Brenda Hamilton, believed the first African American employee at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, retired last month after 34 years of service to the community. When she retired Dec 31, Hamilton was considered the longest-serving Federation professional and she qualified as a Silver Circle donor, which means she has given to the Federation for more than 25 years.
To celebrate her retirement, the Federation threw Hamilton a drive-thru parade Dec 19. Marcie Beskind, Federation’s chief financial officer and chief administrative officer, recalls the fun day. “The drive-thru parade included current and former employees, board members, many community members and her family members. We set up a throne for Brenda and gave her a sash and tiara to wear. Lines of cars drove through for an hour to stop, wave and give her cards to express how much she meant to them. At the end of the event, she had a giant cartload of flowers and gifts, and she was on cloud nine.”
Beskind added that while many people stayed in their cars, some could not resist jumping out of their cars to go thank Brenda up closer.
In a parting email to the Federation on her last day, Hamilton wrote: “It has been an incredible 34 years working through a lot of changes, and working with such an amazing team. I am glad that I experienced the opportunity of working with a diverse team, which I loved.”
Ligi George, one of Hamilton’s fellow employees, recalled her experiences with Hamilton. “What struck from the minute I met Brenda was her wealth of knowledge and how much she leads with her heart. Her life has truly been in the service of others professionally and personally. She is simply an institution and will be so deeply missed.”
Regarding her former role at the Federation, Hamilton is the person who “makes things happen,” Beskind said. During her tenure as office services associate, she took on a variety of community and administrative tasks to help the Federation. Hamilton oversaw the mailroom, kept the office supplies room stocked, placed inventory orders, and helped tenants with their mail. Another key part of her role pre-COVID was to help community organizations reserve and organize meetings in the Federation’s conference rooms and auditorium.
Beyond the technical responsibilities of her role, Hamilton also happily provided a warm and friendly face to anybody who encountered the Federation.
“She was the friendly voice you got to hear whenever you called the Federation,” Beskind said. “I loved hearing her answer the phones in her warm and cheerful voice all day long.”
Beskind said that Hamilton took her role at the Federation very seriously and went above and beyond to help others that worked there. She mentioned that Hamilton worked with several Federation employees who had intellectual and physical disabilities over the years in the mailroom and other areas.
“Hamilton nurtured, supported and showed patience with these employees, and helped them understand the importance of what they were doing for the community,” Beskind said.
Federation CEO Eric Robbins said of Hamilton, “Brenda is caring, informs great relationships, and she would be great at my job.”
Eliot Arnovitz, a former Federation board member, echoes this sentiment, recounting a time Hamilton worked in the mailroom with an employee who had cerebral palsy. “Brenda gave him a new lease on life,” Arnovitz said. “Instead of sitting in a residential home, he looked forward to coming to work. Brenda was instrumental in his success and happiness at being around people and making a difference.”