MLK Humanitarian Award

Every year, the City of Sandy Springs honors the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., by recognizing an individual who exemplifies King's history of character and service. Each award recipient showed exemplary dedication to providing outreach and support in our community.

2014 Award Nominations

Nominations are open for the 2014 Sandy Springs Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award.

The award will go to a person distinguished for humanitarian contributions to society in his or her business, profession, volunteerism or philanthropic life’s work. Individuals may nominate a living resident of Sandy Springs or a person who works in the City who instills pride within the community and inspires others. Each nominee must have been a resident of Sandy Springs for the past three years or longer, or have worked in Sandy Springs for three years or longer and should embody the spirit and philosophy of Dr. King. Current Sandy Springs staff and elected officials are not eligible.

The City will recognize the winner during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration on January 20, 2014.

MLK Humanitarian Award Nomination Form

You can mail completed nomination forms to Humanitarian Award, 7840 Roswell Road, Building 500, Sandy Springs, GA 30350 or email a scanned copy to Jason Green. The deadline for nominations is noon, January 10, 2014.

Award Recipients

2013 Award Recipient, Felix Lora

Displaying a dedication to transforming the lives of children in Sandy Springs, Sandy Springs Mission Director Felix Lora is this year’s Humanitarian Award recipient. Lora has spent countless hours working with at-risk students,focused on helping Mission students graduate from high school. The Sandy Springs Mission serves more than 140 children each week, providing educational support programs to improve the overall academic performance of its participants, ultimately laying the foundation for a bright, optimist future.

When the program first began, the goal was to keep students in school through middle school. Under Lora’s guidance, the vision now includes high school and moving forward onto college. Not only does Lora work for the children and their scholastic achievements, he also works to ensure positive relationships with families involved with the Mission. Lora assists with clothing, feeding and finding employment for many parents of Mission students. Lora is also regarded and consulted by many in the community.

Lora is also involved in Leadership Sandy Springs and is on the board for the Good Samaritan Health Center of Cobb County.

2012 Award Recipient, Tamara Carrera

Under Tamara Carrera’s leadership, the Community Action Center (CAC) has become a model of community partnership in preventing homelessness, reducing hunger, and promoting self-sufficiency for those in need.

Carrera began her service with the CAC as a volunteer and now serves as the organization’s Executive Director. Through her efforts, the CAC facilities now house a Food Pantry, Education Center and a Thrift Boutique, created by Carrera to serve clients as well as generate revenue to help fund programs. The CAC served more than 2,200 families in 2011, and it is supported by volunteers who contribute almost 13,000 hours a year.

In addition to leading CAC, Carrera has served on several organizational boards. As a Board Member with the Community Education Force (now Sandy Springs Education Force), Carrera was instrumental in revitalizing the organization and creating a Teacher’s Supply Closet where public school educators are able to obtain school supplies for students in need. She also was influential in compiling the Class Human Services Day for Leadership Sandy Springs to expose class members to the needs of underprivileged citizens within the community.

2011 Award Recipient, Melanie Noble-Couchman

Melanie Noble-Couchman began her career as a technical writer for a major bank in Buffalo, N.Y. As a single mother on public assistance and food stamps, she raised two sons. By realizing the importance of education, she did all she could to obtain a BA from SUNY at Buffalo. In 1978, she moved to Atlanta to work for a major software company. In 1983, she married David Couchman, and in 1986, they started a telecommunications company that went public in 1999.

As the company became more successful, the Couchmans knew they wanted to become more involved in the community. In 2003, the couple founded the Couchman- Noble Foundation to share with others less fortunate. The foundation’s mission is “to assist...and provide hands–on programs with measurable results with the goals to strengthen families, empower individuals and promote self reliance among at risk populations.”

Melanie has committed time and funds to revitalize the Sandy Springs Education Force (SSEF), which supports the educational needs of youth in Sandy Springs. She is also on the board of SSEF. Melanie also brought the Geek Squad Summer Academy to Sandy Springs. It is a national program sponsored by Best Buy that teaches underserved youth the importance of technology. She was a catalyst in bringing the After School All Stars to Sandy Springs Middle School, a national program begun by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife Maria Shriver. Since 2005, she has worked with HomeStretch as their Hurricane Katrina coordinator and has served as their vice president and president. Melanie is also on the board of the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta-North Fulton Fund.

2010 Award Recipient, Carolyn Axt

After working for IBM in sales and support for large aerospace companies, Carolyn “retired” to raise her family and began her career as a volunteer. She began by working with youth in her children’s school, serving on PTA Boards, the Superintendent’s Advisory Council and as classroom volunteer. When she and other volunteers started the first computer lab at a local elementary school, it was funded and operated for several years entirely by volunteers. Her passion for working with youth quickly spread to wanting to develop programs to reach those children most in need. She is a founding member of Greater North Fulton Education Force, and she has implemented the Best Kids program, part of the YMCA.

Currently, Carolyn serves on the Board of Directors of the Ashford Dunwoody YMCA, where she was named Volunteer of the Year and as a John Ripley Forbes Big Trees Forest Preserve board member, where she coordinated youth volunteer involvement in Earth Day celebrations. As a member of the Heritage Sandy Springs board, she helps with the family events, such Ghostly Gathering and the Sandy Springs Festival. Knowing what a great resource our young people are, Carolyn jumped at the opportunity to be a Learn and Serve Coordinator at North Springs High School.

In her role of Executive Director of Leadership Sandy Springs, she works with adult volunteers in spearheading the Annual Volunteer for a Better Sandy Springs event every April. This event brings together business and community volunteers across the City of Sandy Springs to complete projects at more than 15 non-profits, parks and schools. Carolyn believes that a true spirit of volunteerism is built on collaboration and forging partnerships. She and her husband, Bob, have three children and four grandchildren.

2009 Award Recipient, Lucy Hall-Gainer

As the youngest of seven siblings, Lucy Hall-Gainer barely knew her mother, who died of alcoholism when Lucy was six. But the impressions her mother made on her life inspired Lucy to reach out to addicted women and women with children so that they could bridge the gap from troubled lives to become independent and self-supporting. Her dream became a reality with the founding of Mary Hall Freedom House (MHFH), named in memory of her mother.

A graduate of public schools in her native New York, Lucy Hall majored in Human Services at State University of Brockport and Schenectady College. She moved to Atlanta where she took a job as a resident counselor for a non-profit organization, working with children who were wards of the state. She also took a job caring for the family of a prominent businessman, who offered her a chance to start her own business if she’d work for the family for a year. At the end of the year, she presented a business proposal to her employer, and the MHFH mission began.

2008 Award Recipient, Randi Passoff

Martin Luther King Jr., said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

Through It’s The Journey, Inc and the Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer, Randi Passoff works to assure that all women, regardless of race, color or income, have access to top-quality breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, and education and support programs. Her organization touches all women – African-American, Latina, Asian, low-income and young women. Her organization has provided funding for organizations that reach thousands of women through education, support and research programs.

2007 Award Recipient, Nancy McCord

Nancy McCord has been a resident of Sandy Springs since 1947. Her dedication to serving others in the Sandy Springs community transcends the decades.

Under the auspices of Sandy Springs United Methodist Church, Nancy has reached out to the homeless in the community and has become a trusted friend, advisor and confidant. Not only does she provide meals to the homeless three times a month, she provides clothes and hygiene products, connections for services, mentoring and skills to enable those who want to, to become self sufficient. Her greatest joy is to see those she once served, now successful and serving meals to others.

The programs at SSUMC started in 2003, but have gone from feeding a few people to feeding more than 300 during the 2006 Thanksgiving. Nancy does this in a cheerful, tireless, humble way that she feels is her “calling.” Because of her dedication, the City bestowed the inaugural City of Sandy Springs Humanitarian Award on Nancy McCord.