Column: New downtown garden near Atlanta Mission will feed the homeless
By Maria Saporta
Friday, March 25, 2011
A partnership between a builder, a developer, a public relations executive and a homeless shelter is growing great rewards — literally.
Downtown Atlanta unveiled its first community garden March 23 in a what will be a unique way to provide healthy food, job training and therapy to more than 500 homeless and recovering men currently served at the Atlanta Mission.
The Atlanta Urban Garden is located on a 2.36-acre property, managed by The Integral Group LLC, has sat vacant waiting to be sold and redeveloped. The land sits across Centennial Olympic Park Drive from the Mission.
“It is amazing to see that property be used as an urban garden,” said Jim Reese, CEO of the Atlanta Mission (formerly the Atlanta Union Mission). “We really had a vision of what it could be, and it was a way we could continue being a light in the city.”
“We couldn’t have done this on our own,” Reese said of the 24 raised planting beds, which will grow vegetables and greens that will be harvested and eaten by residents of the Mission.
Among the players have been the Integral Group, which manages and controls the site that sits diagonally across from the block that houses the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium and eventually the proposed National Center for Civil & Human Rights.
Integral agreed to allow the site to be turned into an urban garden until the land is sold for development.
One of the visionaries behind the project was Jimmy Mitchell, an estimator for Skanska USA Building Inc. About four years ago, Skanska moved into the nearby Ernst & Young building, and Mitchell began volunteering at the Mission.
A couple of years ago, Mitchell zoned in on that piece of property and thought it would be a great location for a community garden for the mission. Skanska is providing the construction management services free of charge. Also, Long Engineering Inc. is donating its services.
Glen Jackson of Jackson Spalding PR, who works with both Skanska and the Mission, agreed to personally pay for the garden.
Mitchell and Reese said the garden can become a wonderful way to nurture the homeless — not only by having them eat freshly grown foods, but by giving them an opportunity to learn new skills while participating in a healthy and therapeutic endeavor. The University of Georgia’s gardening program also is helping train the Mission’s residents.
Atlanta-based ToolBank USA Inc. has received a pledge of $1 million from Stanley Black & Decker to help the organization in its national expansion efforts.
The five-year investment will support ToolBank’s growth in several strategic markets, including Charlotte, Baltimore and Cincinnati.
“This grant will provide vital resources as we continue to build out a national network of ToolBanks that provide high-quality tools to nonprofit organizations and volunteers across the country,” said Corky Martin, president of ToolBank USA’s board and product development merchant with The Home Depot Inc., in a statement.
Tim Perra, global communications director for Stanley Black & Decker, said his company has been impressed by the ToolBank’s innovative tool-lending system and that it wanted to support its growth.
“This donation is about helping a strong, smart organization to bring its phenomenal work to even more communities across the country,” Perra said in a statement. “We immediately saw the power of the ToolBank mission and the impact that this organization can have on communities throughout the world.”
The Georgia Forward initiative — aimed at creating a better relationship between rural and urban Georgia — has set the date for its next statewide conference.
It will be held in Callaway Gardens Aug. 17 and Aug. 18, according to A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress, which helped launch this initiative.
“Everybody knows about the divides in the state,” Robinson told an audience attending the Rotary Club of Atlanta’s luncheon on March 21. “Why can’t we celebrate better around a vision for our state.”
Robinson added that because of those divides and a lack of a common vision, “we have fallen behind some of our neighbors.”
The Atlanta chapter of the American Marketing Association has raised more than $100,000 for the Ken Bernhardt Collegiate Marketing Scholarship. The scholarship honors outstanding marketing students attending Georgia colleges. The $100,000 endowment will provide five $500 scholarships in 2011.
Corporate gifts from AT&T Inc., AirTran, Cox Enterprises Inc., HoneyBaked Ham, 22squared, Engauge Media and others were matched dollar for dollar by Bernhardt, Regents professor of marketing at Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business.
“We are overwhelmed by the generous support from our community partners,” Bernhardt said in a statement. “Their generosity will help us recognize Atlanta’s top marketing students for many years to come.”
Recipients were recognized at the 2011 AMA Atlanta Marketer of the Year Awards on March 24 at The Fox Theatre.
Bernhardt also received AMA Atlanta’s Lifetime Achievement Award.