The Community Foundation celebrates 60 years of the Atlanta region’s evolution

By Maria Saporta

Sixty years. That’s how long the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta has been a conduit between philanthropists and local charities and initiatives.

The foundation celebrated “the Community that Philanthropy Built” at its annual meeting Monday at the Temple — complete with a hilarious improvisation act with two leading Atlanta actors and playwrights — Tom Key and Rob Cleveland.

It also was an opportunity for the community foundation to look back to its inception.

In 1951, it was created by what was then Atlanta’s four largest banks: Citizens & Southern National Bank, First National Bank of Atlanta, Fulton National Bank and the Trust Company of Georgia.

That year, the foundation donated $450,000 to nonprofits in metro Atlanta. And from 1959 to 1969, the foundation distributed a total of $3.4 million in grants.

By comparison, in 2010, the foundation distributed $99 million to an estimated 2,000 organizations primarily located in the 23-county Atlanta region.

The assets of the foundation also have bounced back to the $740 million after having dipped during the economic recession.

Alicia Philipp, who has been president of the Community Foundation for 34 years, said it took the organization 30 years to reach a $100 million endowment and the next 30 years to add more than $600 million to that endowment.

As customary at its annual meetings, the Community Foundation handed out its prestigious “Managing for Excellence” award. But for the first time, the foundation gave two awards — one to a smaller or mid-sized nonprofit and the other to a larger nonprofit.

The “Moving in the Spirit” dance company received the award in the smaller to mid-sized category; and CHRIS Kids, which works with young adults in need from the ages of 17 to 24, received the award for larger nonprofits.

But the highlight of the lunch was the Improv show that was coordinated by Kevin Gillese, director of the Dad’s Garage Theatre in Inman Park.

In a rare serious moment, Gillesee asked Cleveland and Key what philanthropy had meant to them.

Cleveland said as an associate artist with the Georgia Shakespeare said the theater company recently needed to raise $150,000 in a week just to survive. The community rose to the occasion with gifts large and small, and all the artists put on a benefit performance. They were able to raise $180,000 in time.

“The kids who gave us $2 bucks or $10 bucks, they are philanthropists,” Cleveland said.

Key, the executive artistic director of Theatrical Outfit, spoke of how Atlanta has matured as a city for the arts and theater since he moved here in the early 1980s — thanks to the many philanthropists who have given to cultural organizations during these past three decades.

“How different Atlanta is because of this investment,” Key said. “For me, a city evolves from a city to a great city when it’s not just a consumer of art but a creator…. It’s wonderful to be a small part of a great city expressing itself.”

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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