The week in local news.

Just because school is back in session doesn’t mean Atlanta’s festival season is over. Later this month, Aug. 19 and 20, marks the annual Piedmont Park Arts Festival. The two-day event features 250 painters, photographers, sculptors, jewelers and more. There will also be artist demonstrations, live music, a children’s play area and refreshments.

On to other local news:

Rendering of new Animal Health Center building that Zoo Atlanta will build. (Special: Zoo Atlanta.)

Zoo Atlanta breaks ground on new veterinary complex

On July 27, Zoo Atlanta officially began construction on its much-awaited new veterinary complex. The project is projected to cost $22 million.

Currently, the Zoo Atlanta team is operating in an animal care facility that used to be a City of Atlanta lawn care maintenance facility. The 16,000-square-foot facility will be 10 times larger than the current one and include dedicated laboratory, pharmacy, radiology and surgical spaces, along with interior and exterior animal holding dens, a food preparation kitchen, five animal quarantine dens and office space for the Veterinary Team. Additionally, the team aims to achieve a LEED Certification of Silver or Gold. 

Construction is expected to wrap by next summer.

The new facility will be named The Rollins Animal Health Center, honoring The Gary W. Rollins Foundation’s $3 million investment in the project. The name was announced at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“The Zoo Atlanta Veterinary Team daily provides care for animals representing more than 200 species, from elephants to frogs, and this care is never compromised,” President and CEO Raymond B. King wrote in a release. “The Rollins Animal Health Center will replace outdated facilities and enable the Zoo to fully inhabit its growing reputation for excellence in veterinary care. We are deeply grateful to the members of our philanthropic community, who have shown us by their gifts that they have a strong investment in Zoo Atlanta’s indelible place in Atlanta and beyond.”

To learn more about the new veterinary facility, click here to read a column by Maria Saporta.

— Hannah E. Jones

Atlanta Rotary’s Early Childhood Champions co-chairs: Shan Cooper squeezes the shoulders of her co-chair, Randall Kirsch, at a June meeting while being introduced by Keith Parker of Goodwill of North Georgia and Stephanie Blank, the president of Rotary at the time. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

Atlanta Rotary launches Early Childhood Champions program

On Aug. 1, the Rotary Club of Atlanta launched a $1.75 million initiative to boost early childhood education in Atlanta. The program will focus on training and retaining early childhood educators.

The program came in response to the recent call by Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens to invest a historic $20 million public-private investment in early education. 

Calling it a “literacy crisis,” studies have shown that less than half — 49 percent — of Atlanta’s public school students can read at or above grade level by the 4th grade. For white students, it is 92 percent. For Hispanic 4th graders, it is 58 percent. And for Black students, it is just 33 percent.

Because the human brain forms in the first five years of life, high-quality early childhood education is essential in making sure all students start school ready to learn.

Despite the proven benefits of early learning, those educators remain among the lowest-paid professionals in every state. Many Atlanta childcare centers cannot keep enough teachers on staff to meet demand. 

“My administration has vowed to make Atlanta the best place in the country to raise a child, and programs like Early Childhood Champions will help make this a reality,” Dickens said in a statement thanking Atlanta Rotary.

Randall Kirsch and Shan Cooper are co-chairing the Early Childhood Champions initiative, which will offer cash incentives to eligible teachers. 

The board has approved an investment of $600,000 per year to fund the program, and several challenge grants have already been made by key Rotarians, including Tommy Holder, Stephanie Blank and Bill Pendleton.

Beyond the financial rewards, Atlanta Rotary plans to host special events starting in 2024 to recognize participating teachers for their invaluable work with children and their profound impact on the city, today and into the future. 

Eligible teachers have until Sept. 30 to enroll in the program. To learn more, please click here.

— Maria Saporta

Advancing Justice-Atlanta gets new leader from CAIR-Georgia

Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta has named a new executive director.

Murtaza Khwaja comes to the Norcross-based civil rights legal advocacy organization – known by the nickname Advancing Justice-Atlanta – from the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Georgia, where he also served as executive director. Azka Mahmood has been named interim executive director at CAIR-Georgia.

“Murtaza is a passionate and dedicated leader who has a long track record of fighting for the civil and human rights of our immigrant communities in Georgia,” said Advancing Justice-Atlanta Board Chair Sonjui Kumar in a press release. “I look forward to working with Murtaza as he continues to carry forward our vision of transforming Georgia into a place where all communities of color can thrive.”

Phi Nguyen, who has served as Advancing Justice-Atlanta’s executive director since 2021, is leaving this month to become director of democracy at Demos, a New York-based think tank.

— John Ruch

The teen employees are learning the ins and outs of caring for a historic cemetery. (Photo courtesy of the Historic Oakland Foundation.)

Oakland Cemetery receives grant to support Workforce Development Program

The Historic Oakland Foundation recently received a $20,000 grant from Bank of America to support its new Youth Landscape and Hardscape Team (YLHT) workforce development program. 

YLHT is a new six-week summer employment program for students ages 15 to 18, allowing them to explore careers in landscaping, horticulture, hardscaping and masonry. The teenagers worked 25 hours a week and were paid $12 an hour. 

Throughout the program, students worked closely with skilled professionals, took field trips to see how others do landscaping and hardscaping and attended weekly workforce preparedness classes to learn financial literacy, resume writing and communication skills. With this new grant, Bank of America is helping the Foundation further develop and expand its program.

“Bank of America remains committed to connecting young adults to jobs, community engagement opportunities, and leadership development,” Bank of America Atlanta President Al McRae said. “We recognize young adults are the future of our community, which is why we support programs like the Youth Landscape and Hardscape Team to help provide students the opportunity to gain job experience to achieve long-term success.”

— Hannah E. Jones

SCAD Named to MovieMaker Magazine’s List of the 25 Best Film Schools of 2023 

MovieMaker Magazine recently named the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) one of the top 25 best film schools in the U.S. and Canada.

“SCAD equips students for every possible challenge, from tried and true approaches to networking and pitching to mastering all the latest aspects of their chosen crafts. It is a truly wondrous institution,” said Tim Molloy, editor-in-chief of MovieMaker.

The list recognizes schools that prepare students for every aspect of movie making, spotlighting world-renowned and affordable schools for 2023.

“Our film students are uniquely set up for success in whatever realm of the industry they choose,” said D.W. Moffett, Chair of Film and Television for SCAD.  “SCAD’s mission is to prepare talented students for creative professions and we are undoubtedly providing our students with the best education, hands-on learning, and professional experience.”  

According to the Georgia-based school, nearly 15,000 SCAD alumni work in the entertainment and digital media industries, and 3,500 work in Georgia’s multi-billion-dollar sectors. 

— Allison Joyner

(Top to bottom, right to left) Michelle Nunn, Jim Clark, Jonathan Reckford and Fay Twersky.

Atlanta’s continuing importance as a center for nonprofits

The NonProfit Times has just released its 2023 “Power & Influence Top 50.”

Four leaders from Atlanta made the list – reinforcing our region’s importance as a center for nonprofit leaders.

The four from Atlanta included:

  • Jim Clark, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America
  • Michelle Nunn, president and CEO of CARE USA
  • Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International
  • Fay Twersky, president and director of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation

The publication stated, “the honorees have distinguished themselves as initiators, innovators and leaders who can redirect and rebuild vital nonprofits and their operations.” It said the recognition was not a lifetime achievement award. It honors people who have had an impact during the previous 12 months.

The 2023 honorees were selected from a group of roughly 300 nominated top executives. A committee of the NonProfit Times’ editorial staff, contributors and a few nonprofit leaders were involved in the selection process. 

For a complete list of honorees, click here

 — Maria Saporta

Georgia Trust Board of Trustees elects new and returning members

The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s Board of Trustees has elected several new and returning members.

The Georgia Trust is an Atlanta-based statewide organization that is in the midst of finding a new president and CEO with the pending retirement of longtime leader Mark C. McDonald. 

The newly elected board members include:

  • Paul Blackney (Atlanta), retired CEO of travel technology company Worldspan. This is his third term on the board.
  • Ann Hill Bond (Atlanta), a journalist who works as community engagement editor for Capital B Atlanta and writes for the Atlanta Voice, including about preservation issues.
  • Bill Edwards (Thomasville), principal at Edwards Olson Architecture, which has been involved in several Georgia Trust Preservation Award-winning projects, and former president of the preservation organization Thomasville Landmarks. 
  • Elizabeth Walden (Columbus), executive director of Historic Columbus Foundation.
  • Tom Wight (Macon), chief financial officer of Mulberry Street Investment Company and Fickling & Company. This is his eighth term on the board.
  • Charlie Garbutt (Dublin), retired founder and CEO of Garbutt Construction Company, which received the Trust’s highest honor, the Marguerite Williams Award, in 2020 for the rehabilitation of City Hall in Griffin. 
  • Cassie Bryant (Macon), retired consultant and board chair of Hay House, a historic property in Macon owned by the Georgia Trust. She will serve as an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees.

— John Ruch

City of Chamblee hires mental health Co-Responder for police department

In an effort to better support residents struggling with mental health challenges, the City of Chamblee has hired a full-time Co-Responder to accompany the police department when responding to calls that relate to mental health crises. 

In this new role, Taisha Porter will help navigate and de-escalate tense situations. She will also conduct case management after each interaction, follow up with medical care providers and connect residents with additional resources.

Porter is a trained mental health professional with over 20 years of experience. For the last eight years, Porter has served as a First Responder for the Georgia Mobile Crisis team, providing intervention for those dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues.

For additional information about Chamblee’s Co-Responder Program, click here.

— Hannah E. Jones

20 films nominated for Morehouse Film Festival

Last week, the Morehouse College Human Rights Film Festival (MCHRFF) announced the list of films nominated for their annual festival held this year from Sept. 19 to 23. 

Awards will be given in categories such as documentary short, narrative short, and student feature. MCHRFF is dedicated to promoting the understanding of global issues and artistic expressions made by filmmakers. 

“This year, we continue celebrating filmmakers who challenge societal norms, question power structures and advocate for marginalized communities,” said Kara Walker, executive director of MCHRFF. “By bringing these films to the forefront, we hope to inspire others to use art as a means of activism and to foster a more socially conscious society.”

To see the list of nominated films and purchase tickets click here.

— Allison Joyner

Ida B. Wells Society hires new executive director

Last month, the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting at Morehouse College appointed Dr. Robbie Morganfield as its new executive director. 

Morganfield joins the Society after spending three years as a professor and chair of journalism and mass communications at North Carolina A&T State University and has a deep commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in journalism. 

“This is a pivotal moment for journalism. I am committed to upholding the Society’s mission of advancing investigative reporting, supporting journalists of color, and nurturing the next generation of reporters. I look forward to collaborating with the Society’s talented team, students, faculty, and partners to drive impactful change in journalism,” Morganfield said. 

The Society is a news trade organization dedicated to increasing and retaining reporters and editors of color in investigative reporting. It seeks to educate news organizations and journalists on how including diverse voices can increase investigative journalism’s impact and visibility while promoting transparency and good government.   

“Dr. Morganfield is a remarkable leader, journalist, educator and visionary passionate about nurturing future journalists, advocating for journalists of color and building up mission-driving institutions,” said Nikole Hannah-Jones, co-founder of the Ida B. Wells Society. “This is a pivotal time for our organization and having someone like Dr. Morganfield at the helm will ensure we live up to our ambitions and continue to expand the groundbreaking work we have begun to do.”

— Allison Joyner

Hannah Jones is a 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...

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