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Reporter’s Notebook: Training center protesters plan rally, Goodwill and Lyft offer free rides for job seekers, BeltLine planner Ryan Gravel works on new book

The week in local news.

This Sunday marks the first day of Hanukkah. Those wanting to celebrate with a large-scale menorah lighting have their pick between several events happening around the city and metro area, including Atlantic Station on Dec. 20, Ponce City Market on Dec. 21 and Decatur Square on Dec. 22. Happy Hanukkah!

On to other local news:

A protester occupies a tree-sitting platform at the public safety training center site in an undated photo from the protest movement Defend the Atlanta Forest. (Photo courtesy of Defend the Atlanta Forest.)

Training center protesters plan rally, denounce terrorism charges as political

The “Defend the Atlanta Forest” movement has announced a Dec. 17 rally to support five protesters charged with domestic terrorism at the site of the City’s controversial public safety training center.

A press release from the movement claims the Dec. 13 arrests followed hours of chemical weapons being fired at protesters who practiced civil disobedience by trespassing on the DeKalb County property and living there in tree houses. 

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) announced the arrests and terrorism charges in a press release that claimed rocks and bottles were thrown at police officers and EMTs at some point during a multiagency police raid. However, the GBI has not produced incident reports describing what the arrestees are specifically accused of doing or even fully identifying them, claiming that most such documents do not exist or cannot be obtained and declining to immediately release another one.

Defend the Atlanta Forest claims the domestic terrorism charges are unwarranted and an attempt to chill further protests.

“The usage of terrorist enhancement laws against protestors is a calculated political maneuver to silence widespread opposition to the Cop City project,” says the press release, using the protesters’ term for the training center. “The GBI knows that these charges will not hold up in court, and they are not intended to: the point is to raise the stakes of protesting.”

“The Atlanta forest defenders and community members will not be intimidated, and will continue to take action to protect our communities from racist policing and environmental destruction,” the press release adds. 

The rally is planned for Dec. 17 at 4 p.m. in Brownwood Park, 607 Brownwood Ave. in East Atlanta. 

— John Ruch

Goodwill, Lyft offer free rides for job seekers during holiday season

From now until the end of the year, Goodwill of North Georgia has teamed up with Lyft to offer free rides for folks going to job training, interview or work. 

To receive the necessary code for the Lyft app, job seekers can register in person through a local Goodwill Career Center or by calling the contact center at 844-344-WORK. The number of free rides per person depends on individual circumstances, so check with a team member at a nearby Career Center for more information.

“One barrier to employment can be a lack of reliable transportation,” Goodwill President and CEO Keith Parker said. “Goodwill is not just about helping you get a job. We connect our job seekers with a wide range of support services, including transportation, that will help them thrive in their career. Working with Lyft will expand those services to an even greater level this holiday season.”

— Hannah E. Jones

BeltLine planner Ryan Gravel works on a new book

Ryan Gravel, the urban planner who famously conceptualized the Atlanta BeltLine, is writing a new book called “American Land.” 

In a Nov. 30 blog post announcing the book, Gravel wrote that it will “illustrate how most of our national landscapes are not aligned with our nation’s promise – with the idea that everyone is created equal.”

In a TED Talk addressing its theme, he discussed how today’s “juggernaut of capital” is repeating systemic racism and “lies” that divide Americans, like the Wild West or “flyover country.” He also discussed the BeltLine – a trail and transit loop on old railways – as an example of how a physical dividing line can become a meeting place. The title, he said, plays off the vision and critique in Woody Guthrie’s song “This Land is Your Land.”

Gravel is already an acclaimed author for his 2016 urban planning book “Where We Want to Live: Reclaiming Infrastructure for a New Generation of Cities.”

— John Ruch 

Pat Upshaw-Monteith receives a hug and the city’s Phoenix Award from Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens at Leadership Atlanta’s holiday party. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

Leadership Atlanta’s Pat Upshaw-Monteith honored by Mayor Dickens   

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens surprised Pat Upshaw-Monteith at Leadership Atlanta’s holiday party on Dec. 12 at the Cherokee Town & Country Club. 

The mayor recognized Upshaw-Monteith for her decades of service to the leadership-building organization, and then he presented her with the highest award given by the city – the Phoenix Award.

Upshaw-Monteith has been with Leadership Atlanta since 1992 when she was brought on as co-executive director, then sole executive director and later promoted to president and CEO in 2005.

Leadership Atlanta, which was started in 1970, has had thousands of people go through the annual classes, which last nine months.

At the Leadership Atlanta holiday party: Pat Upshaw-Monteith, Mayor Andre Dickens (2016); Laura Guerin; Dan Gordon (2015); and Bentina Chisolm Terry (2005). (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

The organization has been a national model and is considered one of the premier leadership programs in the country.

Dickens, who was in the Leadership Atlanta class of 2016, gave Upshaw-Monteith a warm hug after surprising her with the award. She then shared a story about Dickens. Before he was in the 2016 class, she told him that he would be a future mayor of Atlanta.

— Maria Saporta (2020 class)

The initiative has the potential to improve treatment outcomes for patients with many types of cancer. (Photo by National Cancer Institute, Unsplash.)

Georgia State researcher selected for $3 million grant to study brain cancer survivors

Georgia State University brain researcher and psychology professor Tricia King was recently awarded a $3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to work on a model for personalized cancer treatments. King has partnered with Tobey MacDonald, a pediatric neuro-oncologist and professor at Emory University, to identify factors that contribute to cognitive impairments in young survivors of brain cancer. 

Radiation, chemotherapy and surgery are largely effective treatments in fighting cancer but they can have negative health consequences, particularly in young patients. The varied outcomes may depend on clinical factors — like patient age and tumor type — or environmental factors, like access to quality medical care. 

With the financial help from this award, King will also be able to study the impact of patients’ genetics on their health outcomes.

“If we can identify the genetics that put individuals at risk for cognitive problems, we might be able to reduce the chemo and radiation therapy that specific individuals receive so that targeted treatments cure cancer, yet do not create cognitive difficulties,” King wrote in a press release.

Ultimately, the project will create a model for personalized treatment plans based on environmental, clinical and genetic risk factors. The initiative has the potential to improve treatment outcomes for patients with many types of cancer.

— Hannah E. Jones

Mayor Andre Dickens, Invest Atlanta President and CEO Eloisa Klementich with (L to R) Fred Smith and Lee Morris. (Photos by Maria Saporta.)

Two Invest Atlanta board members rolling off

Before the start of the Dec. 15 Invest Atlanta board meeting, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens thanked two board members for their service. 

The two board members are Fred Smith Jr., an Emory law professor and citizen advocate; and Lee Morris, a Fulton County Commissioner and former Atlanta City Councilman.

“Fred started his service in August 2018,” Dickens said. I was a councilmember at the time. We have accomplished a lot during your time of service.”

The mayor went on to list that Invest Atlanta helped finance 5,600 affordable housing units and 170 small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Dickens also congratulated Commissioner Morris for his years of public service, and he added that there were billions of dollars of economic investments approved by Invest Atlanta during his tenure on the board.

Next year, we will have new board members,” said Dickens, who chairs the Invest Atlanta board. “They will be starting in January.”

— Maria Saporta

A Soldiers’ Angels Veteran food distribution event. (Photo courtesy of Soldiers’ Angels.)

Blank Foundation provides food to 200 veteran families in need

On Friday, Dec. 16, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation is partnering with the national nonprofit Soldiers’ Angels to distribute food to about 200 veteran families at the Atlanta VA Arcadia Clinic.

The pre-registered families will receive about 75 pounds of food, including a turkey, fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and non-perishables. Soldiers’ Angels will also hand out Holiday Stockings for Heroes that are filled with treats.

Soldiers’ Angels is a nationwide initiative to provide aid, comfort and resources to active members of the military, veterans and their families.

“Our monthly Veteran Food Distribution program distributed more than 1.5 million pounds of food in 2021 alone,” Soldiers’ Angels President and CEO of Soldiers Amy Palmer said in a press release. “Thanks to the generous support of organizations like The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, we hope to ensure that those who sacrificed for our nation don’t have to worry about putting food on their families’ dinner tables – particularly during the holidays.”

— Hannah E. Jones

Drawdown Georgia announces inaugural recipients for Climate Solutions & Equity Grant

Nonprofit Drawdown Georgia recently announced five recipients of its inaugural Climate Solutions & Equity Grant to support local efforts that advance climate solutions and prioritize equity in Georgia. These grants are intended to help advance climate solutions that prioritize equity across the state through efforts like composting, conservation agriculture, energy efficiency, food waste reduction and more. 

Each organization will receive two-year grants of $100,000. The awardees include: 

  • Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture 
  • Georgia Organics 
  • Georgia Conservation Voters Education Fund 
  • Gwinnett Housing Corporation
  • Athens Land Trust

Funding partners include the R. Howard Dobbs, Jr. Foundation, The Wilbur & Hilda Glenn Family Foundation, The Kendeda Fund, The Ray C. Anderson Foundation’s NextGen Committee and The Sapelo Foundation.

“Historically, climate efforts have often neglected underserved areas or offered charitable aid without the input of the target communities,” said John Lanier, a founder of Drawdown Georgia and executive director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. “These grants are designed to engage and empower BIPOC communities in Georgia to take action on climate solutions, while at the same time bringing investment, jobs, and other benefits where they are most needed.”

Click here for more information about the programs supported by the new grants.

— Hannah E. Jones

Atlanta BeltLine, Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Rocket Mortgage launch partnership preserving affordable housing

Rocket Community Fund — the philanthropic arm of Rocket Mortgage — has recently joined forces with the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership (ABP) and Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership (ANDP). Through this collaboration, the organizations are committing a $750,000 investment to promote safe, stable and affordable housing for Atlanta residents.

A majority of the funds — $500,000 — will cover the increases in property taxes for 44 homes that are part of ABP’s Legacy Resident Retention Program. Participating homeowners have lived in their homes for an average of 23 years and the average income is less than $37,000 a year, meaning the funds are helping longtime, low-income residents stay in their homes.

The remaining money — $250,000 — will go to ANDP, supporting its campaign to create and preserve 2,000 units of affordable housing by 2025.

“We believe everyone deserves a safe and stable place to call home,” Laura Grannemann, Rocket Community Fund vice president of Strategic Investments, said in a press release. “These investments with deep-rooted community partners like ABP and ANDP are a critical first step to addressing one of the most urgent needs of the Atlanta community.”

— Hannah E. Jones

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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