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Piedmont Park Conservancy launches Safe Haven Fund

Penny McPhee receives the Legacy Award from Mark Banta and WSB-TV anchor Lori Wilson, who served as the Landmark Luncheon's emcee (Photo by Maria Saporta)

By Maria Saporta

In response to safety concerns, the Piedmont Park Conservancy announced at its annual Landmark Luncheon Tuesday that it is launching a fund to provide additional security measures in the park.

“We were shocked and saddened when we learned about the violence that happened in our park in July,” said Ellen Sacchi, chair-elect of the Piedmont Park Conservancy. “Today I invite you to join me in response to increased concerns about the safety, the park is launching the Safe Haven Fund.”

Digital billboard reveals new Safe Haven Fund at Tuesday’s Landmark Luncheon of the Piedmont Park Conservancy (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Sacchi was referring to the brutal stabbing of Katherine “Katie” Janness and her dog, Bowie, in Piedmont Park, discovered in the early morning hours of July 28. No arrest has been made. It subsequently has been reported that several of the security cameras in the park were not working properly that night.

The Piedmont Park Conservancy will work with security experts and the City of Atlanta to determine the best ways to improve the park’s safety, according to Mark Banta, president and CEO of the Conservancy.

“There are a lot of concerns, but we need the experts to say what’s appropriate and what’s next,” Banta said. “We have clearly decided based on public input that there’s a desire to help with this initiative. There’s a strong desire by the community to help.”

Penny McPhee receives the Legacy Award from Mark Banta and WSB-TV anchor Lori Wilson, who served as the Landmark Luncheon’s emcee (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Banta did not know how much money the Conservancy hopes to raise for the Safe Haven Fund. But there is a $100,000 match, which means at least $200,000 will be raised for the initiative.

Conservancy board members already have agreed to increase their giving this year by 30 percent. And the Conservancy already has received a pledge from Penny McPhee, who was honored with the organization’s Legacy Award at Tuesday’s Landmark Luncheon.

Earlier this year, McPhee stepped down as president of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation after 17 years with the entity that has donated millions of dollars to the Piedmont Park Conservancy over the years. The Blank Foundation, now under the leadership of Fay Twersky, was the presenting sponsor of the Landmark Lunch.

Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s Penny McPhee and Fay Twersky at the 2021 Landmark Luncheon (Photo by Maria Saporta)

McPhee said that when she joined the Foundation in 2004, Atlanta was losing about 50 acres of green space each day to development. She was glad that one of the Foundation’s top priorities was the preservation and acquisition of green space.

“Parks have been important to me all my life,” said McPhee upon receiving her award. She added that she grew up in Louisville, Ky, which is known for its parks. Having green space is vital to a community’s mental and spiritual health, which McPhee said people really appreciated during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We hope this pandemic is a once-in-a-lifetime event. But we have a real climactic event upon us, and that is climate change. We need all the support you can give us for Piedmont Park.”

The 2022 Landmark Luncheon will be held on April 28.

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Maria Saporta

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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