Volunteer Spotlight: Elise Berk, Lead Organizer of the Speakers’ Bureau

Since Ryan Gravel first dreamt up the concept of the Atlanta BeltLine in 1999, the project has relied on grassroots supporters. We all know what that means: volunteers. Lots of volunteers. In this blog series, we take a moment to highlight some of the incredible people who give tirelessly to the Atlanta BeltLine purely out of their passion for the project. Today, we would like to introduce you to Elise Berk.

Since 2009, Elise has volunteered to spearhead the Speakers’ Bureau program. This means that she schedules the appointments for our Speakers’ Bureau members (also all volunteers) to go out into the community and give our Atlanta BeltLine 101 presentation. She organizes the schedule, inputs it into our volunteer management system (which many of you have probably used before), and juggles emails back and forth with our Speakers until every spot is filled. We have five 101 presentations every month, two RRC (Resources for Residents and Communities) presentations each month, and a healthy dose of requests from organizations across the city.

Elise and our Speakers realize how critical it is to make sure people know about the project and understand its far-reaching impact on our city. And we realize that, thanks to Elise and others giving between 10-20 hours a month of their time, we are able to reach so many more people in our communities than we ever could on our own.

How Elise got involved…

After moving from Atlanta to Los Angeles for ten years, Elise reached a breaking point with the traffic and congestion. She sought relief back in Atlanta, but moved back to find the city had doubled in size.

I was catching up with a friend here and we were comparing the cities.  I expressed concern that Atlanta could be heading toward the same situation as Los Angeles – uncontrolled sprawl and gridlock.  She told me about the Atlanta BeltLine and suggested I take the tour.  It was fascinating; I saw the potential of this project and wanted to become involved.  Along with the Streetcar Project and the proposed Transporation Hub, the BeltLine will contribute significantly to Atlanta’s smart growth.

— Elise Berk, Atlanta BeltLine volunteer


When Elise took the tour in March of 2008 with tour guide Derrick Duckworth, she saw neighborhoods she never knew about, overlooked the quarry that she’d never heard of, and immediately wanted to be a part of the project. So she started picking up shifts in our information booth at local festivals and was soon helping the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership research media contacts in Atlanta BeltLine neighborhoods. As that project finished up, Sharron Sylvain with the Partnership approached her about organizing presentations for the Speakers’ Bureau. She’s been involved ever since!

When sharing her volunteer experience, Elise says:

Everyone’s been so friendly and it’s very easy to get involved. This is such a worthwhile project that is going to impact everyone’s quality of life – whether you will be using the trails and transit yourself or whether you’re be enjoying less congested roads in your vehicle.


She also works at Georgia Tech, where Ryan Gravel wrote his master’s thesis proposing the Atlanta BeltLine – just another small kinship she feels to the project!

See all of the ways you can get involved and volunteer with the Atlanta BeltLine!

To request an Atlanta BeltLine 101 presentation for your organization, please call The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership at 404.446.4404. To sign up for a tour, please visit tours.beltline.org.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *