Column: Photo exhibit brings Georgia poverty into clearer focus

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on October 3, 2014

At first it may seem odd that the Metro Atlanta Chamber would display photos portraying poverty in our community on its walls.

Usually, chambers of commerce are much more eager to tout their economic development successes of shiny new buildings, airports and attractive skylines.

But the eye-opening “Profiles of Poverty” photo exhibit is currently hanging on the walls of the Metro Atlanta Chamber thanks to President Hala Moddelmog.

“I would hope that the exhibit would remind our members that everything we work on to drive economic development and quality of life issues will eventually translate into helping everyone in our region,” Moddelmog wrote in an email. “People need jobs, education, transportation, and workforce development programs. The Metro Atlanta Chamber works in all these areas.”

The Profiles of Poverty photo exhibit is an initiative that was launched by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Georgia as a way to commemorate the organization’s 100th anniversary. The exhibit, curated by photographer John Glenn, features 50 photos from more than a dozen photojournalists who presented their perspectives of poverty and efforts underway to help the poor.

“There are 1.8 million people living in poverty here in Georgia,” said John Berry, CEO and executive director of St. Vincent de Paul Georgia, at an Atlanta Press Club program at the Metro Atlanta Chamber on Sept. 30. “Usually there are two responses. Let’s ignore it, and it will go away. Or let’s blame them for it, and it will go away. No, we are not going to ignore it. For the next year, we are going to continue to bring this exhibit all around Georgia.”

During the program, five of the photojournalists spoke of their personal experiences of capturing the images that are in the exhibit. All said they hoped their photographs would help make a difference.

The Profiles of Poverty exhibit was first displayed at Colony Square in August. When Moddelmog saw it, she told Berry that it needed to be seen by key leaders, and that’s how it ended up at the chamber. After the chamber, the exhibit will be on display at the Loudermilk Center for several months. Then St. Vincent plans to take it to communities around the state.

Berry said that St. Vincent believed photographs are a powerful way to tell stories of the poverty that exists in our community. He hopes they will spark a conversation of how we can “address these issues one life at a time.”

In 2013, St. Vincent Georgia provided nearly $8 million in financial and in-kind assistance to more than 155,000 people, including nearly $8 million in financial and in-kind assistance to those in need. Support is provided through 10 thrift stores, five family support centers and 38 food pantries, which distributed more than 175.5 tons of food in conjunction with the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

Berry hopes that those who see the Profiles of Poverty exhibit will be motivated to make a difference.

“You can’t ignore this issue,” Berry said. “It exists. Fix it.”

Georgia Historical Society

Two leading women of Georgia will be inducted as the 2015 Trustees of the Georgia Historical Society – Alana Shepherd and Paula Wallace. They will be inducted into the prestigious class at the annual Georgia Trustees Gala in Savannah on Feb. 14. Shepherd is co-founder of the Shepherd Center, a world-renowned rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta.

Wallace is the president and co-founder of the Savannah College of Art and Design, an accredited degree-granting university established in 1978.

“The Georgia Historical Society and the office of the governor have chosen two individuals whose drive and determination have advanced the cause of medicine, art and education in Georgia,” said W. Todd Groce, president and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society. “Through their leadership and accomplishments, they have touched the lives of thousands, not just in Georgia but around the world, and we are honored that they will be inducted as the newest Georgia Trustees.”

PAGE honors Wells Fargo, Mike Donnelly

Wells Fargo and the bank’s Atlanta region president, Mike Donnelly, were honored at the 10th annual PAGE Turning Event Sept. 15 at The Fox Theatre’s Egyptian Ballroom for supporting public education.

Allen Magill, executive director of PAGE (Professional Association of Georgia Educators – with 84,000 members statewide) presented the two awards on behalf of the PAGE Foundation. Previous recipients have included Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, Georgia Power President Paul Bowers, Sen. Johnny Isakson and U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

Donnelly is treasurer of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education as well as a board member of Teach for America – Atlanta.

He and his wife, Gay, attended public schools, and their three children attend Fulton County public schools.

All were present at the PAGE Turning event.

Donnelly’s mother and sister are career public school teachers. Donnelly’s favorite teacher, Paul Szymonski, who taught him 10th grade history and was his cross country coach in Dumfries, Va., came from Pennsylvania for the evening.

“In the classroom he taught you how to think,” Donnelly said. “Then as a coach, he taught about life. The key for us in cross-country was simple. You run the hills hard. When the tough times come in life, those are the hills. You run your hardest on the hills, and that’s where you can excel.”

Balentine makes Barron’s list

Barron’s has named Atlanta’s Robert Balentine as one of its “Top 100 Independent Financial Advisors.”

Balentine is chairman and CEO of Balentine, an Atlanta-based independent, employee-owned investment advisory firm serving individuals and institutions.

It was founded in 2009, and it currently has 24 employees in two offices with nearly $1.9 billion in assets under advisement.

The Aug. 25 issue of Barron’s named Balentine the highest-ranked adviser from Georgia and the Carolinas in the nationwide list of advisers. “As a 35-year industry veteran, I have worked hard to seek and implement best practices, and this honor helps validate what my partners and I have created with Balentine,” Balentine said in a statement.

Champions of Justice

The Georgia Legal Services Program will hold its second annual “Champions of Justice” event on Oct. 7 at Alston & Bird as a way to recognize lawyers and community advocates who have worked to provide justice for the poor.

The champions for 2013-2014 include Annie Ervin, vice president of the Georgia Legal Services Program (GLSP); Hardy Gregory, former Georgia Supreme Court justice; Avarita L. Hanson, executive director of the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism; Georgia Supreme Court Justice Carol Hunstein; former State Bar President Linda Klein; Frank Strickland, former board chair of the Legal Services Corp.; Sutherland attorney Randolph Thrower (posthumously); former GLSP board member Eva Washington; and former GLSP Finance Director Jack Webb.

“The opportunity to honor our Champions each year has been gratifying and inspirational,” said Phyllis J. Holmen, executive director of the Georgia Legal Services Project. “This event in particular has reunited people who have worked hard to overcome challenges to assure GLSP’s very existence.”

GLSP’s mission is to provide access to justice and opportunities out of poverty for low-income Georgians who reside in the 154 counties outside the metro Atlanta area.

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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