MARIETTA — Troy Jones’ father left his family when he was just 5 years old.
It inspired the Powder Springs father of six to launch an initiative at McEachern High aimed at getting other fathers more involved in their children’s lives.
The group, Men in Action, urges fathers to take pride in the children, assist in their studies and act as role models for them.
Jones was among more than 100 people recognized Thursday at a luncheon hosted by the Cobb Schools Foundation to honor those who volunteer their time and energy to improve local schools.
“Hard work and commitment pays off, but this is not about me,” Jones said after receiving his award and a standing ovation from the hundreds in attendance. “It’s about the kids … They are valued, they are important, they are special. That’s why I do this.”
The district’s administrators and principals were on-hand to recognize Cobb’s volunteers at the Hilton Atlanta/Marietta Hotel and Conference Center. It was estimated the volunteers in attendance contributed more than 35,000 hours between them, and three of them— one from each district level— were named volunteers of the year.
Jones, who began coaching youth baseball at the age of 17, said he wakes up and comes to school each day because he knows children’s lives are at stake.
“They need our help,” he said. “If they aren’t prepared, they will fail at life ... That’s why I do this.”
McEachern principal Regina Montgomery said Jones has made a huge impact on the school over the last 12 years. She said he has a knack for getting others involved, too, which helps her staff tremendously.
“We need people like Troy,” Montgomery said. “We need people in our students’ lives who can serve as mentors and help our students achieve the most they can.”
When he’s not at McEachern, Montgomery said Jones can be found helping out down the road at Powder Springs Elementary or Tapp Middle School.
Another volunteer recognized Thursday was Lucy Sharpe, the grandmother of a second-grader at Austell Elementary who said she loves giving back to the community.
She gasped as she walked across the stage to see her daughter and several members of what she called
her “adopted family” — people she has met through her work and become close to.
“It means a lot to me because I’m representing the grandparents today,” Sharpe said after being named Cobb’s elementary-level volunteer of the year. “When you are a parent, you can’t do as many things as you’d like. You have to work, (and) you have so much responsibility. But when you become a grandparent and you retire, then your time is a little different. You can give to your grandchildren.”
Sharpe launched an anti-bullying campaign at Austell Elementary. She also helps put together the school’s annual yearbook. Asked why she does it, she said it’s the energy of the children that keeps her coming back each day.
Her daughter, Cathy Murray, said her mother spends most of her free time at the school. And when she’s not at Austell Elementary, she volunteers elsewhere or works from home to help her students.
“She’s retired, but she works,” Murray laughed, remembering how involved her mother was at her school growing up. “She was so present that people thought she worked there.”
Marie Stockton, Griffin Middle School’s volunteer of the year, was surprised on stage by her husband and two children.
Wade Stockton, Marie’s husband, called his wife a super volunteer.
“She is very giving,” he said. “She just has a servant’s heart. This is wonderful for her and it’s great the schools do this for their volunteers because they play such an important role. The volunteers I know are able to give so much to the students, teachers and administrators and are able to make their schools a better place.”
Stockton became involved at Griffin when her 16-year-old son, Mason, started middle school. Her daughter, Katherine, who is in the eighth grade, said she couldn’t be prouder of her mom.
Griffin principal Paul Gillihan also sang Stockton’s praises, saying he doesn’t know what he would do without her.
“In my three years at Griffin, Marie has been involved in almost every aspect of our school,” he said. “She’s the type of person that lights up a room as soon as she walks in —she will make your day better by just being there.”
Stockton said it isn’t about her, but the students and her community. She has been elected to serve as the vice president of the PTA at Campbell High next year.
“I don’t plan to stop,” Stockton said, promising Gillihan she would return to the middle school regularly to help out. “Anything I can do to support them, that’s what I’m here for.”
Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale thanked the volunteers, telling them they were there for a reason.
“You never know the impact that you might have on a student,” he said, adding some of the students may approach them years from now just to thank them for all they’ve done. “Never underestimate the potential impact you have as a volunteer on our team changing kids’ lives and preparing them for success.”