that in the midst of a crisis, we were able to demonstrate the very best of the culture and community that we have established here. This is an environment that cares for our students, staff and faculty in words and actions.” This is sponsored content.
By Melissa R. Brogdon, MS.Ed, CFRE The pursuit of equity in Atlanta has remained perpetually elusive. Leaders from every nonprofit and many corporations have continuously convened and collaborated to provide solutions that bring us steps closer to helping all Atlantans truly access the promise of our resurgent city. The problem is big and for the individual looking to make an impact, the path to get involved can feel unclear. For members of The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc. (JLA) the Little Black Dress Initiative (LBDI) keeps this pursuit ignited. For the last 6 years, JLA has invited community members, neighbors, coworkers, family, and friends to increase awareness of the generational poverty problem our city faces and learn how we, as a community, can provide promising solutions. JLA members like the 2020 LBDI Chair, Edwina Robinson have illustrated how a pathway out of generational poverty is possible. As a native Atlantan, she was able to purchase a home in the same area that was once known as the housing project, Perry Homes, where her father grew up. Edwina’s trajectory to disrupting generational poverty however is not the norm. She also shared that Atlanta has the worst upward mobility of any major metro in the country. Only 4% of Metro Atlantans born into the bottom 20% of income earners ever make it to the top 20%. Struggling families across the region now face an additional barrier to economic mobility: the persistent Covid-19 pandemic which is now compounding and escalating this economic crisis. Early research has highlighted the disproportionate impact the Covid-19 pandemic will have on women and women-led households. In particular for women of color, school closures, limited access to affordable childcare, job loss and lack of affordable healthcare will serve only to further widen the gaps that the pandemic will leave in its wake. LBDI is an awareness campaign hosted by JLA each year with one primary goal: to equip more children and families with the support to access greater opportunity just like Edwina. In reflecting on her role this year, she shared that, “I became involved with LBDI for the same reasons I joined the League…I wanted to apply my passion for community engagement to make a real difference.” During the week of October 19-23, more than 50 JLA members , known as LBDI advocates, matched Edwina’s enthusiasm. For 5 days they donned the same black dress in an effort to start conversations that made people think about their privilege and hopefully share their resources with their neighbors facing formidable odds. Advocates championed awareness building, as well as fundraising during LBDI week. With many of their likely donors indoors practicing social distancing, LBDI Advocates got creative and implemented all sorts of digital engagement strategies to encourage engagement with the initiative. They refreshed their personal pitches, activated the power of influencers on social media, and leveraged financial matches from their own pockets. Many shared video messages with their friends and community to explain their personal “Why” for becoming an advocate and asking for support even as so many may be facing hardship themselves. Early results indicate that their efforts are working. Though the inability to connect with supporters in person has somewhat impacted the way information about LBDI is shared, the initiative is clearly on its path to raise more $85,000 to support families and children facing great challenges during this unprecedented year. Once fully completed, the results of this year’s campaign will provide financial support and trained volunteers to dozens of JLA partners, like Mercy Care, Chris 180 and Agape, that offer direct assistance to thousands of vulnerable Atlantans each year. For more than 104 years, JLA has forged a route toward a more equitable Atlanta through hands-on service and advocacy. In order to effectively spread awareness for JLA’s Issue Based Community Initiatives like LBDI, the tools that JLA members have been equipped with must be used for transformative conversations that generate results beyond political or religious preferences, zip code or ethnic background. Members of the league have leveraged their unique life experiences for courageous conversations that expose our collective truth; we all have something to offer in the march toward a more equitable Atlanta. Not only are they increasing awareness, they are encouraging people to see how LBDI connects to the current movement for social justice. Edwina has lots of faith in the LBDI Advocates, “The Junior League Atlanta women have never shied away from the tough challenges.” LBDI Advocates illustrate that even our biggest problems can be impacted by the action of one. When the initiative was first adopted in 2014 a quarter of all children living in Georgia were facing poverty and food insecurity. With the collective effort of many, like JLA’s partner Atlanta Community Food Bank, that figure has been reduced to 1 in 5. JLA continues inviting community members to invest in the league’s work to transform communities and equip women to serve and lead. This is sponsored content.
By Wendy Stewart, Atlanta Market President for Bank of America Each year, in celebration of National Hispanic American Heritage Month, we at Bank of America express great support and gratitude for our Hispanic-Latino communities and their many contributions to our society and culture. Unity has been especially important this year as we continue to see many underserved communities, including communities of color, disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. We continue to uplift our Hispanic-Latino communities by supporting our clients, being a great place to work for our teammates and being proactive partners in the neighborhoods in which we live and work. Partnerships with organizations like the Latin American Association (LAA), La Amistad and Cristo Rey connect Hispanic-Latino youth to first-time jobs, offer young adults alternative pathways to employment, and provide second chances to individuals rebuilding their careers and lives, services that are all much-needed at this time. Our partners have risen to meet this unprecedented moment and adapted their approaches accordingly: LAA is working with families to address basic needs and provide education and job resource assistance, as well as COVID-19 testing for students and families. La Amistad has made use of its new bus to deliver more than 27,000 meals since the onset of the pandemic to students and families throughout Atlanta. Cristo Rey is navigating its school year virtually and preparing for the Corporate Work Study Program to begin Oct. 13. And Ser Familia, a longtime partner of our Hispanic-Latino employee network, has provided more than 100,000 pounds of food and offered emergency financial assistance to families in need over the past few months. At Bank of America, we believe we’re stronger when we connect our diverse backgrounds and perspectives to better meet the needs of our teammates, clients and communities. History and culture matter, and I am so grateful for our city’s diverse and colorful heritage. I hope that we learn to value all our perspectives and different viewpoints to foster a culture of greater inclusion and understanding — not just during National Hispanic American Heritage Month, but also in our daily lives. This is sponsored content.