Since 1995, the Sandy Springs Society has recognized a volunteer in our community who exemplifies the spirit of community service by contributing to the betterment of Sandy Springs and acknowledges the individual’s contributions by donating a check for $1,000 to the 501(c)(3) charity of the recipient’s choice. Individuals who are paid for their service and members of the Society are not eligible, but members’ spouses and families are.

Spirit of Sandy Springs Award 2021

Nicole Nigel Gray

Nicole accepting the award from Peyton White and Society President Susan Sutterfield

Each year the Sandy Springs Society honors a community member who has made an extraordinary difference by volunteering for a cause that serves our community.

This year, 2021, the Spirit of Sandy Springs Award goes to a deserving citizen who as a third grade teacher, like all teachers during the COVID pandemic, has gone beyond the call of all her duties.

Our winner, Nicole Nagel Gray, a teacher at Lake Forest Elementary School, saw a huge need amd rallied her colleagues and friends.  Together, they created “Lion Pride,” a reflection of the school’s mascot – and so much more!

And the rest of the story?

Nicole entered the fray of “pandemic crisis management” by taking bags of food to families of students at her school.  Upon knocking at one particular door, she found the student – a 5th grader serving as translator – and three small siblings, along with their mom who was pregnant with her fifth child.  Nicole discovered that scarcity of food was almost the LEAST of their problems!  They could pay neither their electric bill nor even their apartment rent.

After that moment, thanks to Nicole, Lion Pride was born – “Emergency Assistance & Support for Families of Lake Forest Elementary School.”  This grassroots organization first connects families with charitable organizations such as the Community Assistance Center and the Solidarity Food Pantry for support.  Next Lion Pride assists with any needs not met by local organizations, or supplements the support already in place as necessary.

In twice-monthly Zoom calls, teachers report on the DIRE needs of their students – needs not met by other charities – and through a Facebook page set up by Nicole and her Pride of Lion teachers and friends, hundreds of dollars for food, rent, utilities, medicines and everyday necessities poured in!  By the end of 2020, over $40,000 if donations had been received, and dozens of citizens donated actual food, clothes, supplies and services.

Nicole is quick to say that these families-in-need are good, hard working folks who just don’t have extra financial resources.  Many of the parents work in the service industry – restaurants, hotels, and construction companies – and have either lost their jobs, or now have reduced hours because of the pandemic.

“Our little scrappy startup charity,” as Nicole calls Lion Pride, continues to fill students’ needs – everything from eye exams and glasses; to supplies for victims of a devastating fire; to assistance for grieving families who have lost a mom or dad.  The needs are endless, and Lion Pride is indeed PROUD and grateful for every dollar that has been donated for its students.

The Sandy Springs Society is honored and proud to present this year’s Spirit of Sandy Springs Award to Nicol Nagel Gray, along with a check in her honor to Lake Forest’s Lion Pride fund!

The recipient of the Spirit of Sandy Springs Award is chosen by an independent group of community judges from among the outstanding nominations each year.

Previous Spirit of Sandy Springs Award Recipients

1995 Kathy Klatt

1996 William Huff

1997 Eva Galambos

1998 Charles Balch

1999 James M. Anderson III

2000 Wilson McClure

2001 Willis Walter Cleveland

2002 Ham Henson

2003 Milton Gorman

2004 Linda Bain

2005 Douglas W. Kessler**

2006 Joseph Mayson

2007 D. J. DeLong

2008 Tom Umstead

2009 Guy Berger

2010 Beppie Lever

2011 Fran Farias

2012 Rich Brown

2013 Clarke Otten

2014 No Award Given

2015 Bob Knox

2016 Willis Lanier

2017 Trisha Thompson Fox

2018 Gene Jordan

2019 Althea Scott Mallory

2020 Jennifer Lott, Jennifer Barnes, Erin Oliver, Sonia Simon

Deceased** awarded posthumously

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Guidelines for Nominations for the Spirit of Sandy Springs Award

For an individual to be eligible for nomination for the Spirit of Sandy Springs Award, the following criteria must be met:

  • Nominees may not be members of The Sandy Springs Society; however, spouses and other family members are eligible.
  • Nominees may not be paid for their community service.
  • A minimum of two years of active volunteer service must be completed within the Sandy Springs area, but residence in Sandy Springs is not required.

The name of the recipient, selected by members of a Community Advisory Board, is announced at The Sandy Springs Society’s spring general meeting in May.

The Sandy Springs Society welcomes nominations for The Spirit of Sandy Springs Award from its own members and from the community at large. The Spirit Award will be presented at the spring Luncheon of the Sandy Springs Society.

Nomination forms should be mailed to:

The Sandy Springs Society
Attn: Spirit of Sandy Springs Award
P. O. Box 720074
Atlanta, GA  30358

For an application nomination form, click here (pdf)

Thank You to Our Presenting Sponsor: