On Tuesday, September 19, the Oceans Ballroom at the Georgia Aquarium was packed with eager guests of Southface’s annual fundraising gala. Sustainability professionals from across the southeast attend the wine-paired, five-course dinner each year to support Southface’s efforts to promote sustainable homes, workplaces and communities. Close to 400 business leaders, nonprofit executives, policymakers and sustainability enthusiasts joined us to celebrate the leadership of Andrea Pinabell and the collaboration among cities to create healthy and resilient communities.
As our most visible and largest event of the year, Visionary Dinner reflects the core of Southface’s commitment to a sustainable future. This year’s panel included Stephanie Stuckey, Chief Resilience Officer, City of Atlanta; John Lanier, Executive Director, Ray C. Anderson Foundation; and Vasser Seydel, Associate Director, Turner Foundation. The panel led a thoughtful conversation about the contemporary environmental movement and shared new activism avenues that philanthropic actors, nonprofits, local governments and public-private partnerships are leading. Stephanie and John both spoke about racial and social equity as an imperative aspect of resilience, and Vasser stressed the importance of youth engagement in regards to environmental stewardship stating that “cities are a hotbed for change in terms of a sustainable future, and millennials are empowered to make a change. We have no choice but to take action.” The need for youth engagement sparked the Turner Foundation to create a junior board in hopes of connecting young people to environmental conservation.
For the evening highlight, 2016 Argon Award winner Dennis Creech presented Southface’s prestigious award to Serenbe’s Steve Nygren. Steve and Marie Nygren are committed to improving people’s quality of life through healthy environments, and in his remarks Steve asserted that “we can influence change if we look in our own backyard.”
The top female chefs in Atlanta who contributed to the evening included: Veronica Wandui, St. Regis Atlanta; Megan McCarthy, Healthy Eating 101; Lane Barton, Blondie’s; Jiyeon Lee, Heirloom BBQ; and Allean Brown, Zolene’s. Mary Moore, Maureen Beebe and Denise Knapp, with the help of students from Kennesaw State University’s Michael A. Leven School of Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality, prepared delicious treats for the evening, and ingredients used to craft the menu were regionally sourced.
The night’s festivities also included an announcement of the expansion of Southface’s national nonprofit resource efficiency initiative. The initiative builds mission capacity for nonprofits by improving their bottom line through operational efficiency.