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The Board Chairs Speak

To get a sense for what drives them to put so much time, energy, and passion into their roles, we put this question to the board leaders at some of our member nonprofits: What’s been the most valuable part of your experience serving as a board chair, for the organization and for you?

Ed Shartar

Managing Director, Diversified Search
Board Chair, Georgia Center for Nonprofits

“From serving on the board, I receive the satisfaction of helping others. John F. Kennedy, borrowing from the New Testament, said ‘to whom much is given, much is expected.’ I feel very fortunate to be living in this country and to have been afforded all the opportunities that I have. It could have been different and I could be the person needing help; therefore, it is important for me to give back. Applying what I have learned over the last 30 years about leading businesses and people through my work with the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, I feel I am able to touch hundreds of organizations, and through them touch hundreds of thousands of individuals, in ways that can help make their lives better.”


John Harbin

Legal Secretary, King & Spalding
Board Chair, Voices for Georgia’s Children

“[As a board chair,] I believe I have helped demonstrate how one can use his or her relationships to educate potential donors and influencers about the value of our work, and to increase our credibility and our access to political decision makers. The most significant benefit to me has been personal—learning about how significant the issues that Voices addresses are, not only to children but to all of us, and, more importantly, how much impact one individual and one group can have by focusing relentlessly on the solutions to these issues.”


Jaimie Hardin

Founder, Hardin and Associates Consulting
Board Chair, Moving in the Spirit

“I believe the most valuable contribution I have made to Moving in the Spirit has been to lead and support our staff and board in developing a long-term strategic plan for the organization, and in identifying our strategic priorities. From these efforts, we have been able to focus on organizational management and board governance; stabilizing and growing funding; maximizing technology; improving programming and increasing the number of students served; developing marketing and communications plans; and planning for future facilities growth.

“I am inspired every day by the work done by our dedicated and talented co-founder and Executive Director, Dana Lupton, and our amazing faculty, staff and board. Our students also inspire me, in the way that they deal with the challenges in their lives, and continue to thrive and be positive. It is enormously gratifying to see the impact that Moving in the Spirit has on these young people. I can't help but feel proud when I see our students growing into confident, responsible, motivated, kind and creative leaders.”



Dr. Patrick Ebri

Vice President of Human Resources, Southeast Georgia Health System
Board Chair, Golden Isles Career Academy

“There is no ‘I’ in board membership, as far as I am concerned. Being part of a dynamic board with a passion for Golden Isles Career Academy and our local community, we have continued to build awareness among several [kinds of] stakeholders. Through our efforts, we continue to increase enrollment and have improved graduation rates as we prepare our graduates for the workforce needs of our community.

“Serving as a board director and contributing positively to the formative decisions of young and impressionable citizens of Glynn County has been extremely fulfilling. As a parent, it is very gratifying to know that you have opened the eyes of a young inquiring student to a great opportunity that they may have otherwise missed.”


Daniel Wolff

Owner, CoProTech-Inc.
Board President, Alliance Française d'Atlanta

“My main contribution to the Alliance Française d'Atlanta has been to offer time and energy towards the promotion of the French language and Francophone culture, two of my passions.

“Serving on the Board of the Alliance Française d'Atlanta, I have had the privilege to meet and interact with some amazing people from around the world. Locally, I have had the opportunity to work with fellow board members who have brought their experience and knowledge to many different areas of our organization. Additionally, my life has been enriched by the opportunity to personally connect with some of our guests, speakers, and artists that have been part of the cultural and linguistic offerings of the Alliance.”


Margaret Buker

Board Chair, Care and Counseling Center of Georgia

“The most significant thing I've gotten out of serving on the board of CCCG is the opportunity to be associated with an organization that seeks to serve all persons and communities who are in need, with respect to their relationships with others. Many worthwhile agencies deal with the physical needs or challenges of those they serve—be it food, shelter, job opportunity and training. Few to none seek to address the more intangible aspects of a well balanced life—mental health, interpersonal relationships, the psychological impact of trauma and other life changing events. CCCG provides hope and healing for the journeys of life. I am honored to be linked with such a caring and committed organization.”


Mark Droege

Senior Vice President, Treasury and Corporate Services (ret.), Earthlink
Board Chair, kidz2leaders

“I think that I helped improve the board-level functions in general, bringing in new board members, and supporting the administration and finance areas. Every new board member has been able to serve kidz2leaders in a positive way through their own talents and expertise, or by networking us with other organizations or people who can help. Many of our board members have also worked at [kidz2leaders program] Camp Hope, or as mentors to some of the children we serve.

“I really don’t look at [my board work] that way—that is, thinking about getting something out of serving on the board. However, what I have learned and been surprised by was how much difference an organization like kidz2leaders can make in a child’s life. With programs like Camp Hope, mentoring, and interns4tomorrow, kidz2leaders has countless examples of success in turning lives around, or keeping children of prisoners from repeating the cycle of incarceration.” 


Lawrence Kenny

Managing Director, Russell Reynolds Associates
Board Chair, Camp Twin Lakes

 “In 2007, I was asked to chair the task force to determine if Camp Twin Lakes (CTL) should expand to a second site. At that time, year-round program capacity was at a maximum at the original site, in Rutledge, and CTL was unable to meet the demand of campers facing serious illnesses, or other challenges, who wanted to attend camp. In 2008, the task force presented a plan for CTL to enter a public/private partnership with the state of Georgia to maximize the use of public resources, leveraging a state-owned campsite, Camp Will-a-Way, within Fort Yargo State Park in Winder. The economical solution enabled CTL to open a second site for a modest investment [compared with the cost of constructing] a new facility, and meet the increased demand. Once complete, the second campsite expanded our weekly capacity from 360 campers to a total of 580 at both camps—an increase of more than 60%. Opening Will-A-Way [also] enabled us to grow our partnerships [with other nonprofits] from 40 to nearly 60.

“It is an honor to lead the organization and to be able to help make camp possible for thousands of Georgia’s medically-fragile children. While at camp, our campers are able to just be kids, free from the hospital and doctor visits they are accustomed to throughout the year. As a father of three boys, it means a great deal to me to play a role in providing these medically-fragile children with the opportunity to attend camp, and be with other children who are experiencing the same illness, disability, or other life challenge. There is nothing so inspiring as a group of people from various backgrounds coming together for a common purpose; especially if that purpose is rendering heartfelt service unto others. Being able to see the passion and commitment that the Camp Twin Lakes board members and staff bring to their respective roles is amazing. Everything we do is for the campers, and in that we are all united by a common goal. Working with Camp Twin Lakes has been a wonderful experience for me because I get to work with a fantastic group of people seeking to make a significant difference in the lives of the children and families they serve.”


Lee Carroll

Associate Professor Emeritus (ret.), Columbia Theological Seminary
Board Chair, Central Outreach and Advocacy Center

 “Over the years I have grown to believe that there is a very special place in the heart of God for the poor, and that the true calling of humankind is to practice radical hospitality, especially for those who are suffering or disadvantaged. The Central Outreach and Advocacy Center—a small organization with a great big heart—serves people who are homeless, and it is making a difference in many lives. My service on the Center’s board has given me an experience in which my theological convictions and my human vocation have come together in a way that is deeply satisfying.”


Susannah Balish

Senior Management, Cox Communications
Board Chair, Ferst Foundation

“With only a few exceptions, there is nothing I am more passionate about than my work as Chair of the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy. One word sums up the reason why: Opportunity. As chair, I have the unique opportunity to lead our organization in furthering our mission and transforming the lives of children. I believe so strongly that the foundational key to life success is childhood literacy, and have seen first-hand the powerful change that comes about through Ferst’s literacy program. As chair, I have the opportunity to facilitate strategic dialogue focused on extending Ferst’s impact to all children in our state. I have the opportunity to enable collaborations and partnerships, enhancing the benefits of our program. I have the opportunity to translate the individual contributions of our board members and stakeholders into collective impact. There is nothing better than how you feel when you’ve changed the lives of children in a sustained way, and I so am grateful to Ferst for the opportunity as Chair to receive this reward!"


Henry Kelly

Project Executive, Georgia Power
Board Chair, 100 Black Men of Atlanta

 “The opportunity to help provide direction while adhering to our strategic plan and adhering to the vision and the mission of our organization in my opinion is my most valuable contribution to the organization. Personally, what I’ve gained is being able to see the work of the organization come into fruition, and to know that I’m a part of the leadership, up-close with the work of the 100, improving the quality of life for youth in the African American community.“ 


Mary Howell

Director, Corporate Finance, Industrial Developments International
Board Chair, Kate’s Club Inc.

“Leading by example is my most valuable contribution to Kate's Club. I am actively involved in nurturing relationships with board members, Kate's Club members, families, and volunteers. This personal understanding of the organization informs the board's goal-setting and strategic planning process.

“Professionally, Kate's Club has pushed me out of my accounting/finance comfort zone. At Kate's Club, I'm involved in marketing, strategic planning, donor identification and cultivation discussions—topics I don't regularly consider as a ‘numbers person.’ Personally, I've had the pleasure of being part of the active, loyal, and fun Kate's Club community. From corporate, individual, and foundation donors to the kids, guardians, and volunteers to the ambassadors, board of directors, advisory board, and staff, Kate's Club is brimming with enthusiastic supporters committed to our mission. I am so happy to be part of the Kate's Club community.”


Thomas Asher

President, The Rich Foundation
Board Chair, MedShare

“MedShare has opened my eyes to the great healthcare needs of the rest of the world, while we here at home have so much surplus and excess of medical supplies. As such, it has allowed me to travel to visit clients of MedShare on several continents and see the incredibly positive impact that this Atlanta company is making on thousands of people worldwide. Actually saving lives: what a reward that is!”


Heath Slapikas

Advertising Director, The Brunswick News
Board Chair, Red Cross, Southeastern Coastal Georgia Chapter

“The most valuable contribution I have provided to the American Red Cross is volunteer hours. With only two full time staff members to cover nine counties, they rely heavily on volunteers. I devote numerous hours to not only leading the board, but helping with fundraising events and preparedness events throughout the year. To maintain a strong Red Cross in the Southeastern Coastal Georgia Chapter, it is important to me to help in any way I can. The Red Cross is always there when we, as a community, need it most—through disasters, floods, house fires, and more. So I want to make sure I am there when they need me.

“The most significant thing that I have gotten out of serving on the board is a better understanding of everything The Red Cross does. Most people think of blood donations and national disasters, but may not realize that we offer health and safety programs, provide support for deployed military families, and respond locally to domestic disasters such as floods and house fires. I have found It extremely rewarding to work with an organization that is able to bring comfort and peace to individuals in one of their darkest hours. The testimonials that I have heard from people are amazing, as they recall what it meant to them, personally, to have a Red Cross volunteer take charge and make sure that their immediate needs are met. We have an incredible volunteer base that makes it possible to do what we do, and I would encourage anyone who is not currently involved with The Red Cross in one way or another to pick up the phone and see how they can become involved.”


Helene Lollis

President, Pathbuilders, Inc.
Board Chair, Junior Achievement of Georgia

“Communicating my enthusiasm and passion—whether it’s addressing a new group of Junior Achievement (JA) Fellows, presenting a seminar to a group of JA staff, making a financial appeal to our guests at fundraisers, or defining strategic themes for our board of directors, I focus on connecting action to impact and helping all involved to truly understand the impact that they can have by supporting this top-notch organization. JA Fellows are inspired and challenged, the staff has developed key professional skills, I had the pleasure of raising some $50,000 in a ten-minute challenge, and our board has successfully aligned around the JA brand, leveraging JA’s new Chick-fil-A Discovery Center. This sort of impact allows us to serve 125,000 students annually in metro Atlanta, and allowed us to open the Discovery Center debt-free, with a focus on experiential learning and financial literacy for 30,000 students each year. Equally important is my communication and connection to the phenomenal staff at JA who continue to take on challenges that the board puts before them and deliver in big ways!

“As the owner of a small business, time is a precious commodity, so I’ve developed a rule of thumb by which to assess opportunities for community leadership. I seek roles that focus on a mission for which I am passionate, that allow me to grow personally and professionally, and that position me and my company, Pathbuilders, in a positive way. My role in chairing the Junior Achievement board delivers on all three of these! As an active participant in JA during my high school years and a long-time volunteer advising student companies, I know firsthand the incredible power of connecting students to mentors in the business community. As the leader of a 100-plus member board, I am continually challenged to provide focus and clarity to individuals with diverse views, to drive engagement and enthusiasm for the mission, and to challenge the organization to achieve all that it can. And, as the president of a company focused on developing top tier talent, I am able to engage with other senior leaders, better understand their needs for growing talented leaders, and demonstrate the commitment that my firm has to the Atlanta community.”


Rebecca Hood

Owner, Rebecca Hood Designs
Board Chair, Nuçi’s Space

 “I believe my most valuable contribution to the organization was in meeting with our amazing Executive Director, Bob Sleppy, in which we discussed the traits of a good board and the needs of our organization. With Bob's help, I facilitated the restructuring and organizing of the board after we lost many of our board members, due to a variety of personal reasons, during a short time frame in 2011. I was able to facilitate the creation of a nominating committee and, through many meetings and much research, we were able to thoughtfully construct and rebuild what is now an active, passionate and diversely-talented Board of Directors. 

“The most significant thing that I've gotten out of my service on the board is knowing that I am helping the organization to help people in need. Another lifetime ago, I was in the position of feeling hopeless. With the help of Nuçi's Space and its founder, Linda V. Phillips, I was able to turn my life around, giving me the opportunity to have a life I am proud of. I feel it is my duty to talk about the dark place that I came from, in hopes of lessening the stigma of depression, to help people in my community know that they are not alone and that there is help available. I have found great strength through my experience, and I’m proud that I can now help others who may be seeking help and access to mental health care. No one has to suffer through it alone.”


Susan R. Bell

Managing Partner, Ernst & Young
Board Chair, United Way of Greater Atlanta

 “I believe that United Way of Greater Atlanta (UWGA) values my long-term involvement in, and commitment to, the organization—through years of both donating and volunteering, with particular experience in areas related to finance and governance. I first began donating in 1984, and am very passionate about the significant impact UWGA investments make in peoples' lives. As a friend and role model shared several years ago, nonprofits need both our time and our money, and I believe in investing both at the right times for the good of our greater community.

“I certainly receive more than I give in serving on the board at United Way. Most importantly, I learn about, and feel great about, the collective impact our staff, board, and other volunteers make when we work together in executing our strategic goals: improving education, income, and health of people in our 13 counties, and helping to decrease chronic homelessness. UWGA, including passionate and active board members, staff, and volunteers, as well as our tremendous partner organizations, is helping build a better working community by improving the lives of others. I see us helping teach people how to fish, not just fishing for them. We are helping build more sustainable communities, and that makes me feel great!”


Sonjui L. Kumar

Founding Partner, Kumar, Prabhu, Patel & Banerjee, LLC
Board Chair, Asian American Legal Advocacy Center

“I worked with Asian American Legal Advocacy Center (AALAC) Executive Director Helen Kim Ho and a consultant to come up with a strategic plan for the organization. They had one previously, but it was several years old. I think working together to come up with a plan made the board much more invested in AALAC.

“I have been exposed to many more people in the community. I have been invited to events that were amazing. I thought I knew what was going on in the Asian community in Georgia, but I had no idea of all the different organizations that are out there. AALAC is so involved with each of these groups that I have much better understanding about the depth and complexity of our community.”

Responses curated by Anita James, Communications Coordinator at the Georgia Center for Nonprofits. 

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