“Greatness Lives Here” Documentary Series and Recognition Initiative Honors Auto Mechanic Who Helps At-Risk Youth, Six Other Creative Community Leaders
With metro Atlanta students back in school, Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is recognizing local heroes who are in a class of their own. The company has released its latest documentary short for “Greatness Lives Here” (GLH), an initiative dedicated to celebrating Atlantans who quietly devote their lives to empowering the youth of tomorrow and making a difference in their community. To help generate additional visibility for their passion and nonprofit work, a series of video vignettes highlights each of these people doing their heroic, but often under-recognized, work in the community and their impact.
The most recent entry in the inspirational series, spotlighted on MBUSA’s GLH Facebook page and on the company’s other social media channels, shares the story of Larry Witherspoon, founder of Automotive Training Center. Larry creatively leverages an inauspicious platform – an auto repair shop – to teach at-risk youth technical skills to prepare them for jobs in the automotive field.
In Fulton County, where more than 3,000 people are currently jailed, Witherspoon oversees a program that offers a path away from prison. “I nearly missed being a statistic myself,” said Witherspoon. “I personally understood what it was like to be facing criminal charges and to know what a big impact that would have made on my life.” As founder of ATC, Witherspoon uses auto repair to mentor at-risk youth, including those who were formerly incarcerated. Because of his efforts, 86 young men and women have graduated from ATC and more than 80% of them are currently employed.
“My goal and my vision are big,” Witherspoon said. “I want to help as many people as possible break the cycle of mass incarceration – if they’re dealing with that or being at risk – and move on a path, through employment, to better themselves.”
In the months ahead, GLH videos will showcase additional local heroes who have had a profound impact on the neighborhoods of Greater Atlanta, where MBUSA is headquartered. These stories include:
- Maria Armstrong & Tangee Allen, Raising Expectations: two college friends who actively recruit and tutor at-risk youth for future success in higher education
- Susan Norris, Rescuing Hope: a novelist who is empowering survivors and first responders to rewrite the narrative of human trafficking in America
- Dean Leeper, Kindezi Schools: a former homeschool teacher who uses family-sized classes and superior teaching techniques to transform the lives of students from underserved communities
- Amy O’Dell, Jacob’s Ladder: a single mom who built a school for her son and other children with neurological challenges
- Susan Jacobs-Meadows, Canine Cellmates: a dog lover who leverages canine companionship to change the lives of incarcerated men
“We’re a brand that’s synonymous with success and so we want to ensure that the next generation has the tools it needs to achieve their goals. Greatness Lives Here celebrates the extraordinary people who give selflessly of their time to clear obstacles in the path of those goals,” said Drew Slaven, vice president of marketing for MBUSA. “As a marketing company – that’s what we do best: shine the light on the things that inspire us, that make us proud to be part of this amazing community.”
These newest heroes join an impressive group already recognized by MBUSA with videos hosted on the GLH Facebook page from organizations such as Atlanta Music Project, Bearings Bike Shop, Camp Southern Ground, Childkind, Friends of English Avenue, Hollis Innovation Academy, L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct), Ron Clark Academy, Scott Rigsby Foundation, Second Helpings Atlanta, The Backpack Project, and The New Freedom Project.
From a Holocaust survivor who feeds the needy by distributing leftover food from supermarkets and restaurants and a musician who believes instruments can motivate inner city children to conquer challenges at each stage of life to the first double-amputee to complete the Ironman and the couple who uses bikes as a tool for children to build life skills, these individuals reveal the power of the human heart that exists in Atlanta.
There are more stories to be told. To help MBUSA highlight other community leaders in Atlanta, visitors are encouraged to share names by posting on the GLH FB page or by sending an email to [email protected]. Individuals can like and follow the GLH FB page to stay up to date on the great work being achieved by GLH heroes, organizations and MBUSA community partners.
“Greatness Lives Here” is done in partnership with Merkley + Partners (New York), MBUSA’s lead marketing agency and directed by Emmy-nominated filmmaker Henry Corra.
“We are so grateful for the opportunity to shine a light on the unsung heroes of Atlanta. It was uplifting and inspiring to hear these people’s stories,” said Max Godsil, Group Creative Director for Merkley +Partners. “Each is a tribute to the spirit of Atlanta – what MLK called the ‘beloved community.’ Our initiative’s notion of ‘Greatness Lives Here’ turned out to be truer than we could have imagined.”