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ATL Business Chronicle Maria Saporta

Column: National nonprofit names founding executive director for Atlanta

Joli Cooper

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on July 19, 2019

The GreenLight Fund, the national nonprofit that recently launched its Atlanta site earlier this year, has selected Joli Cooper as its founding executive director. Atlanta is the eighth city in the GreenLight network.

In her new role, Cooper will partner with community, industry, entrepreneurial and philanthropic leaders to bring proven solutions to Atlanta to improve opportunities for historically underserved children and families.

Joli Cooper

“Our community should be thrilled by this choice,” said Alicia Philipp, president of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. “She has a strong combination of experience across the corporate, financial and nonprofit sectors along with many personal and professional connections in Atlanta. I look forward to working with her as GreenLight moves forward with the important work of strengthening our nonprofit sector.”

Cooper has had an extensive background in the nonprofit sector and in the business world. Most recently, Cooper served in a full time, volunteer capacity as the national president of the Jack and Jill of America, the oldest African American family organization in the United States that is dedicated to bettering the lives of all children.

Atlanta has the largest concentration Jack and Jill chapters in the country with a total of 12. During her tenure with Jack and Jill, Cooper fell in love with Atlanta, and moved here from Tampa after serving as its president from 2016 to the end of 2018.

During her career, Cooper has served on a number of nonprofit boards including United Way of Tampa Bay, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the Children’s Home, Inc. and Junior Achievement.

“I’ve worked with Joli and am confident her leadership and commitment to the Atlanta community will bring positive and sustainable change through the innovative GreenLight Fund,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a statement.

Before joining Jack and Jill, Cooper was a founding partner at CSW Private Equity Partners, a $125 million private equity firm specializing in buyouts, recapitalizations and growth capital financing in middle market companies. She has also served as president and chief operating officer of Pasco Brands, once the largest private label juice beverage company in the United States. Cooper also has held various leadership positions at consumer products companies including Vitality Beverages, Tropicana Products/Seagram, and Nestle USA.

She holds an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, where she was honored in 2002 as the Wharton Alumnae of the Year, and a BA degree in Finance from the University of Notre Dame. She also participated in the Directors’ Education Institute at Duke University.

“This is my dream job as I deeply believe in GreenLight’s mission and the opportunity to impact a local community near and dear to my heart,” Cooper said in a statement. “I’m so excited to join the team and apply my energy, passion and expertise to impact positive, social change in areas that matter most to Atlantans. I look forward to partnering with our community to launch proven solutions in Atlanta and ensure their successful integration into the community.”

In her new role, Cooper will lead an annual process in collaboration with a local Selection Advisory Council of community leaders to find the best social innovations that can effectively address the needs that matter most to Atlanta.

The process will identify critical unmet community needs, search the country for the best, proven solutions to address those needs, and select and invest in the replication of an innovative social impact program with significant, evidence-based outcomes.

“We’re excited to have Joli on board,” said Margaret Hall, a former Atlantan who is the co-founder and CEO of the GreenLight Fund. “The skills, leadership and passion for the community she brings to GreenLight Atlanta are an excellent fit as we work to systematically identify and invest in strengthening economic mobility opportunities for children and families.”

The GreenLight Fund Atlanta already has attracted 50 high-level donors who have raised $5 million to support the launch and operations of the nonprofit for the first five years.

Blue Herron Nature Preserve

A successful three-year fundraising effort has raised $750,000 for the Blue Heron Nature Preserve to finish its new three-mile trail network known as the Blueway Trail. When two major bridges are put in place by the end of the year, all three parcels of the Nature Preserve will be easily accessible by a continuous trail.

“Thanks to the tremendous efforts of our board, generous gifts from local foundations and individuals, we have completed the largest capital campaign our young organization has ever undertaken,” said Kevin McCauley, Blue Herron’s executive director. “Plans for Phase 2 include linking Blue Heron’s trails to nearby Chastain Park and PATH 400.”

The Blue Herron Preserve will hold a celebration for the community after it has completed the trail project. Blue Heron shares office space at 4055 Roswell Road with the Atlanta Audubon Society and the Amphibian Foundation – creating a unique environmental asset in metro Atlanta.

Christian City’s new CEO

Atlanta resident Keith Horton has joined Christian City, Inc. as its new CEO. Horton began his post on July 17, and he is responsible for the implementation of all operational strategies on the Christian City campus.

Keith Horton

Horton brings 11 years of experience working in child welfare services, including working at the Department of Juvenile Justice in Atlanta, both at the local and state level. He also served as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Services where he established Georgia’s first 24-hour child welfare intake center.

“We are delighted and excited to welcome Keith Horton to Christian City,” said Delores Epps, chair of Christian City’s board. “We are confident that Keith’s energy and passion for children will elevate the mission of Christian City in metro Atlanta and beyond. We look forward to working with Keith to provide life-changing hope through faith, community and care.”

Prior to his new role at Christian City, Horton was the delivery director at First Data. Horton also served in the United States military for 20 years, including his position as deputy director of the Combat Arms Force Management Division for the Pentagon. He retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 2006. He is also very active in his church, serving as associate pastor.

“I am very excited at the opportunity to serve as the leader of an organization that extends Christ’s call to love our neighbors,” Horton said in a statement. “Christian City has a rich heritage of meeting the needs of others. It is our goal to be known throughout the state as the premier organization of innovative and caring professionals who provide exceptional services to senior adults and vulnerable individuals and families.”

Christian City was established 54 years ago with a cottage for abused and abandoned children. Today, there are more than 1,000 residents, both children and senior adults, living at Christian City, a 500-acre campus located 15 minutes south of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

DeKalb Chamber

The DeKalb Chamber of Commerce has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tucker Business Association (TBA) to create a formal partnership and strategic membership alliance.

The purpose of the MOU is to ensure businesses of all sizes and revenues operating in Tucker will have full access and benefits of a business association and a Chamber of Commerce. TBA members will receive a discounted price for membership with DeKalb Chamber.

“This strategic partnership with the Tucker Business Association will allow us to have deeper engagement in the Tucker business community” said Katerina Taylor, president and CEO of DeKalb Chamber, in a statement. “We anticipate this will be a mutually beneficial offer to businesses and plan to explore other partnerships with neighboring cities.”

Honey Van De Kreke, president of the Tucker Business Association, said her organization is “honored to partner with the DeKalb Chamber to create a solid business environment for our members and DeKalb.”

Maria Saporta

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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