Metro Atlanta rehab hospital gets big gift from Home Depot co-founder

Molly Welch undergoes therapy at the Shepherd Center shortly after emerging from a coma. The Shepherd Center recently announced its largest grant ever: $80 million from The Marcus Foundation launched by Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus. CONTRIBUTED

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Molly Welch undergoes therapy at the Shepherd Center shortly after emerging from a coma. The Shepherd Center recently announced its largest grant ever: $80 million from The Marcus Foundation launched by Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus. CONTRIBUTED

Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus is giving $80 million to the Shepherd Center, the second potentially transformative donation in recent months to a Georgia health organization.

The donation from The Marcus Foundation, announced Thursday, is the largest grant in the Atlanta-based rehabilitation center’s 45-year history. It will support added capacity so more patients and families can receive care, according to a press release from the center.

Marcus and his wife Billi have been long-time donors to the private, not-for profit Shepherd Center, which works with people who have suffered from spinal cord and brain injuries, stroke, multiple sclerosis, other neuromuscular conditions and spine and chronic pain. Their gift will fund construction of the Shepherd Center’s Billi Marcus Building, back a program to support patients after inpatient care ends, and aid the SHARE Military Initiative to support U.S. service members after traumatic brain injuries. The couple has donated a total of $120 million to the center, including the latest gift.

In October, the family foundation of his former business partner Arthur Blank gave $200 million to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. CHOA’s newest hospital, planned to open in 2025 at North Druid Hills Road and I-85 in Brookhaven, will be named after Blank, who also owns the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United.

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Last year, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus spoke about his plans for billions of dollars in philanthropic giving as well as his political donations, including to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Last year, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus spoke about his plans for billions of dollars in philanthropic giving as well as his political donations, including to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

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Last year, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus spoke about his plans for billions of dollars in philanthropic giving as well as his political donations, including to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Alana Shepherd, Shepherd Center co-founder and chairman of the board, wrote in a press release that gifts from the Marcus family helped grow the center’s offerings beyond a singular focus on patients with spinal cord injuries.

Marcus, 91, wrote that “Billi and I are excited to be a part of Shepherd Center’s next chapters, which will save and change even more patients’ lives from catastrophic injuries and neurological conditions.”

Marcus challenged other businesses and individuals to support the center.

For decades, Marcus has given heavily to non-profits, including some that have been particularly important in metro Atlanta.

He gave $250 million to launch and grow the Georgia Aquarium in downtown. He ponied up millions of dollars for an autism center in Atlanta, millions more for a trauma center and a stroke and neuroscience center at Grady Health System and additional millions for a 16-story tower and centers at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital.

In an interview last year with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he said he has donated about $2 billion to more than 300 organizations and expects to give away billions more, accounting for most of his remaining wealth.

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Last year, the billionaire who co-founded Atlanta-based Home Depot talked about philanthropic giving with Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Matt Kempner.

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