Column: Atlanta Habitat’s Larrie Del Martin looks to the future

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Jan. 2, 2015

As the year drew to a close, Larrie Del Martin was able to celebrate it with a symbolic bookend.

Martin, president and CEO of Atlanta Habitat for Humanity, on Dec. 30 celebrated six families paying off their mortgages on homes that they purchased more than 20 years ago in the neighborhoods of Edgewood, Reynoldstown, Peoplestown and Mechanicsville.

For 18 of those 20 years, Martin has been leading Atlanta Habitat — overseeing the building or renovation of nearly 1,000 homes — fulfilling the dream of homeownership to families who may have felt it was beyond their reach.

In early December, Martin announced that she would be retiring at the end of March.

Meanwhile, her husband Joe Martin has been in Macedonia (a small country just north of Greece) serving in the Peace Corps since September of 2012.

The Martins are one of those special couples who can’t help but serve others.

So when Larrie Del Martin retires, does that mean that the couple will be reunited?

She laughed.

“Joe has a fabulous project,” she said, adding that he saw a need in Macedonia for farmers to receive financing so they could grow more crops — a way for the country to become more sustainable.

Working with partners beyond the Peace Corps, Martin was able to secure a $6 million grant from the federal government — U.S. AID, which will be loaned to farmers in increments of $5,000 to $25,000.

“That’s a lot of money there,” she said. Although the U.S. AID grant is a three-year program, Martin has been asked to just stay on until it is up and running, which should keep him in Macedonia through April if not May.

So what’s next for the couple dedicated to serving the public?

Larrie Del said she really didn’t know. “We both have been running 90 miles an hour,” she said, adding that they haven’t really had much of an opportunity to talk about their future. “We skype.” And they do try to see each other several times a year.

“We will not be sitting around,” she said. But then she added: “I don’t want to jump into anything right away.”

During her tenure at Habitat, the organization went from offering only 12 classes a year for homeowners, and today there are more than 100. She also just completed the relocation of the nonprofit’s headquarters as well as its ReStore to a new building on Memorial Drive — successfully completing a $12.75 million capital campaign.

Before joining the Peace Corps, Joe Martin has been a fixture in both business and education circles in Atlanta and statewide.

in 2010, he ran for state school superintendent as the Democratic nominee, losing to Republican John Barge. He also was a former chairman of the Atlanta School Board.

Martin headed the city’s economic development agency, and he headed the redevelopment of Underground Atlanta during Mayor Andrew Young’s administration, and he helped oversee community improvements during the build up to the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games.

UNCF and Mayor’s Masked Ball

Now that they’ve finished counting the money, the UNCF’s 31st Annual Mayor’s Masked Ball on Dec. 20 was the most successful one in Atlanta’s history — as far as everyone can tell.

The event grossed a total of $1.2 million — a record number, and a significant increase over the $778,000 raised last year, according to Justine Boyd, UNCF’s Atlanta regional development director.

“Also the attendance was a record at 1,378 guests and 125 volunteers,” she said.

The event included a host of dignitaries, including UNCF President and CEO Michael Lomax (former chairman of Fulton County), as well as Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the three co-chairs of the Ball: Erica Qualls-Beatty, general manager of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis; Ed Baker, publisher of Atlanta Business Chronicle; and Thomas W. Dortch Jr., president of TWD Inc.

The co-founders of the UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball are Ambassador Andrew Young and Billye Aaron.

Entertainers in film, television and music, sports figures, elected officials, civic leaders, dignitaries and volunteers were in attendance including Chris Tucker, Will Packer, Palmer Williams, Big Boi, Young Jeezy, Jonathan Slocumb, Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Faune Chambers Watkins, Jasmine Burke, Brad James and Derrick “Fonzworth Bentley” Watkins.

The Mayor’s Masked Ball has raised millions to support students who attend Atlanta’s four UNCF member institutions — Clark Atlanta University, the Interdenominational Theological Center, Morehouse College and Spelman College — as well as Atlanta students attending UNCF’s 37 colleges and universities.

“Because of the overwhelming support of this community we will be able to educate more students and support the work of our HBCU’s at a higher level,” Boyd said. “Thank you Atlanta for your commitment to education.”

This year the ball began with the VIP reception where Rev. Dr. C. T. Vivian and Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery were honored followed by the signature Parade of Stars and Dignitaries, and the Parade of Masks led by Bahamas Masqueraders Carnival Junkanoo models. (See related photos on Page 6A, The Insider).

Lifecycle Building Center

Instead of sending un-needed building materials to a landfill, the Lifecycle Building Center has been urging builders and contractors to donate surplus materials to the nonprofit so it can help create a more sustainable community.

It is with that spirit that the four-year old organization has been able to divert 758,000 pounds of products from landfills to another use.

The organization has an $85,000 campaign goal that it was hoping to raise by Dec. 31. In mid-December, it had reach more than 80 percent of its goal. Howard Connell, managing director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Business Strategies for Sustainability and a member of LBC’s advisory board, sent out an appeal with a note that contributions received through March would still be counted towards the campaign.

“As many of you already know, I’m a raving fan, supporter, customer, and advisory board member of the Lifecycle Building Center,” Connell wrote in an e-mail. “The organization has had a great year with many successes and is gearing up for a great 2015.”

Lifecycle Building Center also has donated more than $500,000 in materials to 34 nonprofits and schools since its founding in 2011.

Delta Community Credit Union New Year babies

It’s one way to celebrate the new year.

The Delta Community Credit Union welcomed 2015 with the second annual giveaway for New Year babies. The first baby born at each of the five metro Atlanta Piedmont hospitals received a $500 Sandy Savers savings account.

In addition to the $500 savings account at the Delta credit union, the family of the first baby born at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital will receive a gift basket.

The other four participating hospitals are Piedmont Henry, Piedmont Newnan, Piedmont Fayette and Piedmont Mountainside hospitals.

“It’s our privilege to partner with Piedmont for a second year and to extend a financial head-start to the children awarded these savings accounts,” said Matthew Shepherd, Delta Community’s chief operating officer. “Piedmont is well known for providing quality health care in an environment that puts patients first. We are excited to welcome these babies into the world with a gift that will assist with their financial futures.”

Kathy King, senior director of women and infant services at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, wanted to continue the partnership because “the success of last year’s giveaway was tremendous.”

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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