December 2009 - Best of Atlanta Profiles - Atlanta Magazine

Best of Atlanta 2009: Applaud

Eight stories of charity and courage that remind us the best parts of Atlanta are the people among us.

Best of Atlanta Profiles

Stories 1 to 8 of 8

Pat Maddox, volunteer, Friends of Refugees

Pat Maddox has never left North America. Now that she’s seventy-one and living on Social Security, she probably never will. Which is all right, because she lives in Clarkston. The world has come to her. In 1996, Maddox, a home-healthcare nurse, began delivering surplus bread from Publix to the town’s many foreign-born refugees. Unable to speak their languages, she communicated with smiles and hand gestures. This is the danger of giving a little: You suddenly find yourself giving a lot. Soon they were inviting her in for tea. And they found a way to ask questions. What does this letter ... Read more

Bruce Morton, community organizer, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance

Bruce Morton grew up on Bollingbrook Drive in Beecher Hills, before the dawn of Nintendo. He and his brothers played four square and kickball. They started mudball wars. And they took refuge in the hardwood forest behind their house. Morton grew up and had three children of his own, but he never forgot those woods. A few years ago he found out that a developer had bought the land and planned to clear it to make room for new homes. By then Morton had helped incorporate the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, a group with hundreds of volunteers dedicated to preserving ... Read more

Helene Gayle, director, CARE

CARE, the Atlanta-based humanitarian organization, is not about Dr. Helene Gayle. But it’s Gayle, CARE’s director since early 2006, and her longtime public-health cred that have refocused the almost sixty-five-year-old nonprofit. Gayle ran the CDC’s AIDS program for twenty years, then moved on to work on the disease for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. When CARE came calling, Gayle wasn’t sure she was ready to leave Seattle and her work there—but then she remembered why she had gotten into public health. “Ill health has as much to do with economic status, social status in life—the things that we work ... Read more

Greg Ott, teacher and tech pioneer

One hundred and six years after publication, The Call of the Wild is still required reading in Greg Ott’s seventh-grade language arts class. Mr. Ott has nothing against antiques. But at Northwestern Middle School in Alpharetta, Ott has become known for something entirely different: a high-tech whiteboard rigged with parts from a video game machine. These interactive whiteboards can be purchased for a high price, but the principal heard about a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University who figured out a way to build one for a fraction of the cost. He mentioned this to Ott, who helps implement the school’s ... Read more

Don Crawford, executive director, Empty Stocking Fund

Adults know they’re responsible for their own stockings come Christmas, but for thousands of Atlanta children, the magic of the holidays rests solely on the shoulders of one man: Don Crawford. In the thirteen seasons he’s been executive director of the Empty Stocking Fund, Crawford has helped bring presents to as many children (around 500,000) as the Fund served in the seventy years before he took over. That equals about 1 million happy kids since 1927. Crawford, his pointed ears nestled next to a receding salt-and-pepper pate, looks more like one of the Big Guy’s elves than the red-suited man ... Read more

A. B. Short, MedShare founder

A. B. Short has a missionary’s zeal and an entrepreneur’s imagination. But early stints as both a minister and a businessman left him feeling frustrated and out of place. Only while helping Bill Bolling launch the Atlanta Community Food Bank in 1979 did he discover his perfect niche: inventing nonprofits. His first start-up, with longtime collaborator Bob Freeman, was Cafe 458 in 1988. This still-thriving MLK-district establishment—more restaurant than soup kitchen—also serves up warm clothing, a mailing address, counseling, and substance-abuse support groups. But it was through his next venture—organic farming and helping start the Morningside Farmers Market—that Short learned ... Read more

Judge Horace Ward, civil rights pioneer

From his office on the twelfth floor at 75 Spring Street, Judge Horace Taliaferro Ward—his middle name is the same as Booker T. Washington’s—can see Morehouse, Spelman, and Clark Atlanta University, two of which gave him degrees. The University of Georgia, which he never did attend (not for lack of trying), is too far off to glimpse. The Richard B. Russell building in which he now sits is also a long way from Ms. B.D. Davis’s small, segregated classroom in LaGrange, Georgia, where he read Robinson Crusoe and skipped fifth grade on his way to becoming valedictorian of East Depot ... Read more

Suzanne Boas, president, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta

In 1991, Suzanne Boas became president of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta, a nonprofit organization founded in 1964 to offer debt management advice to consumers just as the country’s crush on credit cards was blossoming into a full-grown love affair. Since then, her mission has been to teach consumers to “live beneath their means.” When she took the helm, CCCS was a place for Atlantans to find help when financial troubles crept into their lives; she oversaw thirty-five employees and five offices. Today, in a recession that defies hyperbole, Boas has watched her staff double since January 2008 ... Read more

From top: Pat Maddox, Greg Ott, Don Crawford, Horace Ward, and A.B. Short; all portraits but Short by Joe Martinez