error: no ad slot id exists: undefined
Sponsor banner

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.

This year, we’re recognizing 52 inspiring Georgians who have done their small part to make a big difference. And with the holidays upon us, we wanted to share their inspiring stories, celebrate their accomplishments, and offer ways that you can help.

Our annual Everyday Heroes project is part of a special installment of Inspire Atlanta – an initiative that we began back in 2019 to profile remarkable Georgians. Just as the 52 people we're profiling couldn'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

Dr. Lisa Maddox

After losing her left leg, Dr. Maddox continued her love for sports but this time - from a wheelchair. She's played wheelchair basketball, tennis, curling and rugby across the country.

Jonathan 'JT' Wu

JT has always understood the impact that access to education can have on young students. He started a nonprofit, Preface, to support childhood literacy which has since expanded across 14 states.


Reggie, a four-year-old golden retriever, brings hope and love to patients and families at Children’s Health Care of Atlanta.

Azira G. Hill

At 100-years-old, Azira has helped a countless number of music students. She established a talent development program at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to help the aspiring careers of African American and Latino musicians.

Julie Allen

Julie is the founder of the #BakeWithMe Project, a network of volunteer bakers who make loaves of bread for homeless shelters and churches each month.

Torres family

The Torres family are known for their love for dinosaur inflatables, which they proudly display on their front lawn. When the pandemic started, Lisa began adding encouraging messages that gave neighbors hope.

Chioma Narcisse-Williams

9-year-old Chioma won the hearts of many after appearing on NBC's 'America's Got Talent' this summer with The Atlanta Drum Academy.

Larry Guzy

When the pandemic closed local gyms, Larry picked up running. The 75-year-old ran the equivalent of a 10K race for 1,000 days straight and is still on the move.

Jane Rolen

Jane is a lead volunteer for events in metro Atlanta celebrating and honoring the Filipino community.

Jennifer Jones

Frustrated with the lack of therapy available for children, Jennifer took matters into her own hands. The speech pathologist and mom of five opened Apparo Academy, a faith-based learning center for young children.

Andrea Hancock

With Andrea's help, people can sleep a little more soundly. Her nonprofit, P.E.S.T. Relief International, provides clean bedding and pest control services to the most at-risk communities in Georgia.

Teresa 'Lady T' Hamilton

When Lady T realized the large number of homeless people in Georgia, she quit her buisness and started Lady T’s Homeless Ministry. She has since dedicated her life to serving hot, homemade meals to almost 1,000 homeless people each week.

Zupancic family

Amy and her two sons were shocked to learn about the shortage of anonymous kidney donors, which motivated them to do something. They each donated their kidneys to strangers.

Jonelle Dawkins

Jonelle is passionate about sustainability so when she joined Scraplanta, she knew she could make a large impact. The creative reuse store has collected over 30,000 pounds of materials.

Adam Brooks

Adam leads the music program at Atlanta's largest high school, where he teaches hundreds of students. His hard work was recognized by Grammy-award-winning legend Barry Manilow.

Jean Yu

During the pandemic, Jean created Mindful Companions as a way to connect virtually with seniors who may feel isolated. She held weekly concerts and mindfulness lessons online for residents at senior living communities.

Mike Massey

Like many others, Mike picked up a hobby during the pandemic. He started making homemade fruit jams. He has since donated 11,000 jars of his homemade jams through a local ministry for people in need.

Dr. Amanda Calvird

Dr. Calvird, a veterinarian, is helping save the lives of underserved animals at the Athens Area Humane Society. She and her team provide relief work for shelters across Northeast Georgia.

Sierra Bastis

Sierra, a UGA student, is helping seniors in need through the Senior Staples program. She helps deliver groceries and other necessities while checking on their wellbeing.

Aliyah Williams

Aliyah is one of the first AmeriCorps Community Food Fellows at UGA. She works with Campus Kitchen to find sustainable solutions to alleviate hunger and food waste in Athens.

Natalie Bacho

After losing her daughter in a tragic car accident, Natalie started the Abby's Angels Foundation. The organizaiton offers a program called Abby's Closet that provides free school supplies to students in need.

Erica Clahar

With her passion for preventing food waste, Erica created Umi Feeds, a food rescue non-profit dedicated to serving the hungry. Umi Feeds has served over 70,000 meals to the homeless.

Sterling Johnson

Sterling is an advocate for economic inclusion. He has helped invest over $500,000 into Black and brown community initiatives in Georgia along with the non-profit Partnership for Southern Equity.

Kiyomi Rollins

Kiyomi is dedicated to fostering connection and empowerment. She started The Kenekt Cooperative, a community-driven initiative that seeks to bridge gaps and create a support network for residents.

Riya Patel

Riya founded the Athens chapter of Hearts for the Homeless, a student club that focuses on both heart and mental health. Her club provides free screenings and training sessions to those who are struggling to find medical care.

Xernona Thomas

Xernona is dedicated to helping students accomplish their goals. After retiring, she joined the College Factory, a non-profit organization in Athens that provides SAT and ACT test prep and career coaching.

Kali Cunningham

Outside of his work as a tattoo artist, Kali is detemined to give back to the community he calls home. He started Huglife Cares, a non-profit organization that hosts back-to-school drives and other events to help those in need.

Lorri Brown

During the pandemic, Lorri provided essentials like food and medical assistance to families in need through her non-profit, Dream Chasers 21 Inc. She also helped many seniors with their rent and mortgage payments.

Argentina Grader

When Argentina's friend underwent chemotherapy and lost her hair, she knitted her a hat. The act of kindness has since expanded. She's knitted over 400 hats and donated them to cancer patients at Savannah hospitals.

Rev. Duncan Teague

As a pastor of an LGBTQ church, Rev. Teague has been a fierce advocate for Atlanta's Black and gay communities. He's spent decades focused on HIV/AIDS education, advocacy, and research coordination.

Morna Gerrard

As a skilled archivist at Georgia State University, Morna collects artifacts from present-day events that will speak to future generations.

Will Ramirez

Will is on a mission to provide safe, affordable housing for people with HIV/AIDs in Atlanta and across the south. The U.S. Navy veteran works with the Southern AIDs Coalition and lobbies lawmakers to increase budgets for neighborhood improvements.

Liz Platner and Barbara Hardin

Barbara and Liz lead PORCH chapters in Atlanta, a concept that allows neighbors to donate nonperishables on their front porches for disbursement to local food banks.

Alaya Horne

During the pandemic Alaya wrote down her thoughts in her diary which she shared with readers of the AJC. Those diary entries are now part of the Georgia Historical Society permanent COVID archives.

Sarah Lampley

After her fourth son was delivered stillborn, Sarah leaned on her faith. She donated breast milk to premature babies and created the Legendary Impact Foundation which raises money for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

Shuler Hensley

Shuler started hosting the Georgia High School Musical Theatre Awards in 2009. Now, the awards show is better known as the Shulers and allows him to connect to students across the state.

Deeksha Khanna

This high school senior is breaking taboos around menstruation. Deeksha founded The Elea Project to provide menstrual hygiene kits to homeless shelters, community centers and schools.

C.J. and Kollin Matthews

C.J. and Kollin were determined to help kids in need. They created Blankies 4 My Buddies, a nonprofit that collects and donates thousands of blankets to children at local hospitals, shelters and orphanages.

Miguel Hernandez

Miguel knows what it's like to move to a new country and be unfamilar with the language. He started Instituto de las Americas, a language school for Spanish speakers hoping to learn English.

Tanya Mahrous and Toby Tobias

Toby and Tanya created a unique thift store that supports homeless pets. Since opening, they have donated over $2 million in grants to rescue groups and programs.

Randy Simpkins and Russell Dallas

Randy knows God was at work when he gave a kidney last year to Russell, a man he’d never met. Now the two are encouraging others to become donors - and hope to bring their story to the big screen.

Nena Gilreath and Waverly T. Lucas

For over 30 years, this duo has led a professional ballet company for Black and Brown dancers who are often overlooked. Ballethnic Dance Company mentors and trains dancers of all ages.