The fourth annual Creating Community Awards, taking place on the evening of March 20, is organized by The Cobb Community Relations Council, a 24-member board that was created in 1989 by the Cobb Board of Commissioners.
Chairperson Patty Smitherman, who has lived in Cobb since 1988 and taught Spanish for twelve years at Marietta High School, said the council had been inactive for a number of years. The idea for the community awards came during a reorganization in 2011.
The program honors Cobb residents who are making a difference in various communities by meeting a need and promoting diversity.
The Community Relations Council is not focused on highlighting differences, but diversity. Overall, unity allows the government to function better and attracts businesses to the county, Smitherman said.
“A successful community has all people connected and accepted,” Smitherman said. “I think the community works better when we don’t have walls between us.”
The location picked to host the awards ceremony changes each year, moving between the county commissioner districts.
Two years ago, Piedmont Church west of Canton Road represented Commissioner JoAnn Birrell’s district, and last year the Cobb County Safety Village south of Powder Springs Road represented Commissioner Helen Goreham’s district.
Being the fourth year, the Creating Community Awards ceremony will come to Commissioner Bob Ott’s district, completing the rotation. This year the Windy Hill Community Center, west of Cumberland, will have the event.
This year’s keynote speaker is Moanica Caston, vice president of diversity and inclusion with Georgia Power.
The selection process
The amount of nominees has gone up each year, Smitherman said. The first year had around 10 nominations, but this year’s list includes more than 20 people.
“It is on an upward track that is for sure,” Smitherman said.
One recipient will be honored from each of the four commission districts.
“Each year we have one district that has a few more nominees, but it has shifted around,” said Smitherman, who thinks the more aware the public is of the honor, the broader the representation will be.
Nominees from a previous year can be renominated for following years, which Smitherman said is a common occurrence. But, if a candidate has won, they are not eligible for the award again.
According to the Creating Community Awards nomination form, the individual or group being considered should exhibit leadership and inspire “actions that will create long-term benefits for Cobb citizens.”
The person nominating the honorees should describe the community and diversity issue it faces, the strategies used by the nominee to gain community involvement, the other groups that came together to cooperate with the “innovative actions,” and the positive outcomes resulting from the change.
Smitherman said the Creating Community Awards is a chance to not only give engaged residents recognition for “either serving the underserved” or connecting communities, but also to “show them as a model.”
Winners are selected by an evaluation council, which is separate from the Community Relations Council board, made of businessmen, entrepreneurs, representatives from local universities and members of the Marietta Housing Authority.
This year’s nominees
Smitherman said she is “astonished” by the quality of nominees this year.
“Cobb is a great place to live in, when you know of all the activities and work that is going on to serve the people,” Smitherman said.
This year’s list is a mix of nonprofit and governmental groups, such as the Visual Arts Department of the Cobb County School District, Campbell High School Habitat for Humanity, the Acworth Parks and Recreation Department and the TPO Project-Legal Aid of Cobb County.
The group nominations are not separated from individuals also nominated.
“A lot of times the person is the spark,” Smitherman said.
Most of the nominated individuals have created a program, Smitherman said, which means the honoree really represents a large group of people doing the good work.
One such person is Albert McRae, III from Mableton who attended Pebblebrook High School in the early 1990s.
McRae is chairman of the Austell Community Taskforce, which works to develop neighborhoods and resident associations to create a stronger and safer community.
He is nominated alongside another south Cobb activist, San Miller, who chairs both the Mableton Day and Mableton 5K committees for the South Cobb Arts Alliance.
A third south Cobb nominee this year is Robin Meyer, chairwoman of the Mableton Improvement Coalition’s board of directors.
Meyer, who has lived in Mableton since 1984, is also a member of the South Cobb Redevelopment Authority.
“It is always more interesting and richer to be in a setting that has many different viewpoints and many different ways of looking at the world,” Meyer said.
It is Meyer’s first year nominated for a Creating Community Award and she said the list of fellow honorees is “the fabric of our community.”
Meyer said she hopes the list of engaged citizens will inspire other people “getting out of the house and off the porch” to interact with neighbors and “get involved in a local effort of some sort.”
IF YOU GO ...
— WHAT: Creating Community Awards Dinner
— WHEN: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Thursday, March 20
— WHERE: Windy Hill Community Center, 1885 Roswell St. SE, Smyrna
— HOW MUCH: $25 includes dinner and awards presentation.
Please RSVP by Wednesday to firstname.lastname@example.org
2014 AWARD NOMINEES
• Delta Sigma Theta Sorority-Marietta Roswell Alumnae Chapter
• Visual Arts Department-Cobb County School District
• Georgia Community Support and Solutions
• Center for Pan Asian Community Services, Inc.
• Campbell High School Habitat for Humanity
• TPO Project-Legal Aid of Cobb County
• The Children’s Bilingual Theater
• Acworth Parks and Recreation
• Reverend Donald J. Moore
• Turning Point Enterprises
• Marietta Bassmasters
• Dr. Erik L. Malewski
• VOICE Today, Inc.
• Devereux Georgia
• Dr. Michael Rhett
• Albert McRae, III
• Monica Delancy
• Holly Tuchman
• Robin Meyer
• San Miller