Our Town: Sandy Springs Volunteer group works toward betterment of community
By H.M. Cauley
For the AJC
It started 25 years ago when 15 women got together to make positive improvements in their community. They formed the Sandy Springs Society, determined to make a difference in what was then an unincorporated mishmash of neighborhoods, apartment complexes and shopping centers.
Founding member Marianne Lee, who moved to the area in 1960, remembers when the area wasn’t even that.
“My aunt had a lodge up here when it was just a crossroads, and we used to visit when I was a child,” she recalled. “As a society, we have all worked so much to have our own city, and now we do.”
From its beginning, the volunteer organization grew quickly, surpassing the 100-member mark and now counting more than 300. They formed committees to set up after-school tutoring programs, lead computer classes at the senior citizens center and raise money for a variety of Sandy Springs-based groups.
“I like to say we are the soul of Sandy Springs,” said Lee, the group’s fifth president. “We worked very hard to get it going, and it’s amazing how it’s grown because a lot of groups like this don’t last. As we’ve gotten bigger, we’ve also raised more and more money. We now have about 20 local groups that we donate to who are working to be a good influence in our community.”
Valerie Love, a member since 1998 who served as president last year, said the society is the northside’s version of the Junior League.
“I got involved because I heard friends talking about what the organization was doing to identify needs in the area and assist groups that needed help,” said Love. “We’re still out here doing really good stuff, but people don’t know much about us.”
What they should know is that the society was behind the Town Turtles that popped up all over the area a few years ago. It raised funds to install the entertainment lawn at Heritage Sandy Springs and to buy more than 140 acres of park land from Fulton County. Members organize the holiday Elegant Elf Marketplace and the spring Tossed Out Treasures sale that raises money for their beautification and conservation efforts.
One of the latest society projects was unveiled this week when a pocket park at the corner of Mount Vernon Highway and Hammond Drive was planted with an oak tree and dedicated to Mayor Eva Galambos. Love worked with the city arborist to design a plan for the island.
“The loveliest thing the society does for the outgoing president is to give them money to use for the community in any way they’d like,” said Love. “As a group of women, I felt it was appropriate to recognize the mayor for the 30 years she spent fighting for us to become a city. At the same time, greenspace has always been an important part of our mission. This was another way to create a bit more and give the city something that will stand for years as a lasting tribute.”
The new island perks up a corner that in need of a makeover, said member Julie Johnson.
“It was a bit of an eyesore, with just an orange utility pole sticking up out of the grass,” she said. “This new park almost makes it a gateway to the city.”
Each Saturday, we shine a spotlight on a local neighborhood, city or community. To suggest a place for us to visit, e-mail H.M. Cauley at email@example.com or call 770- 744-3042.
Learn more about membership and projects of the Sandy Springs Society at www.sandyspringssociety.org.
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