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Longtime Forsyth County community activist honored with inaugural award
Mary Helen McGruder given John Hall Best Of Forsyth Leadership award
BestOf17 20 WEB
Mary Helen McGruder approaches the stage to be be presented the inaugural John Hall Best Of Community Leadership Award during Wednesday's Best Of Forsyth Red Carpet banquet. - photo by Micah Green

Who is John Hall?

He has served as:
• Publisher, Forsyth County News, 10 years
• Board member/president, Georgia Press Association
• Board member, Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce
• Board member, Lanier Technical College
• Member, Rotary clubs for 25 years in five communities

Who is Mary Helen McGruder?

She is currently serving on the following board and committees:
• University of North Georgia Foundation, chair
• Forsyth County Public Library board, chair
• Cumming First United Methodist Staff-Parish Relations Committee, chair
• United Way of Forsyth County, founding member
• Sawnee Women’s Club, founding member

She has served on the:
• Forsyth County Community Foundation, chair
• Sawnee Mountain Foundation, chair
• North Georgia Community Foundation
• Parks Foundation
• Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, volunteer coordinator of tourism

FORSYTH COUNTY -- Winners of more than 240 reader’s choice categories were honored at the Forsyth County News’ first-ever Best Of Red Carpet Event Wednesday night, but two people went home with an award different than the rest.

Mary Helen McGruder was bestowed the inaugural John Hall Best of Forsyth Community Leadership award for her longtime volunteer efforts and community activism throughout myriad county amenities and aspects.

“There aren’t many people who have their footprints on so many signals of growth and success in Forsyth County,” FCN editor Kayla Robins said.

“When I first started working here, I met her at a board meeting for one thing, but then I’d see her cutting a ribbon for a project that was completely unrelated.

“I began seeing her everywhere, and I very quickly realized she is one of ‘the’ people who have not just watched Forsyth prosper, but played an active role in making sure it has.”

Wednesday’s event was a celebration — held at the Lanier Technical College Forsyth Conference Center — of the best-rated businesses, employees and services in Forsyth County, as determined by FCN readers, business customers and Forsyth residents.

A red carpet down the center of the room saw the likes of the reasons people want to move to Forsyth and who have strived to make their community better.

McGruder was chosen not just because of her long list is board she’s chaired or committees she’s volunteered for. She was chosen because of the way she carries herself in what she does and her humility while she does it.

“Her goal, whether for her libraries, her parks, her civic clubs or her church, is to make this place better for the generations to come,” Robins said. “She doesn’t ask for credit for what she does, and she helps without hesitation or being dragged into it.

“She does it for the love of her home and of her neighbors, and for those who will call Forsyth County home for years to come.”
The namesake for her award has made his own impact upon the community.

“John Hall was the publisher of the Forsyth County News for 10 years before retiring in 2013. A longtime newspaper leader, John was a leader in our industry, in our Forsyth community, and of course, inside the walls of the Forsyth County News,” FCN Publisher Vince Johnson said.

Johnson said in hosting this first-ever event for the paper, the staff wanted to present one award that was not reader’s choice. One that honored “the people who have dedicated their time, energy and servant leadership to make Forsyth County one of the best places in the country to live, work and raise a family.”

“To this day, I can’t go anywhere without someone asking me about John, telling me stories about him, and all the stories ending the same way: ‘John Hall is just a terrific person,’” Johnson said. “It’s what we should all strive to be — a great leader, a great servant, but even a better person.”