Ge­or­gian busi­ness lead­ers have main­tained the state’s his­tor­i­cal com­mit­ment to phi­lan­thropy & char­i­ta­ble giv­ing es­tab­lished upon its found­ing


When the English prison re­former and hu­man­i­tar­ian James Oglethorpe founded the colony of Ge­or­gia in 1732, char­ity was one of his ma­jor mo­ti­va­tions. The first set­tlers con­sisted of for­mer de­tainees of English debtors’ pris­ons who were be­ing given a new chance in a new world, as well as re­li­gious refugees from across Europe, in­clud­ing both Protes­tants and Jews. In those early years, slav­ery was pro­hib­ited, as were large land­hold­ings: Oglethorpe’s dream was of an eq­ui­table, egal­i­tar­ian so­ci­ety based above all on fam­ily farm­ing.

While a lot has changed in Ge­or­gia in the nearly three cen­turies since then, to this day the state is char­ac­ter­ized by an abid­ing cul­ture of phi­lan­thropy and char­ity. Ca­sual vis­i­tors are of­ten sur­prised by the ex­tent to which some of the lead­ing in­sti­tu­tions of At­lanta and other cities have been shaped by phi­lan­thropists, rang­ing from uni­ver­si­ties to arts venues to hospi­tals.

In to­day’s Ge­or­gia, pri­vate donors are help­ing to make sure that noone misses out or gets left be­hind in the con­tin­u­ing eco­nomic boom. In the his­toric West­side District around the new Mercedes-benz Sta­dium, the Arthur M. Blank Fam­ily Foun­da­tion (AMBFF), es­tab­lished in 1995 by Home De­pot co-founder Arthur Blank, is work­ing to im­prove in­fra­struc­ture and leisure op­tions, train res­i­dents for job op­por­tu­ni­ties, and help pro­tect lo­cals from the im­pact of ris­ing prop­erty taxes.

“A pri­or­ity for our foun­da­tion is mak­ing sure that the peo­ple who have in­vested their lives for gen­er­a­tions in the West­side, and who want to stay there, will still be able to,” says AMBFF Pres­i­dent and Trustee Penny Mcphee.

Some of the city’s largest cor­po­ra­tions are also sup­port­ing com­mu­ni­ties in the fast-chang­ing district. “Ac­cess to fi­nan­cial ser­vices is a very im­por­tant part of growth in the West­side, and that’s a big part of our pur­pose,” says Allison Dukes, Chair­man and CEO of the At­lanta Di­vi­sion of Sun­trust Banks, one of the state’s lead­ing fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions and the first to open a re­tail branch in the West­side. “Our pur­pose is to light the way to fi­nan­cial well­be­ing.”

Phi­lan­thropy thrives across the Ge­or­gian busi­ness com­mu­nity. In the wake of Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina in 2005, a team of 10 em­ploy­ees from South­wire, the coun­try’s lead­ing man­u­fac­turer of wires and ca­bles for elec­tric­ity, trav­eled to Mis­sis­sippi to as­sist with a Christ­mas event planned for vic­tims. That visit marked the launch of the com­pany’s Project GIFT® (Giv­ing In­spi­ra­tion for To­mor­row), an ini­tia­tive that has grown rapidly in re­cent years. In 2017, Project GIFT® vol­un­teers have handed out 23,000 bags of sup­plies to school stu­dents. “To­day we have 900 vol­un­teers for Project GIFT® from our com­pany of 7,500 em­ploy­ees,” says Rich Stinson, South­wire’s Pres­i­dent and CEO.

At the same time, this year South­wire is cel­e­brat­ing the 10th an­niver­sary of its 12 for Life ini­tia­tive, which pro­vides high school stu­dents with the op­por­tu­nity to re­ceive men­tor­ing and earn wages in a man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity, in­spir­ing them to com­plete 12 years of school­ing. “It is very en­cour­ag­ing to see at-risk stu­dents get­ting into ei­ther a tech­ni­cal school, a four-year school, the work­force or the mil­i­tary,” Stinson says.

Mean­while lead­ing lo­cal com­pa­nies such as Delta Air Lines are do­nat­ing 1% of its an­nual net in­come to char­ity which is al­most $40 mil­lion, show­ing that the motto of Oglethorpe’s orig­i­nal group of Trus­tees of Ge­or­gia is just as rel­e­vant in the state as ever —“not for our­selves, but for oth­ers.”

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