By Amy Wenk

The Sandy Springs Society had a lot to celebrate at its annual spring luncheon May 18.

For 20 years, the city’s largest philanthropic organization has dispersed funds to improve education, arts, the environment, social services and heritage. The gathering at 103 West in Buckhead commemorated the anniversary and another milestone in the society’s history: $2 million donated since 1989.

The luncheon also was the occasion for presenting this year’s Spirit of Sandy Springs award to Guy Berger, who has served the community for more than 35 years.

He was nominated by Milton Gorman, administrative vice president of the Sandy Springs Kiwanis Club, who said Berger “has touched many lives” as a Sandy Springs volunteer.

As a member of Heritage Sandy Springs, Berger supervised the setup of events such as the Sandy Springs Festival and Ghostly Gathering. He served as Santa at the Light the Lights event and initiated many of the improvements on the Williams-Payne House as a 15-year member of Heritage’s property committee, serving as chair for more than 10 years.

A Kiwanis member for 35 years, Berger has been “instrumental in the success” of the club, said Gorman, serving as an officer and chairing committees. He has participated in reading programs for children at Woodland Elementary Charter School and helped Boy Scouts on their Eagle projects. He has assisted with the Kiwanis Pet Parade since it started in 1983 and the past five years has chaired and organized the 14th Division Kiwanis Good Friday Service at Arlington Memorial Park.

At Dunwoody Baptist Church, Berger volunteers with leadership training and the student ministry and transports people with disabilities to church.

“It is a privilege to be recognized for volunteer work and especially from a group like this,” he said.

“This award to me has been more than just for me. … I sort of look at this award as a group award for those that volunteered with me.”

He worked with the Sandy Springs Society on the Turtle Project, helping to place sculptures and coordinate the Turtle Parade.

Berger’s wife, Jeanette, is a society member.

The Sandy Springs Society “has done some amazing things in 20 years,” said Polly Warren, a society board member.

It has grown from 16 women to 260 and assisted more than 50 nonprofit groups.

The 60-pound fiberglass turtles around the city are a testament to the society’s influence. The sculptures painted by local artists were auctioned off in 2005, raising more than $700,000 and enabling the society to purchase 11 parks from Fulton County when Sandy Springs incorporated. Proceeds also built the entertainment lawn at Heritage Green.

The society allotted $17,000 to help the city purchase Lost Corner, 22 acres that will be a passive park and nature preserve. Other contributions have provided supplies for art classes, vision screenings for children, freezers for food banks and care clinics for seniors.

This year the society allocated $110,690 to 18 nonprofits, including the Sandy Springs Mission, the Community Action Center, the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and Happy Tails Pet Therapy. Heritage Sandy Springs received slightly more than $33,000 for the renovation of its Bluestone building.