Charles Sanders, a longtime friend of the paper, just so happened to be in the lobby Monday afternoon as Patrick Graham and I left to go set up for the reception to honor this year’s top award winners.

Mr. Sanders’ presence was interesting because he was the first winner of the Community Spirit Award, back in 1996.

The tradition continues in today’s paper with a profile of 2017 winner Patti Souther in the Visions magazine.

These winners are suggested by our readers, and although we ask for nominations in January, we’ll take them at any time.

These people have won the Community Spirit Award:

  • 1996: Sanders Furniture Co. owner Charles Sanders, nominated by the Monroe Business Association for helping organize the Downtown Merchants Association, and honored for his work with children.
  • 1997: Sean and Beth Callahan, for their work with local youth, particularly in the Special Olympics.
  • 1998: Harold Sauter, honored for his work as a recreation and Special Olympics coach and other community service efforts.
  • 1999: Lorraine Payne, a longtime Georgia Cooperative Extension Service employee in Walton County.
  • 2000: Gloria Sheppard and Pat Whitley: nominated by Nancy Kinsey for being active volunteers.
  • 2001: Greg Adams, for his service as probate judge and volunteer work at Carver Crossroads Alternative School.
  • 2002: Susan Pelham, a founding member of the Monroe Art Guild, nominated by Helen Arnold and Betty Hearn.
  • 2003: Don and Edith Shedd, longtime leaders of the Walton County Chapter of the American Red Cross.
  • 2004: Laura McCrodden, executive director of the new Walton County Boys & Girls Clubs and a member of several local nonprofit boards.
  • 2005: Alan George, CEO of Walton Regional Medical Center.
  • 2006: Stanley Kelley, CEO of The Community Bank in Loganville and a local philanthropist.
  • 2007: Angela Yarman, executive director of the United Way of Walton County.
  • 2008: Cindy Little, executive director of Faith In Serving Humanity.
  • 2009: Crystal Wood, Social Circle High School athletic director.
  • 2010: Betty Buckles, Buckles Hardware owner and Downtown Development Authority treasurer.
  • 2011: Nancy Kinsey, longtime director of the Development Authority of Walton County.
  • 2012: Former Monroe Mayor Harry Knight.
  • 2013: Ben Garrett, market president of Athens First Bank & Trust.
  • 2014 (Legacy Award): Mike and Ann Jones, prominent Loganville citizens.
  • 2015: Lee Garrett, of Liberty First Bank.
  • 2016: Gary Hobbs, outgoing superintendent of the Walton County School District.
  • 2017: Patti Souther, State Farm.

Who’s next? That’s up to you. Go on and send me your nominations.