When Mark Sanders first got involved with , he didn't expect a long-term commitment.
But he quickly became deeply involved with the city’s biggest single volunteer enterprise.
He’s held numerous positions – from “semi-skilled helper” to zone coordinator -- and devotes hours in planning activities before the actual three days of work in January.
“I do it because I know there’s good being done,” Sanders said in explaining his passion for the project. “There’s no question about that. It’s around the corner. I see these people in the neighborhood.”
Sanders lives in Oakhurst with his wife, Cindy, a physical therapist at DeKalb Medical who works with preemies, and children Katie, 6, and Jake, 4. Since moving to Oakhurst in 2002, he’s found plenty of opportunities to give back to the community.
He’s been president and vice president of the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association and now serves as treasurer.
He supervises distribution of 2,500 copies of The Oakhurst Leaflet, the neighborhood newsletter. He said his next big job for the ONA is putting together the Barbecue, Blues and Bluegrass Festival in August.
For all these efforts, the City of Decatur named him a Hometown Hero for 2011.
Sanders, 48, said he volunteered a lot while growing up in the upper Midwest.
“I have always done different volunteer things since I was a kid,” he said. “It was instilled in me by my folks.”
The graduate of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland moved to Atlanta in 1995 to take a job as director of development information services at Georgia Tech. Sanders, a Cleveland Indians fan, started work three days after the Braves beat the Indians in the World Series.
After moving to Oakhurst, friends invited him to work in the MLK Project, which started in 2003.
He said the project easily attracts volunteers because of its immediacy. The volunteers repair the homes of elderly, low-income residents.
“You’re seeing the improvement so there’s no disconnect between the volunteer duty and the result,” he said.
Sanders is also a member of the service project executive committee, which meets monthly and helps decide which houses are worked, said Paul Mitchell, the current chairman of the MLK Service Project.
Mitchell said one of Sanders' biggest contributions was helping to create the project website with Jim Clannin. It went online for the 2012.
"Mark did a whole lot of the organization for that," Mitchell said. "He pulled together the website."
Sanders said he’s swung a hammer and also held the positions of operations chairman, volunteer coordinator, materials manager and zone coordinator.
He's not sure what his duties will be next January. When the time approaches, he expects to take a job that needs to be done.