After serving 11 years in the Georgia House of Representatives, including seven as minority leader, Stacey Abrams became the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia in 2018. The first Black woman to receive a major-party nomination in a gubernatorial race in the U.S., Abrams got more votes than any Democrat in the state’s history. Following the election, Abrams launched the organization Fair Fight to mobilize voters, advocate for electoral reform, and fight voter suppression. In January 2019 she was tapped to give the Democratic response to the State of the Union address.
Education: Spelman College, University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs (MPAff), Yale Law School (JD)
Notable achievement: Founded the New Georgia Project, which submitted more than 200,000 registrations from voters of color between 2014 and 2016
First job: Speechwriter for a congressional candidate
Inspiring person: Johnnetta Cole of Spelman College
Xochitl Bervera is the director of the Racial Justice Action Center, whose mission is to engage in transformative organizing to build the grassroots leadership, power, and capacity of marginalized communities in metro Atlanta; the organization’s current work includes a campaign to replace the Atlanta City Detention Center with a facility dedicated to wellness and freedom. Bervera has more than 20 years’ experience building community power and waging campaigns to dismantle the criminal legal system. She has incubated and founded six social justice organizations in Louisiana and Georgia led by those most affected by criminalization, policing, and incarceration, including Women on the Rise and the Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative.
Education: Sarah Lawrence College, New York University School of Law (JD)
Why I chose this work: I chose organizing to end criminalization in particular because our criminal legal system, as a vestige of slavery, remains one of the primary pillars of American racial injustice and because I have witnessed the devastation it causes to individuals, families, and communities.
Favorite book: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Stephanie Cho is the executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice–Atlanta, which advocates for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans in Georgia and the Southeast. Bringing more than 20 years of experience in labor and community organizing, strategy planning, and fundraising at the local and national levels, Cho was previously the Los Angeles director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center, where she worked to raise industry standards and wages for LA’s restaurant workers. She has been a community organizer, program director for LGBTQ youth programming, director of training for a national fellowship program, labor organizer, and organizational consultant.
Education: Portland State University
Hometown: Pyeongtaek, South Korea
First job: Restaurant Bon Ton
Toughest challenge: Being on my own at 17
Few people know: I was a welder in college.
Liz Coyle oversees the operations, programs, and staff of Georgia Watch, the state’s leading nonprofit consumer-advocacy organization. Georgia Watch advocates for policies that improve individual and family financial security, increase access to affordable healthcare, and lower the energy burden on struggling families. In addition to her role with Georgia Watch, in 2018 Coyle accepted an appointment to the Consumer Advisory Board of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She is also vice chair of the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative board of directors and is board chair of the Historic Fourth Ward Park Conservancy and the BeltLine Network.
Education: University of Virginia
Why I chose this work: I’ve been standing up for people I think are being wronged my whole life.
Hidden talent: I love to cook, especially on Sundays listening to TED Talks!
Favorite TV show: I’m a huge fan of Rachel Maddow.
Favorite place to visit: Rural Georgia, especially driving on country roads
Mawuli Mel Davis
Davis Bozeman Law Firm
Mawuli Mel Davis leads the Civil Rights Division of Davis Bozeman and has represented and helped organize legal support for activists engaged in protests including the Occupy movement, Moral Mondays, and Black Lives Matter. He is a cofounder of Let Us Make Man and the Black Man Lab. In 2019 Davis received the Ben F. Johnson Jr. Public Service Award, the highest honor given by Georgia State University College of Law..
Education: United States Naval Academy, Bowie State University (MPA), Georgia State University College of Law (JD)
Notable achievements: Named humanitarian of the year by the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP, the Kappa Alpha Sigma chapter of Phi Beta Sigma, and the Atlanta alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, and an outstanding advocate of the year by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Urban League, the Southern Center for Human Rights, and the Gate City Bar Association. The DeKalb Lawyers Association named the Mawuli Davis Legal Warrior Award in his honor.
Dázon Dixon Diallo is the president of SisterLove, the first women’s HIV and sexual and reproductive justice organization in the southeastern U.S., which she founded in 1989. A widely celebrated advocate, Diallo is also a member of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, a cochair of the Act Now: End AIDS coalition, and a founding member of the SisterSong reproductive justice collective. She has served on the Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council for the National Institutes of Health and on the board of the National Women’s Health Network. Diallo has an honorary doctorate from Spelman College and was among 30 Atlantans featured on murals installed citywide ahead of the 2019 Super Bowl.
Education: Spelman College, University of Alabama at Birmingham (MPH)
Hometown: Fort Valley, Georgia
Lesson learned: Not everyone is who they say they are, and almost everyone will show themselves. So keep your eyes open and believe what they show you, not what you hear and feel.
Best advice received: From Miss Johnnie Mae, 75-year-old receptionist, circa 2001: “Baby, you gon’ just have to be happy despite the bullshit!”
Jeff Graham is the executive director of Georgia Equality, which works to advance fairness, safety, and opportunity for LGBTQ communities throughout Georgia. Graham began advocating on LGBTQ- and AIDS-related issues as a college student in the mid-1980s, and has been involved in a wide variety of grassroots and legislative advocacy campaigns since. Over the past 25 years he’s served as either executive director or board member for a number of local and national organizations working on issues related to gay and transgender rights, access to healthcare, community empowerment, and HIV/AIDS.
Education: Trinity University
Hometown: Loveland, Colorado
Notable achievements: Linda Smith Lowe Health Advocacy Award (2017), League of Women Voters of Georgia Health Advocate Award (2016), Health Initiative Healing Angel Award (2014), National Center for Human Rights Education Human Rights Guardian Award (2004)
First job: Costume designer
Billy Michael Honor is a progressive public scholar, faith leader, and organizer involved with the New Georgia Project, whose Loose the Chains campaign partners with religious organizations to promote voter turnout. Honor regularly speaks at churches, conferences, colleges, and community events and is a media commentator on issues related to contemporary faith and culture. His work on voter mobilization earned him recognition from the Center for American Progress, which named him one of 15 faith leaders in the nation to watch in 2020. Honor also facilitates an independent public scholarship brand called Truth on the Loose, which promotes social commentary and criticism on faith, culture, and politics.
Education: Beulah Heights University, Emory University (ThM), Interdenominational Theological Center (MDiv)
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
Why I chose this work: I organize people of faith because I believe they are important to the work of building a more inclusive democracy and providing moral imagination to help society envision more just ways of being a nation.
First job: Child actor on Nickelodeon
Kwajelyn Jackson is the executive director of the Feminist Women’s Health Center, overseeing the organization’s operations, abortion clinic, civic engagement, and education and outreach teams. First hired in 2013 as community engagement coordinator, Jackson has led the expansion of FWHC’s statewide and national programming, deepened community partnerships, and worked to prevent new abortion restrictions proposed in the Georgia legislature. Prior to joining FWHC, Jackson was the program manager for WonderRoot Community Arts Center. A respected voice on reproductive justice at the national level, Jackson is on the boards of All-Options, Abortion Care Network, and the Black Mamas Matter Alliance.
Education: Spelman College, Georgia State University Andrew Young School of Policy Studies (MS)
Notable achievement: First black woman to lead Feminist Women’s Health Center in the organization’s 43-year history
Inspiring person: Gloria Washington (maternal grandmother)
Best advice received: You do not have to set yourself on fire to warm up the room for everyone else.
Bee Nguyen serves in the Georgia General Assembly as a representative of House District 89, which includes parts of Atlanta and DeKalb County. She’s also the national policy adviser for New American Leaders, which promotes the political participation of first- and second-generation Americans. Prior to being elected in 2017, Nguyen served as chief of staff for Georgia Representative Sam Park; she’s also worked for the resettlement agency Boat People SOS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute. Nguyen is the founder of Athena’s Warehouse, which supports high school girls in Atlanta.
Education: Georgia State University (MA, MPA)
Why I chose this work: As the daughter of refugees, I have spent my life trying to honor the courageous legacy of my parents. While I know this is an impossible feat, the work I do is rooted in my family story.
First job: Grocery worker at Winn-Dixie in Augusta
Hobbies: I got a skateboard for my 39th birthday, but I’m still pretty wobbly.
Community Engagement and Movement-Building Counsel
Southern Center for Human Rights
Tiffany Williams Roberts, a civil rights and criminal defense attorney, joined the Southern Center for Human Rights in 2018 as community engagement and movement-building counsel. A founding member of the Atlanta chapter of Black Lives Matter, she chairs the Ebenezer Baptist Church Social Justice Ministry, cochairs Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’s Progressive Agenda Working Group Criminal Justice Commission, and has served on the City’s task force to reimagine the Atlanta City Detention Center. Roberts cofounded Building Locally to Organize for Community Safety, a police accountability organization, and Lawyers United for a New Atlanta, which supports criminal justice reforms, and is an instructor at Georgia State University College of Law.
Education: Emory University, Georgia State University College of Law (JD)
Notable achievements: Southern Center for Human Rights Gideon’s Promise Award (2018), NAACP Atlanta Jubilee Day Award (2018)
Inspiring person: Ida B. Wells, an African American journalist and activist
Few people know: I sang in Emory’s all-female a cappella group, the Gathering.
Rebecca Serna is the executive director of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, a group founded in 1991 to improve biking conditions in the city. Since Serna took the helm in 2007, the coalition has launched the open-streets project Atlanta Streets Alive, created bike valets at Atlanta festivals, and organized successful campaigns for an Atlanta Department of Transportation and a Vision Zero policy, which aims to eliminate traffic fatalities. A native Atlantan, Serna was previously an intern with the Georgia Department of Transportation and a Fulbright scholar in Bogotá, Colombia, where she studied participatory planning practices and innovative public transportation projects.
Education: University of Georgia, Georgia State University Andrew Young School of Policy Studies (MS)
Hobbies: Wading in creeks, growing food, reading novels, watching great TV, and my new hobby, porch drinking
Charities: ACLU, Atlanta Community Food Bank, Los Vecinos de Buford Highway, the Bail Project
Legal and Advocacy Director
Azadeh Shahshahani works to protect the human rights of immigrants and Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities throughout the Southeast. She helped produce a widely read 2017 report, Imprisoned Justice, exposing conditions in two of Georgia’s largest immigration detention centers; her recent work includes documenting violations at the Irwin County Detention Center, including invasive gynecological procedures without consent. She also played a key role in convincing the City of Atlanta to stop detaining immigrants in the city jail. A past president of the National Lawyers Guild, Shahshahani previously worked as the national security and immigrant-rights project director with the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.
Education: University of Michigan (MA), University of Michigan Law School (JD)
Nathaniel Q. Smith
Founder and Chief Equity Officer
Partnership for Southern Equity
Nathaniel Smith founded and serves as chief equity officer of the Partnership for Southern Equity, which promotes racial equity and shared prosperity for all. PSE focuses on energy equity, economic inclusion, and equitable development, and created the South’s first equity-mapping tool, the Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas. PSE led a coalition of diverse stakeholders to support a $13 million transit referendum that expanded MARTA into a new county for the first time in 45 years. PSE continues to support the equity ecosystem through the Covid-19 pandemic through its Covid-19 Rapid Relief Fund. The fund distributed $100,000 to more than 20 organizations through an initial investment from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and the United Way of Greater Atlanta and has now grown to more than $400,000
Education: Morehouse College, New School (MS)
Sara J. Totonchi
Southern Center for Human Rights
As executive director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, Sara Totonchi leads a team with a mission of dramatically transforming the criminal justice system: SCHR seeks to end capital punishment, mass incarceration, and other practices that deprive poor and marginalized people of equality, dignity, and justice. Totonchi and SCHR worked in partnership with Governor Nathan Deal’s Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform to promote commonsense criminal justice reforms.
Education: Berry College
Hometown: Glenview, Illinois
Notable achievements: Led successful campaign to end cash bail in Atlanta Municipal Court (2018), named a Strengthening Democracy Fellow with the Rockwood Leadership Institute (2017), led successful advocacy to create a statewide public defender system in Georgia (2003)
Nse Ufot is the executive director of the New Georgia Project, a statewide effort to register all eligible, unregistered Georgians of color. By 2019, the group had registered almost half a million Georgians in all 159 of the state’s counties. Previously Ufot worked as assistant executive director for the Canadian Association of University Teachers—Canada’s largest faculty union—and for the American Association of University Professors, where she was a senior lobbyist and government relations officer. A naturalized citizen, Ufot was born in Nigeria and raised in southwest Atlanta.
Education: Georgia Tech, University of Dayton School of Law (JD)
Rev. James “Major” Woodall
Rev. James “Major” Woodall is the president of the Georgia NAACP and an associate minister at Marietta’s Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. A Silver Life member of the NAACP, Woodall has served as state president of the Georgia NAACP’s Youth & College Division, state chairman of its Young Adults Committee, and vice president of the Bulloch County Branch. He ran for state representative in 2016, has served as a legislative aide in the Georgia General Assembly, and is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve, where he was an intelligence analyst.
Education: Georgia Southern University, Morehouse School of Religion (MDiv)
Hometown: Riverdale, Georgia
Best advice recieved: From Marion Christopher Pugh: “Your job is not to save the world. You’re only here to give it a choice.”
Toughest challenge: Going to seminary in a pandemic while leading the Georgia NAACP during a summer of uprisings
Favorite Georiga sports team: Atlanta Falcons
Andrea Young joined the ACLU of Georgia as executive director in 2017. Under her leadership, the organization has grown in influence, impact, donor support, and membership, battling injustice and inequality through the courts, legislative advocacy, and community engagement. Young has taught leadership and social policy at Georgia State University, was the founding executive director of the Andrew J. Young Foundation, and created the Making of Modern Atlanta project, which included an archive, documentary film, and book. She is the author of Life Lessons My Mother Taught Me and the coauthor, with Andrew Young and Harvey Newman, of Andrew Young and the Making of Modern Atlanta.
Education: Swarthmore College, Georgetown University Law Center (JD)
Notable achievements: Worked as a U.S. House and Senate aide and nonprofit leader to end apartheid in South Africa, establish the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday, and expand support for working families, reproductive healthcare, and early childhood education
Favorite TV show: Lovecraft Country, made in Atlanta by Misha Green, Jordan Peele, and J.J. Abrams
Leonard L. Adams Jr. is the founder and CEO of Quest Community Development Organization, which invests in affordable housing and provides services to underserved people. Adams has increased the grassroots organization’s annual operating budget to $4.5 million, with $39 million in current assets, and secured over $100 million in government grants and subsidy support for affordable housing. A native of Detroit and an Army veteran, Adams has years of experience in developing affordable and supportive housing communities in challenged neighborhoods on Atlanta’s Westside and in Knoxville, Tennessee. Adams serves on Knoxville College’s board of trustees and on the Enterprise Community Leadership Council.
Education: Knoxville College, Kennesaw State University (MBA)
First job: Snow-shoveling specialist and newspaper deliverer
Toughest challenge: To say no
Hobbies: Running, biking
Favorite travel destination: Africa
Bucket list: To raise a healthy baby boy, expected March 2021, with my wife, Symphony
John Ahmann is president and CEO of the Westside Future Fund, a nonprofit formed by public, private, and philanthropic partners to promote the development of Atlanta’s Westside neighborhood. Ahmann has been driven for more than 25 years to improve the way communities and institutions function in Atlanta. Following a stint as a U.S. House of Representatives staffer, he worked for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games and later for the Metro Atlanta Chamber. In 2004 Ahmann became executive director of the Atlanta Committee for Progress. He also has his own public affairs consulting firm and served two terms on the City Schools of Decatur Board of Education.
Education: Emory University, Yale School of Management
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Notable achievement: Helping raise nearly $200 million in charitable/below-market/public funds for high-quality affordable housing
Now at the helm of the American Red Cross of Metropolitan Atlanta, Terri Badour became the first female executive of the Red Cross of Georgia in 2011, leading the organization as it responded to disasters from home fires to hurricanes, offered services to members of the armed forces and their families, organized blood collection, engaged volunteers, and provided health and safety training.
Education: Western Michigan University, Florida State University (MS)
Hometown: Saline, Michigan
Notable achievements: Atlanta Business Chronicle Women Who Mean Business (2019), Junior League of Atlanta Isolene Campbell Founder’s Circle Award, YWCA Academy of Women Achievers (2012), president of the Junior League of Atlanta (2001-2002), founder and first president of the Atlanta chapter of the Executive Women’s Golf Association (1992)
Why I chose this work: I’ve always been drawn to service and giving back to my community. It’s a privilege to represent this iconic, worldwide emblem and to help others during the worst of times.
James “Jay” Bailey is president and CEO of the Russell Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, an incubator, accelerator, and innovation lab launched in 2019 to empower African American entrepreneurs and small-business owners. An Atlanta native, Bailey is also the founder of the private equity firm Greenwood Archer, which seeks to build wealth in underserved communities, and the former CEO of Operation HOPE’s Southeast region. Widely lauded for his leadership, James was recognized at the White House in 2012 as one of eight Champions of Change: In the Footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr. honorees.
Education: University of Georgia
Why I chose this work: To change lives, change my community, and plant seeds that will grow trees whose shade I may never sit under
Hidden talent: I’m a cattle farmer. I drive a tractor and can call the cows with the best of them.
Favorite book: Building Atlanta: How I Broke through Segregation to Launch a Business Empire by Herman J. Russell with Bob Andelman
Bucket list: A trip to Egypt
Saint Louis native Maurice “Moe” Baker is manager of community relations for Georgia Natural Gas, which serves nearly half a million customers as part of Southern Company, one of the largest energy companies in the U.S. At GNG since 2002, Baker supervises community relations, philanthropy, and volunteer programs, and has been responsible for millions of dollars in charitable giving for the company. He began his career as manager of WSB-TV/Radio’s Consumer Action Center.
Education: Boston University
Best advice received: Yolanda King advised me to always bring a tape recorder to an interview. I was working for my high school newspaper at the time.
Favorite travel destination: South Africa
Hidden talent: I’m actually a pretty good painter.
Favorite TV shows: Blackish, 60 Minutes
President and CEO
Piedmont Park Conservancy
Mark Banta is president and CEO of the Piedmont Park Conservancy, a donor-funded organization that enhances and preserves the park as a cultural and recreational resource for Atlanta. Prior to the Conservancy, Banta served as president of Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, the construction of which he oversaw, and general manager of Centennial Olympic Park for 16 years, beginning with its opening in 1996.
Education: Berry College
Hometown: Unincorporated DeKalb County (now Brookhaven, Georgia)
Inspiring person: His mother encouraged a love of the outdoors: “With five children, Mom’s rule was, ‘If the sun is out, kids are out.’”
Rodney D. Bullard
VP, Corporate Social Responsibility
Rodney Bullard leads community-engagement, philanthropic and sustainability strategy as vice president of community affairs for Chick-fil-A and executive director of the Chick-fil-A Foundation. Bullard previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting complex criminal cases, for which he received the Department of Justice Director’s Award. Bullard released his first book, Heroes Wanted: Why the World Needs You to Live Your Heart Out, in 2018.
Education: U.S. Air Force Academy, University of Georgia Terry College of Business (MBA), Duke University School of Law (JD)
Notable achievements: White House fellow working at NASA, congressional legislative liaison in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force
Best advice received: Don’t ever let the expectations of others limit your expectations for yourself.
Few people know: I love to sing. (Whether I can sing or not is a matter of debate.)
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Cyclorama at the Atlanta History Center
In 2020 Julio Carrillo became chief operating officer at Families First, one of Atlanta’s oldest family service organizations, where he is launching a new strategic plan and managing a major virtual shift in operations and program delivery due to the coronavirus pandemic. Carrillo joined Families First from TechBridge, a nonprofit that provides technology tools and resources to other organizations fighting poverty, where he served most recently as interim CEO. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Carrillo gained years of experience in corporate supply chain and inventory management before shifting to the nonprofit sector, joining Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta in 2006.
Education: Universidad Autónoma
Notable achievement: Created the first mentoring program for Hispanics/Latinos in Atlanta, which was later introduced in other locations in Georgia and eventually to more than 120 agencies in the U.S. through Big Brothers Big Sisters
Inspiring people: Bill Bolling and Ann Cramer
Hidden talent: I make a delicious paella.
Juliet Cohen joined Chattahoochee Riverkeeper in 2008 as general counsel and has served as executive director since January 2015. She previously worked as a staff attorney for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, as a program manager for the South Carolina More Than a Port project of the Coastal Conservation League in Charleston, and for the environmental-education organization Earth Force in Washington, D.C.
Education: University of Miami, American University Washington College of Law (JD)
Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Why I chose this work: I grew up surrounded by and immersed in pristine tropical waters and rain forests and developed a love and respect for the natural world.
Lesson learned: Learn to understand how other people think and work.
Bucket list: I want to visit all of the national parks.
Who’d play me in a biopic: Jessica Biel
A licensed marriage and family therapist with 40 years of experience, Kathy Colbenson has been the CEO of CHRIS 180 since 1987. Under her leadership, CHRIS 180 has grown to include foster homes and counseling centers across metro Atlanta, a permanent supportive housing program, a comprehensive community program designed to strengthen families, a drop-in center and integrated health clinic for youth and young adults experiencing homelessness, an adoption program, and much more—all focusing on behavioral health, recovering from the impact of childhood trauma, and helping people develop the skills necessary for self-sufficiency. CHRIS 180 also opened the Southeast’s first outreach program for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness and created the first supportive housing program in the state for homeless youth and youth aging out of foster care.
Education: Georgia State University, University of West Georgia (MA)
Notable achievements: Atlanta Business Chronicle Most Admired CEO (2019), Turknett Leadership Character Award (2013)
Thomas W. Dortch Jr.
100 Black Men of America
Thomas W. Dortch Jr. is a founding member and the national chairman of 100 Black Men of America, which seeks to positively influence the lives of inner-city youth and improve at-risk communities. Dortch led an expansion of its mentoring program to more than 125,000 young people and grew the organization from 43 to 102 chapters. An entrepreneur, he holds other positions including chairman and CEO of Atlanta Transportation Systems and the consulting firm TWD, and chairman of Lancor Parking.
Education: Fort Valley State University, Clark Atlanta University (MA)
Notable achievements: Trustee for Florida A&M University and Clark Atlanta University, chairman of the boards of the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority and the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Foundation
Inspiring person: My father, Thomas W. Dortch Sr.
Toughest challenge: Defeating one of the deadliest cancers documented
Hidden talent: I blend wines.
What I’d tell a recent graduate: True leaders don’t seek followers, they inspire them.
Curley Dossman Jr.
The president of the Georgia-Pacific Foundation since 1994, Curley Dossman Jr. leads the organization’s charitable-giving program, which focuses on four areas: education, environment, enrichment, and entrepreneurship. He also oversees Georgia-Pacific’s community-affairs efforts, including national disaster relief. Previously, Dossman spent a decade as the state vice president of government affairs for AT&T.
Education: Morehouse College, Washington University School of Law (JD)
Hometown: Ville Platte, Louisiana
Notable achievements: Supported Georgia-Pacific’s leadership role in securing funding for the restoration of Ebenezer Baptist Church, past board chair of 100 Black Men of America
Few people know: I have a law degree.
Hobbies: Travel, golf
Favorite book: The Firm by John Grisham
George A. Dusenbury IV
State Director, Georgia and Alabama
The Trust for Public Land
As Georgia state director for the Trust for Public Land, George Dusenbury oversees the organization’s work on urban parks, green infrastructure, and the Chattahoochee River. TPL is partnering with the City of Atlanta to build the 16-acre Rodney Cook Sr. Park in Vine City, and working with the Atlanta Regional Commission, Cobb County, and the City of Atlanta to create a master plan for a 100-mile stretch of the Chattahoochee River from Buford Dam to Chattahoochee Bend State Park. In November, Dusenbury was elected to Decatur’s City Commission.
Education: Cornell University, Emory University School of Law (JD)
Previous positions: Commissioner of the Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation, executive director of Park Pride, legislative director and district director for Congressman John Lewis
Best advice received: Get in the way.
Inspiring person: Congressman John Lewis
Hidden talent: I enjoy freestyle rapping in front of my family (though only my wife seems to enjoy it).
President and CEO
Coxe Curry & Associates
David Eidson is president and CEO of Coxe Curry & Associates, a fundraising consulting firm that works with major local institutions including the Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Grady Health Foundation, Trees Atlanta, and the YMCA of Metro Atlanta. He joined the organization in 2012 after 27 years in the financial sector; previously Eidson was chairman and CEO of the SunTrust subsidiary RidgeWorth Capital Management, where he worked with nonprofit boards and finance committees to oversee the management of their organizations’ investable assets.
Education: Auburn University
Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama
Why I chose this work: The first 27 years of my professional career I worked in various parts of the SunTrust organization and I was introduced very early in my career to the nonprofit community. SunTrust encouraged me to be involved in leadership roles—on various boards and on committees of nonprofits. That exposure to those organizations created a desire to be more involved, and I decided I wanted to turn my avocation for the nonprofit world into my vocation.
Senior Vice President
Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
FFrank Fernandez joined the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta in 2020. Formerly with the Blank Foundation, he led the Westside Neighborhood Prosperity Fund, a program designed to contribute to the revitalization of Vine City, English Avenue, Castleberry Hill, and adjacent neighborhoods. He also supported the foundation’s efforts in global giving, health access, and community development. An expert on housing, transportation, and economic development, Fernandez served for eight years as executive director of Green Doors, a nonprofit group devoted to transforming lives and neighborhoods for people in need in the Austin, Texas, metro area. He has worked extensively to help create housing solutions across the income spectrum.
Education: Harvard University, University of Texas at Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs (MPA)
First job: Landscaper for my high school to pay for tuition
Hobbies: Reading, watching sports, hiking
Favorite travel destination: La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
Nancy Flake Johnson returned to Atlanta from Detroit in 2008 to become president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Atlanta and engage her passion for promoting economic development and equity by empowering African American youth, adults, and families. By building partnerships, Johnson increased the League’s impact on housing, education, business development, and employment in underrepresented communities. She started her career as an accountant and was the first woman to lead the Howard University Small Business Development Center.
Education: Howard University, DePaul University (MS)
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Notable achievement: Atlanta Business Chronicle Women Who Mean Business (2020)
Inspiring person: Congressman John Lewis for his courage, unwavering strength, and commitment to breaking down systems of oppression and institutional racism, fighting for justice and voting rights, and making life better for Black people in this country, and for his unbiased love for all people
Lisa Y. Gordon
President and CEO
Atlanta Habitat for Humanity
Shortly after joining Atlanta Habitat for Humanity in July 2015, Lisa Gordon set a new course for the nonprofit homebuilder to become a catalyst for holistic neighborhood revitalization. Atlanta Habitat is focused on increasing homeownership, investing in targeted neighborhoods, and building capacity to preserve quality affordable housing options in Atlanta. Previously Gordon was vice president and chief operating officer of the Atlanta BeltLine and a cabinet member in the administration of former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin.
Education: Georgetown University, Syracuse University (MPA), Nova Southeastern University (MAcc)
Notable achievements: YWCA of Greater Atlanta Academy of Women Achievers (2017), National Academy of Public Administration fellow (2016)
Best advice received: From Mayor Shirley Franklin: “Self-preservation is the first rule. If you don’t save yourself, you cannot help others.”
Few people know: I self-published a book on marriage and relationships.
F. Sheffield Hale
President and CEO
Atlanta History CenterF. Sheffield Hale became president and CEO of the Atlanta History Center in 2012. Previously he was chief counsel of the American Cancer Society and a partner at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, where he practiced corporate law. An Atlanta native, Hale is a trustee of the Partners for Sacred Places, the Buckhead Coalition, and the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, and trustee emeritus of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He is past chair of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, the Atlanta History Center, and the Judicial Nominating Commission of Georgia.
Education: University of Georgia, University of Virginia School of Law (JD)
Notable achievements: Buckhead Business Association Sam Massell Bullish on Buckhead Award (2015), Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation Mary Gregory Jewett Award for Lifetime Preservation Service (2014), State Bar of Georgia Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service (2001)
First job: Clerk at Brookwood Hardware
Best advice received: It’s the last 5 percent that counts.
Since 2013, Michael Halicki has served as the executive director of Park Pride, the Atlanta-based nonprofit that engages communities to activate the power of parks. Under his leadership, Park Pride works with government, philanthropic partners, and more than 150 Friends of the Park groups toward a vision of an Atlanta strengthened by and united through great parks, trails, and green spaces. His guidance in fundraising, public relations, advocacy, and program development has earned Park Pride national recognition, as well as four-star designation by Charity Navigator and GuideStar’s Platinum Seal of Transparency for several years running.
Education: Indiana University, Georgia State University (MPA)
Notable achievements: Graduate of the Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership (2013) and the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Regional Leadership Institute (2009)
Why I chose this work: I care deeply for our city and the role parks can play in strengthening neighborhoods and communities. Neighborhoods without parks aren’t neighborhoods—they are just housing.
First job: Newspaper delivery boy
Paul Russell Hardin
Robert W. Woodruff Foundation
Russ Hardin directs a broad range of charitable giving as president of the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, Lettie Pate Evans Foundation, and Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation. With combined assets of more than $13.08 billion at the end of 2019, the foundations primarily support organizations in metro Atlanta. They were created by Robert W. Woodruff, a philanthropist and former president of the Coca-Cola Co., and the family of Joseph B. Whitehead, one of the original Coca-Cola bottlers.
Education: University of Virginia, Duke University School of Law (JD)
Board memberships: Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., Genuine Parts Co., SunTrust Bank Atlanta Advisory Council, Commerce Club
Why I chose this work: Opportunity for impact
First job: Newspaper delivery boy
What I’d tell a recent graduate: Work at something you love.
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: SunTrust Park
Jen Hidinger-Kendrick cofounded Giving Kitchen with her late husband, Ryan Hidinger, to provide emergency assistance to food service workers though financial support and community resources. Today Hidinger-Kendrick advises the organization on brand awareness and community involvement while providing a personal account to both local and national audiences. As a Giving Kitchen spokesperson, the Indianapolis native has appeared on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine, and in 2017 the Atlanta Braves Foundation and Fox Sports South presented her with a Community Heroes award. In 2019 Giving Kitchen received the James Beard Foundation’s Humanitarian of the Year award.
Education: Indiana University
Toughest challenge: The death of my husband when I was just 31
Hobbies: Turning my house into a haunted house for Halloween
Favorite Georgia pro sports teams: Falcons and Braves
Bucket list: Planning a big extended family vacation to the Caribbean (2022 or after, due to Covid-19)
As president and CEO of the Atlanta BeltLine since 2019, Clyde A. Higgs leads the executive team in overseeing the design and construction of transit, trails, and parks, plus affordable housing, economic development, real estate, external affairs, and procurement. Higgs joined the BeltLine organization in 2015 as chief operating officer; previously he served as executive vice president of a collaborative, multibillion-dollar revitalization and economic development effort led by the state of North Carolina and real estate developer Castle & Cooke. He has 20 years’ experience in economic development, real estate, intellectual property, technology, strategic planning, design, real estate development, grant and donor funding, government relations, and urban innovation.
Education: University of South Alabama, East Carolina University (MPA)
First job: Shrimp boat laborer
Hidden talent: Ping-pong champion!
Notable achievement: Appointed by Texas Governor Rick Perry to the Texas Emerging Technology Venture Fund for early-stage companies working on innovations in the fields of biotechnology, healthcare, energy, and information technology.
Raphael Holloway is CEO of the Gateway Center, which provides services and stable housing for people experiencing homelessness. Holloway has more than 25 years of experience in the social services arena, specializing in the behavioral health, correction, homelessness, and public health sectors. Before joining the Gateway Center in 2016, he was chief operations officer for Families First and, prior to that, director of the HIV unit of the Georgia Department of Public Health. He serves on the advisory council for Agape Youth and Family Center and on the board of the Georgia Supportive Housing Association, and is a member of Leadership Atlanta’s class of 2020.
Education: Bowling Green State University (MA)
Hometown: Toledo, Ohio
Inspiring person: Muhammad Ali
Toughest challenge: Being temporarily homeless at 15
Favorite book: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Favorite song about Georgia: “Georgia on My Mind” by Ray Charles
Bucket list: Skydiving
Cheneé Joseph is the executive director of the Historic District Development Corporation, Atlanta’s oldest surviving community development corporation, which has spearheaded nearly four decades of urban revitalization work in Sweet Auburn. Previously Joseph served as a project consultant at Draper & Associates, where she managed budgets and schedules for various capital improvement and demolition projects totaling $17 million in the Atlanta Housing Authority portfolio. She was also AHA’s senior manager of neighborhood revitalization, planning and implementing neighborhood stabilization and development projects to meet the goals and strategies outlined in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Choice Neighborhoods program for Ashview Heights, Vine City, and the Atlanta University Center. Joseph is chair of the Atlanta BeltLine Affordable Housing Advisory Board.
Eduation: Georgia State University, Georgia Tech (MA)
Favorite travel destination: Havana, Cuba
Favorite Atlanta podcast: Archive Atlanta
As president of the Marcus Foundation, Jay Kaiman’s role is to facilitate the philanthropic vision of Bernie Marcus, cofounder of the Home Depot. The foundation focuses its giving on children, medical research, free enterprise, Israel, and Jewish causes. Kaiman joined the foundation in 2002. He moved to Atlanta in 1996 to become Southeast director of the Anti-Defamation League.
Education: University of Florida
Hometown: Pensacola, Florida
Notable achievement: Anti-Defamation League Milton A. Senn Award for Professional Excellence (1999)
Why I chose this work: Inspired by the opportunity to have impact on making a difference in people’s lives, fulfilling the entrepreneurial agenda set forth by Bernie Marcus. Serving in this capacity is an honor and true adventure—approaching problems with creative ideas and solutions.
Few people know: I collect hourglasses. Time is our most precious treasure.
Toughest challenge: Life balance
As executive director of the Kendeda Fund, Dena Kimball leads a philanthropic organization that seeks to empower communities to solve their problems, particularly by supporting underrepresented voices and leaders willing to challenge conventional thinking. She also oversees the fund’s Girls’ Rights program, which aims to empower girls worldwide. Kimball previously served as vice president of network support for Teach for All and vice president of alumni affairs and deputy vice president of admissions for Teach for America.
Education: Emory University, Harvard University Kennedy School of Government (MPP)
A global thought leader, orator, and peace advocate, Bernice A. King advances her parents’ legacy as CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Since taking the helm in 2012, she’s guided an expansion of the center’s Nonviolence365 education and training initiative, engaged young people around the country in interactive virtual talks, launched a series of Beloved Community conversations on difficult racial issues, and updated the King Center campus. In 2020 the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation gave King its Phoenix Award, which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to society.
Education: Spelman College, Emory University (MDiv, JD)
Notable achievements: Spoke in her mother’s stead at the United Nations at age 17, spearheaded the global event Let Freedom Ring and Call to Action to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, authored Hard Questions, Heart Answers
First job: Summer camp counselor
Best advice received: Don’t make a decision in anger.
Raymond B. King
President and CEO
In 2010, Raymond King became president and CEO of Zoo Atlanta, the city’s oldest cultural institution and one of its largest. During his tenure, King has grown attendance from 675,000 to 1 million annually, and led the institution in raising more than $63 million in philanthropic support to modernize the facilities—more than was raised cumulatively in the past 25 years. King previously spent 22 years with SunTrust Banks, most recently as senior vice president for community affairs in Atlanta, and has chaired and served on numerous boards.
Education: Georgia Tech
Notable achievements: United Way Chairman’s Award (2009), Woodruff Arts Center Charles R. Yates Award for Outstanding Service (2003)
The first woman president and CEO in the history of the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, Lauren Koontz leads the organization’s efforts to ensure that all people—especially children—experience an equal opportunity to fully reach their potential. She works to make the YMCA a best-in-class provider of education, wellness, and youth development programs designed to strengthen Atlanta communities. Koontz joined the organization in 2012 as its chief development officer and became executive vice president in 2016. Previously she served in leadership roles at Coxe Curry & Associates, Emory University School of Medicine, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Education: University of Georgia, Georgia State University Robinson College of Business (MBA)
Hometown: Saint Simons Island, Georgia
Notable achievement: 2016 recipient of the YMCA’s highest honor: the “Sully” Award, named for Thomas Sullivan, YMCA’s founder in the U.S. Koontz was one of Atlanta magazine’s Women Making a Mark in 2020.
Terence Lester is a minister, speaker, community activist, and the founder of Love Beyond Walls, a nonprofit focused on poverty awareness and community mobilization; among other things, the organization offers temporary shelter to people experiencing homelessness, a grocery program that supports hundreds of families, and clothes, laundry, handwashing, and grooming services to people in need. A native of Atlanta, Lester has been featured in USA Today and on Good Morning America, and he’s the author of a number of books, including I See You: How Love Opens Our Eyes to Invisible People.
Education: American InterContinental University, Atlanta Bible College, Liberty University (MA, EdM)
First job: A shoe store in Greenbriar Mall
Best advice recieved: Never be a public success and a private failure.
Favorite movie: Coming to America
Favorite Atlanta podcast: The Diversity Gap
Bucket list: Have a film made about my life!
Who’d play me in a biopic: Michael B. Jordan
Milton James Little Jr.
United Way of Greater Atlanta
Milton J. Little Jr. became the first African American president of United Way of Greater Atlanta in 2007. In that role, he’s helped raise more than half a billion dollars for local community needs and redirected the organization’s focus to increasing the well-being of the region’s children. Before joining United Way of Greater Atlanta, the largest United Way in the U.S., Little served as chief operating officer and interim president of the National Urban League. He serves on many boards and advisory groups, including the Southern Education Foundation and the J.W. Fanning Institute at the University of Georgia.
Education: Morehouse College, Columbia University (MA)
Hometown: Roosevelt, New York
First job: Busboy at Jones Beach State Park, Long Island, New York
Why I chose this work: To live a life of service in honor of my parents, who taught me the value of making a difference in the lives of others.
Few people know: I’ve studied Eagle Claw kung fu and the Israeli fighting style Krav Maga for many years and I meditate.
Rohit Malhotra is the founder and executive director of the Center for Civic Innovation, which seeks to eliminate inequality by empowering people to design public policy from the ground up. With a background in social entrepreneurship, digital communication, open data, and community organizing, Malhotra was an Ash Innovation Fellow in the Obama White House’s Office of Management and Budget, working on social impact bonds and pay for performance, and in 2015 was awarded the prestigious Echoing Green Global Fellowship. In 2020 Malhotra was named to the Emory Alumni Association’s annual class of 40 Under 40.
Education: Emory University, Harvard University Kennedy School of Government (MA)
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Why I chose this work: I chose to work at the intersection of public policy and finance because I believe that our city needs more effective solutions to address widening inequality in Atlanta. Inequality disproportionately impacts people who share skin color and a story with my family, and like my family, I love my city too much not to fight for it.
Best advice received: Call your mom.
The UPS Foundation
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer
United Parcel Service
As president of the UPS Foundation and UPS’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, Ed Martinez is responsible for the operations and management of UPS’s global philanthropic, employee engagement, corporate relations, and diversity and inclusion programs. Martinez also represents UPS on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Humanitarian Response and serves as UPS executive liaison to the Council of Independent Colleges. He is a member of the corporate advisory board of UnidosUS, corporate liaison to the Points of Light’s Corporate Service Council, and a member of the board of directors of the International Association for Volunteer Effort and chair of its Global Corporate Volunteer Council. He is also cochair of the National Academy of Sciences Resilient America program. Martinez is a member of the American Bar Association, Florida Bar, and Hispanic National Bar Association.
Education: University of Miami, Nova Southeastern University (JD)
Mary Pat Matheson
President and CEO
Atlanta Botanical Garden
Its leader since 2002, Mary Pat Matheson has built the membership of the Atlanta Botanical Garden to more than 40,000. She spearheaded a $55 million capital campaign, completed in 2012, that doubled the garden to 30 acres and added a visitor center, parking facility, canopy walk, and edible garden. A more recent $50 million campaign provided other enhancements, including a new restaurant and renovated children’s garden. Matheson was also responsible for the development of a 185-acre satellite garden in Gainesville.
Education: University of Utah (EMPA)
Why I chose this work: The job really chose me when a colleague of my husband’s called one day to say there was a position for a horticulturist at a new botanical garden. I got the job and was hooked forever.
Notable achievements: American Horticultural Society Professional of the Year (2005), Public Broadcasting Atlanta Lexus Leader of the Arts. Past president of the American Public Gardens Association. Responsible for introducing Atlanta to the work of internationally acclaimed artists such as Dale Chihuly, Henry Moore, and Niki de Saint Phalle through garden exhibitions.
Carol R. Naughton
Purpose Built Communities
Carol Naughton is president of Purpose Built Communities, a nonprofit dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty in urban neighborhoods nationwide. She previously served as executive director of the East Lake Foundation and general counsel for the Atlanta Housing Authority, where she played an instrumental role in revitalizing traditional public housing communities into economically viable, self-sustaining, mixed-income communities. Naughton was a key member of the leadership team that transformed AHA into a national leader in community development.
Education: Colgate University, Emory University School of Law (JD)
First job: Camp counselor at Tawasentha Park in New York
Best advice received: When someone offers to help, let them.
Favorite book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Bucket list: Alaska
President and CEO
Michelle Nunn joined CARE USA as president and CEO in 2015, introducing an ambitious strategy to reach 200 million people by 2020. Nunn has devoted her career to public service, cofounding the volunteer-mobilization organization Hands On Atlanta, growing it into a national network, and overseeing its merger with the Points of Light Foundation. She served as CEO of the resultant organization, Points of Light—the world’s largest dedicated to volunteer service—from 2007 to 2013.
Education: University of Virginia, Harvard University (MPA)
First job: Park ranger. I operated the elevator of the Washington Monument one summer!
Toughest challenge: Entering into the political arena in my run for U.S. Senate in 2014 was the hardest thing I have ever done. And it was awfully tough to lose. Fortunately, I had family and friends to lift me up and put things in perspective.
Hidden talent: I am still pretty good at basketball and can sometimes beat my teenager in H-O-R-S-E!
Keith T. Parker
President and CEO
Goodwill of North Georgia
Keith T. Parker is president and CEO of Goodwill of North Georgia, one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the Southeast. It spans a 45-county territory, 67 stores, 53 attended donation centers, and 13 career centers. Goodwill employs over 3,000 team members, each of whom plays a direct or supporting role in the organization’s donated goods retail operations and its career services. Store revenue enables Goodwill to connect tens of thousands of North Georgians to jobs every year. Before joining Goodwill in 2017, Parker served as CEO of transit systems in several cities, including San Antonio, Charlotte, and, most recently, Atlanta.
Education: Virginia Commonwealth University (MURP), University of Richmond (MBA)
Notable achievements: Member of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council since 2016, American Public Transportation Association Outstanding Public Transportation Manager (2015), Texas CEO of the Year (2011 and 2012)
Why I chose this work: I love the purity of Goodwill’s mission to put people to work. Nothing changes a person’s life more than finding sustainable employment.
Gigi Pedraza is the founding executive director of the Latino Community Fund in Georgia, a grantmaking public charity dedicated to catalyzing investment and promoting collaborative work in the Latinx/Hispanic community. LCF Georgia amplifies the diverse voices within the community through advocacy, research, and leadership development, builds capacity in community-based organizations, and directly invests in families and Latinx-led member organizations through scholarships and grants. Playing an active role in Georgia’s Latinx community, Pedraza is a social entrepreneur and experienced professional in the areas of general management, strategy, operations, marketing, and development.
Education: College of Tourism and Hospitality, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (MA)
Hometown: Lima, Peru
Notable achievements: Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame (2020), National Football League Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award (2018)
First job: I made clay figurines with my mom to make money in Peru when I was 12-14 years old.
As president, Andrea Pinabell is responsible for the strategy, management, and growth of the Southface Institute, a nonprofit leader in promoting an equitable and healthy built environment for all through scalable resource efficiency and clean-energy solutions for homes, workplaces, and communities across the U.S. Before joining Southface in 2017 she served as a vice president of global citizenship at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. With 25 years of experience in sustainable business and operations, Pinabell has also worked in consulting and for the Home Depot Foundation as director of its Sustainable Cities Institute and program manager of sustainable community development.
Education: Iowa State University
Board memberships: 2030 Districts, Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership, Center for Responsible Travel
As CEO of the American Red Cross in Georgia, Jennifer Pipa oversees the execution of the humanitarian organization’s mission across the state. In fiscal year 2019, under Pipa’s leadership, the Georgia Red Cross helped 14,000 people following home fires and other disasters, installed more than 11,000 free smoke alarms, and collected more than 200,000 units of blood. Pipa began her Red Cross career in 2004 as a volunteer; she became a paid staffer shortly after leading a service center that aided Hurricane Katrina evacuees in Raleigh. Before coming to Georgia in 2019, Pipa was regional executive of the Red Cross of Central Florida.
Education: North Carolina State University
Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina
Notable achievements: Raising an incredibly smart and kind daughter, Madison. Testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee in 2018.
First job: Waitress at Outback Steakhouse
Toughest challenge: Supporting a Red Cross shelter with no water, no power, and no communications
Jonathan T.M. Reckford
Habitat for Humanity International
Under the leadership of CEO Jonathan T.M. Reckford, Habitat for Humanity International has greatly expanded its impact, serving 125,000 individuals annually when he arrived in 2005 and more than 7 million in 2019. Before coming to Habitat, Reckford was executive pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church near Minneapolis. He spent much of his earlier career in executive and managerial positions at for-profit companies including Goldman Sachs, Marriott, Walt Disney, and Best Buy.
Education: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Stanford Graduate School of Business (MBA)
Notable achievements: Member of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the World Economic Forum’s Urban Steering Committee; author of the book Creating a Habitat for Humanity: No Hands but Yours
Why I chose this work: I believe that a safe, decent, affordable home is the foundation for a better life for a family.
First job: Delivering the Chapel Hill newspaper beginning in fifth grade
James H. Reese
President and CEO
Atlanta Mission president and CEO James Reese considers it a privilege to see lives altered every day, and witness people coming off the streets, asking for help, and finding their way out of homelessness and into a new life. Prior to Atlanta Mission, he was CEO of Randstad North America, chief operating officer of the Honey Baked Ham Co. and CCCi, and division vice president of Frito-Lay. He also managed General Foods’ Maxwell House Coffee plant and cofounded First Coast Manufacturing Association, which today includes more than 300 Florida manufacturers. Reese is a board member of the Chick-fil-A Foundation and D&W Fine Pack, and past chair of Citygate Network.
Education: Western Michigan University
Notable achievements: Rebranding of 70-year-old organization to Atlanta Mission, capital expansion at Atlanta Mission’s facility (Potter’s House), acquisition of Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children, execution of a new client-focused services model
First job: Collection Agency
Eric Robbins came to the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta in 2016 with a vision to increase its relevance in the community and share its inspirational story. For the previous 12 years he led Camp Twin Lakes, a network of camps for children with serious illnesses and other life challenges. Since joining the federation, Robbins’s transformational mindset has enabled the organization to articulate a modern vision of its role, which has led to a growth in overall philanthropic giving, new program and partnership opportunities, and a renewed spirit of collective community among the organizations that serve Jewish Atlanta.
Education: Georgia State University, Yeshiva University (MSW)
Notable achievements: Georgia State University Alumni of the Year (2017), Atlanta Business Chronicle Who’s Who in Nonprofits (2014, 2015, 2016), Leadership Atlanta class of 2009
Toughest challenge: Cancer
Few people know: I was in a Subaru commercial.
In January 2019, Jill Savitt was named CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. A longtime human rights advocate with special expertise in genocide prevention, she was formerly acting director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. She also curated the exhibit on global human rights at the CCHR, while consulting with other organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, Freedom House, and Physicians for Human Rights. In 2007, Savitt founded and directed Dream for Darfur, which successfully pressed the Chinese government to change its policies on Sudan in the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
First job: Radio reporter
Inspiring person: Eleanor Roosevelt
Lesson learned: Change is the only constant.
Laura Turner Seydel
Captain Planet Foundation
Laura Turner Seydel, an environmental advocate and eco-living expert, is chairperson of the Captain Planet Foundation, which seeks to inspire and empower generations of environmentally aware children. She cofounded and is board chair of Mothers and Others for Clean Air and cofounded Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. Laura serves on the boards of the Turner Foundation, United Nations Foundation, Nuclear Threat Initiative, Waterkeeper Alliance, League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, and Children & Nature Network.
Education: Oglethorpe University
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Why I chose this work: I believe it is our moral responsibility to protect the natural systems that support all life—our water, air, biodiversity, and land. We must create a sustainable and healthy future for our children and future generations.
Hobbies: Horseback riding, travel
Favorite books: Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken, and Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
As Mailchimp’s director of corporate citizenship, Lain Shakespeare leads a program that now invests $2 million a year in the Atlanta community. Another of Shakespeare’s initiatives, Mailchimp Community College, is a partnership with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta that connects employees with civic leaders with the aim of fostering greater equity. A native of Decatur, Shakespeare was formerly executive director of the Wren’s Nest, dedicated to the legacy of his great-great-great-grandfather, the folklorist Joel Chandler Harris.
Hometown: Kenyon College
First job: Summer-league swim coach at Cherokee Town Club
Favorite book: Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
Favorite travel destination: Taking Amtrak to New Orleans
Who’d play me in a biopic: Robert Redford 40 years ago, or present-day Tilda Swinton
Helen Smith Price is vice president of global community affairs for the Coca-Cola Co. and president of the Coca-Cola Foundation, which has awarded more than $1 billion in grants to support sustainable community initiatives around the world since its inception in 1984. Price was previously the foundation’s executive director; she came to the Coca-Cola Co. in 1993 as corporate external affairs director. She’s licensed as a certified public accountant in Georgia.
Education: Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University (MBA)
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
A former Chicago Cubs outfielder, C.J. Stewart founded the nonprofit organization LEAD—which stands for Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct—with his wife, Kelli, to empower an at-risk generation to lead and transform their city. For young men who have completed LEAD’s Ambassador program, 100 percent have graduated from high school and 93 percent have enrolled in college. As founder and CEO of the player development firm Diamond Directors, Stewart has worked with clients including Jason Heyward (Chicago Cubs), Andruw Jones (former Atlanta Brave), and Kyle Lewis (Seattle Mariners).
Why I chose this work: Baseball can provide valuable life lessons and access to educational and civic engagement opportunities. Kelli and I committed our lives in 2007 to using baseball as a vehicle to help Black boys in the inner city of Atlanta overcome three curveballs that threaten their success: crime, poverty, and racism.
First job: Cutting grass in my neighborhood in Northwest Atlanta
Best advice recieved: Greatness can’t be imposed. It has to come from within. But it does live within all of us.
Kelli Stewart is the chief operating officer of the nonprofit organization LEAD, which she cofounded with her husband, C.J. Standing for Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct, LEAD aims to create positive outcomes for at-risk youth through a combination of athletics, education, and service. Born in Atlanta and raised in rural Oglethorpe County, Stewart also oversees the baseball player development firm Diamond Directors with her husband. LEAD provides inner-city boys with the same opportunities to excel in life through baseball as the Stewarts’ clients receive through Diamond Directors.
Education: Kennesaw State University Coles College of Business
Why I chose this work: I had to navigate a lot of trauma as a child. Living with addiction in my household, surviving abuse, etc., got me acquainted with oppressive systems at an early age. Although I didn’t understand what they were at the time, as I’ve grown in knowledge I understand more about systemic racism and how it keeps Black communities in despair and disarray. I’ve always wanted to be a part of dismantling it.
As president and CEO of MAP International since 2014, Steve Stirling helps provide life-saving medicine to 14 million people around the world each year. His passion is personal: As an infant in South Korea, he contracted polio, which could have been prevented by a vaccine. He previously worked for pharmaceutical firms including Johnson & Johnson and American Home Products, and for nonprofits World Vision, Heifer International, and ChildFund International. Stirling’s autobiography, The Crutch of Success: From Polio to Purpose, Bringing Health & Hope to the World, was published in 2019.
Education: Cornell University, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management (MBA)
Why I chose this work: I transitioned from the corporate world to nonprofits in order to be a voice for voiceless children who need help in life.
Best advice received: All things are possible.
Toughest challenge: Overcoming obstacles related to having polio
Few people know: I took a dog-mushing class at the University of Alaska.
As a fund adviser at the Kendeda Fund, Tené Traylor oversees the organization’s Atlanta portfolio, leading major investments that drive equitable access to high-quality K-12 education and economic justice, with an emphasis on long-term affordability, community wealth building, and accessible quality transit. She also manages a national portfolio dedicated to restoring and reclaiming dignity for formerly incarcerated people. Before joining Kendeda in 2016, Traylor was a senior program officer for the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, leading its community development and neighborhood transformation grantmaking for nearly a decade. She’s the cofounder and current board chair of the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative.
Education: Georgia State University, University of Georgia (MPA)
Best advice recieved: My mother reminds me often to rest. She says, “Rest your body before your body rest you.”
Few people know: I am a Marvel and DC Comics fan!
Favorite movie: Imitation of Life
A Georgia native who grew up fishing and boating on the Chattahoochee River, Jason Ulseth developed an early love for the waterway and the natural environment. In 2015 he took on the role of riverkeeper for the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper organization, serving as spokesperson and lead advocate for river protection. Previously he was CRK’s technical programs director. Ulseth also serves as the group’s patrol boat captain and is licensed as a merchant marine officer by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Education: University of Georgia
Hidden talent: I can juggle swords.
What I’d tell a recent graduate: Public speaking is not as hard as you think it is.
Favorite Atlanta place to visit: Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
Bucket list: Catching a record brown trout
DePriest Waddy is CEO of Families First, a 130-year-old organization that seeks to build resilience in underserved communities. Under Waddy’s leadership, Families First is improving outcomes for more than 17,000 individuals and families annually by providing them with mental health support, coaching, foster care, adoption, early education, parenting skills, and supportive housing. A longtime executive with experience across a range of nonprofits, Waddy joined Families First in 2019 after serving as executive director of the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity, one of the largest community action agencies in Alabama.
Education: University of Alabama, Kennesaw State University (MBA)
Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama
Notable achievements: Leadership Atlanta class of 2021, Leadership Birmingham class of 2019, Leadership Gwinnett class of 2016
First job: Dishwasher in high school
Best advice recieved: Use the good silver and drink Champagne for no reason.
Favorite movie: The Long Kiss Goodnight
Peter S. Berg
Peter Berg became senior rabbi of the Temple, a Reform synagogue in Atlanta, in 2008—the fifth such leader since 1895. An advocate for social change, he is committed to teaching, building community, and addressing the needs of his congregants. Berg is president of the Atlanta Rabbinical Association and serves as a chaplain for the Georgia State Patrol. He serves on numerous boards and works with advocacy groups on issues including civil rights, the death penalty, gun safety, and hate crimes.
Education: George Washington University, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (MA and rabbinic ordination)
Hometown: Ocean Township, New Jersey
First job: Cashier at a thrift store
Favorite travel destination: Jerusalem
Who’d play me in a biopic: Actor and filmmaker Peter Berg
Olu Brown is lead pastor of Impact Church, launched in 2007. The Lufkin, Texas, native has grown the church from a core founding group of 25 to an average weekly attendance of 1,800. He also led the congregation to purchase and develop a 76,000-square-foot warehouse on a 10-acre site in East Point, where the church moved in 2014. Brown is the author of 4D Impact: Smash Barriers Like a Smart Church and, with other Impact leaders, Zero to 80: Innovative Ideas for Planting and Accelerating Church Growth.
Education: Jarvis Christian College, Gammon Theological Seminary (MDiv)
Notable achievement: In 2016, Impact was named one of the fastest-growing UMC churches in the country.
First job: Landscaping as a teenager with my brother
inspiring person: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Favorite movie: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Favorite travel destination: Africa
Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church
A former academic who taught electrical engineering and computer science at institutions including Tuskegee University and Morehouse College, John Foster brought technological advances like live video and audio streaming to Big Bethel AME Church, where he serves as senior pastor. He’s also focused on enhancing youth and young-adult ministries. Foster previously served as pastor for AME churches in Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas, and has held administrative positions including vice provost, dean, and department head at various academic institutions.
Education: Tuskegee University, Interdenominational Theological Center (MDiv), Stanford University (MS, PhD)
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Passion City Church
Louie Giglio is pastor of Passion City Church and the original visionary of the Passion movement, which exists “to call a generation to leverage their lives for the fame of Jesus.” Since 1997, Passion has gathered college-aged young people in events across the U.S. and around the world. Passion 2020 will start the new year in Mercedes-Benz Stadium with more than 60,000 college students. Giglio is the bestselling author of Not Forsaken, Goliath Must Fall, Indescribable: 100 Devotions about God & Science, The Comeback, The Air I Breathe, and I Am Not but I Know I Am.
Education: Georgia State University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv)
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
In 2014 Mike Griffin became the public affairs representative for the Georgia Baptist Convention, representing 1.4 million Georgia Baptists at the Capitol and speaking on religious issues around the state. In April 2010, an AJC article on “Georgia Influencers” ranked Griffin at 11th among Republicans with the most influence at the Capitol. A Southern Baptist pastor for 35 years, Griffin is also a former president of the board of Ten Commandments Georgia and a past vice president of Georgia Right to Life, where he also served as a lobbyist and state field director. He is the former senior pastor at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell.
Education: Baptist College of Florida
Why I chose this work: The very unique work of being a pastor and a lobbyist goes back to when God called me to preach when I was 16. I preached my first sermon at Dawson Street Baptist Church in Thomasville, Georgia, in 1977.
First job: Working in sheet metal for the purpose of installing heating and air-conditioning duct work
Best advice received: From my father: Never leave a job undone. Always complete your work. Always do your best.
Peachtree Presbyterian Church
The Rev. Dr. Richard Kannwischer has served as senior pastor of Peachtree Presbyterian Church since January 2017. Before he arrived at Peachtree, Richard was lead pastor at Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, California, for seven years. He has served as a trustee of all undergraduate and graduate schools he attended, and currently serves on the board of the Fox Theatre.
Education: Trinity University, Princeton Theological Seminary (MDiv), Fuller Theological Seminary (DMin)
Hometown: Waco, Texas
Why I chose this work: To help reveal the delight and impact of a life with God
Best advice received: From former professor Dallas Willard: “God’s primary aim is not getting us into heaven as much as getting heaven into us.”
North Point Ministries
Andy Stanley cofounded the nondenominational North Point Community Church in Alpharetta in 1995 with a vision of creating churches that “unchurched people love to attend.” It’s now the second-largest church in the nation. North Point Ministries encompasses six churches in the metro Atlanta area and a global network of more than 70 churches. Stanley’s online messages and sermons are accessed over a million times a month, and he’s the author of more than 20 books.
Education: Georgia State University, Dallas Theological Seminary (MA)
Notable achievement: Named one of the 12 “most effective preachers in the English-speaking world” in a national survey by the George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University
The Reverend Raphael G. Warnock became senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual home of Martin Luther King Jr., in 2005. At age 35, he was the youngest person ever to assume the position at the historic congregation, which was founded in 1886. His outreach and activism have addressed such issues as voting rights, poverty, access to affordable healthcare, HIV/AIDS, and disparities in the criminal justice system. A sought-after preacher and scholar, Warnock is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and various other academic, civic, and social organizations.
Education: Morehouse College, Union Theological Seminary (MDiv, MPhil, PhD)
Notable achievements: Elected to the U.S. Senate in 2021. Delivered the closing prayer at the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service and the sermon for the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast in 2016; author of The Divided Mind of the Black Church: Theology, Piety, and Public Witness
Robert C. Wright is the 10th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, which encompasses 116 worshipping communities in North and Middle Georgia. He has been a vocal opponent of the death penalty and an advocate for Medicaid expansion, and he addressed the Georgia legislature on gun control. Wright helped establish the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing. Before his election as bishop in 2012, he served as rector of Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta.
Education: Howard University, Virginia Theological Seminary (MDiv)
Lesson learned: The best evidence of strength is the combination of perseverance wrapped in genuine kindness.
Hidden talent: I am a certified aircraft mechanic with an FAA license.
Hobbies: Rebuilding old cars
Favorite book: The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
What I’d tell a recent graduate: Reach out! Ask questions! Relax and stay positive.
Bucket list: A trip to Ethiopia
Leading the Way
In 1988, Michael Youssef created Leading the Way ministry “for people living in spiritual darkness to discover the light of Christ.” What began as a small, Atlanta-based radio ministry now transmits across the globe in 25 languages on television as well as the radio. Youssef also founded the evangelical congregation Church of the Apostles in 1987 with fewer than 40 adult members; today it has a congregation of 3,000. He is the author of more than 30 books.
Education: Moore Theological College, Fuller Theological Seminary (ThM), Emory University (PhD)
Originally an English teacher, Aaron launched her TV career in 1968 as a cohost for WSB’s Today in Georgia, which made her the region’s first African American woman to cohost a daily, hourlong talk show. She also held many leadership positions with the Atlanta branch of the United Negro College Fund, helping launch the Mayor’s Masked Ball. After retiring in 1994, she and her husband, baseball icon Hank Aaron, started the Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream Foundation to help low-income children pursue their educations.
Bethea was the founding director and riverkeeper of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper for two decades—helping downstream communities sue the City of Atlanta and forcing it to clean up the river. She has served on the national boards of WaterkeeperAlliance and River Network, the Georgia Board of Natural Resources, and EarthShare of Georgia.
Bolling founded the Atlanta Community Food Bank in 1979 and directed the organization until 2015. During his tenure, the Food Bank distributed more than half a billion pounds of groceries across 29 Georgia counties. As a charter member of Feeding America, the national network of food banks, he also helped launch food banks across the country.
The 39th president of the United States, Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. A longtime supporter of Habitat for Humanity, he and his wife, Rosalynn, founded the Carter Center in 1982 to promote human rights and ease suffering around the world. He is the author of more than 30 books.
Carter is a longtime advocate for mental health, caregiving, early childhood immunization, human rights, and conflict resolution. A cofounder of the Carter Center with her husband, former president Jimmy Carter, she created and leads the Center’s Mental Health Task Force. She also heads up the board of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving at her alma mater, Georgia Southwestern State University, in Americus, Georgia.
Ann Q. Curry
Curry purchased Coxe Curry & Associates, a fundraising consulting firm, from prior owner Frankie Coxe in 1993, and helmed it until 2015. She has also held leadership positions with the League of Women Voters, the board of Research Atlanta, and Atlanta-Fulton Public Library. Still actively advising many clients, her major campaigns have included the $325 million Greater Grady campaign for the Grady Health Foundation, Spelman College’s $150 million campaign, and the Piedmont Park Conservancy’s $41.2 million expansion.
Plemon T. El-Amin
Plemon El-Amin became imam (now emeritus) of Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam in 1985, growing its membership from 200 to more than 2,000; it’s now one of the largest and most progressive mosques in the country. A leader in Atlanta’s interfaith community and a close aide to the late W. Deen Mohammed, El-Amin is former director of Sister Clara Mohammed Elementary School and W. Deen Mohammed High School. He converted from Christianity to Islam in the wake of the Vietnam War.
A cofounder of the Home Depot, Marcus retired in 2002 and has devoted himself to many philanthropic causes. He founded the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Israel, as well as the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta. In 2002 Marcus gave $3.9 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create an emergency anthrax response center. He also spearheaded the Georgia Aquarium.
Charles H. “Pete” McTier
For many decades, McTier led the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation and several other Atlanta foundations funded by the corporate and bottling arms of Coca-Cola. He played a role in the creation of Centennial Olympic Park and the Chattahoochee River Greenway, as well as supporting the Woodruff Arts Center, Central Atlanta Progress, Emory University, and more.
Ingrid Saunders Jones
A past national chair of the National Council of Negro Women, Jones was formerly a senior vice president of the Coca-Cola Co. and directed many of the company’s philanthropic efforts, including overseeing contributions of more than $460 million for community initiatives.