ATLANTA, December 7, 2022—Cobb Community Foundation (CCF) announced today that Sweetwater Mission was named the recipient of the first annual Howard Koepka Collaborative Spirit Award, an award that in its inaugural year carries with it an unrestricted grant of $10,000.
This new award honors the life and collaborative spirit of the late Howard Koepka, a much-loved community organizer known for asking everyone everywhere, “How can we help you?”. In his role at Noonday Association of Churches, he was an integral part of the Cobb Community Food Fleet, an initiative of Cobb Community Foundation and Noonday Association in collaboration with 90 nonprofit, for profit, faith-based and government organizations that distributed over 4 million pounds of food during the pandemic.
This award was presented alongside the Cobb Collaborative’s presentation of the 2022 Human Services Awards. Shari Martin, President and CEO of Cobb Community Foundation, recalled her comments when naming Koepka the 2019 Visionary Philanthropist in 2019. “I said at the time, ‘I can’t begin to tell you all that this man has done. More importantly, I can’t imagine all that he is going to do.’ We didn’t know then that he would only be with us 10 more months.” She continued, “But he is still doing so much more. He awakened in many of us a spirit of collaboration, and that spirit is alive and well in this room.”
The Howard Koepka Collaborative Spirit Award honors not just Koepka, according to Martin, but those organizations who embody his collaborative spirit. Of the ten organizations nominated, Sweetwater stood out as exemplifying the idea that multiple organizations working together can accomplish more than any single organization can accomplish on its own.
Sweetwater Mission’s collaborative spirit was evidenced not only in the number of partners they engage, but also in the number of recommendations they received.
“Sweetwater takes seriously the village notion that it takes many people to help with large, complicated problems. In their programs, they collaborate with everyone from South Cobb High School, local churches, and small businesses to UPS, the Atlanta Braves, Rotary International and the United Way,” wrote Martie Moore in the nomination submitted by First Presbyterian of Marietta.
Kim Scofi of United Military Care offered in her nomination or the organization, “Sweetwater Mission is the first to help and the last to ask or look for accolades. They are genuinely shining stars and regularly promote others first.”
“Sweetwater Mission solicits volunteers from all civic organizations across Cobb County and beyond,” said Barry Kreps of Lions Club who proceeded to name eight different organizations as “just a few” of Sweetwater’s partners.
Finally, Mableton Improvement Coalition’s president, Ray Thomas, commented in his submission, “Sweetwater is always quick to work with other organizations to serve the needs of the community.”
Debbie Ginocchio, Director of Strategic Partnerships & Fundraising at Sweetwater, worked closely with Koepka and joined Executive Director, Pat Soden, in accepting the award. Struggling to hold back emotion, she said “We are able to do so much more together. That’s what Howard used to say, and I think about that every day.”
The $10,000 grant was made possible by S.A. White Oil Company. Kim Gresh, President of S.A. White, and her team worked closely with Koepka and the Food Fleet throughout the pandemic providing fuel for refrigerated trailers over a 16-month period. “Howard inspired more collaboration than I have ever seen, and the results were incredible.”Sweetwater Mission named winner of inaugural Howard Koepka Collaborative Spirit Award
“Howard never considered what just he or his organization could do but instead what the collective ‘we’ could do,” said Shari Martin, CCF President & CEO. “There really is no limit to what we can accomplish when we work together, and Sweetwater exemplifies that.”