By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on September 25, 2015.
Twenty-five years page ago, a grassroots in Atlanta nonprofit planted a seed that has turned into a national movement.
That seed was Hands On Atlanta. On Oct. 3, Hands On Atlanta will celebrate its 25th anniversary with Hands On Atlanta Day when as many as 6,000 people and more than 80 companies will work on 100 community projects throughout the greater Atlanta area.
“It has become a way of life,” said Gina Simpson, president and CEO of Hands On Atlanta. “It’s not just monetary. It’s a way to make giving a way of life. We have seen children as young as five years old come out and volunteer.”
The honorary chair of the 2015 HOA Day is Michelle Nunn, who was the founding president and CEO of Hands On Atlanta. Today Nunn is the CEO of CARE, the international relief organization.
And the presenting sponsor for the 2015 HOA Day is Atlanta newcomer Mercedes-Benz USA.
“What I like about what you guys do is that anyone can write checks,” said Stephen Cannon, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, at a sponsor breakfast last month. “Charity has to get personal. You have to get sweaty.”
Cannon said HOA was a perfect partner because Mercedes could immediately get involved on a metro-wide, volunteer platform that would allow its associates to quickly get involved in the community. “The fact that you all have been doing this for 25 years, it fit perfectly,” Cannon added.
One of HOA’s legacies is that it has helped nurture several civic leaders over the decades, including City Council President Ceasar Mitchell and former Emory University General Counsel Kent Alexander.
Simpson said it is all part of Atlanta’s DNA. “Atlanta is a city of so many nonprofits,” she said. “It has a legacy of service going back to Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement. Civic leadership and volunteerism really is woven through the fabric of the city. It’s part of our culture.”
Hands On Atlanta also helped spawn a national organization that became Hands On Network, that eventually was based in Atlanta and headed by Nunn. Then Hands On Network merged with the Points of Light Foundation, founded by then-President George H.W. Bush.
The combined Points of Light organization has been based in Atlanta ever since. Nunn was named CEO of that organization as well until she ran for the U.S. Senate as the Democratic nominee and lost to U.S. Sen. David Perdue (R-Georgia).
“It’s significant to have the national organization — Points of Light — in Atlanta,” Simpson said. “It’s part of the signature of Atlanta as a nexus of volunteerism and service.”
By the way, all the individuals who sign up to volunteer on Oct. 3 will be invited to a Celebration of Service party from 1:30 to 4:30 at Zoo Atlanta to enjoy live music, crafts, special animal exhibits and free admission to the zoo, which will be closed to the public. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank and Mercedes-Benz’s Cannon will be on hand.
Points of Light
Meanwhile the Points of Light Foundation will be holding its annual conference on volunteering and service in Houston from Oct. 19 to 21.
The conference promises to include some of the most recognized names in leadership, entertainment and philanthropy, and it will highlight the impact of Atlanta-based Points of Light.
Leaders will have an opportunity to participate in “Read Across the Globe,” a reading event that will aim to break a Guinness World Records title — most children read to by an adult within 24 hours.
“With the amazing speakers, unique tracks, and endless opportunities to learn from and connect with others this year, we expect this to be the biggest conference to date,” said Tracy Hoover, president of Points of Light, in a release. “No other volunteer conference provides all of the tools, resources and people in one place, at one time, at this kind of pricing.”
Points of Light also will be commemorating its 25th year of mobilizing millions of volunteers to change the world. It is no coincidence that the nonprofit picked Houston for the conference. It is the hometown of POL founder — former President Bush (the father).
MLK camp out
A hundred metro Atlanta fourth-graders will camp out in a national park on Sept. 25, but it’s not what you’re thinking.
They will be camping overnight for free at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. The camp out will feature live entertainment, interactive art activities, food, games, yoga, a campfire program and a community service project as part of National Public Lands Day on Sept. 26.
The camp out will introduce young people to the icons of the Civil Rights movement, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.
The event is presented by the National Park Service in partnership with the Greening Youth Foundation.
Robert Brown and PAGE
Prominent Georgia business and civic leader Robert Brown, a Decatur-based architect, was honored Sept. 21 at the “A PAGE Turning Event.”
The PAGE Foundation holds an annual banquet to recognize business, philanthropic and government leaders for their commitment to improving public schools. The 2015 event was held at the Fox Theatre’s Egyptian Ballroom.
Brown, a native of Dublin, Ga., who graduated magna cum laude from Tuskegee University, has contributed to the education of Georgia’s young people in numerous ways.
He has tutored the students at Bob Mathis Elementary School, mentored Georgia College & State University students through the Georgia Education Mentorship (GEM) program, and he has held statewide leadership roles through the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, the Early Education Commission, the Georgia Historical Society, the Agnes Scott College board of trustees and the Atlanta Speech School board of directors.
The host committee co-chairs for the 2015 “A PAGE Turning Event” included The Coca-Cola Co.’s Clyde Tuggle and Stephen Green, president and CEO of Stephen Green Properties Inc.
A historical business strategy
The Georgia Historical Society’s business strategy is paying off.
The Ray C. Anderson Foundation has donated the permanent collection of the late visionary businessman-turned- environmentalist to the Georgia Historical Society Research Center.
Anderson was the founder and CEO of Interface, a manufacturer of carpet tiles.
“This is a collection of significance to future researchers not only because Ray Anderson was a pioneer in his industry, but also because he possessed the conscience and character to step out from the crowd and take the risk to prove that sustainability and profitability are not mutually exclusive,” said W. Todd Groce, president and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society. “As a people, we are on a trajectory where 100 years from now sustainability will be commonplace, and scholars will want to know where and how it all started — the Ray C. Anderson collection will provide the insight and inspiration into the life and work of one of the founding fathers of the industrial environmental movement.”
Anderson founded Interface Inc. in 1973 with a vision to provide flexible floor coverings for modern office buildings. By 1983 the company was posting sales of $11 million annually,and following the 1987 acquisition of Heuga Holdings B.V. became the undisputed world leader in carpet tile manufacturing.
In 1994 Anderson experienced an environmental epiphany and challenged the company, which at the time was heavily dependent on petrochemicals, to become environmentally sustainable without loss of profits. His ultimate goal, in his own words, was “to be the first enterprise in history to become truly sustainable — to shut down the smokestacks, close off effluent pipes, to do no harm to the environment and take nothing not easily renewed by the earth.”
Today, Interface is a $1 billion publicly traded company manufacturing on four continents and with sales in more than 110 countries. Despite the loss of its visionary leader in August 2011 when Anderson died, the company remains committed to its pledge of producing zero emissions and eliminating its environmental footprint.
The collection contains approximately 150 cubic feet of artifacts, artwork, audio visual materials, awards, correspondence, meeting materials, notes, pamphlets, photographic materials, reports, speeches and writings. The collection also contains Ray C. Anderson’s book collection, which focuses on the topics of environment, sustainability and business.
Georgia Power history
The Georgia Historical Society on Sept. 1 also honored Georgia Power Co. as a flagship member of the Georgia Business History Initiative with an historical marker dedication at the company’s headquarters in Atlanta.
“Georgia Power cares about its history, has produced books on the subject, and preserves its corporate memory through the company archives,” said Mike Clanton, Georgia Power’s vice president of land. “We are proud of our place in Georgia history and we are proud to be honored in this way.”
The Georgia Historical Society’s Business History Initiative is designed to educate the public about the vital role that Georgia businesses have played nationally and even internationally in the development of the world we live in today.
Each year the Georgia Historical Society selects four Georgia-based companies and designates them as iconic Georgia businesses. The development of historical markers and education materials for K-12 students and teachers allows the story of these companies to be shared with a wider public audience.