By Emmy Powell
One of the long-standing and memorable traditions at ALTA is the annual meeting in November. But just like nearly everything in 2020, this year’s meeting was unlike anything ALTA had done before. We produced a top-quality video and then held a live streaming event to showcase where the organization’s top leaders gather to recognize the vast network of volunteers and to elect officers for 2021.
Along with the unprecedented annual meeting, this past year ALTA also had to continuously handle and respond to issues as they related to COVID-19 and league play. ALTA Board Chairman Robert Fitzgerald said the number-one issue ALTA experienced this year was COVID-19, as the spring season was canceled due to the pandemic. “This is the first time we had canceled a season, and my hope is that we never have to again,” he said. He thanked his fellow board members, the ALTA Executive Committee, the volunteers, and the office staff. “In particular, I want to thank the members for rising to the challenge of closing down the spring season and then opening back up in the summer.”
Despite the uncertain circumstances of 2020, the chairman said a major goal for ALTA this past year was improving members’ experiences, which included key advancements with our website and the team management system. “The line-up checker has made life much easier for our members and our coordinators,” Fitzgerald said. “Our intent is always to have members win or lose on the tennis court and not because someone put together an ‘illegal’ line-up.”
Fitzgerald complimented the incredible job of the office staff to continue the business of ALTA. “I want to thank Diane O’Brien, Renee Bowen, Joan Applebaum, Emmy Powell, and Leslie Gersack for adapting to this environment while still getting their work done,” he said.
One of the highlights of the year, before COVID forced event delays or cancellations, was watching Rafael Nadal and Grigor Dimitrov become two of our newest (honorary) ALTA members.
Financially, Fitzgerald said ALTA was in good shape and on sound footing. 2020 ALTA Treasurer John Lowell, who also will serve in that role in 2021, presented this year’s financial report. He said ALTA’s budget, which is approximately 1.5 million dollars, is sound. “That money is used almost in its entirety on providing our members with an outstanding tennis experience, says Lowell, adding that the board has approved a budget for 2021 that is conservative and prudent. “It serves our membership well and helps to ensure that ALTA will continue to be the best tennis experience in metro Atlanta, as well as the best tennis value in 2021 and for many years to come,” he said.
Following the treasurer’s report, Fitzgerald reiterated the unprecedented and unanticipated year of 2020. “We were extremely fortunate in so many ways to have Sandy Depa in charge, as she had to navigate through completely unchartered waters and find a way to keep our members engaged while making sure safety was a priority,” he said. Depa had to endure a year as president like no other, and she was definitely the right person at the right time. “I don’t think I will ever forget that afternoon of March 12 and the thought that went into the final decision to shut down ALTA tennis for the spring season due to COVID-19,” said Depa.
One positive result from the challenges of 2020 was the increase in people playing tennis. “After all, if you can’t go anywhere, it seems that the neighborhood courts were now an outlet for being pent up in our homes,” said Depa.
Depa also paid special tribute to the immense support that was received from “the wonderful office staff, the volunteers, other VPs, the board, the coordinators, and her husband and family.” She said there was no way that she would have made it through this year if she did not have the support from others.
That support includes so many people, and while Depa could not single out any one person who helped her the most, she did thank “two wonderful friends” who supported her throughout the year. Depa handed out the first Presidential Award to 2021 ALTA President Debbie Gaster. “Thank goodness for you and your logical thought process, and your honesty. I always knew that I would get an honest response regardless. I truly appreciate and thank you for time and all your help this past year,” said Depa.
The second Presidential Award was given to former Senior Leagues VP Barbara Ingram, who takes over as the Media VP in 2021. “She always gives with her heart 200 percent,” said Depa. “Thank you so much for always being there this year, but not only this year, all the past years as well.”
Turning to the future of ALTA and 2021, the organization plans to celebrate its 50th anniversary. 2021 President Debbie Gaster discussed the first season of ALTA league play, which was in the spring of 1971, when about 900 members joined to play in the Men’s and Thursday Women’s Leagues. “Very quickly, other leagues were added, and today we have the largest local tennis membership in Atlanta, and numerous league offerings for both adult and junior players, as well as a thriving ALTA Foundation,” she said. Gaster has been fortunate to remain with the same group of women for more than 20 years. “I could never have guessed that the people I would meet as a result of my decision to play ALTA would become and remain some of my closest friends today.”
Gaster has served countless hours in nearly every role with ALTA. This has given her the confidence to take on her new role as president. It is that same confidence she gained by working closely this year with Depa, whom she said included her in so many of the difficult decisions as she responded to the challenges of 2020. Gaster is optimistic about celebrating 50 years of ALTA league play in 2021 and says she fully expects the next 50 years to be just as successful.
2020 Award Recipients
Chairman of the Board
Executive Committee President
DIAMOND IN RACQUET
Executive Committee/Board of Directors, First Year
25-Year Hall of Fame
ALTA Gold Pin
20 years of service
15 years of service
Bezel Rope for Coin
10 years of service
Diamond in Coin
Five years of Service
Two Years of Service
2021 ALTA Board of Directors
Chairman of the Board Joyce Vance
2019 ALTA President Bill Price
2020 ALTA President Sandy Depa
2021 ALTA President Debbie Gaster
The ALTA Foundation President Diana Burger
2020 Elected Member Larry Waters
2021 Elected Member Chequetta Allen
Treasurer John Lowell
Secretary/First Vice-President Lamar Scott
2021 ALTA Foundation Board of Directors
President Diana Burger
Treasurer John Lowell
Secretary Rita Maloof
2021 ALTA Executive Committee
President Debbie Gaster
First Vice-President (2022 President-Elect) Lamar Scott
Secretary Camille Puckett
Treasurer John Lowell
VP Men’s League Mitch Falkin
VP Thursday Women’s League Keri Beck
VP Sunday Women’s League Linda Shepherd
VP Senior Day Leagues Cathy Gonzales
VP Senior Leagues Roger Dennington
VP Mixed Doubles League Cameron Turner
VP Junior Leagues Tammi Copelli
VP Junior Challenge Ladder Brenda Maddaleni
VP Special Programs Eric Behning
VP Media Barbara Ingram
President’s Appointee Mimi McFall
2020 President Sandy Depa
2019 President Bill Price
ALTA Foundation Rep. Rita Maloof