June 17th Transform Westside Summit: Highlighting the Beloved Benefit with Dan Cathy & Rodney Bullard
June 24, 2022
Westside Future Fund’s June 17th Transform Westside Summit highlighted the upcoming Beloved Benefit happening on July 7th and the impact this year’s event is set to have on economic mobility on Atlanta’s Historic Westside. Featured guests included Dan Cathy, Chairman at Chick-fil-A, Inc. and Co-founder of the Beloved Benefit; and Rodney Bullard, Vice President of Community Affairs at Chick-fil-A, Inc. and Executive Director of the Chick-fil-A Foundation. WFF President & CEO John Ahmann joined co-hosts Ebony Ford and Benjamin Earley in recognizing Juneteenth to start the event, welcoming the largest audience since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Earley, a fourth generation Westside resident, went on to moderate the panel discussion.
(from left) John Ahmann, WFF President & CEO, along with WFF Co-hosts Ebony Ford and Benjamin Earley
Earley: “So tell us a little bit about the background of the benefit, as well as what the vision behind it is?”
Inspired by a similar benefit event held in New York, Dan Cathy pitched a modified version to soon-to-be co-founder Arthur M. Blank—one intended to be more inclusive while emphasizing a sense of community and oneness as a city.
Dan Cathy, Chairman at Chick-fil-A Inc. and Co-founder of the Beloved Benefit shares the vision of the Beloved Benefit.
Cathy: “Our focus this year is financial mobility, economic mobility—to be able to move ahead. My dad was a product of the Westside, and he discovered that he can either earn a wage or he can make a profit. He found his own entrepreneurial sweat-of-his-brow ambition, that he could do far better if he would make a profit versus just earning a wage.”
And so I think it’s one of the great things that we’re gonna have to jump-start here in the Westside; economic mobility, by encouraging the skills and the ambitions that people have and learning how to make a profit.” —Dan T. Cathy
Rodney Bullard, Vice President of Community Affairs at Chick-fil-A, Inc. and Executive Director of the Chick-fil-A Foundation, highlights poverty as a systemic issue.
Bullard: “The Beloved Benefit is a reflection of our city, a reflection of our community. It is not just for those who can afford a ticket but those who are part of our community. As the late great Congressman Lewis said, ‘We all belong to House Atlanta.’ But when we think about economic mobility, economics is key to everything.”
I’ve never seen a community of wealth suffer from systemic issues of health…of education..of crime, but I’ve never seen a community of poverty fail to suffer from those issues.” —Rodney Bullard
“And so at the end of the day, we know that if you have more, you can do more. You have more resources, you have more exposure, you have more desire and passion. And so we’re really focusing on employment. We’re focusing on education, and we’re focusing on entrepreneurship, because we know those three things move economic mobility.”
Benjamin Earley (left) reflected on his personal insights to being a Westside resident.
Earley: “A lot of times people can’t even dream because they’re so busy surviving. They can’t see beyond eating tonight. I knew people who went to school with me who only showed up to school because they knew it was a guaranteed meal. Then you wonder why their test scores are what they are. Well, they’ve got to go home and they have no food in the cabinets. They’ve got to go home and they’ve got no furniture at home. So, I appreciate being intentional about actually investing in the actual people in this community and throughout Atlanta who are suffering from poverty, who are suffering from neglect.”
“What does focusing on economic mobility actually mean for Beloved?”
Cathy: “Well, we know that there’s horrific statistics that we know associated with the life expectancy between Bankhead and Buckhead. Another horrific statistic that we have is that if you’re born in poverty in Atlanta, you only have reportedly a 4% chance of getting out of the destructive cycle of poverty. Only 4% chance and this is a national survey in which Atlanta tragically ranks as one of the lowest cities in terms of being able to get out of poverty. We need to address this issue. We know that there’s lessons to be learned from other communities, but we also know it’s gonna take a lot of investment and time and treasure.”
Marking the progress towards this year’s $10 million goal for Beloved, Cathy noted:
Today, I’m happy to report that we have commitments for $5.5M that have already been raised for this evening.”
“$5.5 million and counting,” added Bullard before noting a few of the corporate contributors helping make this year’s event a success. The list included Chick-fil-A, UPS, Home Depot, Coca Cola, Delta, and Google among others.
Bullard: “We have an embarrassment of riches here in Atlanta. Pound for pound, we have more Fortune 500 corporate headquarters in Atlanta than any other city in the country, and that is a part of our economic disparity. So, we need to bring that to bear.”
Benjamin: “What would you want to be the long term impact of the Benefit? We understand we invest in these organizations this year, but what is the vision beyond 2022 for them?”
Cathy: “We elevate the awareness of the challenges that our community has, but we also elevate the solutions that we have, by the positive examples here.”
Bullard: “If there’s anything that you take away from this, take away that the Beloved Benefit is two things: …to bring all of Atlanta together, that in fact, we are one Atlanta…to bring our diversity together and bring our strengths together, bring our resources together. Then, also to ensure that we go further together and that we go further in an equitable fashion. That sense of economic mobility is the reason why we gather and it’s the purpose for our gathering.”
View the full summit including the audience Q&A below!