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Column: $5 million grant adds momentum to $35 million Vision Safe Atlanta campaign

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on March 1, 2019

The Atlanta Police Foundation has received a $5 million grant from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation towards its $35 million Vision Safe Atlanta capital campaign.

The campaign was kicked off at the Crime is Toast breakfast on Oct. 9, when The Coca-Cola Co.’s CEO, James Quincey, announced a $2 million gift to the Atlanta Police Foundation. Quincey also announced that he is co-chairing the campaign with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

“We have supported the Police Foundation since it was established” in 2003, Russ Hardin, president of the Woodruff Foundation, wrote in an email. “The return on our investment, measured by Atlanta’s crime rate and the increased professionalism of our police department, has been terrific.”

Russ Hardin, James Quincey Mayor Bottoms

Woodruff Foundation’s Russ Hardin stands with Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Dave Wilkinson, president of the Atlanta Police Foundation, said the campaign is still in a quiet phase, and the campaign has already raised about $13 million. Other major donors have included the Rollins Foundation, Georgia Power and the UPS Foundation. The campaign is supposed to be wrapped up by the end of 2020.

“We’ve got tremendous momentum right now and tremendous leadership on this campaign,” Wilkinson said. “The business community and the leadership of the city with Mayor Bottoms have really stepped up in a big way.”

Wilkinson said the campaign will fund four major initiatives: hiring more police officers, providing more technology, reducing repeat offenders; and preventing youth crime.

The city of Atlanta has had a goal for 2,000 police officers on the street. It reached that goal for a brief period, but they currently have at least 350 vacancies – partly because of inadequate compensation.

The Police Foundation conducted a compensation study that said the city would need to invest another $42 million to make Atlanta police officers the highest paid in the region.

Mayor Bottoms announced $10 million towards that goal and a commitment to reach the $42 million over the next three years. The city also is establishing a new public safety training center that will help boost the police force.

The campaign also will cover the costs of installing more safety cameras and the latest technology for “smart policing” in the city.

“We believe through state-of-the-art technology, a police officer can do the work of what two police officers did in the past,” Wilkinson said. “The real focus is creating a paradigm shift. It’s all about data and analytics.”

Another focus area of the campaign is reducing the number of repeat offenders.

“We know that a vast majority of the crime in the city of Atlanta is perpetuated by a small number of repeat offenders,” Wilkinson said. The Foundation is working on a detailed report on repeat offenders, that will be released in a couple of months, to better understand how they end up back on the street. It also is working with the city to reconvene a commission that will work on reducing the number of repeat offenders.

The last area of focus is on youth crime, and the Foundation is hoping to build on the success of its @Promise Center on the Westside. When juveniles first have an encounter with law enforcement, they are brought to the Center to help determine the issues in their lives, to provide social and medical resources, and to try to redirect the youth from a life of crime. Multiple nonprofits are partners in the @Promise Center.

Wilkinson said that 50 to 60 percent of the crime in the city of Atlanta is perpetuated by juveniles. “We feel the @Promise Centers are a game changer,” he said. The campaign will pay towards building a second @Promise Center on Metropolitan Parkway in the Pittsburgh community. The campaign also will pay for the Center’s first three years of operation.

The Foundation also has identified two other communities that would benefit from having an @Promise Center.

“The @Promise Center has been an unqualified success and should be replicated in other neighborhoods,” Hardin said. “Dave Wilkinson has provided tremendous leadership and our community has responded. Our police department deserves our community’s support.”

YWCA Salute to Women of Achievement

Philanthropist Liz Blake will be honored as the 2019 Woman of Achievement by the YWCA of Greater Atlanta.

The Y will hold its 36th annual Salute to Women of Achievement dinner (instead of a lunch program) will be held on Wednesday, April 10, at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.

Blake is a retired senior vice president and general counsel of Habitat for Humanity International. She is a former chair of the Carter Center’s board of councilors, and she serves on the board of the Westside Future Fund.

The 2019 Academy of Women Achievers also includes Allison Dukes, chief financial officer of SunTrust Bank; Sharon Gay, managing partner of Dentons’ Atlanta office; Sonya Halpern, a cultural entrepreneur; Soumaya Khalifa, founder and president of the Islamic Speakers Bureau; Helene Lollis, president and CEO of Pathbuilders; Juliette Pryor, senior vice president and general counsel for Cox Enterprises; Blythe Robinson, president and CEO of Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Centers; Erika Shields, city of Atlanta’s police chief; Martha Wilber, associate medical director of hospital and acute care at Kaiser Permanente; and Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.

Also, the YWCA has named 10 new members to its board as well as its new officers.

Sarah Lattimer Irvin, president and CEO of Metrics Marketing, is the board chair; Cynthia Neal Spence, who is on the faculty of Spelman College, is the vice chair; Jennifer Winn, general manager of natural resources for Georgia Power, is the secretary; and Tyan Keyes-Ballard, a senior vice president at Cadence Bank, is treasurer.

The new YWCA board members are Rukiya Eaddy Thomas of Atkins; Diamond Ford of the Michael R. Hollis Innovation Academy; Jodi L. Geary of KPMG LLP; Eboni Green of Twenty Twenty Visionary; Dr. Ashani Johnson Turbes, a scientist with the NORC at the University of Chicago; Dionne Mack of Cox Automotive; Katherine Mobley of First Advantage Corp.; Tameka Rish of AMBSE; Nzinga Shaw of the Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena; and Ayla Zamangil of Care USA.

“Having a dedicated board, committed to the mission of YWCA of Greater Atlanta is a great gift,” said CEO Sharmen Gowens in a statement. “From our leadership team, to returning and new board members, I’m proud of what we do to help eliminate racism and empower women, while supporting women and girls so that they can thrive and find their wings to soar.”

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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