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Reporter’s Notebook: New Atlanta Habitat CEO, SCAD’s art collection for Meals on Wheels, Spelman named a top HBCU for LGBTQ+ students

A week in the news.

If you’re a roller coaster lover, you’ve almost certainly hit Six Flags over Georgia for Goliath’s 225-foot drop or Viper’s seven back-to-back loops. This week is notable for thrill-seekers, though, because fifty-five years ago, the amusement park first opened its doors. 

About 3,000 folks visited on its opening day in 1967, with over 1.2 million customers visiting that first summer. The park featured two rides — the Log Jamboree and the Dahlonega Mine Train — adding the Great American Scream Machine in 1973 as the world’s tallest wooden coaster, coming in at 105 feet.

On to other news from the week:

A look at the SCAD collection exhibition at the Meals on Wheels headquarters. (Photo courtesy of SCAD.)

SCAD contributes art collection for Meals on Wheels Atlanta headquarters

Earlier this month, Paula Wallace, president and founder of the Savannah College of Art Design (SCAD), announced the contribution of alumni-created artwork to the new headquarters of Meals on Wheels Atlanta (MOWA) as a permanent exhibition. 

Wallace personally selected the pieces for the space next to the 1705 West venue space. 

“This SCAD collection complements the positive energy and meaningful work of MOWA by imbuing their handsome offices and events spaces with the joy of fine art,” Wallace said.

MOWA serves more than 1,800 meals a day throughout Atlanta with the mission to support senior independence through meals, shelter, education and community. 

“The artworks and their SCAD creators are a reflection of our colorful city, the seniors we serve, and our staff who deliver food, compassion and care that our aging neighbors urgently need,” said Charlene Crusoe-Ingram, CEO of MOWA. “The incredible generosity of President Wallace throughout the years is punctuated in this art exhibition that celebrates our new venue and captures the essence of MOWA’s mission.”

Wallace hopes that the collection inspires volunteers, guests and the community. 

— Allison Joyner

Sickle Cell Foundation in Atlanta receives $50,000 to start new program

The Atlanta-based MTS Sickle Cell Foundation, national nonprofit raising awareness and support for Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), recently received a $50,000 grant from UnitedHealthcare. The grant will be used to create a Community Health Worker research program, allowing the Foundation to assess its effectiveness in improving health and reducing disparities for those living with SCD.

“We recognize that the sickle cell patient population faces disparities in and out of the healthcare system,” Founder and CEO Mapillar Dahn said. “We are so grateful to UnitedHealthcare for this grant as it allows us to understand the pivotal role Community Health Workers have in helping these patients access care, address socioeconomic needs, and provide connections to much-needed resources.”

SCD is a life-threatening chronic illness that affects about 100,000 Americans, appearing most commonly in the Black community with 1 in 365 people. Due to complications, those living with the disease have a life expectancy about 40 years shorter than the average U.S. adult, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, making increased research critical for improving and extending patients’ lives.

Click here for more information on the Community Health Worker Program. 

— Hannah E. Jones

(Credit: Spelman College.)

“Best Colleges” names Spelman top HBCU for LGBTQ+ students

Spelman College has been named one of the 2022 Best HBCUs for LGBTQ+ students by Best Colleges in partnership with Campus Pride.

As the leading national education organization for LGBTQ college students and allies, Campus Pride highlighted a nondiscrimination environment that is inclusive of sexual orientation. 

Some of the variables used to rank the Historically Black College included LGBTQ+ studies programs and course offerings, SafeZone training and resource center, particularly for LGBTQ+ student support services. 

Click here for more information, and to see the full list of this year’s Best HBCUs for LGBTQ+ students.

— Allison Joyner

Alan Ferguson, the new head of Atlanta Habitat. (Special)

Alan Ferguson tapped as Atlanta Habitat’s CEO 

The new president and CEO of Atlanta Habitat for Humanity will be Alan Ferguson, who has served in several key economic and community development roles in Atlanta. He will begin his new role in July. 

Ferguson succeeds Lisa Gordon, who left earlier this year to become chief operating officer in Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens’ administration.

Most recently, Ferguson served as senior vice president of development and operations for the American Opportunity Foundation, a nonprofit investor and owner of affordable workforce housing. He also served as the senior vice president of community development for Invest Atlanta. Ferguson also served as the interim executive director of the Fort McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority in 2019.

During his career, Ferguson has served with organizations that help build vibrant communities and increase economic prosperity for moderate-to-low-income persons and families in Atlanta and across the nation. His work with Fannie Mae’s Lender Channel helped develop his housing, commercial real estate, business finance, public finance, equity investments, as well as community and economic development expertise.

“Our goal is to double Atlanta Habitat’s impact over the next few years,” said board chair Danielle Cheung, who serves as Bank of America’s business banking market executive in metro Atlanta. “We look forward to Alan leading our collaboration with fellow community organizations, public and private partners, and other stakeholders to transform communities through access to quality affordable housing.” 

Ferguson holds a Bachelor of Arts in banking and finance from Morehouse College, an MBA from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University and a Master of Science in real estate from the J. Mack Robinson School of Business at Georgia State University. He pursued doctoral studies (ABD) in Real Estate Finance at Georgia State University and is currently completing his dissertation requirements for a Ph.D. in Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the University of the Cumberlands.

Ferguson was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and raised in South DeKalb. He resides in Atlanta with Janelle, his wife of nearly 27 years, and two children, who are both pursuing graduate and undergraduate studies at Georgia State University. 

“As early as my high school years in South Dekalb, I was inspired to change the pattern of disinvestment in my community,” Ferguson said in a statement. “In my public and private sector work on affordability and neighborhood transformation, I have seen first-hand the powerful impact Atlanta Habitat for Humanity has on Atlanta. Atlanta Habitat is creating future-forward solutions to address Atlanta’s affordable housing availability, one of the most critical issues facing our city and our nation.”

Rosalyn Merrick, who has been serving as interim president and CEO, will continue to serve in that role until Ferguson joins Atlanta Habitat in July. Then she will continue her role in leading the organization’s development and marketing and communications functions. 

Atlanta Habitat is one of the largest affiliates of Habitat for Humanity International, which is based in Atlanta. Over the last five years, Atlanta Habitat has made an estimated $40 million impact on affordable housing in neighborhoods across the city. Since its launch in 1983, Atlanta Habitat has served 2,100 families that include about 6,000 individuals. 

— Maria Saporta

Marc Morial at the UPS Impact Summit. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

UPS Impact grants and Marc Morial

At the first-ever UPS Impact Summit on June 20th — the first Juneteenth federal holiday, Marc Morial issued a challenge.

The president and CEO of the National Urban League urged UPS to make it an annual event — a time to assess where we are as a country when it comes to race, equity and diversity.

“When we think about Juneteenth, it’s a declaration about the future,” Morial said at the summit, which was appropriately held at Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights. “This is a very powerful time and a powerful place to think annually about the American future.”

UPS officials said future Impact Summits are under consideration.

“We haven’t announced that we’ll do this annually,” Deisha Barnett, UPS’ president of corporate communications and content, wrote in a text. “But we certainly hope to make this the case given the collaboration and energy felt in the room.”

Morial said Juneteenth “invites us to look backward.” But the real strength in the holiday that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans is how we approach the future.

“It is significant to be in this city, in this state at this time,” Morial said. “No city represents the promise of civil rights and social justice more than this city.”

Morial went on to say UPS has always been “a step ahead on diversity.” It chose to relocate its headquarters to Atlanta because of its standing as the symbol for the New South.”

Now Atlanta and the nation need to work on creating a “tolerant” multiracial, multicultural and multireligious society, Morial added.

Nikki Clifton, president of the UPS Foundation, said at the close that “it’s great when you can find your purpose,” which she has at UPS. Then she gave a shout-out to Carol Tomé, who has been CEO of the Fortune 100 company for just over two years. “Carol Tomé made it clear from day one that there is no room for racism” at UPS, Clifton added.

The Summit also included several panels, including one with Jay Bailey, president and CEO of the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs.

“The startling fact about equity is we’ve never seen it realized,” Bailey said. “Atlanta has the capacity, the will and the leadership to make it happen. Atlanta has more Black-enrolled college students than any other city in the country.”

Then he went on to say that the only difference between Bankhead and Buckhead is “access, opportunity and exposure.”

More on UPS grants to local nonprofits

UPS used the Summit to announce $8.75 million in grants to local nonprofit organizations in the areas of workforce development, community safety, civic engagement and entrepreneurship.

Those grants included:

  • $1.25 million investment in UPS Ignite and the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE)
  • $1 million commitment to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights to support DEI training for community leaders, research on LGBTQ+ issues, and the annual LGBTQ Institute Business Forum
  • $1 million commitment to the Atlanta Police Foundation to support the At Promise Youth Center and workforce development initiative
  • $1 million commitment to the Metro Atlanta Chamber to support efforts at the intersection of equity and economic development
  • $1 million contribution to the Woodruff Arts Center to advance equity in the arts
  • 30 scholarships in the Atlanta University Center Consortium, including scholarships for diverse students to continue their careers supporting health equity in underserved communities
  • $500,000 investment in the Ambassador Andrew Young Foundation

— Maria Saporta

Cristo Rey Atlanta announces additions to Board of Trustees

The Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School welcomes five new members to its Board of Trustees. The new board members were inducted during the school’s annual retreat at Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center by Board Chair Dave Fitzgerald, Fitzco founder and CEO.

The Board welcomes:

  • Patrice Brown, Director of Strategy and Operations — Turner Sports
  • Chris Hubbard, consultant and private investor — ATH Holdings
  • Sam Rhue III, assistant vice president of Enterprise Brand Strategy — Voya Financial
  • Ivan Shammas, president and general manager — Univision Atlanta, Univision Raleigh
  • Rosemarie Thurston, partner — Alston & Bird, LLP.

New members will serve a three-year term, with the chance to continue for a second term.

The downtown Atlanta high school has around 500 students — all of color — with slightly over half practicing Catholicism. The school has a 100 percent college acceptance rate, and each student graduates with four years of experience through their corporate work-study program.

— Hannah E. Jones

A shot of downtown Montreal. (Special: Wikipedia.)

Influential LINK trip headed to Montreal in 2023

At a debrief session Wednesday night about the 2022 LINK trip to Austin, Kerry Armstrong, chair of the Atlanta Regional Commission, announced the next city metro leaders will visit is Montreal, Canada.

It will be the third Canadian city that LINK has visited. The delegation of about 120 business, civic and government leaders visited Vancouver in 2007 and Toronto in 2015.

LINK, which has now gone on 25 visits to cities in the United States and Canada, spotlights how other metro areas are addressing issues similar to the Atlanta region’s challenges.

About half of the people who went to Austin — 128 in all — went to the debrief session at the Atlanta Regional Commission’s space at Peachtree Center.

Attendees were then split up among three tables, where they discussed three topics: transit, housing and homelessness and workforce development. There was time for each table to discuss two of the three issues and how metro Atlanta can benefit from what they learned in Austin

Anna Roach, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, also announced at the debrief session that Michael Alexander, director of ARC’s Center for Livable Communities, was being promoted to chief operating officer of the planning agency.

The announcement is significant because Alexander had been in the running for ARC’s top job succeeding Doug Hooker, who had served as ARC’s longtime executive director until March of this year.

— Maria Saporta

Atlanta’s Blank Foundation contributes to Southwest Montana Flood Relief Fund

Folks living in Southwest Montana recently faced catastrophic flooding that destroyed roads and homes throughout the state. Park officials at Yellowstone alone evacuated around 10,000 people due to safety concerns, ​​with its rivers reaching heights not seen in 100 years.

The Southwest Montana Flood Relief Fund was recently created to support those impacted by the severe flooding in Park and Madison Counties, providing support for immediate needs like shelter, drinking water, food, clothing and food. The relief fund — created by the Greater Gallatin United Way and Park County Community Foundation (PCCF) — will also contribute to clean-up and rebuilding efforts.

The fund received over $350,000 within 24 hours, thanks to The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, Deborah Erdman and others. 

“Our community is resilient and generous. There is a strong desire to help our neighbors in need,” PCCF Executive Director Gavin Clark said. “Offers of financial support were rolling in as the waters were rising and now, even more so – in the aftermath of the flooding. We are fortunate to partner with Greater Gallatin United Way to support our community in response to the flooding in the greater Yellowstone region. Those who have been impacted will need our help, and this fund will allow us to help provide for them now as they clean up and rebuild their lives.”

Those looking to donate can click here or text Flood22 to 41444. 

— 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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  1. Wayne Anderson June 23, 2022 7:49 pm

    Please publish a full story out of “UPS Impact Summit on June 20th”. It is aspirational and inspirational. It is what Atlanta needs to focus upon. We are the only city with this real possibility, as well as an equity we have already promised to the world.Report


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