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Atlanta Falcons owner to donate $6.8M for international aid

The billionaire owner of the Atlanta Falcons is making his first major drive into international philanthropy.

The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation is expected to announce Thursday that it’s donating $6.8 million to the aid group CARE. The money will fund efforts to avert humanitarian crises abroad and support a village savings program in Africa.

The foundation has helped numerous charities in Atlanta and elsewhere in the U.S. since its founding in 1995. The CARE grant is its first large-scale international project.

Blank — a co-founder of Home Depot Inc. — bought the Falcons football team in 2002 and also owns the Atlanta United soccer team. His family and foundation have donated more than $400 million to charities, according to the foundation’s website.

Blank said in an email that the CARE grant is a “natural extension” of the foundation’s work.

“The challenges being addressed by our Family Foundation — poverty, human rights, climate change — are global,” he said.

Blank’s gift will allow CARE, which is also based in Atlanta, to expand its village savings and loan program in Tanzania and Malawi and launch a savings and loan program in Nigeria, CARE CEO Michelle Nunn said in a telephone interview.

Villagers pool their savings to provide interest-bearing loans to members to start small businesses and pay for health care and education. CARE provides training in governance, group dynamics and money management.

The programs serve nearly 7.6 million people in 51 countries, most of them women, according to CARE.

Nunn said Blank’s donation will allow CARE to serve more than 1 million additional women.

The savings and loan programs are “very resonant with Arthur’s sense of entrepreneurship” and his support for women’s empowerment, Nunn said. She said she’s known Blank for decades.

“He’s always had a global mindset,” Nunn said.

Blank will also serve as co-chairman of a new CARE committee in Atlanta that will help the organization plan for the future.