Atlanta’s historic Grove Park, well-known for its many neighborhood clubs, was once a prosperous community for Black families and businesses in the West Side. However, decades of discriminatory divestment eventually led to the neighborhood’s economic collapse, resulting in population decreases and school closures. Today, Grove Park has no supermarket and no pharmacy.

On October 15th, Fifth Third Bank’s regional president Randy Koporc announced the bank is donating $20 million to be distributed within the Grove Park community.

“I want to be very clear — this is Grove Park’s mission,” Koporc said. “We’re simply here to be a healthy catalyst, support in any way we can, provide resources. But this is your neighborhood, and we want to help in what you want to accomplish with your neighborhood.”

The Grove Park Foundation held an impromptu Community Celebration event at the Grove Park Community Gardens to share “transforming” news with the northwest Atlanta community. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, gospel singer Canton Jones, and other high-profile guests from around the city were in attendance.

This donation is part of Fifth Third Bank’s $180 million Neighborhood Investment Program, co-launched with housing nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners, to support nine majority-Black communities across seven states that have historically experienced disinvestment. The program is part of the bank’s larger Accelerating Racial Equality, Equity, and Inclusion initiative, a $2.8 billion commitment that will provide $2.2 billion in lending, $500 million in investments, $60 million in financial accessibility, and $40 million in philanthropy from the Fifth Third Foundation.

“Obviously, we want to do our part to help with driving racial equality, and we think this is a great way to do it — by supporting Black businesses, Black neighborhoods,” Koporc said.

Fifth Third Bank chose Grove Park to receive these funds after the foundation completed its criteria-based, invitation-only application process. This foundation, reestablished in 2015, has played a crucial part in restoring the hope and vitality of the community.

“There’s a quote that’s really fundamental to our work: Don’t do anything for me, without me,” said Gavin McGuire, executive director of the Grove Park Foundation. “We reach out to faith-based leaders. We reach out to grassroots leaders in the community. We reach out to residents. We wrap that around corporate support — for funding, for corporate engagement, and for their expertise — so that we can bring a whole community together.”

After the grand announcement, Samantha Watkins took to the stage to tearfully thank the Grove Park Foundation and Fifth Third Bank for their efforts in reinvigorating the community. As the executive director of Urban Reform, a health, wellness, and fitness nonprofit created in 2012, she understands how turbulent the past few years have been for local businesses.

“I want to stay in this neighborhood. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, but this is giving me the opportunity to stay,” Watkins said. “I don’t know if my business will survive, but this is giving me the opportunity for it to survive.”

When asked about the future of the Grove Park community, Mayor Bottoms emphasized the life-changing effect of this donation.

“It’s what we call One Atlanta,” Bottoms said, referencing the Mayor’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion that she established in 2018. “We’re making sure that our residents and our businesses are equipped for success.”

Fifth Third Bank Georgia Community and Economic Devemoplemnt Manager Aleta Young, Invest Atlanta’s Dr. Eloisa Klementich, Grove Park Foundation Executive Director Gavin McGuire, Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Fifth Third Bank Georgia President Randy Kaporc, Executive Director of Urban Samantha Watkins, Grove Park Foundation Board CHair Marlena Norris and Fifth THird Bank’s Chief Corporate Community Economic Development Officer, Jada Grandy Mock pose for a photo before a ceremony on Friday, October 15, 2021. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)