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We're stronger together: A special project

This place we call home is filled with ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary feats. Their selfless acts make this region so special – and they bring out the best in all of us.

With the holidays upon us, we wanted to share their inspiring stories, celebrate their accomplishments, and offer ways that you can help.

Just as the 55 people we’re profiling can’t do it alone, nor can we. That’s why we worked closely with our partners to bring you this collection of uplifting stories.

We hope they leave you feeling inspired and ready to tackle the busy new year that lies ahead. We hope they make you feel more connected to your community or to your neighbors. And maybe, just maybe, they will motivate you to come up with your own small way to make a big difference in the lives of others.

Meet Atlanta's Everyday Heroes

Amanda Clay and Allen Elfreth

For the past eight years, the officers have organized the iCan Bike summer camp. The camp teaches 40 special needs individuals how to ride a two-wheeled bicycle without the need for adaptive devices.

Suann Kim and Nela Vintrlikova

The two Gwinnett County high school students know what it's like to navigate a new country as immigrants. They started a translation service to reduce language barriers in underserved communities and connect people with different backgrounds.

Trish Miller

Trish left her public health job with the CDC Foundation to help ensure every Black child learns how to swim. She created SwemKids, which provides free swimming and water safety classes in elementary schools in underserved neighborhoods of Atlanta.

Jennifer Barnes

When the pandemic hit, Jennifer immediately thought of the families she knew would be out of work and kids who would miss their school lunches. She opened Solidarity Sandy Springs, a neighborhood grocery store with free food for anyone in need.

Rita Harris

Rita, who is legally blind, wanted to help others who had lost their eyesight regain their independance and enjoy life. She created a nonprofit support group, Living Life Team, to help visually impaired adults navigate life independently.

Samantha, Lauren, and Emilie Scalise

The three sisters have turned their mother's cancer battle into help for those fighting breast cancer. Since 2017, their annual Strides for Survivors Walk has raised over $60K for TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabillitation in Atlanta.

Brandon Brando

Brandon, a music artist and production assistant, built a wooden shelter for a homeless man he befriended.

Joan White

Joan runs a nonprofit out of her home that helps people with lympedema. She's had the painful condition for decades and knew others needed resources and support. Since her diagnosis, she's spent nearly 30 years trying to raise awareness and help others.

Anna and Ryan Teal

Anna and Ryan Teal had their lives turned upside down when Ryan was struck with Aphasia. Anna created a series of books designed to help aphasia patients.

Maria Fundora

Maria, a restauranteur, has raised over $3 million on her own for pancreatic cancer research through her non-profit Purple Pansies, Inc.

Ariel Fristoe

Ariel Fristoe, a professor at Emory, considers her work to be part of the ongoing civil rights movement. As the founder and artistic director of Out of Hand Theater, she pairs her artistic identity with her passion for social justice.

DeMicha Luster

DeMicha, a Georgia Southern grad, created the Urban Advocate. The small, grassroots organization aims to identifiy gaps and barriers to develop layered approaches on solving challenges impacting Black communities.

E.R. Anderson

E.R. is the Executive Director of Charis Circle, a non-profit programming arm of Charis Books - the South's oldest independent feminist bookstore. He works with artists, authors, and activists around the world to bring innovative, thoughtful, and life-changing programming and events to feminist communities.

Dr. Sophia Hussen, MD, MPH

Dr. Hussen is an associate professor at Emory University. She pairs her commitment to research with her practice as a physician, mixing advocacy with activism in real time to assist in combating the disease and providing authentic care and support for young Black men living with HIV.

Lama Rod Owens

Lama Rod Owens, a Black and queer man, is a Buddhist minister, author, activist and yoga instructor. He's renowned for his approach to self-care and commitment to freedom, especially in the Black community.

Mia Orino

Mia Orino is co-founder of Kamayan ATL, a Filipino fusion restuarant mostly known for their Kamayan style feasts. Along with being an emerging chef, she carves out time to provide guidance for young Filpino entrepreneurs and hopes her new restaurant will act as a community gathering place.

Cam T. Ashling

As an immigrant to Georgia from Vietnam at a young age, Cam is the dominant face and voice of Georgia’s AAPI politics.

Alesa Smith

Alesa is a hospice worker who goes the extra mile for her patients and homeless veterans. She collects umbrellas and turns them into door decorations along with flower donations from local florists.

Pia Valeriano

Pia is a pillar in her community, as she organizes fundraisers for both local and international relief. She also coordinates cultural celebrations, and works to educate the Filipino community on health issues.

Caleb Guy

Caleb Guy, who has Down syndrome, will compete in the 2023 Special Olympics World Games in Berlin. He is one of only three Georgia residents selected to represent Team USA.

Heather Malone

Heather created The Compassion Project to help spread awareness of homeless children in local schools. She collects basic needs like underwear, socks, toiletries and school supplies.

Dantes Rameau

Dantes co-founded the Atlanta Music Project, which offers high-quality music education to underprivileged and underserved kids.

Tomer Zvulun

Tomer has transformed the Atlanta Opera in his 10 years here from a sleepy company to one that performs cutting edge works. He has been an inspiring figure during the pandemic, purchasing a circus tent and becoming the only North American opera company to fully stage productions during the first year of COVID.

Joe Alterman

Joe has become a celebrated jazz pianist. His work with Neranenah (formerly the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival) has become a focus to acknowledge artistic contributions of the Jewish people. He also acts as a mentor to the upcoming generation of jazz pianists.

Najee Dorsey

Najee Dorsey, an established artist, opened Black Art in America Gallery and Sculpture Garden in East Point. The grand opening brought collectors and art lovers from around the country and featured panel discussions, artist talks and lectures.

Robin Rawls

Robin works at the Clayton County Humane Society in Jonesboro. She, along with other volunteers, has kept the no-kill shelter afloat despite the hard times.

Keisha Stubbs

Keisha runs a nonprofit organization called Tied Together. She hosts events that bring students, local fire/police/elected officials together - including men in the community to help boys learn how to tie ties. She also raises money for school supplies and pays off school lunch balances.

Muddessar Ahmad

Muddessar came to the U.S. from Pakistan with $2,200. After working at a factory in Baltimore, he and his partners opened a gas station in Conyers which grew to 19 locations around the state.

Rebekah Black

Rebekah left the corporate world to create the nonprofit Jambos, which is dedicated to helping foster children by soliciting donations of new pajamas.

Angela Harris

Angela founded Dance Canvas in 2008 to foster dancers and choreographers who come from underserved areas of the city. Harris has used her own experiences as the lone Black female ballerina in a South Carolina ballet company to mentor dozens of rising Black female dancers through the past decade.

Caleb Wiley

Caleb was a ball boy for Atlanta United just a few years ago, with the dream of playing professional one day. Now, at 17 years old, he signed his first professional contract with the club six weeks ago after coming up through its academy.

Carmen Deedy

Carmen and her family immigrated from Cuba when she was a little girl. Now, as a children's author, she reflects on her own personal story as a refugee in her latest book "Wombat Said Come In.

Chantelle Rytter

Chantelle used her love for Mardi Gras to create the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons. Together, her team organized the Atlanta Beltline Lantern Parade which now attracts thousands of participants.

Stephanie and Eric Cronmiller

After their son passed away at daycare, Stephanie and Eric started Charlie's Army. It's a nonprofit that's dedicated to providing young children a voice and empowering parents to create safe environments. They have donated multiple swaddles and pamphlets to new parents across the metro area.

Erin Faircloth and Naveen Bateman

Erin and Naveen are co-presidents of Farmers Market Friends, a UGA club that partners with Athens farmers to provide seasonal produce to students each week and help bridge the gap in food insecurity.

Esther Kim

Through her role as executive director of The Backpack Project of Athens, a student-led nonprofit with more than 450 student volunteers, Esther distributes backpacks with snacks and essential items to local homeless encampments.

Gigi Pedraza

Inspired by the booming growth of Latino communities, Peruvian-born Gigi created the Latino Community Fund to pool resources and disperse them to various organizations.

Jon Thompson

Atlanta native Jon Thompson John is co-founder of Comunidad Connect, a nonprofit organization working to alleviate poverty and create sustainable change in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

Guiomar Obregón

Guiomar Obregón is the co-founder of Precision 2000, a construction company focused on governmental civil engineering projects. She also helped create the Georgia Hispanic Construction Association to promote mentorship, support and advocacy.

Haylene Green

Haylene, a self-proclaimed 'garden queen,' manages two community gardens. Over the years, she’s become a matriarch of the urban agriculture movement in Atlanta.

Quianah Upton

Quianah created a space for healing through her flower shop in South Atlanta, Nourish Botanica. Her store, and future cafe, are focused on contributing to food and economic justice organizations.

John Taylor III

Taylor III is the co-founder of the Black Male Initiative Georgia Fund, a nonprofit aimed to empower Black men financially and civically.

Paula Richardson

Paula, a licensed nurse practitioner, used her life savings to fund a mobile van and provide free rapid COVID-19 tests to residents in metro Atlanta.

Claire Mistretta

Claire leads the Fresh Express, a student-led organization created to help combat food insecurity. The free market provides fresh produce and non-perishables to UGA students.

Rachel Johnson

Rachel is the co-president of the Period Project at UGA. The organization makes menstrual hygiene kits to be distributed to those in need.

Shelli Howard and Arlene McLane

Shelli and Arlene spend much of their free time driving around metro Atlanta to distribute care packages and supplies for people without shelter or basic necessities.

Jackie Wilcox

Jackie is the owner and operator of Lucky's Place, a wildlife rehabilitation center, which she runs from her home.