Column: Atlanta Community Food Bank’s Bill Bolling to receive Shining Light

By Maria Saporta
Friday, October 9, 2009

Atlanta will soon have a new shining light.

Bill Bolling, founder and executive director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, will be honored with the 2009 Shining Light Award, a most prestigious honor given to outstanding community leaders by Atlanta Gas Light and News/Talk 750 WSB.

The Shining Light Award, established in 1963, has honored former President Jimmy Carter; former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young; Home Depot co-founder and Georgia Aquarium benefactor Bernie Marcus; baseball legend Hank Aaron; Shepherd Center co-founder Alana Shepherd; and dozens of others.

Honored recipients get their own eternally burning natural gas lamp installed at his or her honor at a location that is special to them.

“What Bill Bolling has done in growing the Atlanta Community Food Bank since 1979 is absolutely a shining example of what one intentional, passionate person can do to change the Atlanta community,” said Melanie Platt, senior vice president of AGL Resources Inc., which owns Atlanta Gas Light. “That’s why this choice resonates with everyone.”

Platt said that given the down economy, the Food Bank’s work has been especially needed.

“It was truly incredible the way the Food Bank was able to help more people than ever in addressing hunger,” Platt said. “It seemed to us that it would be a very good time to spotlight the Food Bank and Bill Bolling.”

Bolling began the Food Bank when he served as director of community ministries for St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta. Today, the Food Bank distributes more than 20 million pounds of food and grocery products each year through more than 800 local and regional nonprofit organizations that feed the hungry.

Bolling, who grew up in Lexington, N.C., has been an advocate for those less fortunate for decades. He is a frequent national and regional speaker on the issues related to hunger, poverty, affordable housing, public policy reform, leadership and regional cooperation.

Bolling’s Shining Light will be unveiled in a public ceremony on Nov. 16 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church at 435 Peachtree St.

Hughes Spalding campaign

Community leader Lovette Russell was born in Hughes Spalding Children’s Hospital in Room 415. Her husband — Michael Russell, who is CEO of H.J. Russell & Co. — was born in the same hospital in Room 416.

Although their births were separated by a couple of years, they have now come full circle. Michael Russell co-chaired the Grady Healthcare Task Force for the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Grady had operated Hughes Spalding, the children’s hospital that served primarily an African-American clientele.

Today, Lovette Russell is co-chairing a capital campaign to raise the final $8.1 million of a $43 million campaign to rebuild Hughes Spalding adjacent to Grady Hospital.

The hospital now is being managed by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and is now called Children’s at Hughes Spalding.

Russell said she wanted to get involved in the campaign because the conditions of the existing Hughes Spalding hospital were so poor that she would not have wanted to take her children there.

“The emergency room was no bigger than this office,” Russell said while sitting in her husband’s office. “The hospital rooms didn’t have private bathrooms. I said, ‘This is unacceptable.’ ”

Russell is co-chairing the final leg of the campaign with Rosalind Brewer, division president of Wal-Mart’s Southeast operations. They have $5.3 million left to raise by the end of the year.

“I was an inner-city Atlanta child,” Russell said. “I want to know that inner-city children can get great care right downtown. It serves such an important population.”

The old Hughes Spalding was built in 1952 as a hospital to serve black patients in the time of segregation. Later it was turned into a children’s hospital. It is supposed to be torn down after the new hospital is completed within the next couple of months.

“In 2009, as a pediatric urban hospital, it’s unacceptable,” Russell said. “My passion is being an advocate for inner-city children and women, and I couldn’t start at a better place than Hughes Spalding.”

Russell is optimistic that the balance of the Hughes Spalding campaign will be successful. The campaign committee is reaching out to potential donors who haven’t been tapped in the past.

The committee includes Rebecca Flick of The Home Depot Inc.; Ernest Greer of Greenberg Traurig LLP; Rhonda Mims of ING Foundation; Ned Montag of Montag & Associates; Vicki Palmer, formerly of Coca-Cola Enterprises; Margaret Reiser of Boardwalk Consulting; Jack Sawyer of BNY Mellon; and Bill Torres of Emory University Hospital.

When completed, Children’s at Hughes Spalding will have 21 beds — with private bathrooms.

Women leading Kiwanis

For the first time in its 92-year history, the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta will have back-to-back women presidents.

On Oct. 6, Nancy Bedford was inducted as the 92nd president of the civic organization; and Kathy Kite was inducted as its president-elect.

That’s a far cry from the days before 1987 when women weren’t even permitted to be members.

Bedford actually is the fifth woman president of the organization following Mary Kay Murphy, Myrtle Davis, Donna Buchannan and Karen Sullivan Losin. She succeeded Phil Smith, who has been president for this past year.

Former Kiwanis President Bert Vardeman, who serves as a historian for the club, remembered when Kiwanis International first allowed women members.

The late Virlyn Moore, a leader in the organization at that time, wanted for the Atlanta Kiwanis Club to lead and went out and recruited women members. It accepted 17 at one time, including Atlanta City Councilwoman Myrtle Davis. Bedford became a member in a second wave of women recruits.

Interestingly, Davis was nominated for membership by Charlie Bedford, who Nancy Bedford calls the “first gentleman” of Kiwanis.
Charlie Bedford, then a member of Kiwanis, has since joined the Rotary Club of Atlanta — making them a bi-interclub couple of two sometimes competing organizations.

“We are a couple that supports the leading civic clubs in Atlanta,” Charlie Bedford said after witnessing his wife take on her new leadership role.

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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