Choate Combines Love for Cars, Philanthropy to Help Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Kim Wade

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

In 1989, Millard Choate began his construction company as a basement start-up out of his home in north Atlanta. He said that was about the same time he learned that Leann, his daughter Emily’s best friend, was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, a life threatening disorder that affects the lungs and digestive system. The girls were in preschool together at the time, and Choate said when he learned of Leann’s diagnosis he didn’t know anything about Cystic Fibrosis.

“At the time, the survival rate was 13,” he added. “It was a time race. There was no cure.”

Fast forward 26 years later, and Choate can rattle off statistics and new treatments for cystic fibrosis like a pro. 

“Today, Leann is 30 and she’s going to get married this year.  And the average survival rate is 41. It’s a terrible disease, but great strides have been made. …And we’ll keep working on it until we can at least arrest the disease and eventually eliminate it.”

It’s that kind of dedication that has enabled Choate to expand his basement business to five offices that cover Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, employing more than 600 employees.  And he said the mission he started with is the same today with a focus on integrity, innovation, safety and stewardship. 

“Relationships are absolutely key,” he said. “We are focused on helping people get on their feet, helping the military, helping those who are sick. The whole of idea of philanthropy is big to me. We are pretty simple people. My wife and I don’t live an extravagant life, because we really enjoy giving back.”

And that philanthropic spirit has passed on to daughter Emily Bridges as well as other Choate employees who give their time and treasures each year to support Choate’s mission for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. 

One of their big fundraising events is the annual Cars & ‘Q for the Cause which takes place on April 30 from 4-7 p.m. at Choate Construction at 8200 Roberts Drive in Atlanta. This is the seventh year for the show and the event features an award-winning car show with more than 100 classic, muscle and exotic cars and bikes, BBQ, local brews, wine, cocktails, live music and an auction. Tickets in advance are $15 for event entry and $30 for event entry and dinner and access to the bar for 21 and over. Tickets at the door rise to $20 and $40. Parking is free and all proceeds benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. For more information, go to  or call 404-325-6973.

Choate said the Cars & ‘Q event began as a small gathering with about 10 cars.

“So many people in our line of work love cars so we thought we’d have a cruise in show and it just went from there.”

As a self-proclaimed “car nut,” Choate said he has always had a passion for old cars which began as a youngster growing up on a farm outside of Nashville, Tenn. 

“We didn’t have a lot of money, but we took absolute perfect care of everything we had and that translated to our vehicles. … One of our neighbors owned a gas station and I worked there. I learned about the mechanics of cars and just caught the bug.”

Choate admitted that he has been surprised by the quality of vehicles that have arrived at the annual car show event.

“One year we had a 1931 Duesenberg; that’s the crowning jewel. It’s like the epitome of senior classics and collectables. … We do have a lot of senior classics but we also have a lot of muscle cars. There’s a great variety and something here for everyone.”

He gives his daughter Emily, who is also Marketing Director at Choate, all the credit for making the Cars & ‘Q event so successful. He said her passion for helping the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation by serving as a member on the Georgia Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Board and leading fundraising events for the company gave him one of his proudest moments in life.

“A few years ago, we were invited to the national convention for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation … and we got the notice that Emily would receive the Jena Award. It’s the award that goes to the national volunteer of the year and they only give out one in the entire nation. We traveled up there together and I was so proud when they called her name out.”

According to Choate, Cars & ‘Q for the Cause raised more than $175,000 last year, contributing a total of more than $2 million raised by Choate to date. The company sponsors and participates in a variety of events that benefit the CF Foundation like XTREME Hike at their Charlotte office, Cycle for a Cure, Clays for a Cause in Savannah, Shoot for the Cure in Charleston and the CF Climb Challenge in Atlanta. The company also boasts a list of other charitable events that focus on other causes important to the company’s employees.