Michael Halicki, Executive Director for Park Pride, and George Dusenbury Georgia State Director for the Trust for Public Land Atlanta’s reputation for its parks and recreation system is getting a lot of attention. Last week The Trust for Public Land (TPL) released the 2022 ParkScore ranking, which compares the park systems of the 100 largest cities in the US based on how they are meeting the needs of the communities they serve. Since TPL began ranking cities, Atlanta has never fared well. But this year, Atlanta vaulted from 49th to 27th out of 100, raising questions about the current state of our park system and where we are headed. View Atlanta’s ParkScore results here. While Atlanta’s movement on the ParkScore is promising, no one has ever been satisfied with coming in 27th place. A lot of challenging work lies ahead to achieve the park system that Atlantans want and deserve. Below, Michael Halicki (Executive Director of Park Pride) examines the categories upon which the ParkScore is built to better understand the local context of Atlanta‘s standing and identify the opportunities to progress. Then, George Dusenbury (Georgia State Director of The Trust for Public Land) frames Atlanta’s ParkScore ranking within a national context and provides insight into how Atlanta compares to other leading and peer cities. The Local Context Michael Halicki Acreage Over the last few years, Atlanta has done big things well, adding significant acreage to the park inventory. In 2021 alone, the City opened Lake Charlotte Nature Preserve and Westside Park (among other acquisitions and expansions), making 496-acres of greenspace accessible to the community through these two projects alone. Despite these wins, the overall area dedicated to parkland in the city (6.2%) is still well below the median of the 100 ParkScore cities (19%). Atlanta’s population is exploding, and strategic greenspace acquisition of all sizes must similarly accelerate to meet the park and natural space needs of current and future residents. Access The 2022 ParkScore indicates that 77% of Atlanta’s population lives within a walkable half-mile of a park, a sizable increase from 72% in 2021, and above the median for the 100 ParkScore cities, which is 75%. This is great news. While the progress made is noteworthy, however, everyone deserves to live within walking distance of a park. And we still have a distance to go to accomplish this vision. Investment It is not enough that Atlantans simply have access to trails and parks, though—they need to be quality trails and parks. Parks that look nice, are well maintained, and that are comfortable to be in. The City of Atlanta must appropriately fund the park budget to achieve a level of maintenance that neighborhood parks need and have so far not seen, a level of investment which is not accurately reflected in this year’s ParkScore. Amenities According to the ParkScore data, Atlanta ranks above average in the Amenities category. The primary takeaway is clear and simple: great parks are those whose amenities meet the needs of the communities they serve. We must do what we can to ensure that as communities evolve, so do our parks. Equity Atlanta has work to do in terms of equity of access to parks along the lines of race and income. Data from the ParkScore indicates that: residents living in neighborhoods of color have access to 48% less nearby park space than those living in White neighborhoods, and residents living in lower-income neighborhoods have access to 33% less nearby park space than those in higher-income neighborhoods Atlanta must do better. The Department of Parks & Recreation will soon make available to the public a park equity tool which they’ll use to ensure that investments and acquisitions are made equitably, prioritizing neighborhoods that have the most urgent need for park space and improvements. I am hopeful and optimistic that, with enhanced use of data in decision making within the department, we’ll see movement toward greater park equity in the future. *** The National Context George Dusenbury Nationally, the City of Atlanta should be very proud of its 2022 ParkScore. In moving from 49th to 27th, Atlanta was The Trust for Public Land’s biggest mover. Continuing this momentum and getting to the top means overcoming a 100-year head start by the highest rated cities. Minneapolis and St. Paul invested early and heavily in their park systems – starting in the 1880s. Washington, DC was planned in the 1790s to provide access to parks, plazas and public spaces, and benefits from its many parks owned and maintained by the National Park Service. If Atlanta is to catch up to these national leaders, we will have to do two things. First, we must continue to invest in innovative new parks that address our acreage gap while ensuring that all Atlanta residents have access to the outdoors. The Chattahoochee RiverLands, South River Forest and Community Schoolyards, for example, will allow Atlanta to continue to improve its park system and its ParkScore. A closer look at TPL’s Community Schoolyards program illustrates how this could be done. In Atlanta, we partner with Park Pride, Atlanta Public Schools, and the Urban Land Institute to increase access to park-like space through community schoolyards that are designed by students, teachers, and neighbors as nature-rich hubs for outdoor play, community health, and climate resilience. They are open to the community as parks after school hours, on weekends, and over the summer. TPL launched the Atlanta Community Schoolyard program in 2019, opened our first two schools in February, and will complete the ten-site pilot program within a year. Seventy three of the 100 cities ranked by ParkScore allow some use of schoolyards to function as park-like space. The City of Cincinnati greatly increased park access for its residents by converting all schools to community schoolyards – and moved from 8th to 4th in the national rankings. Similarly, increased public investment in Atlanta could allow the pilot to expand system-wide, increasing access and providing new greenspace to tens of thousands of residents. Second, Atlanta will have to continue to […]
MARTA Reach Provides Rideshare Service in Clayton, DeKalb, & Fulton Counties MARTA, in partnership with Georgia Tech, announces an expansion of MARTA Reach, a six-month pilot rideshare service designed to connect riders to-and-from MARTA bus and rail. The pilot, meant to test how on-demand shuttles can be used to make it easier and faster for customers to get to their destinations using MARTA, will be expanded to include the neighborhoods of Dixie Hills, Avondale Estates, and cities of Alpharetta, Roswell, Forest Park, and Morrow. “We have seen significant interest and loyalty from the early riders of MARTA Reach,” said MARTA Chief Customer Experience Officer Rhonda Allen. “Most of our riders take many trips a day, connecting to grocery stores, schools and day care, social activities, and the broader MARTA system. We’re thrilled at the opportunity to expand the program to serve more riders in more parts of our region for the second half of the pilot.” Starting May 16: The current West Atlanta zone expands to include Dixie Hills, alongside the Florida Heights and Collier Heights neighborhoods. New connections will be made to West Lake and Bankhead Stations. The current Belvedere zone expands to include the neighborhood of Avondale Estates. New connections will be made to Kensington Station. Starting May 30: The current West Atlanta zone will expand into the cities of Forest Park and Morrow, including new connections to Route 196, Clayton State University, Southern Regional Hospital, and Southlake Mall. A new zone will be introduced in North Fulton, including Georgia State University’s Alpharetta Campus, Downtown Alpharetta, and the Avalon District. Connections will be provided to Routes 85, 140, 141, 142 via the Mansell Park & Ride. “The North Fulton CID is excited to welcome the MARTA Reach Pilot Program to North Fulton,” said Executive Director Brandon Beach. “This program has proven its effectiveness in other areas of metro Atlanta and we look forward to our members, businesses, and residents receiving the benefits of the program.” Professor Pascal Van Hentenryck and Georgia Tech’s Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) team is providing the technology, including routing logic, and rider, operator, and administrator system apps for the project. “We are really thrilled about this expansion that will give MARTA Reach an opportunity to provide first- and last-mile connectivity to more riders, expanding a growing and loyal customer base,” said Van Hentenryck. “It will also allow us to improve our understanding of the sweet spots for MARTA Reach, and where it best complements the existing MARTA network. The first months of the pilot have been incredibly exciting, and the expansion will build on the great progress MARTA Reach has already accomplished.” To order a ride download the MARTA Reach app from your smartphone’s mobile app store. The app will guide you to designated pick-up and drop-off stops near the beginning or end of your trip. If there’s not a stop where you’d like, you can request additional stop locations in the app. Riders who do not have a smartphone can call MARTA Customer Service at 404-848-5000 to request a ride. All MARTA Reach vehicles are wheelchair and stroller accessible. MARTA Reach debuted on March 1 in West Atlanta, Belvedere, and the Gillem Logistics Center and costs the same as a MARTA fare, $2.50. The service runs from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and is a ridesharing service, meaning other passengers may be picked up and dropped off during a trip. This is sponsored content.
Atlanta was again making waves as the Georgia Aquarium ballroom set the scene for the post-COVID comeback of Families First’s evening of recognizing extraordinary community impact and raising funds for its wraparound social services and innovative behavioral health counseling for children and families. Beginning with the vividly painted story of Families First’s inventive case management model where clients are teamed with dedicated navigators and equipped with tools to manage trauma and mental health, emcee Brooks Baptiste of CBS Wake Up Atlanta put a fast-paced program in motion to pay tribute to outstanding individuals who are shaping our communities, and winning over the crowd of 350+ Families First supporters with his shout-out to his bride on the occasion of their 1st Wedding Anniversary. Wendy Stewart, President, Global Commercial Banking, Bank of America was honored with the Community Impact Award and recognized by Lauren Koontz of YMCA Metro Atlanta and Bentina Terry of Georgia Power Company for her active leadership in pulling together the business community and nonprofits to create a new campus in Grove Park (near Bankhead) neighborhood on Atlanta’s Westside with a new school (run by KIPP), a YMCA early learning center and clinic. Kevin Greiner, President & CEO, Gas South was honored with the Social Equity Award and highly praised by Lauren Koontz, Ivan Shammas of Univision Atlanta and his Gas South team for his “fuel for good” focus on children’s education, especially in helping families in low opportunity communities to catch up with STEM learning and other supportive initiatives. Native Atlantan Dallas Smith, Founder, President & CEO, of T. Dallas Smith & Co. (commercial real estate brokers) was honored with the Making a Difference Community Service Award, and celebrated by Atlanta Housing Board of Commissioners member and Avison Young principal Kirk Rich for living by the Golden Rule and his pivotal role in innovating a new model for community redevelopment that promises to bring positive outcomes and is respectful of longtime neighborhood residents. Past Families First CEO Patricia Whatley Showell was recognized with the Legacy Award and hailed with heartfelt tributes from attorney and community leader Bernadette Weston Hartfield and PricewaterhouseCooper’s Courtney Showell. Pat charmed the audience with her humility and hopeful outlook for better futures, remarking on the flexibility and ingenuity of Families First to ascertain and become whatever the community is wanting in that current time. Community advocate Mary Yates was especially honored with the Montag Family Volunteerism Award and talked about the “bear hug” of services that Families First provides its clients. Peter Williams of BlackRock was one of the first to compliment the Dining for a Difference team on commissioning Sharanda A. Wilburn, who chose the artist’s moniker, “S.A.W., to paint original portraits of all five honorees in the style S.A.W. is known for with such portraits of former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and community organizer Stacey Abrams, as well as the newly painted Families First mural, “Threads of Resilience” located at 80 Joseph E. Lowry Boulevard. This is sponsored content.
Each year, the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) hosts the region’s most prominent and innovative business leaders for frank discussions through the Insights on Leadership speaker series, sponsored by Delta Air Lines. In February, MAC President and CEO Katie Kirkpatrick sat down with Inspire Brands Co-founder and CEO Paul Brown. Brown serves a multi-brand restaurant company whose portfolio includes nearly 32,000 Arby’s, Baskin-Robbins, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dunkin’, Jimmy John’s, Rusty Taco and SONIC Drive-In restaurants worldwide. Inspire is supported by more than 650,000 company and franchise team members. Its brands achieved more than $30 billion in global system sales, making Inspire the second largest restaurant company in the U.S. For Brown and his team, this creates unique opportunities and challenges with brand management. “It is critical to find the balance of keeping the rich essence of the brand and keeping the culture that goes along with it, particularly in the franchise business,” Brown said. “What we do at the beginning of every acquisition is we go through a process of stepping back and defining the target customer, a clear brand purpose and the values of the brand.” “We’re very careful with what are the values of Inspire, and what are the values of the particular brand. It is really important to find how we work together as a defined entity and not operate as silos.” Inspire Brands announced the new location of a global headquarters in Sandy Springs in 2018, at the same time creating 1,100 jobs for the metro Atlanta region spread out across the following years. “Atlanta is a phenomenal place. It’s very easy to attract people to Atlanta, particularly people who want to be in a consumer-oriented business and there are a lot of companies in restaurant/hospitality already,” Brown said. “The main talent we are hiring is in data and technology and there’s just a great source of that talent here in Atlanta.” In addition to a ready supply of talent, Brown and his team have also been embraced by metro Atlanta’s inclusive innovation ecosystem. The community of innovation inspired the company and it’s leadership to navigate newfound challenges differently through the course of the pandemic. “Regarding technology innovation, it accelerated a lot of trends. It is a gamechanger to move this industry into more digital spaces. We’re now over 50 percent digital with Jimmy Johns’ and 45 percent digital with Buffalo Wild Wings,” Brown said. “We’ve also learned how to be agile and flexible – that was a massive operational transformation.” “During COVID-19, we learned bad management habits. Things were happening all the time, and we were having to make flash decisions and it seemed like everything was changing. That is not how you run an organization like this in the long term. We talked as a team about how we un-learn that and how we move back to best practice management.” In 2021, Inspire Brands launched the Alliance Kitchen in Atlanta. Featuring food items from across Inspire’s brand portfolio, the kitchen also focuses on innovation in the culinary space and provides other forward-looking benefits to operations. “With the Alliance innovation kitchens, let’s find a way to get real efficiencies. Let’s find ways to fundamentally share equipment, share labor, share work stations, and it forced a lot of innovation around the design of kitchen equipment and staffing models. The result is 75% less equipment cost and a large reduction in energy consumption,” Brown said. Brown and his team are optimistic about the trends they are witnessing in the restaurant industry as a whole. Looking ahead: “I do think we will see more consolidation in this industry. A lot of what we’re focused on is baking in the culture, baking in the systems integration and getting the organization fully up-staffed. We’re going to try hard to hire about 400 people here this year,” Brown said. “We’re feeling supply chain challenges and staffing challenges. What makes it difficult right now is length of time that these challenges have been going on from the start of the pandemic. There’s a real fatigue out there, particularly on the frontlines. So keeping employees motivated, and knowing that things will eventually get better – that’s a lot of what we’re focused on.” For more information on Delta Air Lines Insights on Leadership, visit https://www.metroatlantachamber.com/events/featured/insights-on-leadership This is sponsored content.
By Forrest Rose, Project Manager, Transportation & Sustainability, Midtown Alliance Midtown Alliance kicked-off construction of two new parklets on the west side of Spring Street between 8th Street and Peachtree Place. Sounds like good news, right, but what exactly is a parklet? Parklets originated back in 2005 when several urbanists installed an intervention in a rented parking space on a drab street in downtown San Francisco. In true DIY fashion, they rolled out living grass, installed a bench, placed a potted tree, and voilà — a space typically reserved for a parked car was transformed into outdoor space for people. This simple gesture inspired a global movement that became known as Park(ing) Day, where groups in cities around the world repurpose parking spots into green space for a day. This concept gained new momentum in 2020, when cities saw parklets as a viable response to help restaurants survive social distancing mandates and mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Parklets evolved into “Streeteries” and began appearing in cities across the country, becoming so popular that many are now permanent. In 2021, the City of Atlanta implemented a parklet program to support public health guidelines for local restaurants while also creating vibrant streets. The program provided resources for operators to repurpose on-street parking spaces into outdoor seating areas in accordance with the City’s Outdoor Dining legislation and permit process. Through this program, food and beverage establishments received cost-efficient parklets at no cost to them. As parklets have become commonplace you’ve probably seen one, or even met a friend to enjoy a meal in one. As an idea, they are quite simple – a temporary or permanent expansion of sidewalk space into adjacent on-street parking—typically midblock. Yet they are considered by some to be the gateway drug of urban transformation. In the case of Spring Street, 10 parking spaces on the west side were rendered inaccessible when the City of Atlanta implemented the protected bike lane last year. This created an opportunity for Midtown Alliance to engage with adjacent business owners and the community to generate ideas about how these obsolete spaces could be reimagined. Flexible seating, shade, art, games, and parking for bikes and scooters were among the most requested enhancements. Working with TSW on the design and Whiting-Turner as the contractor, Midtown Alliance will deliver expanded areas for people to dine, work, relax and people-watch along the busy block anchored by student housing and popular establishments such as Twisted Kitchen, Taco Bell, Insomnia Cookies, Tropical Smoothie Café, and Super Cuts. Midtown Green will oversee operations and maintenance of the parklets, and Midtown Alliance staff will schedule programming such as live music and improv that is free of charge and welcome for all to enjoy. Construction of the parklets is anticipated to be complete by mid-June. See you there! This is sponsored content.
By Bambie Hayes-Brown, PhD, ThD., President and CEO, Georgia Advancing Communities Together, Inc. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s newly released report, The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes, documents a shortage of 207, 244 affordable and available rental homes for Georgia’s lowest-income renters, who make up one quarter of all renters in the U.S. The severe national shortage of 7 million affordable and available rental homes forces 71% of our poorest families – seniors, people with disabilities, and low-wage workers – to spend more than half of their incomes on rent and utilities, leaving them unable to afford food, transportation, medical care, and other basic necessities. These households have little or no savings to weather even the smallest emergencies. The pandemic has only made the need for affordable housing more apparent. The greatest need for affordable housing is concentrated among extremely low-income renter households, who earn no more than the federal poverty line or 30% of their area median income. Only 36 affordable and available homes exist for every 100 extremely low income renter households nationwide. No state has an adequate supply of rental homes affordable and available for extremely low-income households. 39 affordable and available homes exist for every 100 of the lowest-income renter households in Georgia. 73.1% percent of these renters are severely cost-burdened as a result. The lowest-income renters were uniquely positioned to suffer disproportionately from the effects of lost income and housing insecurity during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, 60% of the lowest- income renters in the labor force worked in industries identified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as the most impacted by pandemic shutdowns. Even before the pandemic, the lowest-income renters faced the greatest shortages of affordable housing, the most severe cost burdens, and consequently the most serious housing instability. At one point – in January 2021 – nearly 8 million renters were behind on rent. The federal government took unprecedented actions to protect the lowest-income renters from housing instability. These actions, though, were temporary. Most eviction moratoriums have been lifted and resources such as federal emergency rental assistance are running out in many areas. Longer-term federal investments in affordable housing are needed to combat the underlying shortage of affordable housing that exposed the lowest-income renters to housing instability in the first place. Longer-term federal housing subsidies are needed for the lowest-income renters, because the private market fails to produce an adequate supply of affordable housing on its own. The rents the lowest-income renters can afford to pay do not typically cover the cost of developing new housing or even maintaining older housing. Because the market consistently fails to provide adequate, affordable housing for these renters, the government has an essential role in correcting this failure. Congress must make significant, long-term investments in deeply affordable housing programs such as the national Housing Trust Fund, Housing Choice Vouchers, and public housing. Congress should retain in a new reconciliation package the historic investments in these programs that were included in the House-passed “Build Back Better Act.” As The Gap demonstrates, the housing crisis for the lowest-income renters will persist long after the pandemic without such investments. Dr. Bambie Hayes-Brown is a native of rural Georgia and holds a Bachelor’s in Business Management, a Masters of Business Administration, a Doctor of Theology, a PhD in Biblical Studies, a Certificate in Nonprofit Management, a graduate of the Center for Civic Innovation’s Fellowship Program and the Atlanta Regional Commission’s RLI. She is currently pursuing a certificate in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University of South Florida. Dr. Bambie is the President and CEO of Atlanta-based Georgia Advancing Communities Together, Inc., a statewide membership organization of housing and community development agencies. She has 25 years’ experience in rural and urban housing, community and economic development. Dr. Bambie is a registered lobbyist, Real Estate Broker, Certified Economic Development Finance Professional & co-chairs the HouseATL Policy Committee. Also, Dr. Bambie serves on the Board of Directors of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Rural Prosperity Council, National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations, Up for Growth Action, NAACP DeKalb County Branch, the ATL Airport Chamber of Commerce, and Fitzgerald for Change. Formerly homeless and a former public housing resident, Dr. Bambie is a highly sought-after speaker who has testified before the United States Congress, Federal Reserve Bank, and the Georgia General Assembly on affordable housing. This is sponsored content.
Michael Halicki, Executive Director for Park Pride, and George Dusenbury Georgia State Director for the Trust for Public Land Atlanta’s reputation for its parks and recreation system is getting a lot of attention. Last week The Trust for Public Land (TPL) released the 2022 ParkScore ranking, which compares the park systems of the 100 largest cities in the US based on how they are meeting the needs of the communities they serve. Since TPL began ranking cities, Atlanta has never fared well. But this year, Atlanta vaulted from 49th to 27th out of 100, raising questions about the current state of our park system and where we are headed. View Atlanta’s ParkScore results here. While Atlanta’s movement on the ParkScore is promising, no one has ever been satisfied with coming in 27th place. A lot of challenging work lies ahead to achieve the park system that Atlantans want and deserve. Below, Michael Halicki (Executive Director of Park Pride) examines the categories upon which the ParkScore is built to better understand the local context of Atlanta‘s standing and identify the opportunities to progress. Then, George Dusenbury (Georgia State Director of The Trust for Public Land) frames Atlanta’s ParkScore ranking within a national context and provides insight into how Atlanta compares to other leading and peer cities. The Local Context Michael Halicki Acreage Over the last few years, Atlanta has done big things well, adding significant acreage to the park inventory. In 2021 alone, the City opened Lake Charlotte Nature Preserve and Westside Park (among other acquisitions and expansions), making 496-acres of greenspace accessible to the community through these two projects alone. Despite these wins, the overall area dedicated to parkland in the city (6.2%) is still well below the median of the 100 ParkScore cities (19%). Atlanta’s population is exploding, and strategic greenspace acquisition of all sizes must similarly accelerate to meet the park and natural space needs of current and future residents. Access The 2022 ParkScore indicates that 77% of Atlanta’s population lives within a walkable half-mile of a park, a sizable increase from 72% in 2021, and above the median for the 100 ParkScore cities, which is 75%. This is great news. While the progress made is noteworthy, however, everyone deserves to live within walking distance of a park. And we still have a distance to go to accomplish this vision. Investment It is not enough that Atlantans simply have access to trails and parks, though—they need to be quality trails and parks. Parks that look nice, are well maintained, and that are comfortable to be in. The City of Atlanta must appropriately fund the park budget to achieve a level of maintenance that neighborhood parks need and have so far not seen, a level of investment which is not accurately reflected in this year’s ParkScore. Amenities According to the ParkScore data, Atlanta ranks above average in the Amenities category. The primary takeaway is clear and simple: great parks are those whose amenities meet the needs of the communities they serve. We must do what we can to ensure that as communities evolve, so do our parks. Equity Atlanta has work to do in terms of equity of access to parks along the lines of race and income. Data from the ParkScore indicates that: residents living in neighborhoods of color have access to 48% less nearby park space than those living in White neighborhoods, and residents living in lower-income neighborhoods have access to 33% less nearby park space than those in higher-income neighborhoods Atlanta must do better. The Department of Parks & Recreation will soon make available to the public a park equity tool which they’ll use to ensure that investments and acquisitions are made equitably, prioritizing neighborhoods that have the most urgent need for park space and improvements. I am hopeful and optimistic that, with enhanced use of data in decision making within the department, we’ll see movement toward greater park equity in the future. *** The National Context George Dusenbury Nationally, the City of Atlanta should be very proud of its 2022 ParkScore. In moving from 49th to 27th, Atlanta was The Trust for Public Land’s biggest mover. Continuing this momentum and getting to the top means overcoming a 100-year head start by the highest rated cities. Minneapolis and St. Paul invested early and heavily in their park systems – starting in the 1880s. Washington, DC was planned in the 1790s to provide access to parks, plazas and public spaces, and benefits from its many parks owned and maintained by the National Park Service. If Atlanta is to catch up to these national leaders, we will have to do two things. First, we must continue to invest in innovative new parks that address our acreage gap while ensuring that all Atlanta residents have access to the outdoors. The Chattahoochee RiverLands, South River Forest and Community Schoolyards, for example, will allow Atlanta to continue to improve its park system and its ParkScore. A closer look at TPL’s Community Schoolyards program illustrates how this could be done. In Atlanta, we partner with Park Pride, Atlanta Public Schools, and the Urban Land Institute to increase access to park-like space through community schoolyards that are designed by students, teachers, and neighbors as nature-rich hubs for outdoor play, community health, and climate resilience. They are open to the community as parks after school hours, on weekends, and over the summer. TPL launched the Atlanta Community Schoolyard program in 2019, opened our first two schools in February, and will complete the ten-site pilot program within a year. Seventy three of the 100 cities ranked by ParkScore allow some use of schoolyards to function as park-like space. The City of Cincinnati greatly increased park access for its residents by converting all schools to community schoolyards – and moved from 8th to 4th in the national rankings. Similarly, increased public investment in Atlanta could allow the pilot to expand system-wide, increasing access and providing new greenspace to tens of thousands of residents. Second, Atlanta will have to continue to …
Thirty years ago, from the ashes of a smoldering city impacted by violence and despair a beacon of hope emerged for the poor, the forgotten, and the disenfranchised: Operation HOPE. From its inception, HOPE has always been a source of inspiration for the potential that lies in every person, city, and community that’s uplifted with the transformative power of dignity, financial literacy, and opportunity. Three decades later, that mission is as relevant as ever. Following the tumultuous riots that had raged on in Los Angeles for days on end, I had a vision that I believed could profoundly impact and change the city forever. I believed that with financial literacy coaching and preparation, the average man and woman could lift themselves out of economic despair and begin experiencing the fullness of the American Dream. With tireless pursuit and coalition building, my dedicated team and I began launching HOPE Centers, which would later develop into what we now call HOPE Inside. These HOPE Inside locations have become a symbol of the collective work and partnership of banks and institutions that understand the importance of extending the life-giving power of financial freedom to their clients, communities, and employees. From them, we have empowered 2.4 million adults with financial dignity across nearly 1,500 U.S. cities and towns. 71% of clients have seen an increase of 47 points to their FICO scores. Additionally, we have created nearly 3,000 small businesses and have helped fund 11,000 homeowners with nearly $2 billion in mortgage loans. We are successful because we are making a difference. Since 1992, Operation HOPE has become a champion for the underserved and Invisible Class. Following in the social justice tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his lieutenant in the fight for equal rights and our Global Ambassador, Ambassador Andrew Young, we have been the financial advocate and banker for the American people. I have had the privilege and honor of taking this fight to the highest levels of government, ensuring that financial literacy is a priority for the nation by securing it as federal policy under the George W. Bush Administration. Further, our work led to the renaming of the Treasury Annex building in Washington D.C. to the Freedman’s Bank Building in honor of Frederick Douglass and President Lincoln’s vision for the economic empowerment of formerly enslaved people in America. Following the horrific attacks of 9/11, I saw the need to connect federal services and nonprofit entities to better serve communities across the nation in the face of disaster. This resulted in the birth of HOPE Coalition America (HCA), which is linked to one of our major programs, HOPE Inside Disaster. HOPE’s style of advocacy and public-private partnerships came to a head in 2020 when our nation dealt with twin pandemics of COVID-19 and a social justice reckoning that emerged in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Nearly 28 years after its inception, HOPE was called back to the forefront of public discourse, highlighting the social ills of Black people in America as well as the economically underserved across the nation. Our voice helped lead the charge towards change on the national level, as well as with our corporate partners and others seeking to make a difference. Out of this national revival of consciousness emerged new meaningful programs that extended our work into a new era, what I call the Third Reconstruction. National programs and initiatives like 1 Million Black Businesses (1MBB) powered by HOPE and Shopify, Financial Literacy for All (FL4A), and the Investors’ Bill of Rights provide an immediate solution with long-term consequences that everyone at every level can be a part of to help change our national narrative and course-correct towards collective growth and prosperity. Locally, we continue to be a trusted partner in helping to achieve financial wellness for all people – from corporate wellness initiatives like HOPE Inside the Workplace for adults down to the youngest citizens, as with the newly launched Atlanta Child Savings Program. As we celebrate 30 years of impact and uplift, we look forward to 30 more years of progress, economic empowerment, and opportunity for all Americans of every race, creed, and economic background. Today, I want to challenge you to ask yourself, “What does success look like to me?” Are you simply measuring success by cash flow? Your tangible assets? The number of vacations you take? Or are you measuring success by the lives you touch and the impact you make on the world? The answer doesn’t have to be either/or. Rather it can be both. I encourage you to continue being kind to others and do good to all while you continue your pursuit of economic excellence. If you’re looking for an opportunity to give back and get involved through your giving and participation in our work, initiatives, and programs, visit www.operationhope.org. Thank you for celebrating with us. Happy birthday, Operation HOPE! This is sponsored content.
By Charles Redding, MedShare CEO & President The Columbia University Department of Pediatrics published that the incidence of childhood cancer is estimated to be around 10,938 cases per year in Central America. In Guatemala, nearly 900 children between the age of 0-14 years are diagnosed with childhood cancer each year. Unidad Nacional de Oncología Pediátrica is the only public hospital in Guatemala specializing in treating pediatric cancer, providing complete cancer care to approximately 450 new diagnoses each year. UNOP’s work is supported mostly by the diverse fundraising efforts of Fundación Ayúdame a Vivir (AYUVI), an organization dedicated exclusively to pediatric oncology, and the Ministry of Public health, allowing to provide all resources required to offer a high-quality treatment free of cost to children. Since its founding in 1997, AYUVI has helped increase the survival rate of pediatric cancer patients from 20% to 70%. UNOP currently treats over 500 children each year and has opened a satellite clinic in Quetzaltenango to provide additional services. Partnership with MedShare MedShare and AYUVI have a longstanding partnership dating back to 2012, when MedShare sent its first shipment of aid in December of that year, sponsored by the Kimberly-Clark Foundation (KCF). KCF would go on to fund a total of 7 shipments of high-quality medical supplies and equipment valued at over $1.9 million to AYUVI between 2012 – 2017. These shipments were part of MedShare’s first maternal and child health initiative in Central America and ensured that key public hospitals would have the adequate resources to serve their patients year-over-year without spending limited budget resources on critical medical supplies and equipment. Over the past 10 years MedShare and AYUVI have partnered together to deliver critical medical supplies and equipment to pediatric cancer patients in Guatemala, serving roughly 125,000 patients across the country in the process. Most recently, MedShare provided $250,000 worth of examination gloves to AYUVI in support of COVID mitigation efforts at UNOP and throughout Guatemala’s public health sector. This project was made possible by Kaiser Permanente, which both funded the effort to redistribute PPE abroad and provided over 1 million examination gloves included in this shipment. “We want to thank you and the entire MedShare team for the wonderful donation you sent us. These pictures show how it has impacted the treatment of children in Guatemala, (as have all) the donations you sent us.” – Sarah Altalef, Directora de Especie y Voluntariado Medical supply and equipment donations from MedShare help children in Guatemala with cancer, and their families continue to benefit from high-quality services free of charge and provides support for improvements in infrastructure and education needed to improve the quality of life and survival rates of children with pediatric illnesses. This is sponsored content.
By Ashley Bell Amid the widespread racial justice movement that emerged last year following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, many large corporations were lauded for their work combatting the racial inequities that have plagued our nation since its inception. While these companies have certainly helped advance the cause, their efforts have fallen short of truly addressing the deeply entrenched inequalities in Black communities across the country. To be truly effective in this effort, we need companies and organizations of all shapes and sizes to step up to address the pressing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, and provide resources to accelerate this much needed change. While this can seem like a daunting task, there are fortunately many groups that are already engaged that can provide a roadmap for those looking to get involved. Arguably one of the most well-known organizations taking up the mantle is the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, which is refinancing the construction loan for the team’s Emory Sports Medicine Complex with a syndicate of Black-owned banks. The $35 million loan, which was facilitated with the support of the National Black Bank Foundation (NBBF), marked the first time that a professional sports franchise took out a significant loan that was underwritten exclusively by Black banks. To understand the significance of this loan, it is important to know the state of Black banks in the country today. Black banks are often the primary source for fair, non-predatory lending within the African American community, yet since 2001, their numbers have fallen by more than half. In 1976, there were 50 Black banks spread across the country, but according to the FDIC’s latest count, that number is now just 18. The loan taken out by the Hawks not only helps Black banks as it allows them to compete with the major commercial banks, but it is also a win for the Black community. The dearth of access to basic financial services in many Black neighborhoods has forced underserved populations to rely on predatory businesses like check-cashing and payday loans. But by supporting the health and growth of Black banks, the Hawks are not just helping these vital financial institutions but are ensuring equitable access to capital for underserved communities of color and helping close America’s racial wealth gap. It is not just professional sports teams and household names, however, that are working to upend racial inequities. There are many cases of less well-known organizations making a big impact in Black communities throughout the country. For example, there is the Atlanta-based real estate firm Ornstein-Schuler Investments (OSI), which has donated $25,000 to the NBBF to help modernize the Black banking sector. While OSI has contributed for the past two decades to improve the lives of the people in the communities they operate in, this particular donation could not come at a more opportune time. In 2019, 49 percent of Black households were underbanked or completely unbanked compared to just 15 percent of white households, according to the Federal Reserve. A large reason for this is the sad fact that the Black community has very few trustworthy banking options at its disposal. Investing in Black banks – whether it be by introducing new digital tools or expanding the number physical branch locations in minority neighborhoods – means also making an investment in Black-owned businesses and Black neighborhoods. That is why the Hawks’ and OSI’s contributions to the NBBF are so important to help modernize the black banking sector and ensure Black-owned businesses not only survive but thrive. The Atlanta Hawks and Ornstein-Schuler Investments are two great examples of organizations of different sizes doing their part to combat structural racism and inequities in Atlanta and beyond. But they can’t be the only ones. To make a real and lasting change, businesses and organizations large and small need to step up, speak out and make a difference through their voices and their donations. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once famously said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” so do not be silent. Ashley Bell is a partner at the global law firm Dentons and co-founded the National Black Bank Foundation, which facilitated a first-in-professional sports deal between the Atlanta Hawks and 11 Black-owned banks. This is sponsored content.
Westside Future Fund (WFF) is excited to be supporting thought leadership in the SaportaReport on Atlanta’s Historic Westside. At the October 15 Transform Westside Summit we announced the Westside Future Fund (WFF) PRI Program! A program-related investment (PRI) is low-cost capital that not-for-profit organizations can use to spur community development. Thanks to charitable support from Truist and PNC banks, WFF will provide low-cost loans to small, minority-owned businesses based in or serving the Historic Westside. This program builds on a pilot initially funded by AT&T and the Beloved Benefit. Our goal is to mobilize people with current, historical, or aspirational ties to the community to organically support the Westside’s economic development. The October 15 Transform Westside Summit highlighted the importance of economic empowerment of African American entrepreneurs with three special guest panelists – Courtney Smith from PNC Bank, Paul Wilson, Jr. from the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE), and Keitra Bates of Marddy’s Shared Kitchen and Marketplace. A common theme from the panelists was the need for equity in access to capital for Black business owners. Keitra Bates noted that white startups have access to $100,000 from family, on average, while for black startups, it’s only $11,000. In June 2020, PNC Bank announced its bold $1 billion commitment to playing a role in combatting racism and discrimination. During the Summit, Courtney elaborated on PNC’s commitment to the Westside by helping end systemic racism by donating to WFF for program-related investments. Keitra Bates is a recipient of a WFF PRI that she used to renovate and expand her shared kitchen. Marddy’s focus is on economic inclusion, business development, and growth opportunities for local food entrepreneurs with their primary service groups of people of color, women, and other marginalized populations. With the help of RICE, the PRI recipients will have access to resources to innovate, grow, create jobs, and build wealth. Part business generator, innovation lab, and museum, RICE invests in African American entrepreneurs, strengthens businesses, and creates community. We have many miles to eliminate the wealth gap between white and black startups. Thanks to our panelists and the organization they represent, we are making progress and hopefully serving as models for others! Check out our newsletter to learn more about the October 15 Summit. This is sponsored content.
By Sidney Wise, philanthropic associate, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta “The affordable housing issue is not my fault, but it’s my problem.” Those poignant words from Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens during yesterday’s Housing Our Region event, hosted by the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and WABE FM 90.1 sum up the reality and the magnitude of the affordable housing crisis in the metro Atlanta region. In February 2022, the Federal Reserve labeled metro Atlanta’s housing market unaffordable, due in large part to soaring rental demand caused by a shortage of available housing, sky-high for-sale prices and competition from institutional investors. In fact, an estimated 30-40% of available homes in the metro Atlanta region are owned by investors. In 2021 alone, a whopping 25% of homes purchased in Atlanta were bought by investors, a higher percentage than in any other metro area. Every year, Atlanta loses 1,500 affordable homes to the market. This lack of affordable housing is a problem that affects the long-term economic vitality of our region. It impacts every issue, from economic mobility to job security to education to health care and more. Access to affordable housing is the foundation upon which success in every other area of life is built. When one’s housing situation is unstable, so, too, is every other aspect of their life. So, too, is every corner of their community. As Atlantans, the affordable housing issue is our problem, and it is incumbent upon us all to find solutions. But where do we start? How can municipalities, nonprofits and philanthropy work together to find viable, lasting solutions for our region? Community Foundation president and CEO Frank Fernandez, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, Lawrenceville Mayor David Still, Focused Communities Strategies’ president Jim Wehner, and Gwinnett Housing Corporation’s executive director Lejla Prljaca discussed the opportunities for municipalities, nonprofits and communities to tackle affordable housing, and the critical role that philanthropy should play. Watch the full discussion here. This is sponsored content.
Imagine a world where the possibility of bacterial infections makes surgery insanely risky. According to research presented by Team Apocalypse, one of six teams to participate in the Healthcare Futuring Competition 2040 held earlier this year, a world where antibiotics no longer work is less than two decades away. “By 2040 we will have run out of effective antibiotics due to antibiotic-resistant organisms,” explained first-place Team Apocalypse’s Vikram Varadarajan. Organized by the Goizueta Healthcare Association’s vice president of conferences and competitions, Humza Mirza, in association with Renee Dye, associate professor in the practice of organization and management, the competition tasked students with developing scenarios of what the U.S. health care system might look like in 2040. Mirza saw the competition as an opportunity to showcase Emory University’s strong public health and health care background and “bring in a host of diverse perspectives from across Emory,” he says. “This was an opportunity to create a unique competition, something more than a typical case competition.” Students from Goizueta Business School, Emory School of Medicine, Emory College of Arts and Sciences, Rollins School of Public Health and James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies were among the Emory schools represented in the competition. The top three teams took home a total of $5,000 in prize money. Dye sees the competition as a way to use “not only analytic capabilities but the creativity that you don’t always get a chance to exercise in graduate courses of study,” she explained during the competition, which was held at Goizueta Business School. “I love the way that this [competition] brings them together.” What challenges will our health care future hold? In the future described by Team Apocalypse, antibiotics, commonly given to patients after surgeries to ward off infection, no longer work. If the risk of infection from antimicrobial-resistant organisms outweighs the benefits of most surgeries, they contend that surgeries — especially elective ones — will decrease dramatically. Since surgeries makes up about half of hospital revenue, without innovations that stave off bacterial infections, by 2040, elective surgeries will take place far less often and hospital profits will suffer a serious blow, Team Apocalypse predicted. An aging population and an increased minority population will make matters worse due to increased disease susceptibility. The team painted a bleak backdrop where a combination of factors would lead to a reduction in the workforce and an annual loss in global economic productivity of $70 trillion by 2040. On a brighter note, Team Apocalypse’s scenario did include areas of innovation that might ward off catastrophe: RNA vaccine development, the use of CRISPR technology to boost individuals’ immune systems and preventative therapies. For a future scenario the judges deemed all too plausible, Team Apocalypse took home first place and $3,000. The benefits of diverse teams Allegra Porter, a member of the Emory United team, participated not only because she is pursuing a career in health care, but because she wanted to work with students from other graduate programs. “My teammates’ approach to the issue added new depth to my views and highlighted things that I hadn’t considered before — things that we don’t necessarily learn in business school,” Porter says. “Something that has become clear to me throughout my time in the program is how critical diversity is in a team. Not only of opinion, but of background, culture and expertise.” Think big and develop a strong narrative The presentations that most resonated with the judges “articulated a single vision of the future that was based in plausible trend analysis but that didn’t spend so much time fixated on the trends themselves that it failed to develop the narrative of the future,” explains Dye. The judges were impressed by those teams with a strong point of view “about a simple way that the world is going to evolve,” she adds, and teams that were “willing to stack the deck behind it.” In addition to Dye, the panel of judges included Linda Matzigkeit, chief administrative officer, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta; Josh Schwartz, head of business development, Verily Life Sciences; Julie Schiffman, chief delivery officer, Aetion; and John Kim, Goizueta senior lecturer of organization and management. Kim teaches a health care strategy class at Goizueta and is acutely aware of how fragmented, complex, inefficient and fluid U.S. health care is. “It’s helpful to think over the long-range future to imagine what health care could look like — for better and worse,” Kim says. “Thinking big gives us permission to look past tactics and discuss national health care strategy.” Second place and $1,500 went to Team CAS for its scenario that predicted a more robust preventative health care system. Comprised of three current Emory medical students, Team CAS noted that 94% of medical residents feel it is their duty to counsel patients on nutrition and lifestyle issues, but only 14% of those same residents feel they are equipped to do so. The team predicted that between now and 2040, the American Association of Medical Colleges would recognize this shortcoming and mandate lifestyle medicine courses in its core curriculum. “Academic systems will start to focus more and more on preventative health care and put more research money into preventative health care,” says Abinand Rejimon, an MD/PhD student. Team CAS added that improvements in remote patient monitoring and electronic medical record integration would boost the effectiveness of preventative treatments. Team REP Healthcare, comprised of masters of public health candidates at Rollins School of Public Health, took home third place and $500 for its scenario in which health care delivery models see major improvements due to lessons learned from the pandemic. In addition to predicting an exponential rise in telemedicine services, the team foresaw a future affected by hospital consolidation — and the subsequent lack of competition and increased prices — as well as an increase in patient treatment options outside of the hospital setting. During its presentation, the team also predicted a hefty contribution from technology and data — including the use of artificial intelligence for drug delivery and diagnosis as well as the adoption of Blockchain …
By Jerel Causey | Managing Director, Accenture | Board Member, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta I grew up in small country towns in eastern North Carolina without many of the comforts I now try not to take for granted while living in the big city of Atlanta. My parents were the first in their families to go to college; and to get there, my dad had to hitchhike. They moved many times and worked tirelessly to create a better world and open opportunities for my brother and me. I am very lucky to have parents who were able to “break the cycle” and feel strongly that every child deserves an equal opportunity in life. Unfortunately, that is not yet a reality, and many children have a far worse starting point and have far greater challenges to overcome than I had. I decided many years ago that I would focus my “community service” efforts on supporting underserved youth, and quickly it became clear that Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta (BGCMA) was the organization I needed to be associated with to maximize my impact. For more than 80 years, BGCMA has ignited the unlimited potential of kids and teens by creating safe, inclusive, and engaging environments at out-of-school Clubs across 11 metro Atlanta counties. Since joining BGCMA’s Board of Directors in 2014, I have served on the Executive Committee and chaired the Impact Committee, which helps to ensure we are maximizing our impact on the kids & teens we serve. It’s exactly the right place for me, as I feel privileged to work alongside talented and passionate BGCMA staff who support our youth every day and drive the awesome results for which BGCMA has become known. As a board member, I am one of nearly 50 people responsible for providing strategic leadership, ensuring financial stability, serving as ambassadors for the organization, supporting & supervising the CEO, and ensuring healthy governance. One of the many ways I fulfill my board commitments is through building partnerships within my personal network. Leveraging Partnerships to Help Prepare Metro Atlanta Youth for the Workforce I have the privilege of working as a managing director at Accenture, one of the world’s leading companies—not just from a size and revenue perspective, but based on Accenture’s unwavering commitment to diversity, sustainability, and generally making the world a better place. Accenture has over 700,000 employees and puts a significant focus on developing the workforce of the future as part of a broader purpose to deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity. That aligns nicely with BGCMA’s College & Career Readiness (CCR) goal to ensure all Club members are college ready, work ready and life ready. That is, equipped with the tools they need to succeed in life upon graduating high school and leaving the proverbial Blue Doors of the Boys & Girls Club with a solid plan for their futures, whether that means attending a four or two-year college, learning a trade, joining the military, or entering immediately into the workforce. This intersection of objectives and purpose between BGCMA and Accenture has made it easy to identify ways for Accenture to support BGCMA across a wide range of strategic, operational and volunteer initiatives and activities over the years. Some of the more strategic initiatives include supporting the development of BGCMA’s RISE 2025 5-year strategic plan, developing a technology strategy and roadmap for the organization and providing a CIO-on-loan to begin to pivot the organization from technology simply being an infrastructural enabler to becoming a strategic asset for the organization and the youth we serve. From a volunteering perspective, Accenture has supported the teen tech camp, hired dozens of summer interns, served as Youth of the Year mentors, refurbished individual Clubs, organized soccer jamborees, taught yoga classes, led brain game exercises and many more. Accenture’s operational support ranges from providing pro-bono resources to help create BGCMA’s workforce development and internship programs to making a portion of Accenture’s broad training library available to BGMCA’s youth so they can learn about different industries and careers. “My internship with Accenture was very life changing and eye opening,” said Ibrahima Gueye, an alumnus of the Joseph B. Whitehead Boys & Girls Club of Metro Atlanta. “As an intern, I gained hands-on experience not only in tech but all of the fields complementing corporate tech. One experience was attending a corporate meeting with the executive of Coca-Cola. It was one of my favorite experiences and now serves as a goal to someday be an executive at a fortune 500 company.” Gueye says working with Accenture’s internal creative and storytelling agency helped foster his creative side and develop skills applicable to his current studies and future career goals. “Throughout my summers interning, I gained a lot of skills and sharpened some that I already had,” said Gueye, who interned in 2019 and 2020 and is now majoring in computer science at Kennesaw State University. “Graphic design was by far my favorite skill to develop with Accenture and learning how impactful visuals are in corporate was very impactful on how I present anything now. Public speaking was another big thing I learned from my internship. Projecting my ideas with confidence was emphasized a lot and now is something I do when I’m presenting my ideas.” Since the onset of the pandemic, Accenture’s partnership has shifted but has never wavered. In the summers of 2020 and 2021, we collectively welcomed nearly two dozen interns in our virtual workforce program. This summer, we’ll have 5 in-person interns in our local office. In addition to supporting the Clubs and the youth we serve, I’ve seen firsthand how Accenture employees get a huge personal lift out of their engagements with BGCMA kids & teens, making our partnership a true win-win. A Call to Action: Local Businesses are Needed to Help Prepare & Grow our Future Workforce I am honored to work with hundreds of other volunteer leaders who give generously of their time, talent and resources …