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ATL Business Chronicle

Column: $6 million gift will boost regional homelessness commission

By Maria Saporta
Friday, November 12, 2010

The work of the Regional Commission on Homelessness has been validated through a $6 million, two-year gift from the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation.

The Whitehead Foundation, which is part of the family of the Robert W. Woodruff family of foundations, focuses much of its giving on the poor in the community.

“The Regional Commission on Homelessness represents our community’s collective effort to help the poorest of the poor among us,” said Russ Hardin, president of the Whitehead Foundation. “Our United Way has rallied behind extraordinary volunteer leaders like Horace Sibley, Jack Hardin and Shirley Franklin to do what we can to meet the needs of the homeless, more and more of whom are women and children.”

Hardin (no relation to attorney Jack Hardin) added that the commission, which is part of Atlanta’s United Way, has partnered with many local agencies and deserves the community’s support.

The $6 million gift is one of the largest that Atlanta’s United Way has ever received.

“It’s a huge endorsement,” said Milton Little, United Way president. “It is a tremendous display of confidence in the work of the organization and its volunteers.”

The grant will go toward helping the homeless transition from hospitals or the streets directly to a home, and reunifying the homeless with family and friends, as well as making sure there are enough case managers to work with the homeless.

Hardin said he was particularly impressed by the commission’s track record. It has been able to reunify 12,000 people in the past six years; it has assisted more than 1,200 homeless people through its Street to Home program; and it has created more than 600 beds for women and children in the last six years.

“We’ve made significant progress,” Little said. “We are elated by this grant, and we are excited by what these resources will enable us to accomplish.”

Marcus supports screening

It could be one of the most unusual wedding presents a couple could receive.

Philanthropist Bernie Marcus, co-founder of The Home Depot Inc., believes genetic testing of Ashkenazi Jews could help prevent prospective parents know whether they are carriers of 18 different diseases.

Marcus — through the Atlanta Jewish Gene Screen — is giving $1.5 million to fund a campaign to raise awareness about the availability of screenings in the Atlanta area.

Marcus has been working with Emory to develop the genetic testing of 18 different diseases. The cost had been about $2,000; and Marcus said Emory was able to bring that down to $600.

“There are a lot of diseases that can affect married couples, and genetic testing is going to be part of the future,” Marcus said in an interview. “I think we can eradicate so much pain in the future if we can get this testing. This is a way to avoid something that could be a tragedy to you and your family.”

Marcus said that ideally, Emory and Atlanta will become a center for genetic testing of diseases, not just for Jews, but for gentiles. And Marcus also can envision the day when couples will receive genetic testing as wedding presents.

UPS supports safe driving

The UPS Foundation has made a $2 million grant to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to establish and teach a safe driving course for teens.

UPS volunteers are going to 22 clubs throughout the country to teach safe driving techniques on a computerized driving simulator. Each club will be able to keep the simulator for future training programs.

“UPS drivers are among the safest on the road,” said Eduardo Martinez, director of philanthropy and corporate relations for the UPS Foundation, through a spokeswoman. “The Road Code program gives us the opportunity to use our nationally recognized safe driving training to directly impact a need for teen driver training in local communities, like Atlanta.”

National philanthropy day

At National Philanthropy Day at the Georgia Aquarium on Nov. 9, Larry Gellerstedt III, CEO of Cousins Properties Inc., was named Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year for his contributions to the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Fernbank Museum of Natural Resources and countless other civic causes.

“My mom and dad taught me the job of giving back to the community very early in my life,” Gellerstedt said. He then shared advice to other budding philanthropists to “pick places to get involved where you have a passion.”

Doris and Shouky Shaheen were named Philanthropists of the Year for their contributions to Piedmont Hospital, Open Hand and the Lamar Dodd School of Art at The University of Georgia.

National Philanthropy Day is an event put on by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Atlanta chapter, and the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta is presenting sponsor of the luncheon.

Lockhart, Tatum to be honored

Voices for Georgia’s Children will honor Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; and Beverly Tatum, president of Spelman College, at its annual dinner on Nov. 12 at the Four Seasons in Atlanta.

They co-chaired the Atlanta United Way’s Early Education Commission. That commission led to the creation of the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, chaired by philanthropist Stephanie Blank.

Voices for Georgia’s Children is a nonprofit organization that works for the well-being of the state’s children.

Maria Saporta

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.



  1. shirley November 18, 2010 8:31 pm

    The Woodruff Foundation grant is terrific news for many who need safe, clean, affordable housing and supportive programs. The United Way has stayed the course on this initiative for over six years and hundreds of formerly homeless men, women and children and the broader community have benefitted. Though dozens of programs, their board members and staff provide a system of caring and professional support across the region, private support is needed to supplement the available government funding. For a number of years the Regional Commission and others have appealed to the state leadership for funding the case managment needed to complete the model program. Even with the lingering recession, now is the time for the state to allocate funding to support proven homeless intervention and prevention programs like those funded by the foundation.Report


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