Big Brothers Big Sisters honors community leaders

It was a night to celebrate relationships. The “Bigs” were decked out in their tuxedos and fancy formals; and the “littles” were wearing their Sunday best.

Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta held its Legacy Awards Gala Saturday at the St. Regis Hotel in Buckhead. The group honored three civic and business leaders who embody the nonprofit organization’s ideals.

Former Atlanta Falcons player Warrick Dunn, founder of Warrick Dunn Charities; Dennis P. Lockhart, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and Carol Tomé, a Home Depot executive, received organization’s Legacy awards.

The group received $1 million from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation for its $7.295 million Big Futures Capital Campaign.

Big Brothers Big Sisters serves 2,500 children ages 6-18 in 12 metro counties. In 2012, the group’s headquarters moved to 1382 Peachtree Street. Their offices were previously housed in the United Way building.

Since the move, officials say they’ve seen an increase in longer-term matches. The organization’s average match — the length of time adults work with children — has increased from 33.7 months in 2012 to 43.3 months in 2014. The organization has about 2,000 adult volunteers ages 21 and up.

Nicknamed The House, the building has more room for educational programs on healthy living, financial literacy, college preparation and science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) careers, said spokeswoman Michele Pearce.

For more than 50 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has provided one-on-one mentoring to some of Atlanta’s most vulnerable children.

“Mr. Blank and his family have been long-time supporters of our agency, and having this gift from such an amazing civic leader means the world to us,” said Janice McKenzie-Crayton, President & CEO of BBBSMA.

Said Blank, who served as honorary chairperson of the event: “The three individuals honored tonight wholly represent the meaning of why we are here – the undeniable value of being a role model, leader and mentor to young people.”

Dunn’s charity, which helps single parents fulfill their dream of home ownership, was inspired by his late mother, Betty Smothers. Smothers was a Baton Rouge police corporal killed in the line of duty, leaving Dunn to help raise his younger siblings.

The former football star said he would not have been successful had it not been for the people of Baton Rouge, and for the relationships he has developed since moving to Atlanta.