Column: Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta changing the way it serves youth

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on May 22, 2015

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta is raising its own stakes.

It no longer wants to just provide a safe place for its youth to learn and grow. Thanks to its Vision 2020 strategic plan, it now would like 90 percent of the youth coming to its clubs regularly to graduate on time, live healthy lives and give back to their community.

“We turned up the notch to improve the outcomes of our youth,” said Missy Dugan, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta. “But we may have underestimated where our children were in those areas.”

But instead of lowering its Vision 2020 goals, Dugan said the organization is determined to work even harder to meet them.

It is in the quiet phase of a $23 million “Open the Door” comprehensive campaign that is changing the way the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta is serving its youth. The Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, which is part of the Robert W. Woodruff family of foundations, has just given the campaign a $6 million gift on top of $3 million last year, for a total of $9 million.

“We have raised right at $15 million towards our goal,” said Dugan, who is hoping the organization will be able to surpass its goal. “We have a real strong base of support with our board of trustees and our corporate board. We hope we would be able to complete the campaign by the end of 2016.”

The organization piloted its new focus when it received a $4.4 million Whitehead grant in 2010 to have full-time educational directors with teaching degrees or classroom experience in eight clubs — in Gwinnett and Rockdale — in an effort to improve the at-grade level reading and math scores of the youth that it served on a daily basis.

This campaign will be geared to take that program to the organization’s 28 clubs in the 10 metro Atlanta counties. Those clubs reach more than 3,500 kids each day.

“We are appreciative of the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation for its generous donation, and thank all of the partners who have invested in the organization’s vision,” wrote Bill Rogers, chairman and CEO of SunTrust Banks and the honorary chair of the campaign, in an email. “The young people that our clubs serve have tremendous potential. Given the right resources and support, the Boys & Girls Clubs can shape the lives of thousands of youth and help build an educated workforce, a healthy community, and a strong base of young leaders for our city.”

In addition to Rogers, who was the past chairman of the corporate board, Dugan said other leaders include Thomas McNeill with Bryan Cave, the current board chair; and Stephanie Blank, who will become chair next year.

In 2016, the organization will launch the public phase of the campaign and ask individuals across the city to invest in the clubs. The educational and capacity-building part of the campaign will total $8.5 million.

The campaign also will cover $11.5 million in capital improvements including improving security systems at each of the clubs, redesigning entrances, building a new teen center at the John H. Harland Club, building a new club structure for the East DeKalb Boys & Girls Club, and a new amphitheater at Camp Kiwanis.

Another $3 million will go to improve the technology offerings at the clubs including new computers and updating the infrastructure. The organization also wants to establish a Technology Advisory Committee and establish a fund to support future technology upgrades.

Veritiv’s first annual meeting

Veritiv Corp., destined to become one of metro Atlanta’s Fortune 500 companies, held its first-ever annual meeting May 20, and it lasted all of seven minutes.

As soon as the meeting adjourned, everyone in the meeting room at The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta, clapped.

“I was hoping it would only last five minutes,” laughed Mary Laschinger, Veritiv’s chairman and CEO. “Thank you all for coming. It is an exciting time. It is our first annual meeting. Every day is a first for us.”

The room primarily included the top management of Veritiv. None of the board members were present in person, but they were all connected by conference call.

When asked why they were not present, Laschinger said that as a new company (formed July 1 through a merger of Unisource and a division of International Paper), they had not synced up their calendars with the Securities and Exchange Commission legal requirements. They had just had their board meeting two-and-a-half weeks ago, when they had intended to hold their annual meeting, but that would not have given shareholders sufficient notice.

She said she did not want to ask directors to come back to Atlanta twice in three weeks, but she promised that next year they would coordinate their annual meeting with the spring board meeting. Veritiv holds five board meetings a year.

“They all wanted to be here,” she said.

It just so happened that only one shareholder showed up to the meeting — John McCarty, an employee of Georgia-Pacific. McCarty was not exactly sure how he had become a shareholder because he had worked for International Paper and Georgia-Pacific had owned a big stake in Unisource. Either way, it was quite convenient because all he had to do was walk across the street for the meeting.

Georgia Historical Society

Two leading Georgia executives are being inducted as the 2016 trustees of the Georgia Historical Society — The Coca-Cola Co.’s CEO Muhtar Kent and James H. “Jimmy” Blanchard, retired chairman and CEO of Synovus Financial Corp. Gov. Nathan Deal will induct Kent and Blanchard at the Georgia Trustees Gala on Feb. 13, 2016.

“Muhtar Kent and Jimmy Blanchard are exemplary models of what it means to be Georgia Trustees,” said W. Todd Groce, president and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society. “Their commitment to the Trustees motto ‘not for self but for others’ has been an important part of their service and success.”

TOUR Championship

The 2014 TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola at East Lake generated $2.2 million for local charities — a record amount, officials recently announced.

Organizations that received donations include the East Lake Foundation and the First Tee of East Lake. The events that have been hosted at East Lake Golf Club have now generated more than $20 million for charity.

The 2015 TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola serves as the culmination of the 46-event PGA TOUR season and is set to return to East Lake Golf Club as the FedExCup Playoffs Finale, Sept. 23-27.

“Charity is the bloodline of everything we do here in Atlanta at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola,” said Tom Clark, executive director of the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. “We are proud of our record donation this year which is only possible through support from the fans, our dedicated volunteer force, our staff and sponsorship we receive from the corporate community led by Coca-Cola and Southern Company.”

“The TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola celebrates Atlanta-area charities and all the young men and women passionate about achieving their dreams,” said Ivan Pollard, senior vice president of Connections, Investment and Assets, Coca-Cola North America. “Coca-Cola is a global brand with deep roots in its local communities, especially our hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.”

Annually, the TOUR is the largest fundraiser for the East Lake Foundation, the nonprofit developed 20 years ago to transform the East Lake community.

American Jewish Committee

The Atlanta Regional office of American Jewish Committee honored Eliot M. Arnovitz, president and CEO of M&P Shopping Centers, with its prestigious Selig Distinguished Service Award on May 4 at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead. More than 430 people attended the event that featured speaker Bret Stephens, Pulitzer Prize winner and deputy editor for The Wall Street Journal.

“We were thrilled to honor Eliot Arnovitz whose life, leadership, and work reflects our organization’s global mission,” said Dov Wilker, director of the AJC Atlanta Regional office. “We are also very proud to have raised over $600,000 from many generous donors to the event.”

The AJC honored Arnovitz in recognition of his tremendous support of the Atlanta Jewish community and the overall growth of Atlanta through his work at M&P Shopping Centers.

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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