We model Shared Power

Meet Our People

We are dedicated to greater diversity and inclusion and provide equal opportunity to people of all races, ethnicities, cultures, religions, class, genders, sexual orientations, gender identifications/expressions, range of abilities, socio-economic background, educational status, ages, geographic locations, philosophies, and veteran statuses at all levels of staff and governance as well as within the communities we serve. 

We aim to lead by example with our own practices, encouraging our communities and partners to engage in diversity likewise as diversity and inclusion are the true expressions of compassion.

Leanne Rubenstein

Executive Director
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Jimmy Freels

Community Outreach Associate
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Iyabo Onipede

Co-Director
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Gunawork Wondimneh

Communications Coordinator
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Our Staff

Our Board

Candace Apple


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Dr. Nazeera Dawood


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William Flippin, Jr.


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Sue Gilman


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Rena Marroquin


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Rob Johnson


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Valerie A. Hill Rawls


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Zain Lokhandwala


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William O. Tate


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Debra Fox Tenenbaum


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Robert Thompson


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We Have Roots!

Our History

Since 2015, Compassionate Atlanta (CA) has been building a movement around the idea of compassionate action. CA’s work is done in community. We are founded on the International Charter for Compassion, with the call to action to honor our common humanity. CA is a grassroots movement that engages local individuals, schools, businesses, organizations, congregations and cities around the idea of compassionate action. 

Our work focuses on providing training, facilitating conversations, providing resources and bringing greater compassion and kindness into our world, in turn creating healthier, safer and more vibrant communities. 

In today’s world, now more than ever, we need compassionate action. This stretches from self-compassion to our families and neighbors all the way to our global place in the world.

"Compassion is a necessity like clean water"

Lobsang Tenzin Negi, Executive Director, The Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics at Emory University

Compassionate Atlanta is a grassroots movement that seeks to raise awareness about the benefits of compassionate action in the Greater Atlanta area. The Compassionate Atlanta Planning Team, which was formed in 2013, was instrumental in getting the City of Atlanta designated as a “Compassionate City.” That important step was taken on February 3rd, 2014 by the City Council of Atlanta and approved by Mayor Kasim Reed on February 12th, 2014. In so doing, Atlanta became the second largest metropolitan area in the United States to become a Compassionate City.

Our Sponsors

Leanne Rubenstein

Co-Director

Leanne Rubenstein brings over 20 years of non-profit experience to Compassionate Atlanta. She has an extensive background working in a leadership capacity with non-profit organizations and serves on several non-profit boards. Leanne’s passion for social justice has led her to take her degree in Special Education and her Master’s level training in counseling to a wider audience through program leadership, fundraising and development. As a passionate storyteller, Leanne has transformed her program development and leadership skills into helping the wider community understand the impact of their voices and their philanthropy in order to make a positive impact in their communities and worldwide. Contact Leanne at Leanne@CompassionateATL.org.

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Jimmy Freels

Community Outreach Associate

James “Jimmy” Freels has lived his entire life in Tucker, Georgia. He graduated from Dekalb’s Lakeside High School in 2013. He attended Georgia State University where he was a staff columnist for the student newspaper, The Signal, and an assistant editor for the literary magazine, Underground. His interests include sports, music, and theatre. He has one sister, one brother-in-law, and four cats. Jimmy is passionate about writing and enjoys being on the staff of Compassionate Atlanta.

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Iyabo Onipede

Co-Director

Iyabo Onipede is a facilitator, keynote speaker, and consultant for organizations that are ready to eliminate racism, dismantle oppressive systems and grow equitable cultures. Iyabo’s customized, high touch workshops allow for deep dives into the heart of race, inclusion, equity and racial justice. Her work opens pathways forward for organizations to build just and equitable environments by teaching with a carefully curated curriculum, creating learning spaces for guided self-reflection and facilitating challenging exchanges. Iyabo is simply a community builder.

Iyabo is the founder of The CARA Model™, an integrative liberation framework that moves learners through an exploration of Anti-Racist and Anti-Oppression intentions into an activation of the capacity to become Liberation Practitioners. This trauma-informed individual identity work opens pathways forward for organizational communities to build just and equitable environments.

A self-described “recovering attorney,” she obtained a Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory University after a 20-year legal career. Iyabo has fun co-leading at Compassionate Atlanta with Leanne Rubenstein as they sow and cultivate seeds of compassion throughout the Greater Atlanta area. You can reach her at Iyabo@CompassionateATL.org Iyabo’s home on the web is www.iamiyabo.com.

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Gunawork Wondimneh

Communications Coordinator

Gunawork is an Ethiopian native who moved to Atlanta at the age of 9. She has been an active community member of Clarkston, Georgia, “the most diverse square mile in America” for many years. In 2019, she received a Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from Georgia State University. Contact Gunawork at Info@CompassionateATL.org.

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Candace Apple

Co-Director

Candace is the owner and operator of Phoenix and Dragon Bookstore in Sandy Springs, Georgia. Candace does countless amounts of volunteer work in the community and is involved with multiple community organizations. Candace is also a member of Compassionate Sandy Springs.

 

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Dr. Nazeera Dawood

Co-Director

After a rewarding career as a medical doctor her passion for prevention prompted her to obtain a master’s degree in Public Health. She currently serves on the Review Board of the inaugural Fulton County District Attorney Conviction Integrity Unit.

A serial entrepreneur, she has a wide professional network in the public sector, in business and in non-profit work. Nazeera founded Vendorship Inc. to ease the entry into government contracting. She is the CoFounder of Chai & Just Chat, a community monthly panel session that tends to advance humanitarian efforts through interaction among community members and experts.

Nazeera facilitated several coalitions including the Fulton County Interfaith Coalition. Oct 1, 2014, was proclaimed as ‘Dr. Nazeera Dawood Appreciation Day’ sponsored by Fulton County Board of Commissioners. She is a Johns Creek resident and a graduate of Leadership Johns Creek and Johns Creek Community Police Academy.

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William Flippin, Jr.

Co-Director

The Rev. Dr. William Edward Flippin, Jr., is senior pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Atlanta. He is the first African-American pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, a multicultural congregation. He was born in Nashville, TN, and his formative years and training were developed and nurtured in Atlanta. He is a 1998 graduate of Morehouse College where he majored in History and minored in Religion. He furthered his education at Emory University, Candler School of Theology receiving the Master of Theology (Th.M.) degree in 2003 and an additional Th.M. in 2005 from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. He received his Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) in Transformational Leadership from Ashland Theological Seminary, Ashland OH. His dissertation project developed a new ecclesiological model for Lutherans and Baptists based on John, Chapter 3 and Spirit Baptism. He’s married and has one daughter. Bill’s mantra is found in Matthew 20:26 “the greatest among you shall be your servant”. He is committed to serving this present age and being a true shepherd-servant leader.

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Sue Gilman

Sue Gilman is an Atlanta native and has been involved with Compassionate Atlanta since its first meeting. She has been practicing and studying Buddhism since the 1980s and teaching meditation for more than 15 years. Sue was recently appointed a Shastri (mentor of teachers) for the Shambhala Meditation Center of Atlanta. She has been involved in non-profit leadership for many years, most recently as the Executive Director of The Wren’s Nest Museum in Atlanta. Sue was the first Director of Sky Lake Lodge in the Hudson Valley in New York, and the Director of Development at Karme Choling in Vermont, both contemplative practice and retreat centers. She is a passionate environmental advocate and has developed a program of conversations on race both at the Atlanta Shambhala Center and in the broader Atlanta community.

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Rena Marroquin

Rena has been involved with Compassionate Atlanta since its initial meeting in the Fall of 2013. Rena is the Former Financial Aid Director at the Art Institute of Atlanta, a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church, a board member and treasurer of Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta, a board member of Buckhead Christian Ministry, a volunteer account manager at American Association of Adapted Sports Programs, a member of the Women’s Federation for World Peace, a member of the American Clergy Leadership Conference, and a proud mother and grandmother.

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Rob Johnson

Rob Johnson is a former senior leader of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. He retired in 2016 after 29 years – serving first as the founding Project Director of Atlanta’s Table and leading the creation of a national network of prepared and perishable food rescue program – FoodChain. He then was Chief Operating Officer and finally Vice-President of Community Services. He now has a part-time “encore career” consulting practice providing “compassionate capacity building to individuals, organizations and communities that are committed to collaborative ways of making the world a better place.” He serves on 3 greater Atlanta non-profit boards even as he and his wife Carolyn moved this year to Santa Fe, NM to support their beloved daughter Leah, son-in-law and young grandson. Rob came to Atlanta in 1978 after completing is Master’s Degree in Social Psychology from the University of Georgia. With the United Methodist Church-related Wesley Community Centers, he developed meals-on-wheels programs in 4 metro-Atlanta counties and then was a founding partner/resident with the Open Door Community, a Presbyterian “Catholic Worker” style non-profit serving the homeless.

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Valerie A. Hill Rawls

EcoWomanist I Stakeholder Engagement I Marketing Consultant

Valerie Hill Rawls is the Co-Visionary and Founder of the EcoWomanist Institute (EWI) along with Veronica Kyle. EWI supports, inspires and empowers Black women and eco spiritual opportunities to embrace our ancestral and otherwise tribal connections to healing through nature, networking and making relevant the accomplishments of Black women in environmental discourse which often omits communities of color while disproportionately impacting them.

Valerie is currently the Director, New GA Project Black + Green Agenda Environmental Justice campaign, and is a 2013 Chicago cohort Climate Reality Leader alum. Over the past decade Valerie has engaged diverse stakeholders in sustainability initiatives within the Southeast and Midwest regions ranging from; Equitable Transit Oriented Development (ETOD), Clean Energy Public Policy, Ecotheology, Environmental Justice, Social Impact Bonds, Homelessness and Public Health.

Valerie is CEO and Founder of Hill Rawls Marketing Consultants, LLC (HRMC). HRMC has provided marketing communications, strategic planning, project management, and stakeholder engagement services for Chicago based Fortune 1000-Mid tier multinational corporations and start-ups in public, philanthropic, faith-based, and private sectors; Financial Services, Transportation, Healthcare (B2B and B2C), Education, Telecom, and Retail.

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Zain Lokhandwala

Zain Lokhandwala is an Indian native who moved to Atlanta at the age of 4. Zain is an Industrial Engineering graduate from Kennesaw State University and currently works at Ernst & Young LLP as an Operations & Project Manager for the US Government & Public Sector focusing on State & Local governments. At EY, Zain serves as an Enablement Leader for EY Ripples in Atlanta, the firm’s Corporate Responsibility program. Zain currently serves as a board member for the Aga Khan Youth & Sports Board under the Shia Ismaili Council for the Southeastern United States where he leads the Ismaili Community Engaged in Responsible Volunteering (I-CERV) initiative in the Southeast Region.

 
 
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William O. Tate

Will grew up in Chattooga County, Georgia. Will attended Berry College followed by the University of Georgia in Athens and received an Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 1998. Will then worked as a counselor and teacher, including a stint in Japan as an English instructor in a public high school in Sakaiminato-shi, Tottori-ken. Will received his J.D. from Tulane University Law School in 2009. As an attorney, Will’s focus is on the representation of lenders and creditors. Will joined his current firm, McCalla Raymer Liebert Pierce, LLC in 2013 as a senior associate in Atlanta, and was appointed managing partner of Georgia Litigation in 2018. Will’s volunteer work has included international and community development, work with immigrant communities (Catholic Social Services), work in post-Katrina New Orleans related to construction scams and predatory development (Common Ground), family violence (Project Safe), LGBTQ activism and cultural outreach (MONDOHOMO), and legal work on behalf of children in the foster system. Will has lived, traveled, or worked in more than 30 countries. Will enjoys art, literature, food, and spending time with his boyfriend, David.

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Debra Fox Tenenbaum

Debra Fox Tenenbaum has been a teacher of Science for 24 years. She was born and raised in Oxford, North Carolina. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she moved to Atlanta. Here she raised a family of three wonderful children. She volunteered her time serving as President of the Or VeShalom Sisterhood, and serving on the boards of Dreams Come True, the Or VeShalom Synagogue, Jewish Family and Career Services, and The Greenfield Hebrew Academy PTA. She likes to think that her life is motivated by Emerson’s quote that “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm!”

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Robert Thompson

After serving American Baptist Churches in Kansas, OH, and—for 30 years—as Senior Minister of the Lake Street Church in Evanston, IL, Bob retired in November of 2010. Moving to Atlanta in 2011, he engaged the Atlanta interfaith community and helped to organize the Compassionate Atlanta Leadership Team in 2013. He is Minister Emeritus of the Lake Street Church and Chair Emeritus of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

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Kroger Community Rewards

Did you know that you can help create a more compassionate Atlanta every time you go to the supermarket?

If you have a registered Kroger Plus Card (available for free at the Customer Service desk in every Kroger store) and a Kroger Community Rewards online account, and choose us as your designated non-profit organization, your purchases will begin earning rewards for Compassionate Atlanta within 7 to 10 business days!

Amazon Smile

Register your Amazon.com account, make Compassionate Atlanta your charity of choice, and Amazon will donate 5% of eligible purchases to help us raise the voice of compassion throughout the city!