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5 Questions for Jim Mathis Jr.

About Jim Mathis Jr.

Age: 65
Hometown: Born in Cleveland, grew up in Gainesville
Education: Mercer University; graduate studies at George Washington University; savings and loan graduate school, Indiana University; ABA commercial lending graduate schools, Norman, Okla.
Employment: President/CEO of the North Georgia Community Foundation since 1998. Previously was president of SunTrust of Gainesville and president of HomeTrust Bank for 25 years.
Most interesting job: Chairman of Gainesville Hall ’96, the local organizing group for the 1996 Olympics
Family: Married to Kathy Reeves Mathis until she died December 2004; two daughters, Kelly Mathis Lee and Katie Mathis Dubnik; now married to Robin North Mathis; stepdaughter, Lori Patton; four grandchildren, Caroline Lee, Isabel Lee, James Dubnik and Davis Dubnik; one stepgrandchild, Mac Patton.

Each Monday, “5 Questions” asks someone in our community to answer five questions about their lives. If you know someone who would be a good subject for this feature, send their name and contact information to

Following in the footsteps of his father, Jim Mathis Jr. has spent his lifetime serving the community. And he’s passed the legacy on to his own daughters, both of whom are involved in civic causes.
Fourteen years ago, he joined the North Georgia Community Foundation, which encourages philanthropy and giving as a means to improve the quality of life primarily in Northeast Georgia. Today, The Times asks Mathis five questions about the giving nature of our community.

1. The North Georgia Community Foundation recently surpassed the $40 million mark in grants awarded to local nonprofit organizations. Why is this such an important milestone?

This represents the combined giving to the community from the over 300 funds held at the Foundation. It includes grants made from Donor Advised Funds, Agency Endowments and Scholarship Funds. Most importantly, it is the realization of the intent of the foundation’s donors when they chose to make their charitable giving through the Community Foundation.

When combined with the almost $40 million in assets held by the Foundation, that makes an $80 million impact since the Foundation was founded in 1985. The grantmaking of the Foundation is evidence of our ability to make giving and granting charitable funds in North Georgia both easy and convenient.

2. Which local nonprofit is closest to your heart? Why?

The Community Foundation makes grants to hundreds of nonprofit organizations across North Georgia and beyond. This includes local organizations such as Challenged Child, Good News Clinics, the United Ways of our region, Gateway House, Centerpoint and many more. We help our donors make grants across the country to nonprofit organizations and educational institutions, such as the Metropolitan Opera, The Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia and institutions as far away as Michigan State University.

The Community Foundation also has been the birthplace of new community ventures such as Womensource, Northwinds Adult Symphonic Band, For Her Glory, the John Jarrard Foundation and, most recently, the Georgia Mountain Food Bank.

3. Can you recall a specific example of the impact your organization has had on a local nonprofit?

When I joined the Community Foundation in 1998, we were involved with assistance to the victims of the tornado that had torn through North Hall County in the spring of that year. The Foundation provided the financial support for a community effort called “The Unmet Needs Committee.”

Along with the local Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Farm Bureau, the United Way and other agencies, we reviewed and distributed funds to those who fell through the cracks in the FEMA assistance system. About that same time, the Community Foundation began to explore the need and potential for a food bank distribution center in North Georgia.

After about 10 years of development and work with Bill Bolling of the Atlanta Food Bank, the Georgia Mountain Food Bank has become a reality. Under the leadership of Rich White, former board chairman of the North Georgia Community Foundation, and Kay Blackstock, former assistant to the president of the Community Foundation, and with the generous support of Walter Boomershine, the GMFB will open its new distribution facility with a ribbon cutting by Gov. Nathan Deal on Aug. 17. The distribution facility includes a cooler/freezer made possible by the Medical Center Foundation’s annual Golf Tournament.

4. How has giving changed in the past 20 years?

My first civic project in Gainesville was helping Dale Morris raise funds for the Hall County United Way in 1978. Then and now I discovered that Hall County is unique in its support of community efforts.

By far, our county has many more nonprofit organizations than any other county in the North Georgia region.

The giving that supports these organizations year after year has helped make our area one of the most desirable places to live and retire. Our region has attracted new citizens who, in addition to local citizens, continue the tradition of generosity, helping to make our area even better.

Since the establishment of the Community Foundation in 1985, we have seen grants grow from $50,000 in its first year to over $2,677,866 in our most recent annual reporting. I believe that the generous spirit of community will continue to grow in North Georgia.

5. Let’s change direction for a moment. You were an integral part of the committee that landed the 1996 Olympic events at Lake Lanier. What’s your fondest memory of that time?

My fondest memory of the 1996 Olympic Games is how strong the support from our community was at that point in time.

Both the city and county governments, along with the state of Georgia, came together behind our efforts to host the rowing and canoe/kayak competition on Lake Lanier. Even the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers was supportive of the development of the venue and worked to maintain the lake levels that summer.

In particular, I was awed by the thousands of folks who stepped forward to volunteer. From those who built lifelong friendships by hosting athletes and their families in their homes, to those who worked at the actual venue, I was impressed.

One day, someone invited me to go over to the spectator grandstand during one of the competitive events. The roar of the crowd as their team crossed the finish line was exhilarating.

But the most impressive thing occurred as I walked up the hill to the bus dropoff point. All along the way there were folks that I knew from the community who were a part of the volunteer welcoming committee. They were dressed in ’96 Olympic volunteer uniforms and each was going out of their way to make our guests and new friends feel welcome at the Lake Lanier rowing and canoe/kayak events. It still brings a tear to my eye. Thanks to all who made Gainesville/Hall County “the hospitality capital of the world.”

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