By John Schaffner

Some 200 members and guests of the Sandy Springs Society—about 90 percent women—gathered May 21 at a restaurant in Buckhead for their spring luncheon and to honor two men for their service to the community and their organization.

Along with attending to the business of the Society—including installation of new officers—it was the occasion for announcing the recipient of this year’s Spirit of Sandy Springs award. The award was presented to Tom Umstead, who has volunteered to help others in the community for nearly 40 years.

The second male to be honored by Society members was Bob Knox, owner of Knox Jewelers, who designed and donated the past presidents’ pins for the organization since 1988.

Again at the luncheon this year, Knox presented the pin to outgoing Sandy Springs Society president Bev Ellithorp, whose mother also is a former Society president.

Umstead was nominated for the Spirit of Sandy Springs award by state Rep. Joe Wilkinson, who said, “Seven days a week at 6:30 a.m. he picks up bread donations and baked goods from bakeries and grocery stores and delivers them to the Sandy Springs Mission, Jefferson Place, Ronald McDonald House and Benson Senior Center.”

Wilkinson wrote that Umstead also reads to patients at Scottish Rite Hospital twice a week and picks up flowers to deliver to mothers who have children staying at the Ronald McDonald House. Twice a month he takes communion to disabled people who have to work on Sundays.

Umstead has been recognized by the Benson Senior Center for providing over 1,000 hours of volunteer work per year every year since 2000. At the center, he teaches clay handbuilding, ceramics and arts and crafts to the elderly and those with special needs.

He also was one of the earliest volunteers at the Community Action Center, where he was active as a member and past president through the 1990s. His latest idea has brought together neighbors in Sandy Springs since 2006 and now is known worldwide on the internet as

When Umstead was working fulltime and raising a family, he volunteered 12-13 hours a week. Now that he is retired, he volunteers at least 50 hours a week.

Wilkinson ended his letter of nomination by saying, “Frankly, I cannot imagine a more positive mentor to the youth of Sandy Springs, a more helpful servant to the poor of Sandy Springs, or a more encouraging teacher to the elderly and special needs community of Sandy Springs.”

His wife Lecrecia and two sons, Tom and Dan, were present when he was presented the award.