Northsiders to Know: Jan Collins
A Society Savant
written by JENNIFER COLOSIMO | photography courtesy of JAN COLLINS; CITY SPRINGS
THERE’S AN UNSPOKEN formula for hitting it o with someone you meet for the first time. For Jan Collins and me, it started over a platter of pimento cheese at the newly renamed Southern Bistro in her neighborhood of Sandy Springs. We added in familiar bits about upbringing, alma maters and lake life along the way, but as I reached the conclusion of our lunch, I realized there was another variable at play – a wistful yearning to have spent a little more time on her side of town, simply to have had the chance to know a woman like her.
People that do know her say she radiates positive energy, has a hand in all things Sandy Springs and showcases both with a big smile and a warm spirit. To illustrate those sentiments, Collins is a founding member of the city’s largest philanthropic organization to date – The Sandy Springs Society – which has raised more than $3 million for the city since it was started in 1988. At that time, the area was an unincorporated suburb of Atlanta –but Collins and 15 fellow community leaders had a vision to organize a group of women who would use their collective talents to fundraise for local needs, beginning with Heritage Sandy Springs and forming long-lasting friendships along the way.
Not only a Georgia Bulldog fan, Collins is also an avid football fan – once an Atlanta Falcons season ticket holder, still one for the Dawgs, a weekly Friday night high school football fan and someone who prefers to attend games with the boys, so she can “focus on the field, not frilly conversation.” She’s a lover of good food. She loves to read. She has a new puppy that she walks every night. And, akin to my own heart, she spends countless weekends on Lake Rabun with her six grandchildren. Both of her children live in Sandy Springs, and “Gran Jan” rarely misses an opportunity to hang out with her grandkids. She’ll tell you, nothing she does is without them in mind and luckily, what benefits her family does a lot of good for the greater community as well.
Even tap dancing, which she does several times a week in addition to performances with the Dream Supremes at the Atlanta Dream games inside Philips Arena, has become a way to give back. Collins competed in the 2014 Dancing Stars of Atlanta benefit for the Alzheimer’s Association and raised more than $50,000. Her encore performance included chairing the event last year, attracting 1,000 people to Cobb Galleria and another $800,000 for the cause.
Although that project occupied much of her time, what has her most excited this year is her role in the stakeholders group for Sandy Springs’ new city center project, City Springs, currently under construction. Holding a special place in the heart of a dancer is its inclusion of a new performing arts center.
“I grew up twirling and dancing. My one goal in life was to twirl,” Collins said, who has a résumé that includes drama teacher, English teacher, speech teacher and child actor. “I come from a long line of actors – my mother taught drama and my daughter is a professional actress. I always say our family is just looking for an audience. People say that the fear of speaking in public is the greatest fear – well, that doesn’t run in our family at all.”
Aside from the performing arts center, the city center’s 15-acre tract at Roswell Road and Mount Vernon Highway plans to include six chef-driven restaurants and the new city hall. With three of the things Collins loves most listed at one address, we can bet on where to find her – that is until she sets her sights (and tap shoes) on something else to benefit the neighborhood. We can’t wait to hear what it is.