Column: Food Bank’s Bolling, First Step’s Block honored for their work

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on December 12, 2014

Central Atlanta Progress will shine the spotlight on two community leaders – Bill Bolling and Greg Block – at its annual breakfast meeting on March 31.

Bolling, founder and executive director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, will receive the prestigious Dan Sweat Award, given to leaders who have shown the ability to become “larger than self” in helping improve the community and downtown.

Bolling has led the Food Bank since 1979, and today oversees the annual distribution of more than 50 million pounds of food and grocery products through a network of 600 local and regional nonprofit partners that feed the hungry across 29 Georgia counties.

In addition to his role at the Food Bank, Bolling has been an active community leader on a host of regional issues, including affordable housing and civic leadership.

Block, who will receive the Turner Broadcasting Downtown Community Leadership Award, founded First Step, a nonprofit that works with homeless men and women to help them find employment, in 2007.

The former business executive who was CEO of American Pacific Enterprise, now has been devoting his career to building First Staffing, a jobs program for the homeless.

For those who are too mentally or physically disabled, First Step also has a benefits program that represents clients with the federal and state government so they can receive disability and Medicaid coverage as well as safe and affordable housing.

Alicia Philipp, president of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta who served on the nominating committee, couldn’t have been more pleased with this year’s choices.

“Let’s start with Greg. He is really helping homeless people get back into the workforce,” she said. “He is addressing one of the critical needs in the downtown community, and I’m excited he’s getting the award.”

Bolling getting the Dan Sweat Award is particularly meaningful for Philipp, who was a protegé of Sweat, the longtime president of downtown business organization–Central Atlanta Progress.

“Dan and Bill used to go at it,” she said. “They had very strong differences of opinion, and yet they both respected each other so much. They cared about the community. They listened. They had empathy, and they learned from each other. Their relationship made each of them stronger leaders. For many of us today, that is a lost art.”

But it is an art that Bolling has continued to practice throughout his tenure, and he has been a master at convening people with differing views around a community table. That’s why the Dan Sweat Award is such a fitting honor, Philipp said.

Dave Stockert, CEO of Post Properties who is chairing CAP, called Bolling “one of the great leaders of the Atlanta community” in an e-mail.

“He built an organization that supports countless Atlantans in need, and that inspires countless others to serve,” Stockert said. “He is a tireless supporter of our city and always encourages us to be our best selves. I cannot think of a more deserving honoree.”

The annual CAP breakfast will be held at the Sidney Marcus Auditorium at the Georgia World Congress Center on March 31.

Kiwanis mourns John Hemby

The Kiwanis Club of Atlanta has lost its music man.

John Hemby, who had a 43-year career with the Georgia Power Co. where he had worked in Athens, Waycross, Macon and Atlanta, was also a member of the Atlanta Kiwanis Club for 43 years and served as the official pianist every week.

Hemby, 86, passed away suddenly on Dec. 3.

“We are still in shock,” said Karin Losin, executive director of the Kiwanis Club. “I’m not sure how long he has been playing the piano every Tuesday. But I know it’s been a long time. When we moved our meeting location from Top of the Mart to the Loudermilk Center in 2000, the piano that was purchased for the Ballroom was dedicated to John. There is a plaque on the piano commemorating that.”

Hemby was involved in a host of civic causes. He chaired Trees Atlanta’s first capital campaign, which raised $1.2 million to match a gift from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation in 1997.

He served as interim president of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce from November 1993 to April 1994 helping stabilize the business organization financially at that time.

He also was involved with the Girl Scouts, the Macon-Bibb County Clean Community Commission, the Southeast American Korean Chamber of Commerce, the Olmstead Linear Park Alliance, and he was a member of Georgia Tech’s Engineering Hall of Fame.

“He was the most thoughtful, joyous and considerate person,” Losin said. “I am not sure we will ever find someone with his passion and love for Kiwanis to play our music each week. We will deeply miss him.”

Outstanding Directors Awards

When Spelman College President Beverly Tatum learned in 2012 that Rosalind Brewer was being named CEO of Sam’s Club, she was not certain the Spelman alumnae would have time to serve on the school’s board of trustees.

Tatum need not to have worried. Brewer was able to continue chairing Spelman’s board and executive committee, roles she has held since 2011. Today she also is chairing the search for a successor to Tatum, who has announced that she is stepping down at the end of this academic year.

Brewer, who was a first-generation college student, graduated from Spelman in 1984. She has since set up a scholarship for first generation college students.

“To me, the work that I get to do at Spelman is by no means work,” Brewer said upon receiving an Outstanding Directors Award from Atlanta Business Chronicle and the Atlanta chapter of the National Association of Corporate Directors at an event on Dec. 4 at the Georgia Aquarium.

Other recipients included Jonathan Goldman, chairman of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta; Robert L. Brown Jr., who serves on the board of Georgia Power Co.; Sidney Nurkin, lead director of Zep Inc.; Dr. Patrick Battey, chair of Piedmont Healthcare; Ray Robinson, board chair of Aaron’s Inc.; John Spiegel, chairman of Community & Southern Bank; and Jane Thorpe, chair of the Task Force for Global Health. (To see photos from the event turn to The Insider on Page 6A and visit http://bizj.us/17ua4t.)

Joel Katz joins Berklee board

Nationally renowned entertainment lawyer Joel Katz has been named to the well-respected Boston-based Berklee College of Music’s board of trustees.

Katz founded his law firm – Katz, Smith & Cohen – in Atlanta more than 30 years ago, and he developed a client base of some of the world’s best known entertainers, producers and record labels. They have included Willie Nelson, Ludacris, Kenny Chesney, Julio Iglesias, the Country Music Association, Dick Clark Productions and the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences. In 1998, Katz merged his practice with the Greenberg Traurig law firm.

“As I have spent my entire working life in the entertainment and music business, being now included on Berklee’s board will give me a chance to give back even more to an industry that has been so good to me,” Katz said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the school administration, the teaching and professional team, and of course the students. I hope to be able to give of my experiences in the artistic community directly to the students.”

Berklee President Roger H. Brown said that Katz, who has advised and represented “a who’s who of the music industry,” is able to give opportunities to musicians and students – and Berklee can provide both.

“His vast knowledge of the music and music makers will be extremely valuable to the college,” Brown said.

Morehouse College wins grant

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund has awarded Morehouse College more than $700,000 in Microsoft software as part of its ongoing technology initiative.

It is the first school that is not a member of Thurgood Marshall Fund to receive such support. The technology initiative was created to address the long-term technology needs of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Since its inception, Microsoft has been a technology partner of the initiative, and recently awarded TMCF with an additional $8 million software grant for 2013 and 2014.

“Improving our technology infrastructure will allow us to serve our students, faculty, staff, and the community-at-large in a more robust living-learning environment,” said John Wilson, president of Morehouse College.

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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