Annual Report FY 2017

Leadership Message – July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017

Fiscal Year 2017 was a year of great achievement and great change. In one instance, the great achievement WAS the great change: Georgia Appleseed finally achieved its 10-year project goal when, on January 1, 2017, it launched the new, independent Georgia Heirs Property Law Center (GHPLC).

The creation, incubation and launch of this new state-wide resource was inspired by what Georgia Appleseed learned from its 2006 Katrina project: “heirs property” rendered many Hurricane Katrina evacuees ineligible for FEMA Road Home assistance, which explained why so many evacuees were still in Atlanta more than one year after the storm.

Not wanting this fate for Georgians in what then seemed to be an unprecedented disaster, Georgia Appleseed set out to find a solution. Between 2008 and January 1, 2017, Georgia Appleseed engaged in research, collaboration, and experimentation, with the ultimate goal being to create Georgia’s first independent law center dedicated to serving the individual legal needs of low and moderate-income owners of heirs property.

After years of “just enough” restricted funding to keep the project viable, we finally got our “lucky” break when two major funders effectively joined forces to invest the money needed to transform our dream into reality. This infusion of funding allowed Georgia Appleseed to make a critical hire: Skipper StipeMaas as the first GHPLC Director. Over the next 18 months of incubation (FY16 and early FY17), Skipper’s GHPLC team grew to five – the critical staff needed for a successful launch.

Though Georgia Appleseed showed a net deficit for FY16, we knew the investment would pay off for Georgia. We were also confident that Georgia Appleseed would return to a net surplus in FY17 . . . and we were right! Not only does Georgia Appleseed’s FY17 audit show a significant surplus, but Georgia now has its first independent law center dedicated to ending poverty through land ownership.

FY17 brought other important staff and program changes. First, we celebrated the retirement of our first Director of Projects, Rob Rhodes, and welcomed his successor, Allison Rutland Soulen. Then, we celebrated the next career step for Director of Community Engagement Teddy Reese as he entered
private practice in Columbus, and we embraced new program opportunities in Savannah and Augusta.

Spoiler Alert: FY18 will see significant leadership change, too. Upon my retirement, effective January 1, 2018, C. Talley Wells will become Georgia Appleseed’s new Executive Director. Talley has the talent, experience and leadership to take Georgia Appleseed to the next level – I could not be more pleased!

Thank you for your financial and pro bono support that transforms Georgia Appleseed’s vision into increased justice for Georgians throughout our state. We are able to do what we do because of you.