Ground broken on two new camp and paddle sites

Commissioner Walter Rabon, Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Natural Resources Chair Lynn Smith, Georgia House of Representatives; Mayor Tom Reed, Chattahoochee Hills; and Georgia State Director George Dusenbury, Trust for Public Land.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the City of Chattahoochee Hills broke ground for two camp and paddle sites set to begin construction this fall as part of the 48-mile Camp+Paddle Trail.

The trail will offer a way to experience 48 miles of the Chattahoochee River in a three-night, four-day itinerary, starting at Peachtree Creek in North Atlanta and continuing to McIntosh Reserve in Carroll County. 

The groundbreaking ceremony took place at Chattahoochee Hills RiverLands Park, a new access point along the river. Construction will include an access road and parking lot, accessible kayak launch, restrooms, showers, primitive campsites and trails.

The second site is Campbellton Park, located 12 river miles north of the new park, which already has an existing boat ramp and parking area and is well-known as a hot spot for local birders. The site will gain a restroom and shower pavilion, primitive campsites and trails. In addition, TPL will conduct woodland restoration and create a pollinator garden in the park.

The Camp+Paddle Trail is part of the Chattahoochee RiverLands, a massive outdoor recreation destination with 100 miles of parks from Buford Dam to Chattahoochee Bend State Park. The Chattahoochee RiverLands will connect nearly 1 million nearby residents and visitors to the outdoors, where they will be able to enjoy all types of activities along the river.

— Derek Prall

CHRIS 180 opens new facility

Image provided by Chris 180.

CHRIS 180 celebrated the grand opening of its new Zone 3 Community Initiatives headquarters. 

The facility is home to Cure Violence Atlanta, Teen Violence Reduction programs and Trauma Response Network. All three are part of the community engagement initiatives within NPU-V. Atlanta City Council President Doug Shipman, District 12 Councilman Antonio Lewis, and youth leaders Nicholas and JD Fawn hosted the event, including yoga, healing circles, sound therapy sessions and tours of the facility.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gun violence is the leading cause of death for young black males ages 15 to 24. This epidemic disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color at an alarming rate and has a direct effect on investment, civic participation and community development.

Cure Violence Atlanta works by interrupting the transmission of retaliatory violence, supporting individuals identified as high-risk for committing crimes through a change in thinking, and creating opportunities for community norms to change toward a non-violent culture.

— Derek Prall

AID Atlanta opens new location in Midtown

AID Atlanta, one of the Southeast’s oldest HIV medical centers, relocated to its new home on W. Peachtree Street last week. The center will expand its prevention and treatment services for HIV and other STI patients in the Atlanta metro area.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, metro Atlanta has the highest number of individuals with a new diagnosis of HIV, as well as those living with HIV. 

The Midtown facility will provide medical care for those living with HIV, testing for STIs and offer PrEp exams and services. To date, AID Atlanta has provided direct services to over 1,500 people with HIV and prevention services to over 9,000.

Visit AID Atlanta’s website to learn more.

— Allison Joyner

CareSource sponsors “Panther’s Pantry,” Georgia State University’s on-campus food bank

Image provided by CareSource.

CareSource, a mission-driven Medicaid plan serving more than 450,000 Georgians, has sponsored Georgia State University’s Panther’s Pantry, with locations at all six Georgia State campuses in metro Atlanta. Panther’s Pantry distributes food and supplies to the Georgia State community to combat short-term food insecurity and support academic success.  

“Food insecurity can be a major issue on college campuses, often interfering with students’ ability to learn,” said Jason Bearden, CareSource Georgia president. “CareSource is proud to support Panther’s Pantry to help alleviate the burden of food insecurity on GSU students. As an alum of Georgia State, I am thankful to have the opportunity to give back to the GSU community.” 

Students, faculty, and staff can pick up a food bag, hygiene bag, and period products once a week from the in-person Pantry or the pantry lockers. The Atlanta in-person location also provides microwaveable meals, locally grown produce, and school supplies. To support additional needs associated with food insecurity, Panther’s Pantry collaborates with Georgia State University’s Office of the Dean of Students to connect students to CARE services. CARE services include Georgia State resources or community resources for long-term food access, academic assistance, housing assistance, counseling support, nutrition support, and emergency assistance.

— Derek Prall

New Disabled South to hold inaugural gala

New Disabled South, a regional disability rights and justice group that launched this year, will hold its inaugural gala on Nov. 16.

The event, to be held at Bishop Station in Atlanta’s Midtown, will include speakers, performers, and awards for advocates. The format is hybrid in-person and virtual, with ASL and CART captioning available for both attendance methods. 

The RSVP deadline is Oct. 20 via online ticketing.

— John Ruch

Meredith Gurley Johnson Named Executive Director of Horizons Atlanta

Meredith Gurley.

Horizons Atlanta today announced that Meredith Gurley Johnson will become the organization’s fourth-ever executive director, effective Oct. 1, 2023. She will oversee the strategic vision for the regional office and its 11 program sites, community partnerships, and fund development. 

Johnson succeeds Alex Wan, who served as Horizons Atlanta’s executive director for the last five years before recently accepting the position of Vice President of Community Affairs with Emory University. During his tenure, Alex successfully led the nonprofit through significant pandemic challenges while adding three new program sites, nearly doubling the annual number of scholars served, and increasing philanthropic support.

“We are delighted Meredith is joining Horizons Atlanta and look forward to working with her as we continue to grow and support more scholars in their personal development and academic journeys,” said Kevin Glass, head of school at Atlanta International School. “Meredith’s accomplishments at UGA, along with her many years of being a dedicated Horizons volunteer and supporter, distinguished her as the right person to guide Horizons in its next phase.”

Johnson joined the University of Georgia’s (UGA) Office of Alumni Relations in 2001, serving as its executive director for the past nine years. In this role, she oversaw all alumni engagement activities and services, including student programs, young alumni outreach, regional programs, special events and collaborative projects on campus. Prior to the Office of Alumni Relations, she served as coordinator of annual giving and alumni relations for UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. 

— Derek Prall

Morehouse School of Medicine receives $2 million gift to establish David Satcher Global Health Equity Institute

Last week, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) announced that it received a gift from Jon and Donna Croel and the Croel Family Foundation to establish an institution in honor of former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher.

MSM President and CEO Dr. Valerie Montgomery says the gift embodies the next phase of the school’s commitment to global health equity and health justice.

“With this donation, the Croels are not only financially supporting the Institute’s founding but also actively inspiring others to do so,” Rice said. “We look forward to partnering with them in our shared mission to eradicate health inequities.”

— Allison Joyner

Georgia Research Alliance names first woman as board chair

It’s a new day at GRA- Tim Denning, Lizanne Thomas, Susan Shows and David Ratcliffe after the Sept. 27 board meeting of the Georgia Research Alliance. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

In addition to naming a new CEO, the Georgia Research Alliance also voted in a new board chair at its Sept. 27 quarterly meeting.

David Ratcliffe, the retired CEO of the Southern Co., ended his tenure as board chair. This is the second time he has served in that role.

Lizanne Thomas, who has been a partner of the Jones Day law firm, became the new chair of GRA, a high-powered entity that brings academia, government, business and civic leaders together to enhance Georgia’s research and development initiatives. She had been serving as vice chair.

“Of all the civic endeavors I’m involved with, this is the one that inspires me the most,” Thomas said. “The collaboration piece is what I find inspiring.”

Thomas, who retired as partner from Jones Day in 2022 and now serves “of counsel,” said she now feels she can give GRA the attention it needs. She is the first woman to serve as board chair in the organization’s 33-year history.

Ratcliffe has served on the board for about 20 years, and he will remain on the board. Explaining his dedication to Alliance, Ratcliffe said he has been so involved because he believes in the work of the GRA eminent scholars and the economic value they create. “The fact is that the research they do changes the world for the better,” he said.

The board also selected Tim Denning of Georgia State University as its next president and CEO. He will succeed Susan Shows in that role on Nov. 1.

— Maria Saporta

Atlanta Housing is not interested in former police academy site

The Atlanta Housing Authority is not among the government entities that might acquire the former Atlanta Police Academy site in an upcoming disposal process.

The former academy at 180 Southside Industrial Parkway is also Atlanta Public Schools’ (APS) former Harper Elementary site. It is among 16 “surplus” properties that APS recently announced it will dispose of through various processes

The Harper/academy site is among three pegged for sale to or land swap with unnamed “partner governments.” It is also adjacent to dozens of parcels owned by the City, Atlanta Housing or Invest Atlanta, the City’s development authority, the future of which remains unclear. 

APS will not say what government entity or entities are in discussions about the site. “Those conversations are ongoing,” said APS spokesperson Seth Coleman. “More details will be provided at the appropriate time.”

Atlanta Housing “has not expressed an interest in that site,” according to spokesperson Jeff Dickerson. He said he understands the site is not suitable for affordable housing redevelopment because it is within an airport flight path, which makes it ineligible for approval for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding.

The City press office and Invest Atlanta, the City’s development authority, did not respond to questions about any interest in the site.

— John Ruch

North Highland consulting firm announces promotions

North Highland Names Rob Sherrell.

The consulting firm of North Highland has promoted Rob Sherrell to the role of managing director.

Sherrell, who has been with the firm for 17 years, Rob Sherrell, who has been with the Atlanta-based firm for 17 years, most recently served as vice president and global strategy practice lead, focusing on its customer experience. In his new role, Sherrell will lead the firm to strengthen and ensure the long-term vision of its technology-enabled services strategy.

North Highland also announced the promotions of Wayne Messina, who works out of the firm’s Tallahassee office, and Rochelle Rivas, who works out of the firm’s Charlotte office.

“I’m extremely pleased to recognize Wayne, Rochelle and Rob as members of our M.D. team,” said Barbara Ray, managing director and president at North Highland. “Not only have each of these incredibly driven and passionate individuals directly impacted North Highland’s sustained business growth and elevated our client-service model, but they’ve also done it through impressive demonstrations of innovative and bold leadership within their own teams and for our clients.”

— Maria Saporta

Spelman ranks No. 1 HBCU on U.S. News and World Best Colleges Report

Last week, U.S. News and World Report released its annual 2024 Best Colleges Report, ranking Spelman College as the top Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). 

The all-female institution has received this honor for the 17th year. It also ranked 39th for Best National Liberal Arts Institution, second for Top Performers in Social Mobility, 11th for Learning Communities, and 15th for Most Innovative Schools among National Liberal Arts Colleges. 

“Spelman’s recognition among the best colleges in the nation by U.S. News and World Report is a testament to the College’s continuing legacy of academic excellence, which is achieved through our award-winning and distinguished faculty, dedicated staff and high-achieving students,” said Dr. Helene Gayle, president of Spelman College. “These rankings underscore why our mission matters and are helpful to attract a diverse pool of students, top-tier faculty and staff, research opportunities and funding support, as well as inspiring pride among our college community and alumnae.”

— Allison Joyner

A celebration of the life of George Lefont

Plaza Theatre marquis on Sept. 23 honoring George Lefont. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

The Plaza Theatre invited friends, family and admirers of George Lefont to a celebration of life on Sept. 23 in honor of the man who, for decades, expanded the offerings of movies in Atlanta. Lefont once owned the Plaza Theatre, the Tara Theatre, the Screening Room and the Sandy Springs Theatre.

Lefont, 85, died in early September.

Fittingly, the celebration was held in the recently named Lefont auditorium at the Plaza.

Chris Escobar, who literally is stepping into Lefont’s footsteps, was the master of ceremonies. Escobar owns the Plaza and, as of earlier this year, the Tara Theatre.

— Maria Saporta

‘Banned Bookmobile’ to stop in Atlanta and Decatur

A “Banned Bookmobile” tour from the left-wing group MoveOn will distribute banned books at events in Atlanta and Decatur, one of which will feature a prominent author and a Cobb County teacher fired in a book controversy.

The events, organized by MoveOn’s political action committee, are timed to match the American Library Association’s Banned Book Week. It involves the distribution of free copies of what MoveOn says are the 40 most frequently banned books. 

The first event is scheduled for Oct. 1 at 1 p.m. at the Little Shop of Stories bookstore at 133 E. Court Square #A in Decatur. Scheduled attendees include Becky Albertalli, author of the 2015 bestseller “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda,” and Katie Rinderle, the teacher fired this year for reading the book “My Shadow Is Purple,” which has themes of gender fluidity, to students.

The tour is also scheduled to appear at a live recording of the podcast “Lovett or Leave It” on Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. at Center Stage in Atlanta’s Midtown. 

— John Ruch

Integral continues to have an IMPACT on Atlanta

Renee Glover, former president and CEO of Atlanta Housing Authority, with attorney Ed Bowen. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

At a groundbreaking event for the second phase of Ashley Scholars Landing, the Integral Group brought together people who have changed the face of public housing in Atlanta over the past three decades.

It all dates back to when Renee Glover became CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority in September 1994. 

Egbert Perry had just launched the Integral Group, and he envisioned transforming the first public housing project in the country — Techwood Homes — into a mixed-income community. AHA led the nation in implementing the Hope VI model, where traditional public housing projects were transformed into mixed-income communities. 

Coincidentally, Scholars Landing is being developed on the site of the first Black public housing project in the country – University Homes.

“Egbert Perry, you are a leader, a visionary like no other,” said Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, who attended the Sept. 26 festivities.

“The truth is we didn’t know exactly what we were doing,” Perry admitted to a gathering of dignitaries, including Adrianne Todman, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Christopher Nunn, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community affairs.

Perry gave credit to Vicki Lundy Wilbon, Integral’s president of development, for the celebration of three milestones – the opening of the first phase of Ashley Scholars Landing, the groundbreaking of phase 2 and the announcement of homeownership opportunities at the Towns at Scholars Landing. Integral billed the multipurpose event as “IMPACT.”

Perry said he takes “credit for the work” Lundy Wilbon does every day. “I’m sort of a parasite,” he said. “Vicki has been with us 27 years, so she’s not a newbie.”

The occasion also turned into a thank you to Eugene Jones, who has been AHA’s president and CEO for the last four years. He recently announced he will be stepping down by the end of the year.

— Maria Saporta

Heroes Saints & Legends honors Georgia leaders

Veronica Biggins with St. Luke’s Rev. Winnie Varghese and Juanita Baranco. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

One of the most special nights of the year is the annual Heroes, Saints and Legends event benefiting Wesley Woods. The 2023 event, held Sept. 21 at Flourish in Buckhead, was no exception.

Veronica Biggins, Gov. Nathan Deal and the late Sandra Deal were recognized as this year’s Heroes, Saints and Legends.

Biggins, a search professional who worked at the White House under President Bill Clinton, attracted several VIPs, including retired CEO of Southwest Airlines, Gary Kelly; Paula Wallace, president of SCAD; Ingrid Saunders Jones of Coca-Cola and Juanita Baranco, to name a few.

Biggins thanked Wesley Woods for taking care of her mother-in-law, Clarice Biggins, during the last part of her life.

The event was especially touching when Gov. Deal spoke about his late wife, who was honored for all her work around literacy and children during her lifetime.

“Sandra would have told me: ‘Don’t slouch,'” Deal said. “I believe her spirit is here.”

The event raised more than $405,000 to support the Wesley Woods Foundation.

By the way, the presenting sponsor was John Weiland, who did double duty by chauffeuring Saunders Jones to the event.

— Maria Saporta

Health professionals gather at 10th Health Connect South

Health Connect South’s CEO Russ Lipari thanks people who have helped make the annual summit a success over the past decade. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

Health Connect South’s 10th annual gathering on Sept. 21 attracted a record crowd of about 1,225 people interested in exploring the most pressing issues in the industry.

“We are living the mission of the organization, which is to serve the health community as a platform to promote health collaborations,” said Russ Lipari, founder and CEO of Health Connect South.

Much of the conversation during this year’s Health Connect South revolved around the issues of equity.

Among the keynote speakers were Antrell Tyson, regional director of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; Dr. Mandy Cohen, director of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Valerie Montgomery Rice, president of the Morehouse School of Medicine; and Carlos del Rio, interim dean of Emory University’s School of Medicine.

Lipari was especially pleased that the heads of all the schools of medicine in the Atlanta region attended and participated in the daylong summit.

“They don’t do that often,” Lipari said. “It shows folks how we come together.”

— Maria Saporta

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