Shirley Nichols of Atlanta has been named a 2022 Cox Hero for the work she has done with her nonprofit, Park Pride, to preserve her community.
According to a release from Cox Enterprises, she received the Groundbreaker Award for her work to preserve South River Gardens as an advocate for parks, waterways and green space. The community near Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is a residential community with large tracts of wooded areas surrounded by industrial land uses.
She led the fight to preserve the Charlotte Lake Forest Preserve, which was in danger of being sold off for industrial use or turned into a landfill.
The awards were part of the organization’s 34th to 2034 Act of Impact exhibition, which aims to empower 34 million people to live richer lives by re-engaging with community partners affected by the pandemic. Employees volunteered for community projects and made donations to these organizations.
The Cox Industries 34 to 2034 Festival was held at the Cox headquarters in Sandy Springs.
The organization’s nearly 50,000 employees, many of whom are front-line employees, have also been struggling the past few years because of the pandemic, said Maury Wolf, vice president of corporate responsibility and social impact at Cox Enterprises.
“But it hit our employees first across the business far more than anyone else. And so this tour, this road show that brings our purpose of social impact to life, was really focused on bringing our staff back together for a moment of celebration,” he said. “It was really a party with a purpose, but it was also really about bringing that purpose to life and reminding them of that when they come to work at Cox.”
Employees built beds for local environmental nonprofits and students. Others collect Steam Kits to help with education and bring students’ new skills to life, she said. They participated in workforce development programs. Employees showed up each time to share that volunteer experience, she said.
“We had programs for the development of labor resources. It really was in a very wide range. And what we do know is that our employees showed up every time to pass on that volunteer experience,” Wolfe said.
“I think we’re seeing a shift here. I think that while fun traditional fundraisers haven’t gone away, I think they’re really we’re moving into a world where you don’t see as many celebratory fundraising events and partnerships,” Wolfe said. “You’re seeing a lot more employees who want to communicate directly with work.”
It was also shown during the pandemic when Cox Enterprises created virtual volunteering, she said.