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Reporter’s Notebook: Police removing thousands of tires ignited by training center protesters, only Franco-German Cultural Center in North America opens in Atlanta, Morehouse’s “Moguls in the Making” competition

The week in local news.

Friday, Sept. 23, is the fall equinox, marking the change of seasons. 

There’s plenty to do this time of year, whether you want to hit up a local event — like Candler Park’s Fall Fest, the Pumpkin Festival at Stone Mountain or the Fall Festival on Ponce — visit a local park to admire the changing leaves or watch your favorite spooky movie. Happy fall, y’all!

On to other news from the week:

Police aim to remove tires ignited by training center protesters

The Atlanta Police Department (APD) is working to remove thousands of dumped tires from the public safety training center site in DeKalb County due to protesters igniting the rubber to block access.

One such incident came last week, according to the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), the private nonprofit leading the training center planning. Protesters ignited tires in an open field to block a “reconnaissance tour” of the Key Road site by some APF board members. Atlanta’s police and fire departments referred questions about that incident to their DeKalb counterparts, which did not respond.

APD Interim Assistant Chief Carven Tyus told the Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee (CSAC), a group reviewing the controversial training center plan, at its Aug. 30 meeting that protesters frequently burn tires on the site to distract police officers pursuing them. He said APD has a “labor-intensive” plan to remove the tires.

Tyus described other methods protesters are using to block access by contractors or police, including concrete-filled tires, “spikes in the ground” and “feces in buckets on top of our gates.” 

He claimed that such activity “doesn’t delay our progress in any way whatsoever,” but planners in the meeting said protests in fact have prevented such key planning steps as sound measurements for a noise mitigation study. 

Tyus said protesters also continue to target other sites with vandalism and property damage, recently including the Atlanta office of a project contractor, where graffiti reading “Stop Cop City” was placed on a wall and some type of liquid was poured into vehicle gas tanks. He presented this as a partial success in the sense of getting protesters away from the main site and “not coming to our property anymore.” 

However, Tyus said protesters also remain on the site, but in lower numbers, as DeKalb courts no longer release people arrested there on trespassing charges on their own recognizance. He downplayed protesters as outsiders and “just simply agitators whose sole purpose is just to spread propaganda.” The training center indeed has stirred nationwide opposition, but also remains controversial among many local residents and organizations, with the creation of the CSAC just one result.

The facility is still in the permitting and design stage. Tyus said that any actual construction of the facility would come with a 24/7 police presence.

The $90 million training center facility, which would train police officers and firefighters from Atlanta and outside departments, is planned for 85 acres of the former Atlanta Prison Farm. Officials say it is needed to improve training and morale. Protests – both peaceful and otherwise – have formed under the broad term “Defend the Atlanta Forest,” largely on grounds of environmental damage and police reform. Many protesters refer to the plan mockingly as “Cop City” due to its size.

— John Ruch

Atlanta’s German Consul General Melanie Moltmann speaks at the opening of the new Franco-German Cultural Center in downtown Atlanta. (Photo by Kelly Jordan.)

Opening of Atlanta’s Franco-German Cultural Center

The only Franco-German Cultural Center in North America opened its new home on the plaza level of Peachtree Center in downtown Atlanta on Sept. 15. 

The center includes the joint offices of the Alliance Française d’Atlanta and the Goethe Zentrum Atlanta. The two organizations offer classes for people to learn French and German, and they host a number of cultural programs throughout the year. 

More than 350 people attended the grand opening, including Atlanta’s German Consul General Melanie Moltmann and Atlanta’s French Consul General Anne-Laure Desjonquères.

Dignitaries cut the ribbon at the opening of the new Franco-German Cultural Center on Sept. 15 in downtown Atlanta. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

Doug Shipman, president of the Atlanta City Council, called the center an important step for the cultural evolution of Atlanta.

The Alliance and Goethe had shared a space at Colony Square for more than a decade, but the new Franco-German Cultural Center offers a more integrated space to foster greater cooperation between both organizations.

In full disclosure, I serve as vice president of the board of the Alliance Française d’Atlanta.

— Maria Saporta

Ally, Thurgood Marshall College Fund awards scholarships to Morehouse students in ‘Moguls in the Making’ competition

Last weekend, four students from Morehouse College won the fourth annual “Moguls in the Making” pitch competition and received $20,000 scholarships and guaranteed internship offers from Ally Financial bank.

Frifteen teams of students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) developed innovative and impactful solutions to address economic mobility challenges in Charlotte, N.C. — one of Ally’s hometown markets — using vital business skills. The teams were asked to create a business plan that showed how to put their idea into action and gave a ten-minute presentation to a panel of judges who selected the top three pitches. 

The winning idea, called the HOPE Project (Home/Owner/Property/Education), utilizes a new property ownership solution called ACLO (Appreciation Capped Leased-to-Own Properties) that allows low-income renters to become homeowners and build equity without being exposed to the fluxuations of the housing market. Corporate, non-profit and governmental entities work together to create and facilitate a program that supports a five-year plan for rental tenants to work toward property ownership while improving their long-term financial outlook and generational wealth.

“Not only do programs like this provide access and opportunities for HBCU students to learn the core business and entrepreneurial skills but it also helps build early talent pipelines with bright, passionate and creative individuals who will be our future leaders,” said Jeffrey Brown, CEO of Ally Financial. 

The students from the winning team include:

  • Amari Torrance, junior economics major from Redford, Mich.
  • Travis Sherman, senior software engineering major from Decatur, Ga.
  • Kasai Rogers, junior economics major from Washington D.C.
  • Zion Melson, sophomore business administration major from Alpharetta, Ga.

— Allison Joyner

(L to R) Mary Ellen Imlay, Ann Q. Curry, Shan Cooper.

National Philanthropy Day to honor three special women

Some of the most prestigious awards of the year are given on National Philanthropy Day, which will return to an in-person luncheon this year on Nov. 3 at Southern Exchange Ballrooms at 200 Peachtree St.

The event is hosted by the Georgia chapter of the Association for Fundraising Professionals. The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta sponsors the event.

Mary Ellen Imlay, chair and president of the Imlay Foundation as well as board chair of Imlay Investments, has been named “Philanthropist of the Year.”

Imlay has been an important part of Atlanta’s nonprofit community for years, involved with the Woodruff Arts Center, Atlanta Botanical Garden and Volunteers in Medicine of Hilton Head, S.C. She currently serves on the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Foundation board, Georgia Public Broadcasting board and Historic Oakland Foundation campaign committee and advisory Board.

Imlay is a native of Decatur. She gained her business experience working with Management Science America, Dun & Bradstreet Software and Imlay Investments, Inc., founded by her late husband, John P. Imlay, Jr.

“I was completely surprised,” Imlay said of the award, which has been given to Atlanta’s top philanthropists. “To be in that group is humbling. When I think about the Atlanta community, I think about the importance of philanthropy.”

Shan Cooper will be honored as Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year. Cooper is the founder and CEO of Journey Forward Strategy. She previously served as executive director of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, as chief transformation officer of WestRock, and as vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.

Cooper serves as the lead volunteer for the Beloved Benefit, and she serves on a host of corporate and nonprofit boards, including the Grady Health System, Emory University, the Georgia Tech Research Institute, the Georgia Historical Society, Georgia Music Accord and Zoo Atlanta.

Ann Q. Curry will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for more than three decades of philanthropic leadership in Atlanta. Curry is the former owner of Coxe Curry & Associates. She continues to serve as the fundraising consultant’s board chair and as its chief client strategist.

During her years of service to Atlanta, she has supported hundreds of organizations by helping raise more than $4 billion to advance philanthropic efforts across the state and especially in the Atlanta region.

To learn more about the 2022 National Philanthropy Day, click on the AFP website. 

— Maria Saporta

“Murmur” at Piedmont Park. (Photo courtesy of the Piedmont Park Conservancy.)

Murmur: Piedmont Park’s new art installation

Piedmont Park has a new art addition on its 185 acres — a precast concrete acoustic sculpture titled “Murmur.” 

The sculpture, weighing a whopping 7,900 pounds, serves as a whisper dish when a person talks directly into it, their voice is transported several hundred feet away. It can also act as an auditory performance bandshell, dispersing sound to a group of people. 

The new installation sits on the western end of the park, near its 12th St. entrance.

“Murmur” was designed, fabricated and installed by undergraduate and graduate students in the School of Architecture at Georgia Tech University. 

— Hannah E. Jones

GDOL to host virtual job fair for metro residents

On Thursday, Sept. 29, the Georgia Department of Labor is hosting a virtual career fair for metro Atlanta residents. 

At least thirteen local employers will participate, with over 1,900 job openings in fields like policing, utility service, sales, customer service, transportation and more. The virtual fair will go from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Before registering for the event, folks must have an active Employ Georgia account with a résumé on file. 

To learn more and register for the upcoming virtual career fair, click here.

— Hannah E. Jones

Cabbagetown’s historic mill to receive state historical marker, group says

Cabbagetown’s historic mill will receive an official state historical marker next year, according to a preservation group.

The former Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills were founded in 1881 by Jacob Elsas, who also created Cabbagetown as a company town. The factories shuttered after a century of operations and the historic buildings have been rehabilitated into a residential complex. 

The Georgia Historical Society (GHS) marker was pursued by the Patch Works Art & History Center, which was founded by Elsas’s great-great-great grandson, also named Jacob. Patch Works announced this week that GHS approved the marker and an unveiling is expected in May 2023. GHS did not immediately respond to a comment request.

— John Ruch

Fountain Hall. (Photo by Kelly Jordan.)

Morris Brown president reacts to vandalism to Fountain Hall

On Monday, Kevin James, president of Morris Brown College, reacted to the damage caused by several intruders at Fountain Hall. 

“After running them off campus, we found that these vandals kicked out the faces of the clock tower,” James said in a statement. 

Local reports said the building where W.E.B. DuBois wrote his famous “The Souls of Black Folks” was broken into on Sept. 16 and the newly refurbished clocks at the top of the building were destroyed. 

He added that the Atlanta Police Department (APD) is part of the investigation, but was unsuccessful in capturing video footage of the trespassers. 

“This was a purposeful, intentional and egregious act as nothing in the building was stolen,” James said. “The trespassers went straight to the clocktower to vandalize it. Whoever did this knew exactly where to go and what to do.” 

Fountain Hall received $500,000 in 2020 from the National Park Service to repair the building’s roof, bell tower and clock face. 

James concluded his message by reassuring shareholders that the clock will be repaired and requested for anyone that has any information regarding the crime to contact APD.  

— Allison Joyner

Students tending to their school garden. (Photo courtesy of the Captain Planet Foundation.)

Captain Planet Foundation announces revitalization grants for local school gardens

Captain Planet Foundation (CPF), in partnership with Cox Enterprises and the Turner Foundation, is offering revitalization grants to hundreds of school gardens across the metro Atlanta area. 

CPF is based on the animated television series “Captain Planet and the Planeteers,” conceived by Ted Turner and Barbara Pyle in 1989, which took an “edutainment” spin on key environmental and social issues. The pair founded CPF in 1991 to encourage young people to become problem-solvers for the planet. 

Through CPF’s Project Learning Garden Rejuvenation Fund, schools will receive up to $1,000 to rejuvenate their garden space with improvements like garden bed replacement, a composting station, an irrigation system and training for teachers.

For the last 10 years, the holistic Project Learning Garden program has provided critical components needed to establish and sustain garden-based learning programs. Since 2012, over 570 school gardens across 40 states have joined the program, including more than 290 schools across metro Atlanta.

“Captain Planet Foundation empowers young people to be problem solvers for the planet – and with a focus on environmental sustainability, Cox empowers its employees to do the same,” Maury Wolfe, Cox Enterprises’ vice president of social impact, said in a press release. “We are excited to expand our partnership with CPF, support these mature learning gardens and ensure another cohort of students benefit from learning more about sustainability and how it can positively affect their communities.”

Applications are open until Dec. 15. Click here for more information or to apply. 

— Hannah E. Jones

Chris Womack.

Georgia Power’s Chris Womack heading Woodruff Arts Center campaign

The Woodruff Arts Center launched its 2022/23 corporate fundraising campaign by announcing Georgia Power CEO Chris Womack as its chair. 

The Woodruff Arts Center, which is comprised of the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and High Museum of Art, announced also announced an arts education-focused partnership with Georgia Power, which has committed a leadership gift of $1 million.

“Countless studies show that students exposed to the arts are more successful, more empathetic, and more likely to thrive,” said Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center. “Chris Womack truly understands the importance of both the Arts Center’s economic impact and its role in fostering the next generation of innovators and critical thinkers.”

Womack said it was an honor to serve as the 2022/23 campaign chair to support the Woodruff Arts Center.

“It is essential to point out that the experience doesn’t stop on the Center’s midtown campus,” Womack said. “The rich art programs and opportunities that originate at the Arts Center radiate out and touch every corner of our state.” 

The Woodruff Arts Center is among the state’s largest providers of education through the arts, serving 150 of 159 Georgia counties.

— Maria Saporta

Austin M., a scholar with Horizons Atlanta in the Atlanta Technical College program. (Photo courtesy of Horizons Atlanta.)

Horizons Atlanta to celebrate its scholars with Horizons Honors  

The Horizons Atlanta team is gearing up for its annual Horizons Honors event. On Thursday, Oct. 13, the nonprofit will host over 250 community members to celebrate one student from each of the nonprofit’s 10 sites.

Horizons Atlanta is a tuition-free six-week summer learning program that supports students in underserved communities from kindergarten to high school graduation. The students are taught with a project-based approach, exploring reading, math, science, theater, music and art. 

As a tuition-free program, the funds raised will support year-round programming and student participation fees. The event, held at Summerour Studios in Atlanta, is hosted by longtime supporter Aron Levine, president of Preferred Banking at Bank of America. 

Click here for more on the upcoming Horizons Honors.

— Hannah E. Jones

Billye Aaron, Dr. Judy North and Virginia Hepner at the 2022 Heroes, Saints & Legends awards on Sept. 15. (Special: Wesley Woods Foundation.)

Heroes, Saints & Legends Awards

Three Georgia Women were honored at this year’s Heroes, Saints & Legends Awards on Sept. 15 at Flourish.

The three women honored were Virginia Hepner of Brookhaven, Dr. Judy Greer of Oxford, Ga. and Billye Aaron of Atlanta.

Public relations leader Bob Hope and Transwestern’s Clark Dean served as co-chairs of the event, which is a fundraiser for the Wesley Woods Foundation.

The annual event honors “extraordinary individuals who have shaped our community through a lifetime commitment to leadership, service and philanthropy,” according to the Wesley Woods website.

This year’s event raised more than $465,000 to support Wesley Woods’ mission of supporting the well-being of older citizens living in its communities. The funds will go for meals, housing, pastoral care and wellness.

— Maria Saporta

Margaret Pritchett Jones.

Mental health nonprofit Heads Up for Harry welcomes new executive director

Heads Up for Harry, an Atlanta-based mental health nonprofit for young adults, recently welcomed a new addition to its leadership team with Margaret Pritchett Jones assuming the role of executive director. 

The nonprofit was created in 2017 by two friends honoring their late friend, Harrison, and focuses on raising awareness and erasing the stigma surrounding mental health. 

Jones most recently served as the nonprofit’s director of programming.

“[Jones] has brought a tremendous amount of energy and growth to the organization, and we’re so excited to take this next step together,” Board Chair Spencer Mitchell said in a press release. “Her background in curriculum development and educator training is a perfect match for the organization as we continue to offer new programming to high school and college students and teachers.”

The organization will also host its second annual Spark the Conversation 5K on Saturday, Oct. 8 at Marist School.

— Hannah E. Jones

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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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