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East Lake proves the power of partnership

A Partnership with Purpose

Eva Davis knew the East Lake community had potential.

She knew she had to help others see her inner-city community through a new lens — as a place of possibilities — and to convince them to join her in changing the neighborhood's story.

"She had that vision to bring all these phenomenal people together to make this happen," says Shannon Heath-Longino of her late grandmother, the woman who raised her and pushed her to succeed. "She didn't have the education they had; she didn't have the money, but she had the know-how."

The results of that tenaciousness have been extraordinary.

For more than 25 years, the East Lake Foundation has pulled together residents and public and private partners to transform a community.

Southern Company has been an integral part of this ongoing success story. Through the company's PGA TOUR Championship partnership, Southern Company has donated more than $38 million to help groups like East Lake Foundation revitalize communities.

Once a blighted, neglected neighborhood, East Lake now serves as a blueprint for aspiring communities across the nation. It's proof that when you provide the right combination of comprehensive programs and services, a community can be transformed.

But to reach that moment, you have to build trust, to build relationships and to keep pushing.

That's where Tom Cousins and Eva Davis were unexpected kindred spirits.

Cousins, an Atlanta real estate developer, knew the community. He learned to play golf at what is now East Lake Golf Club. He met Davis when she was president of the East Lake Meadows Tenant’s Association, advocating tirelessly for equal opportunities for the kids and families who lived there.

"When the match was made, there was no stopping them. It was really quite powerful," says Lillian Giornelli, Cousins' daughter and president of the CF Foundation.

Together, they advanced a framework for change, says Danny Shoy, president and CEO of the East Lake Foundation. By partnering with Atlanta leaders like Renee Lewis Glover the former president and CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority and Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry, they implemented Glover and Perry’s Atlanta Model for a holistic, mixed-income community in East Lake.

"The East Lake Foundation at its heart is really about providing the tools and the resources for residents to be able to realize the American dream that they deserve and in many ways had been denied," says Shoy.

Once that door of possibility is open, you can see change everywhere, from mixed income housing, cradle-to-college education, and community wellness. Above all, you see the consistent presence of hope.

"I think my grandmother is still smiling, because we're still carrying on what she started," says Heath-Longino. "We're great now, but we're striving to be our greatest."

Learn more about Southern Company’s PGA TOUR partnership – a partnership with a purpose.