Shirley Nichols was named a 2022 Cox Conserves Hero for her work with Park Pride. (Photo/Julian Alexander)

Atlanta’s Shirley Nichols was named a 2022 Cox Conserves Hero for the work she has done with her Park Pride nonprofit to preserve her community.

She won the Groundbreaker Award for that work to preserve South River Gardens as an advocate for parks, waterways and greenspaces, according to a Cox Enterprises release. The community near Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is a residential community with vast tracts of forested land surrounded by industrial land uses.

She led the fight to preserve the Lake Charlotte Forest Preserve, which was in danger of being sold for industrial use or becoming a landfill.

The awards were part of the organization’s 34 by 2034 Act to Impact Roadshow, which aimed to empower 34 million people to live more prosperous lives by re-engaging with community partners impacted by the pandemic. Employees volunteered on community service projects and made donations to those organizations.

The Cox Industries’ 34 by 2034 Festival was held at Cox corporate headquarters in Sandy Springs.

The organization’s almost 50,000 employees, many of whom are frontline employees, also had it tough the past few years because of the pandemic, said Maury Wolfe, vice president, corporate responsibility and social impact, Cox Enterprises.

“But that has hit our frontline employees in every business so much more than it has hit anybody else. And so this tour, this roadshow bringing our social impact goal to life was really focused on bringing our employees back together for a moment of celebration,” he said. “It was really sort of a party with a purpose, but it was also really about bringing this goal to life and reminding them that when they come to work at Cox.”

Employees built garden beds for local environmental nonprofits and for students. Others put together steam kits to help with education and bring to life new skills for students, she said. They participated in workforce development programs. The employees showed up every time to deliver on that volunteer experience, she said.

“We had workforce development programs. It really ran a very wide range. And what we know is that our employees showed up every single time to deliver on that volunteer experience,” Wolfe said.

“I think we are seeing a shift here. I think while fun traditional fundraisers have not gone away, I think they are really we are moving into a world where you don’t see as many of sort of the gala type fundraiser and partnership relationship,” Wolfe said. “You see much more employees wanting to connect with the work very directly.”

That also was shown during the pandemic when Cox Enterprises set up virtual volunteerism, she said.

Images from the Cox Industries’ 34 by 2034 Festival on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022 at Cox corporate headquarters in Sandy Springs, Georgia. (Photo/Julian Alexander)

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.