Introducing Inspire Atlanta: Storytelling that can inspire us all

Imagine you’re a high school student with no place to live. You complete your high school homework in the car your family calls home or by a small stove light in an extended stay motel. Somehow, you become the class valedictorian.

Imagine losing a child. Somehow, through all that unbearable grief, you find a way to help others cope with loss through your passion for photography.

Imagine coming up with a simple idea to help feed your needy friends. Somehow, your dedication ends up inspiring schools around the country to open their own food pantries for disadvantaged students.

Indeed, this place we call home is filled with remarkable people and uplifting feats – tales of personal growth, determination and selfless acts; stories that are just waiting to be told.

That's why we're launching a new feature called – appropriately enough – Inspire Atlanta. You'll find it inside Sunday's Living & Arts section. (Click or tap here for the AJCePaper.)

For some time now, we’ve been exploring ways to share more stories of ordinary people whose extraordinary efforts bring out the best in all of us.

We recognize that a big part of our journalistic mission is to shine a spotlight on wrongdoings and to hold our public officials accountable. But we also understand the importance of celebrating our region’s moments, milestones and people.

At some point, every newspaper editor in the country has talked to readers who say they’d like to find more positive news on the pages of their morning newspaper.

“We want to hear about all the great and innovative stuff that make us as Atlantans proud,” one of our subscribers said.

That’s exactly what we hope to accomplish with Inspire Atlanta.

We’re not the only news organization embarking on this endeavor.

In Minneapolis, the Star Tribune publishes a weekly section called “Inspired.” Readers of The Philadelphia Inquirer are inspired by “The UpSide.” Both of those sections, in fact, provided the motivation for Inspire Atlanta.

Each week, Inspire Atlanta will profile a person or a group that makes metro Atlanta a better place in which to live.

There’s Ashley Jones, the photographer who founded the Dunwoody-based nonprofit, Love Not Lost, after the death of her daughter. “It wasn’t my goal in life to set out and start a nonprofit,” Jones said, “but after losing our daughter to a terminal illness, photos just played such a huge role in my grieving and healing. I knew I wanted to give that gift to other people.”

There’s Chelesa Fearce, the young lady who graduated with a 4.5 GPA and a class-high SAT score, even though she and her family crammed into a single room at an extended stay motel, bunked among strangers at a homeless shelter or slept in the car. “I wasn’t embarrassed (about being homeless),” Chelesa told us. “It makes you humble. It makes you want to be a better person.”

There’s Lauren and Steven Seroyer, twins who helped their classmates in Gwinnett County learn more about teen hunger. They created a school-based food pantry for needy students – an idea that has taken hold at schools across the nation. “I don’t think I expected it to grow this big,” Lauren Seroyer said. “We just wanted to help the guy who didn’t have enough to eat at home.”

And there are so many others who will share their uplifting experiences.

These main stories are just a small part of what you’ll find on the pages of Inspire Atlanta.

Each week, we’ll feature a local nonprofit or a community group that needs your help. We’ll provide useful information and the latest news to help you live a happier and healthier life. While the section focuses on metro Atlanta, we realize that inspiration knows no geographic boundaries, so we’ll share a short and moving story from around the globe.

As part of this new feature, we’re dreaming up plenty of ways to leave you feeling inspired.

In addition to reading us each Sunday, subscribers will also receive uplifting stories delivered directly to their in-boxes. Our Inspire Atlanta newsletter features videos and photo galleries that chronicle the journeys of everyday people whose work helps metro Atlantans.

Inside the newsletter, you’ll find a link to a new podcast featuring local nonprofits. We’ll tell you about the good work these organizations are doing – and how you can help.

Of course, we can’t do this alone. We need your help in learning more about the remarkable people behind these uplifting stories.

Do you know someone who inspires you? Someone whose story will make others smile? If so, we’d love to hear from you. You can email us

We hope you enjoy this new feature as much as we’ve enjoyed creating it.

Above all else, we hope these stories leave you feeling inspired and ready to tackle the busy week 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.

Wouldn’t that be inspiring?

Mark A. Waligore is Senior Director & Managing Editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.