Some of the founders of the Sandy Springs Society gathered for a group photo several years ago. Pictured are: seated, left to right — Marianne Lee, Saralyn Oberdorfer, Ann Chenault, Jan Collins; standing, left to right — Lorellee Wolters, Dottie Megel-Sabre, Kerry Gill, Jill Wolfe, Judy Marks, Melanie Smith.

Jan Collins says the Sandy Springs Society began as a way to help historic preservation efforts, but quickly turned into one of the community’s leading charitable organizations.

Over the last 25 years, the society has raised and contributed $2.5 million to local causes. One of their more high -profile fundraising initiatives was placing turtle statues throughout the city. The society has contributed to local arts, parks and schools.

The official 25th anniversary of the society is in January.

“We hold fundraisers throughout the year and then we donate,” society Public Relations Chairwoman Julie Johnson said. “We have people apply for grants and we have a group that vets those.”

The $2.5 million figure might seem paltry compared with the donations of some other charities, but the society is an all-volunteer group of women. “Everything that we make is given back to the community,” Collins said.

Collins, who is the mother of Sandy Springs Councilman Chip Collins, was one of the group’s founding members. The group organized in 1988 and settled on a 100-member limit, all women. The group took in members by invitation only. It still is all women and invitation only, though the membership ranks have grown to more than 300 members to meet the community’s needs.

“We were looking for community leaders, people who had a proven track record of interest in the community and leadership,” Collins said. “We had 109 people that wanted to join. That took care of it.”

Society President Kate Dalba said the group still gives 35 percent of its proceeds to Heritage Sandy Springs.

“We branched out and felt like we really wanted to provide for those in need in Sandy Springs,” Dalba said.

Dalba said in some respects the growth was unavoidable. Many of the group’s members were married to local doctors, she said.

“Northside Hospital’s foundation was the first big supporter of our foundation. We had so many physicians’ wives, and that gave us a real foot in the door,” Dalba said. “That’s been a great relationship.”

City Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny, who is returning to private life at the end of this year, joined the society in 2009.

McEnerny said the society’s impact has been more than philanthropic. Having so many influential women working together helped shape the community, even before Sandy Springs was officially a city, she said.

“We created a sense of place, a sense of community,” McEnerny said.

Dalba said one of the society’s goals for its 25th year is to remind people about the nonprofit’s presence in the community.

“My biggest push this year is to get the area to know about our organization,” Dalba said. “With 306 members at the moment, we do quite a bit to help Sandy Springs.”

Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of Decaturish.com