Column: Purpose Built gets new leaders, expands mission

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on May 8, 2015

Purpose Built Communities, the Atlanta-based nonprofit that helps transform struggling urban neighborhoods, is undergoing a leadership transition and expanding its mission.

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, who has been serving as chair and CEO of Purpose Built, will now become the nonprofit’s executive chairman.

Taking her place as CEO of Purpose Built is David Edwards, who joined the organization in June 2014 as a senior vice president. Carol Naughton, who also has been serving as a senior vice president, is being promoted to president.

Naughton will be succeeding Greg Giornelli, who will be stepping down as president and COO on June 1 to lead an affiliated educational start-up that will seek to replicate the success of the Drew Charter School model in other communities across the country.

Franklin said the moves represent an expanded effort by Purpose Built to try to break “the cycle of poverty for thousands of families” and to help bring more clarity of purpose to the organization.

“David and Carol have passion for the community development work of Purpose Built Communities and years of demonstrated leadership experience to conduct the business of our organization as we expand our network membership,” Franklin said. She added that Giornelli has demonstrated throughout his career that he “thrives on developing innovative solutions to seemingly impossible challenges.”

Franklin and Giornelli worked together when he was the first executive director of the East Lake Foundation, and later he served in her administration as president of the Atlanta Development Authority (now Invest Atlanta) and as chief operating officer of the City of Atlanta.

“Over the past five years, we have made great strides as an organization, growing our network of communities around the country to 11, and impacting dozens of other neighborhoods,” she said. “We anticipate adding many more network members to our movement in the years ahead, and our team is stronger than ever.”

Purpose Built was established five years ago to try to replicate the successful transformation of the East Lake community to other places around the country. The East Lake initiative, now in its 20th year, was founded by developer Tom Cousins, who worked with a host of partners to take one of the most dangerous areas in Atlanta and transform it into a thriving diverse community.

Purpose Built, financed by three investors — Cousins, Warren Buffett and Julian Robertson — helps local community groups implement comprehensive redevelopment plans with public and private partners in neighborhoods of concentrated urban poverty. The model, which grew out of the East Lake transformation, includes mixed-income housing, a cradle-to-college educational system as well as other community amenities.

The nonprofit now has a network of redevelopment initiatives in New Orleans, Indianapolis, Omaha, Rome, Ga., Birmingham, Spartanburg, S.C., Charlotte, N.C., Columbus, Ohio, Houston and Fort Worth.

Cousins said that he could not think of two people “more qualified or deserving” than Edwards and Naughton to lead Purpose Built, saying “their depth of experience, expertise and passion is unparalleled.”

Before joining Purpose Built, Edwards was global offerings manager for IBM’s Smarter Cities program working to develop innovative solutions to the critical issues facing municipal and regional governments around the world. He also had spent eight years as the senior policy advisor for Franklin during her mayoral administration.

Naughton, a founding member of Purpose Built, previously served as executive director of the East Lake Foundation. Before joining East Lake, she served as the general counsel and deputy executive director of legal and nonprofit affairs for the Atlanta Housing Authority.

Cousins annual meeting

When Cousins Properties Inc. held its annual meeting on May 5, founder Tom Cousins was not present in person, but his presence continued to be felt.

During his address to shareholders, CEO Larry Gellerstedt said all the employees understand the responsibility of carrying the Cousins brand in the community.

Gellerstedt then said the company has focused its efforts on three areas — a simple platform, trophy assets and opportunistic investments. Today, 98 percent of its portfolio is in the SunBelt — primarily in five markets: Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Austin and Charlotte.

One director reached the mandatory retirement age of 72 — Jim Edwards, a former head of Arthur Andersen’s office in Atlanta who had been on the Cousins board since the mid-1990s.

Taking his place on the board was Robert Chapman, CEO and president of CenterPoint Properties Trust. Gellerstedt said Chapman also had served as chief operating officer of Duke Realty, and he would bring his real estate expertise to the board. Gellerstedt got to know Chapman because they both have been directors of Rock-Tenn Co.

Boy Scouts of America

The Boy Scouts of America is holding its National Annual Meeting in Atlanta from May 20-22 at the Hyatt Regency, and more than 2,000 Boy Scout volunteer leaders and executive staff will be in town representing 280 councils from across the country.

Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, who served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will be presented with the Silver Buffalo Award — the highest honor given by the National Council. The award will be presented by the national president of the Boy Scouts of America, Robert Gates, the former Secretary of Defense. The award was created in 1926 to honor people for their extraordinary service to youth.

Young will join a distinguished group of other Atlantans who have received the award. They include: golf great Robert Tyre Jones Jr. (1955); former Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. (1956); baseball legend Hank Aaron (1984); Chick-fil-A’s S. Truett Cathy (2007); business leader Tommy Dortch (2009); and AT&T’s Ralph de la Vega (2013).

Glen Jackson of PR firm Jackson Spalding is chairing the host committee, and Hank Linginfelter, executive vice president of distribution operations for AGL Resources Inc. and board president of the Atlanta Area Council, will be the opening speaker.

Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation

For the first time in its 35-year history, the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation has a non-lawyer as its board president.

Steve Allen, managing director of SunTrust private wealth management-legal specialty group, is the current board president — an indication of the nonprofit’s goal to broaden its base of support in the community

Allen said he was drawn to AVLF initially as a networking opportunity.

“As I learned more about the organization, it touched me personally,” Allen said. “As a child, a family member came to live with us who was a victim of domestic violence.”

AVLF provides legal representation for lower-income individuals, including those struggling with debt collectors, unpaid wage claims and probate matters. The nonprofit was spun out of Atlanta Legal Aid 35 years ago, and it runs nine different programs, such as Safe Families. Lawyers take on pro-bono cases, and the nonprofit helps manage the caseload with a skeletal staff. In the past two years, AVLF was able to help 5,000 families each year.

By choosing a non-lawyer, AVLF is seeking to expand its base of support so it can serve even more families who need equal access to justice.

“We need to be able to diversify our funding sources,” said Allen, who has been leading the organization through a five-year strategic planning process about how best to expand its services. “Our budget this year will be between $1.1 million and $1.2 million. We need to figure out how we can grow our funding. Our goal is that at the end of five years, we will have a $2 million budget.”

Grass Roots Justice Award

Teresa Wynn Roseborough, executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of The Home Depot Inc., was honored with the Georgia Justice Project’s 2015 Grass Roots Justice Award on April 29. She serves on the board of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which fights for racial justice. She also serves as a member of Gov. Nathan Deal’s Criminal Justice Reform Council. The award was presented by Frank Blake, former chairman and CEO of Home Depot.

Also, Home Depot is leading by example, having made a powerful statement by “banning the box,” that is, no longer asking on its employment applications if applicants have been convicted of crimes.aid.

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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