Anyone who’s spent five minutes on Atlanta’s charity scene knows the elegant, accomplished Lovette Russell.
The Spelman College alumna and trustee is chair of the Hughes Spalding Community Board, a member of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Zoo Atlanta and Sheltering Arms boards and has helmed some of the city’s most prestigious black-tie galas. (Remember the viral Huffington Post essay criticizing Atlanta reality stars? The writer suggested that Russell, not the bickering drama queens made famous by certain television networks, embodies the style and grace of a real “real housewife.”)
On Nov. 10, Russell receives the Mary Cann Achievement Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service at Night of Hope Gala, benefiting the Georgia chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America.
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Russell is preparing for the event, to be held at the Mason Murer Art Gallery, with the help of a fundraising powerhouse in the making. Natalie Bates, a 16-year-old junior at Kennesaw Mountain High School who was diagnosed with lupus at age 12, raised $5,000 for the foundation by selling lollipops outside her school, church and area businesses including the Kennesaw car wash her father Bob Bates manages.
“It’s very humbling and exciting,” Natalie said of her role in the gala.
Kim Schofield, a national and chapter advocate living with lupus, will receive the Tomica Gill Courage Award.
Russell does not have lupus but can relate, having dealt with scleroderma and pulmonary fibrosis. Both she and Natalie know what it’s like to appear fine on the outside yet feel terrible.
“It can be hard to understand because you look normal,” Russell said. “People almost want you to look sick.”
Natalie sometimes wrestles with how to explain to her friends why she feels tired so often.
“What I get in my head is people are tired of hearing it,” she said.
She and Russell stay in touch via social media. “We have become good Instagram friends,” Russell said of her young partner in philanthropy. She’s able to stay in touch with major events in Natalie’s life, like her recently acquired driver’s license.
“‘I’m right there for you, too,” Natalie told Russell.
The teenager wasn’t familiar with lupus before she was diagnosed but is grateful for the Lupus Foundation.”The minute you meet everyone in the chapter, they’re behind you 100 percent, with advice on everything you need,” she said. “This is the best place to go for help.”