SMITH COLUMN: Sarah McKinney

Published 11:30 am Wednesday, July 28, 2021

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Sarah McKinney has an enlarged heart.  Before going any further, be comforted that her big heart is not a medical liability but an asset for her community.  It takes a big heart to contain her multiple interests, generous giving, uninhibited volunteering and varied philanthropies.

While she is President and CEO of the Athens Area Community Foundation, which would be a full-time job for most, she still finds time for her family, church, the East Jackson Comprehensive High School FFA Alumni program and much more. She is a member of the Athens Rotary Club and a member of the Leadership Georgia Class of 2019. She wants no stray dog to go unpetted and no kid to go to bed hungry.

She greets everybody with a generous and warm smile. For her smile to be any wider, surgery would be required. She has a helping hand mentality that has brought dividends to her beloved community. For Sarah, Athens is not just a great place to live; its stimulating environment and its cultural influence give it unsurpassed rank.

Sarah grew up with Stone Mountain in her everyday view (she could walk to the laser show) with diverse interests. For example, she was good at softball and the violin. She has the personality of her mother, Ann, and the work ethic of her father, Steve. She is both industrious and enterprising, which make her singular at making do while visualizing a better and more productive way in her work.

She is into mentoring, and when she moves about accommodating her activities, she drives an old Jeep. She and her family (husband John and kids, Nathan, 18, and Anna, 15) are exhilarated by camping out.The camper has space for the family and three dogs.

Even with her busy routine, it is not surprising that she is very much at home in the kitchen where her signature dish is cube steak and creamed potatoes, which she brings to perfection, accompanied by a gin and tonic.   You cannot be more well-rounded than Sarah McKinney, who is keen on “wogging,” i.e. exercising by walking and jogging.

A defining moment took place years ago when she was a young girl.  It continues to resonate with her. Stone Mountain, at one point, allowed the Ku Klux Klan to march through town. One day, traffic from the parade, caused her mother to turn onto a side street for unimpeded access.

They came to an intersection and saw a black woman crying.  Her mother asked the woman to get into her car, consoling her with encouragement. “You stay with us, and we will see that you will be okay.”

That is another pleasure point in Sarah McKinney’s life. Those with whom she works are bent toward being inclusive in the community. Nobody sets a better example in that regard than Sarah McKinney.