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Reporter’s Notebook: Celebrating Piedmont Park designer Frederick Olmsted’s 200th birthday

Atlanta, the city in the forest. (Photo by Hannah E. Jones.)

With Earth Month 2022 coming to a close, be sure to take a moment this weekend to enjoy all that Mother Nature has to offer. With adventures like hiking at Arabia or Panola Mountain, kayaking down the Chattahoochee River or just soaking up some sun at your local park, you’ll find a good way to spend time outside. Plus, temperatures will reach the low 80’s this weekend, so grab some sunscreen and enjoy the springtime.

On to other local news:

Weslee Knapp, president of the Olmsted Linear Park Alliance, stands with Sandra Stewart Kruger, executive director of the organization, at Callanwolde during the gala celebration (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Atlanta celebrates Frederick Law Olmsted’s 200th birthday

Visionary parks designer Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. and his landscape architectural firm transformed major cities — New York, Boston and Atlanta to name a few.

Olmsted was born 200 years ago this month, and birthday celebrations are being held all over the country, including Atlanta.

Olmsted and his firm designed Piedmont Park as well as the Linear Park in Druid Hills. Back in 1890, Atlanta businessman Joel Hurt commissioned Olmsted Sr. to prepare a plan to develop what we now know as Druid Hills. The firm submitted plans and remained involved in the design until 1908, five years after Olmsted Sr. had died.

The Olmsted Linear Park Alliance — working with the National Association for Olmsted Parks — has been holding events to honor the Olmsted legacy.

A week-long celebration of Olmsted featured a Druid Hills Home & Garden Tour, Plein Air Painting exhibitions, outdoor markets, concerts and daily activities in the Olmsted Linear Park.

An Olmsted 200 Birthday Celebration was held at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center on April 26 on a beautiful spring evening — complete with music, dancing and a birthday cake to honor the occasion.

A portion of the proceeds from the “Olmsted 200” commemoration week will be used to create an Olmsted Lasting Legacy project in the Druid Hills community.

— Maria Saporta

City of Atlanta and Goodwill leaders joined together for the grand opening. (Photo taken from the livestream)

Metropolitan Parkway Goodwill opens its doors

On Thursday, April 21, Atlanta officials and Goodwill leaders celebrated the grand opening of Goodwill of North Georgia’s Metropolitan Parkway Store & Career Center

The new store, open seven days a week, has offerings that run the whole gamut — clothes, houseware, furniture and more. Folks can also swing by to drop off donations of gently used clothes, furniture, books, electronics and other household items. 

The Career Center offers resources for residents looking for work, like career training workshops and job fairs, access to computers, assistance through the application process and career coaching services. 

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, who also serves as a board member, joined the ribbon-cutting ceremony, 

“I know we’re going to do a whole lot of shopping,” Dickens said. “But make no mistake about it, the goal of Goodwill is to put people to work. That’s our mission. We’re about getting you a job, then a better job, then a career. ABC’s.”

State Representative Kim Schofield also joined the stage and emphasized the resources and positive impact the new center will provide to the Southwest Atlanta community.

 “I thank you that you are planting seeds for today that will reap a harvest for years to come,” Schofield said. “On behalf of the State of Georgia District 60, thank you.”

Click here to watch the grand opening.

— Hannah E. Jones

DeKalb jail sued over Ramadan meals and prayers

In response to a federal civil rights lawsuit, the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) has agreed to provide Muslim detainees in the county jail with meals and prayer announcements suitable for the observation of Ramadan.

DCSO and jail officials were sued on April 18 by the national office and Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for allegedly denying detainees access to meals that meet religious dietary requirements known as halal and failing to do so in accordance with a prayer schedule. Observance of Ramadan, which this year runs April 2 to May 2, involves a pre-dawn meal and fasting from dawn to sunset.

While the lawsuit is pending, DCSO and the jail on April 19 agreed to immediately provide Jewish kosher meals — which meet halal requirements as well — to Muslim detainees, to do so at the proper time for Ramadan, and to announce prayer times for observant detainees. 

DCSO declined to comment on the lawsuit and would not say what its current policy is regarding halal meals. 

“The fact that these [Ramadan accommodations] have just now been adopted after the filing of a federal lawsuit shows the extreme lengths Muslim detainees are forced to take,” said CAIR-Georgia Executive Director Murtaza Khwaja in a press release. “Prisons and jails across Georgia should take heed and examine their own Ramadan policies in light of this agreement to ensure that they are not in violation of federal law and that the constitutionally enshrined rights of all Muslim detainees and incarcerees are protected.”

 — John Ruch

“I want things out of the landfill that don’t need to be in the landfill,” Jana Alfiero said. (Photo courtesy of Cortland)

Real estate company Cortland aims to donate 1 million lbs in clothes and furniture

It’s no secret that the pandemic has been tough on the environment, between a surge in online shopping and disposable masks available at the doorway of every store.

Real estate company Cortland, with 36 properties in the Atlanta area and 200 in total, has implemented several initiatives to curb some of that waste within their residential buildings. 

Jana Alfiero, senior manager of Waste and Diversion, jump-started a textiles and furniture donation system during the height of the pandemic. During that time, she saw a spike of clothes and furniture shoved into the buildings’ dumpsters because folks were apprehensive about leaving home and risking exposure to COVID-19. 

Through this program, Cortland residents and partners donated 63 tons of clothing and furniture last year to America’s Thrift and Furniture Bank of Metro Atlanta. This number is an estimation, and Alfiero added, “I think that it’s probably a lot more.”

This year, the company plans to expand the initiative to all its buildings nationwide while aiming to donate 1 million pounds of clothing and furniture. 

Cortland has also teamed up with Move for Hunger to provide a streamlined way for folks to donate food. 

During the move-out process, the contents of the kitchen cabinets usually don’t take top priority and end up getting chucked in the trash. Instead, the two groups partnered together to make it easy for Cortland residents to donate food while moving out.

Last year, residents donated 10,000 pounds of food, the equivalent of 8,333 meals.

“I want things out of the landfill that don’t need to be in the landfill,” Alfiero said. “If you look at what is going into our landfills, it’s food and clothing. Those are the biggest two of the biggest challenges that we have right now.”

— Hannah E. Jones

A rendering of the Shepherd Center’s new 160-unit family housing building. (Photo courtesy of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation)

Shepherd Center receives $50 million to fund new family housing

The Shepherd Center recently received a $50 million capital grant from the Arthur Blank Family Foundation to double the hospital’s family housing capacity. 

The Shepherd Center is a private hospital specializing in researching and treating spine and brain injuries, and other neurological issues. 

The funds will support the construction of a new 160-unit family housing building on Peachtree Road in Atlanta. Construction will begin this fall.

Family housing is essential to keeping patients’ spirits high during treatment and recovery. The housing space also allows a support system of family or friends to accompany patients who live out of town and are traveling to Atlanta for medical treatment. 

“Throughout Shepherd’s more than 46 years of experience, we’ve consistently witnessed how integral families are in the rehabilitation process,” Shepherd Center CEO Sarah Morrison said in a press release. “With the expansion of our housing program, we will reduce the financial and emotional burden on our patients’ families so they can focus on learning how to support their loved ones and each other through rehabilitation and as they return to their communities.”

— Hannah E. Jones

Housing advocacy group to hold candidate forums in three Georgia House races

A housing advocacy group is holding candidate forums for three Georgia House races in southern DeKalb and Fulton counties.

The virtual forums by Neighbors for More Neighbors-Metro Atlanta are aimed at seats that will be open due to vacancy or redistricting. They come in advance of the May 24 primary election.

The forums will include candidates for House District 90 on May 3 and House Districts 59 and 62 on May 5. Both forums are scheduled for 6 p.m. and will be held via Zoom. They will include an audience question-and-answer period.

Neighbors for More Neighbors is a chapter of California-based YIMBY Action, which supports increased housing construction.

For registration and other details, see the group’s Facebook page.

— John Ruch

The Philadelphia School in Southwest Atlanta is now a City historic landmark. (Photo by City of Atlanta Historic Preservation Studio)

Church and school gain City landmark status

The former St. Mark AME Church and the segregation-era Philadelphia School were granted official City historic landmark status on April 27 by the Atlanta Urban Design Commission (UDC).

Landmark status gives the UDC supervision over any attempted demolition or changes and unofficially gives prestige to preservation efforts. 

That’s important for the English Avenue church, a roofless semi-ruin being reborn as a public space in a broad partnership with owner Pastor Winston Taylor, the nonprofit Atlanta Preservation Center (APC) and community groups. 

The church at 491 James P. Brawley Drive was built in 1920 for a white congregation and bought in 1948 by St. Mark. It has been vacant since 1976 and has been the target of restoration efforts since 1995. Today, it essentially consists of the four granite walls still standing, with its interior used as a community space. APC has brought in Georgia Tech architecture students to work on a reuse plan dubbed “The Preserve at St. Mark,” which involves building a glass roof over the ruins.

Before the UDC vote, Taylor told SaportaReport the landmarking is just one step he hopes will boost attempts to secure financial backing for the restoration. “You hear a lot of talk, but at the end, when you look at a lot of the buildings that have [landmark] designations, they’re still sitting there falling down,” said Taylor. He said the church is already “repurposed and is now back serving the community again,” and the partners’ idea of preservation is to push that rebirth even further.

Taylor and APC Executive Director David Yoakley Mitchell also emphasized the community partnership over decades that the UDC has now given an official seal of approval. “Without partnerships like this with Winston Taylor, the beloved community and St. Mark AME, we wouldn’t be able to call ourselves Atlanta the way we want to call ourselves Atlanta,” said Mitchell. 

Also landmarked was the Philadelphia School at 1158 Philadelphia St. in Southwest Atlanta. Dating to 1936, it sits next to the Philadelphia Baptist Church, whose congregants created the school. The school was founded in 1889 and operated through 1956 for Black students in the era of racial segregation. 

Parents of school students included Johnny Fears and Leonard C. Jackson, who were among the plaintiffs in a 1958 lawsuit against Atlanta Public Schools seeking to enforce desegregation. The City says Fears and Jackson have “exceptionally high significance” to Atlanta history. The City’s report on the property includes a flyer from the Atlanta-based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan attempting to terrorize Fears and Jackson, among others, for their activism by publishing their home addresses. 

The school landmarking was proposed by the City itself, which is operating under a policy of diversifying the types of properties that gain historic designations. Mitchell, the APC leader, praised the effort.

“The continued preservation of the story of Atlanta – through the process of keeping our historic structures — was strengthened by adding the Philadelphia School,” he said in an email. “Having its legacy shepherded by its stewards into this catalog of the city’s landmark properties continues to shine a light on the value of historic preservation and the courage to keep our history for our future.”

— John Ruch

For Earth Month, Southern Company launches its Mother Earth is Hiring campaign

Earlier this month, Southern Company unveiled an Earth Day initiative to highlight job and volunteer opportunities in the sustainability field by creating the Mother Earth is Hiring campaign on LinkedIn.

The job search platform has aggregated over 300,000 “green” job positions, ranging from opportunities in energy efficiency, water conservation or environmental educators. 

The goal of the campaign, according to Brand Director Emily O’Brien, is to “champion all the good energy that brands and organizations are putting toward the planet” while also serving as a one-stop-shop for folks looking to go a step further with their sustainability efforts. 

“We purposely named this Mother Earth and not Southern Company for a couple of reasons. We think it humanizes the challenge that we’re facing and gives a face to this issue,” O’Brien said. “It also underscores that this challenge is bigger than us, but so is the opportunity for the many good corporate citizens of our country to unite and address this issue together.”

The campaign won’t wrap up with Earth Month, so feel free to check back to LinkedIn for updated opportunities. Click here to peruse Mother Earth is Hiring.

— Hannah E. Jones

Rachel Perry and Jerrell Moore

Female advocacy group OnBoard welcomes new board additions

Leaders at OnBoard, a local female advocacy group turning 30 this year, have selected Rachel Perry, the Atlanta Market Leader for insurance company Aon, as the new Chair of the Board of Directors. 

OnBoard is an Atlanta-based organization founded in 1993 that advocates and aims to increase the number of women in executive leadership positions and corporate boards. 

Perry proceeds Kelly Gay, who led the Board for two years.

The organization releases annual reports detailing the status of women on corporate boards, now serving as the leading authority on women in boardrooms and executive leadership of Georgia Public Companies. Perry will help guide the publication of the 30th annual report.

“Kelly Gay has set the example of leadership and commitment to OnBoard as our Chair during her tenure. We have a great year ahead of us, and I am humbly honored to be OnBoard’s next Chairwoman,” Perry wrote. 

Jerrell Moore, head of global inclusion at Google, will also join the team as a board member. 

“Jerrell Moore will be a thoughtful and engaged partner for the current, talented members of the Board,” Director Kathy Waller said in a press release. “Given his knowledge and skills in DEI, he understands the importance of OnBoard’s work and has demonstrated his commitment to ensuring opportunities for everyone, especially those who are underrepresented.”

Click here to learn more about OnBoard.

— Hannah E. Jones

Powder Springs hosts seafood festival for second year

The city of Powder Springs will host its second annual “Bringing the Sea to the Springs” seafood festival at Thurman Springs Park from May 13 to 15. 

“People are excited that it is coming back again and it’s going to be a signature event for Powder Springs going forward,” said Al Thurman, mayor of Powder Springs.

Last year over 10,000 attendees welcomed the first-year festivities. 

In addition to enjoying seafood, activities such as art and crafts for sale and a kid zone with bounce houses and face painting, live music from the Gold Standard Band, a Tina Turner tribute artist Chimere Scott, The Georgia Blues Brothers tribute band, and Atlanta’s own American Hope Band.

Tickets are on sale now with VIP seating available. Log onto the event’s website for options.  

— Allison Joyner

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Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native and Georgia State University graduate, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for two newspapers. Hannah managed the Arts and Living section of The Signal, Georgia State’s independent award-winning newspaper. She has a passion for environmental issues, urban life and telling a good story. Hannah can be reached at hannah@saportareport.com.

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3 Comments

  1. Wormser Hats April 29, 2022 9:45 am

    Revisionist history that’s been an ongoing myth for nearly a century: FLO (and his sons) did NOT design Piedmont Park, but rather consulted on and did a design for the park that was never faithfully implemented by the city.

    https://piedmontpark.org/park-history/#:~:text=Piedmont%20Park%20has%20a%20rich,park%20that%20it%20is%20today.Report

    Reply
  2. Dana Blankenhorn April 29, 2022 10:19 am

    Wormser is right on Piedmont Park, but Olmsted’s design vibe is certainly there.

    There are many good biographies of Olmsted. My favorite is “A Clearing in the Distance.” https://www.thriftbooks.com/w/a-clearing-in-the-distance-frederick-law-olmsted-and-america-in-the-19th-century_witold-rybczynski/340452/item/2073396/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwma6TBhDIARIsAOKuANxliLRLKP5LR1XSHYzUQFfKvfOrtIry8d4eE2V3EaDXfCd4zCNvoeIaAt5aEALw_wcB#idiq=2073396&edition=2276171

    One of the good things for me about the pandemic was a chance to read Olmsted’s book on his trip to Texas in the 1850s. Called simply “A Journey Through Texas” https://www.amazon.com/Journey-through-Texas-Saddle-Trip-Southwestern/dp/1726725413/ it’s incredibly good travel writing.

    One more thing. The last line in “A Clearing” summarizes Olmsted’s legacy with a line we should all seek to emulate. Speaking to a future he would never see, he said, “We did this for you.”Report

    Reply

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