Column: Atlanta’s United Way campaign takes off Sept. 8

By Maria Saporta
Friday, Sept. 2, 2011

United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta Inc. will lift off its 2011 campaign Sept. 8 at a unique setting — Delta’s Hangar 2.

That’s because Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Air Lines Inc., is United Way’s 2011 campaign chair.

The campaign event will be where Anderson will officially announce this year’s goal of $80.4 million — a slight increase over the $80.2 million goal that was reached last year.

“We built that goal from the bottom up,” Anderson said in a telephone interview.

The United Way staff and the campaign cabinet analyzed changes in the business community to determine what they could raise from different corporations and employers.

“We have a really good cabinet, and I’m hopeful we are going to be able to beat that goal,” Anderson said, adding that continuing difficulties in the economy and the housing sector is a reason to set a cautious goal.

But despite the economic challenges, metro Atlanta’s United Way remains one of the top in the country.

“We are considered to be a United Way town,” said Milton Little, president of Atlanta’s United Way. “We still rank No. 3 in campaigns in the country, after Seattle and Minneapolis.”

It just so happens that Anderson also had been involved with Minneapolis’ United Way when he was an executive with Northwest Airlines.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of United Way campaigns over the years,” Anderson said. “Atlanta has one of the top in the United States when you look at the amount it raises and the exhaustive reach it has to organizations across the community. It’s in the top two or three in the country in terms of its effectiveness.”

Anderson said he welcomes being the campaign chair because it’s an opportunity to branch outside his own industry, become better connected and involved in the Atlanta community.

Anderson also said he intends for Delta to set an example in increased United Way giving — both in Atlanta and in the other cities it serves. Last year, the airline’s employee and corporate contribution totaled $1 million in Atlanta.

“If you are going to do this, you have to set an example,” Anderson said. “It is a very worthwhile endeavor, and it’s good for our employees. It’s a very good thing to do.”

CHRIS Kids turns 30

CHRIS Kids Inc., a supportive housing development for 17- to 24-year-olds, celebrated its 30th anniversary Aug. 30 with the grand opening of the CHRIS Counseling Center, its education center and the Summit Trail Apartment community.

Among the dignitaries on hand for the event included first lady Sandra Deal, Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin.

Individuals, foundations and corporations also were honored for their contributions to CHRIS Kids’ $12.1 million capital campaign.

The event also had several warm moments. CHRIS Kids’ CEO Kathy Colbenson invited her father, Perry Ginn, to give the invocation. First lady Deal then said that Ginn had once been her pastor.

Another touching moment was when CHRIS Kids’ first employee and founder Dziko Emu spoke of the organization’s early days and its successes having touched 15,000 lives in its 30 years.

“I didn’t think I was going to be here for 30 years,” said Emu, who is now the intake coordinator for the nonprofit. “There are so many kids and so much need for placement.”

Arby’s to fight hunger

Now that it is under new ownership, Arby’s is realigning its foundation to focus on childhood hunger.

It has hired its first executive director, Kate Atwood, founder of the nonprofit Kate’s Club, which helps empower children and teens after the death of a parent or sibling. Atwood also was a partner at Bcauz Marketing, a cause-related marketing firm.

“It was a unique opportunity to join Arby’s at an exciting time,” Atwood said. “We wanted to address hunger in America, hunger in our own backyard. In the United States, 17 million children don’t have access to the meals they need.”

At the same time the Arby’s Foundation is being relaunched on Oct. 3, Arby’s will be unveiling a new children’s menu, which will emphasize more wholesome meals for kids.

Hala Moddelmog, who chairs the Arby’s Foundation and is president of Arby’s Restaurant Group, said Atwood helped provide the new strategic director for the foundation’s programs so that they “more closely mirror the values of our brand.”

Since 1986, the Arby’s Foundation has raised more than $52 million to support youth initiatives. Atwood said she expects the foundation to donate about $2 million a year.

Chamber’s Campi decamps

The Metro Atlanta Chamber hosted a farewell reception Aug. 29 for Esther Campi, who has served as the business organization’s senior vice president of communications since January 2006. Campi is moving to Chapel Hill, N.C., with her husband, who has accepted a position with the University of North Carolina.

At the reception, Campi thanked her boss, Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

“I’m never going to forget the lessons you taught me,” Campi told Williams. “They all have to do with zoo animals: ‘Eat an elephant one bite at a time. Never put a snake in your pocket. And never wrestle with a pig.’”

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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