Column: Zoo Atlanta gets $1 million catalyst gift from Delta Air Lines

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on February 6, 2015

Zoo Atlanta has received a $1 million gift from the Delta Air Lines Foundation to kick off an unprecedented $20 million matching campaign to expand the zoo and create a scenic dining and entertainment venue on the site of the Cyclorama building.

“We are hoping that our lead gift will serve as a catalyst to get other corporations, foundations and individuals to get involved in this capital campaign,” said Tad Hutcheson, vice president of community affairs for Delta Air Lines Inc. “We thought it was important to be the leader because we are the largest employer in the city with 30,000 employees. We wanted to get the momentum rolling.”

Raymond King, president and CEO of Zoo Atlanta, said it was significant that Delta announced the first corporate gift to the “Grand New View for the Zoo” campaign just a week after the first meeting of the campaign cabinet.

“We have had a very close relationship with Delta for years, and they expressed an interest in this project,” King said. “It shows there’s a lot of excitement about the project, and it shows there’s a lot of confidence in our ability to execute. This gift helps us take flight to raise $40 million.”

The campaign became real last November when the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation pledged to match gifts of up to $20 million to help Zoo Atlanta expand its land area by 5 acres and to preserve the historic facade of the Cyclorama building while constructing a new event space on the back of the building.

The new event space will overlook an “African Savannah” where giraffes and elephants will roam while guests can observe them in their natural habitat while eating dinner or drinking refreshments.

The campaign also will involve tearing down the existing two-story building in front of the zoo and turning that space into a welcoming plaza with fountains and green space.

“While the Woodruff gift is incredibly generous, it’s only as powerful as our ability to raise the matching funds,” said King, who now will be working with the campaign cabinet to raise up to another $19 million.

The honorary campaign chairs are Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank.

The three co-chairs are Paul Bowers, CEO of Georgia Power; Jim Hannan, CEO of Georgia-Pacific; and David Ratcliffe, retired CEO of the Southern Co.

Some of the committee members include Larry Gellerstedt, CEO of Cousins Properties; Penny McPhee, president of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation; Bill Rogers, CEO of SunTrust Banks; Lovette Russell, senior consultant with Coxe Curry & Associates; Carol Tomé, CFO of the Home Depot; and Mike Donnelly, president of Wells Fargo Bank – Atlanta region.

Girl Scouts board

Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta announced the election of five new board and committee members to cultivate stronger relationships with corporations, foundations and philanthropists in metro Atlanta.

“Our board and committee members are vitally important to our organization as we continue to build girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place,” said Amy Dosik, CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, in a statement.

The new members are Grace Kolvereid, vice president of tax at AGL Resources, who will serve on the Finance Committee; Cathy Miller, co-founder of Atlanta Financial Associates, who will serve on the Fund Development Committee; Elizabeth “Lizz” Patrick, founder of the Patrick Law Group, who will serve on the Board Development Committee; Christopher Smurda, chief accounting officer with Jamestown, who will serve on the Finance Committee; and Jeanine Davis, chief operating officer of Amerigroup Georgia, who also will serve on the Finance Committee.

Jeffrey Tapia to retire from LAA

After 14 years with the Latin American Association, Jeffrey Tapia announced on Jan. 30 that she will retire later this year.

Tapia has been serving as executive director of the organization since 2012, and she served as associate executive director and chief operating officer previously.

She will continue to serve until her successor is named, and she will stay on in an advisory role with the organization after she has retired.

During her tenure with the Latin American Association, Tapia expanded the scope and impact of the organization’s immigration and educational programs, as well as increased the community’s awareness and support of its programs and services.

“Jeffrey is a lifelong advocate for Latino immigrant families and communities and has led countless efforts to bring access and opportunity in education, economic empowerment, immigration and health care to the Latino community. We thank Jeffrey for her vision, passion and leadership,” said Carlos Pagoaga, chair of LAA’s board. “She is leaving the organization in a wonderful position for the next-generation leader. She will be missed deeply by both the LAA and the community.”

Pagoaga is leading a board search committee to find Tapia’s successor. She will be moving to the north Georgia mountains, where she and her husband plan to retire.

Liz Coyle at Georgia Watch

The board of Georgia Watch has named Liz Coyle as its new executive director. Coyle has been serving as acting executive director since January 2014, when then-executive director Elena Parent went on a leave of absence to run for the state Senate. Upon Parent’s election to Senate District 42 (D-Atlanta) in November, the board conducted a search to identify a new executive director.

“Liz has played a vital role in ensuring the success and stability of Georgia Watch since taking the helm last year,” said Ray Carpenter, chair of the Georgia Watch board. “Following an extensive search process, the board confirmed that Liz will continue effectively leading the organization to achieve its mission.”

Coyle joined the Georgia Watch team in 2012 and became deputy director in 2013. She came with more than 25 years of experience as a non-profit manager, communications professional and grassroots advocate. Previously, she was director of community education for PEDS, a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to making metro Atlanta safe and accessible for all pedestrians.

“I am honored the board selected me for this position,” Coyle said. “I am excited to continue leading a dedicated team that works tirelessly every day to create a Georgia that is a model for consumer protection.”

Founded in 2002, Georgia Watch is a statewide consumer advocacy organization whose mission is to empower and protect Georgia consumers on matters that impact their wallets and quality of life. Through education, advocacy and policy development, Georgia Watch works to influence public policies that positively impact consumers, safeguard consumer protections in the area of personal finance, promote access to safe and affordable health care, encourage fair utility rates and renewable energy options, protect the right to trial by jury and promote access to the courts.

Communities in Schools – Atlanta

Dr. Demona Warren, a site coordinator with Communities in Schools – Atlanta, has received a national 2015 Unsung Heroes Award.

Warren, who was recognized for her outstanding work in helping students overcome obstacles at Westlake High School, was one of 10 honorees selected by the national Communities in Schools network.

“I am truly honored, humbled and grateful to be receiving this award,” Warren said. “This award is shared by all of us at CIS of Atlanta for the hard work and dedication to meeting students’ needs.”

Warren is one of five site coordinators honored by the national Communities In Schools’ network as best-in-class for their dedication to doing whatever it takes to keep kids in school.

“At Communities In Schools, Unsung Hero is synonymous with dedication and commitment to serving students,” said Gary Chapman, executive vice president of Communities In Schools. “All of our site coordinators are inspiring and are true examples of going the extra mile and being the difference to a student’s success and in their lives. We’re thrilled to recognize their exceptional work.”

The 2015 honorees were recognized at the Communities In Schools’ Leadership Town Hall, held in New Orleans on Jan. 22.

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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