The Cobb Community Relations Council will honor a recipient from each of the county’s four commission districts at a March 15 dinner at Piedmont Church, 570 Piedmont Road in northeast Cobb. Piedmont Church will take home the award for Commissioner JoAnn Birrell’s district, while Foundation Masonic Lodge No. 592 in southeast Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott’s district will be honored, Special Needs Development Group will receive the award for Commissioner Helen Goreham’s northwest Cobb district and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority’s PEARL Foundation in Commissioner Woody Thompson’s southwest Cobb district will be recognized.
Commissioners each receive nominations from their districts. Recipients are chosen by a five-member evaluation panel, which is separate from the board of the community relations council, said Patty Smitherman, the council’s chairwoman.
Smitherman said the council seeks to prevent certain groups of people from becoming disenfranchised.
“It not only recognizes the people and groups that are doing good work, but it also holds them up as a model,” she said. “It’s not just race and ethnicity, but that’s a part of it too.”
Patti Willig said she nominated Piedmont Church because of the work it does in the area, including opening its meeting space up to school and civic groups free of charge to manning tailgate events and concession stands at Sprayberry High School football games.
Willig, who is not a member of the church, said the work comes from the Rev. Ike Reighard’s plans to get the church more involved.
“The list just goes on and on for what they’ve done for the community,” she said.
Reighard said the community involvement has helped grow church attendance to 900 people on a typical Sunday morning, up from 200 people five years ago.
“It does grow your church when people know you care about your community,” he said.
The Smyrna Prince Hall Freemasons are being honored for their outreach, much of which involves Argyle Elementary School, said Stanley Horton, the senior officer of the lodge. Every other Wednesday, lodge members go to the school to mentor fifth-grade boys.
In addition, lodge members adopt families for Thanksgiving and Christmas, providing them with gift cards for food, as well as gifts.
“We don’t do this looking for awards,” Horton said. “We’ve been part of the community for the past 10 years.”
Special Needs Development Group started by working with the city of Acworth in building Horizon Field, a baseball and softball field designed for children with special needs. Since then, it has expanded its focus to operating the field and helping kids offset the cost of playing in leagues there.
Now the field hosts 185 people in a spring baseball league, 120 in summer kickball and 155 in fall baseball, said James Albright, a board member with the development group. They also recruit “buddies” for the players from local high schools and community organizations.
“When they’re up to bat, they’ve got a buddy up there with them,” Albright said.
Gloria Nichols, board president for the PEARL Foundation, said the group is a philanthropic arm of the Rho Zeta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha.
Last year, the organization funded $15,000 in scholarships for black female seniors at Cobb County schools. It also sponsors a leadership program at Tapp Middle School in Powder Springs, as well as a kids club that teaches students at two elementary schools about topics like healthy eating.
It also features programs at area senior apartments on topics such as changes to Medicare and Medicaid, Nichols said.
Nichols said the award is pleasing because her organization is composed entirely of volunteers.
“I know everybody does a lot to give back to the community, but it’s never enough because the need is so great,” she said.
While the Cobb Community Relations Council was started in 1989, it was dormant for years until former Cobb Chairman Sam Olens revived it in 2009, Smitherman said.
The award program and dinner costs $20 to attend. For information, contact Smitherman at email@example.com. Shan Cooper, vice president and general manager of the Marietta Lockheed Martin plant, will serve as guest speaker.
“She is a delightful person and a good speaker, and she gets the mission,” Smitherman said of Cooper.