Growing up in Chicago at an all-Black, all-girls Catholic school, Charmaine Ward-Millner was encouraged to contribute to the community every day. “I was always taught that there’s something bigger than you and you should always give back,” she says. These days, Ward-Millner is the vice president of marketing, communications, and community relations for Kaiser Permanente of Georgia. She leads the company’s Community Health Program, where she oversees a nearly $65 million community benefit portfolio addressing homelessness, economic opportunities, mental health, maternal health, and more.
Her service to the Atlanta community is widespread. Ward-Millner is the new chair of the Urban League of Greater Atlanta and secretary for the National Black MBA Association board. She is a member of the Board of Trustees for Clark Atlanta University (her alma mater) and also serves on the boards of Operation HOPE, Latino Community Fund, Veritas School of Social Sciences, and Atlanta Technical College Foundation.
Ward-Millner’s many years living in the Summerhill-Grant Park neighborhood have given her an insider’s view into Atlanta’s historic communities, but she and her husband, Keith Millner, also like to travel to learn about different ways of life. “I have a natural curiosity about other cultures, and when you travel internationally, it can’t help but make you a better person because it encourages you to step outside your comfort zone,” she says. “I like having those ‘aha’ moments where I am encouraged to explore perspectives other than my own.”
Although she’s known for innovative programs aimed at corporate philanthropy and diversity, Ward-Millner is a big believer in starting with the basic concepts of being helpful and kind. “I wake up every day wondering how I can make a difference,” she says. The voicemail on her phone has become a signature motto, a motivating message for anyone calling her, with its uplifting words: “Do something nice for someone today.”