Atlanta to join the cool kids, new “Chief of Service” on the way

23Jul10

Big news for the service community of Atlanta this week: the czar is coming!

Monday, AJC.com reported about Mayor Reed’s announcement of a new post in his administration: a “Chief of Service” to oversee the city’s philanthropic engagement and to encourage our fellow Atlantans to get involved in our community.  Apparently, last month Atlanta was among 10 cities awarded a $200,000 Cities of Service Leadership Grant from the Rockefeller Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Who knew??

Side note to local media: this is the kind of news many of us would love to get peppered into your newscasts every now and then. Squeeze it in between stories about fires, murders, the Gulf Oil disaster, Lindsay Lohan, and gubernatorial mudslinging, won’t ya?

This is FANTASTIC news for Atlanta because we could definitely use the boost to get people off the couch (so to speak) and into the community. Our volunteer engagement numbers in Atlanta (and for the state of Georgia overall) are, as my dad would say, “fair-to-middlin”. Atlanta currently ranks 24th among 51 major cities in the country in terms of the percentage of residents who volunteer, according to VolunteeringInAmerica.gov‘s latest data. As someone who both enjoys putting together volunteer projects and DoinGood in order to meet new people, I can’t help but to be disappointed that service to the community isn’t more of a bigger ‘thing to do’ here. After all, aside from the obvious warm fuzzies and the help it gives to those people and programs in need, service can also be good for your health. Considering we also rank mid-pack on those America’s Healthiest Cities lists that seem to come out about zillion times a year from various sources, we could use the additional boost in that arena as well. But it’s been great to see the rise of events like the do.justice event, the popularity of HandsOn Atlanta’s Teamworks program, and to see the way people came together to help out Haiti after the earthquake and Nashville after their flooding…there’s hope for us yet, ATL!

This new CSO will definitely have a bit of a challenge on his or her hands. Long commutes, misconceptions/fear about community service, and economic factors such as unemployment and foreclosure are just some of the challenges people cite as reasons why they’re not more involved.  For what it’s worth, I think we’re a pretty generous city but could always improve. My biggest hope in this announcement is that it will breathe a little extra fresh air and perspective into the concept of service here in Atlanta. We’re the home of some major charitable powerhouses and headquarters for some major players in the corporate world….but there are also so many smaller organizations (businesses and non-profits) that are capable of DoinGood just as well. Hopefully the City of Atlanta will be more strategic in helping these entities help each other and in encouraging the rest of us to help out in our respective ‘hoods as a show of pride. Atlanta really is a great place to live. Hopefully this new Chief Service Officer will help make it an even better place to give back.

Do you think Mayor Reed’s new hire will have an impact to the community of service in Atlanta? What are some of the changes you think need to happen to foster more of a spirit of giving in Atlanta?

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