(L-R) Fmr. Gov. Nathan Deal, J. Veronica Biggins, Sandra Dunagan Deal


In 1954 Wesley Woods was founded by the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church to provide affordable housing for older adults.  Behind the leadership of Rev. Dr. Candler Budd, the first Wesley Woods community was established on the campus of Atlanta’s Emory University in 1965.  Since that time Wesley Woods has grown to 10 communities across the state, five of which are HUD-subsidized serving older adults with extremely low incomes.

Each year Wesley Woods holds its Heroes, Saints & Legends Gala, where notable Georgians are honored for their contributions to the state and commitments to leadership and service.  The 2023 edition, scheduled for September 21st, will honor three honorees who exemplify the qualities that Rev. Budd sought to exemplify more than 60 years ago.

Veronica Biggins spent more than two decades at The Citizens and Southern National Bank (now Bank of America), eventually becoming one of the highest ranking women in the banking industry.  Throughout her career she maintained her commitment to serving others, serving as assistant to the president of the United States and director of presidential personnel under President Bill Clinton.  She has served on dozens of boards across the Atlanta community she calls home, and received a Points of Light award from President George H. W. Bush for her leadership.

Former First Lady of Georgia Sandra Deal was a fixture at her husband’s side throughout his political career, but carved her own path as a philanthropist and teacher.  Her ‘Get Georgia Reading’ Campaign helped put an emphasis on early childhood literacy, and she traveled to all 159 Georgia counties and 181 school districts to read to students and spread her message to teachers and parents.  She also chaired the Georgia Older Adults Cabinet, which focused on policy matters related to aging and bringing awareness to the welfare of older Georgians.  Sandra passed away from breast cancer in 2022.

Former Gov. Nathan Deal joined the state Senate in 1981 before being elected to Congress, representing his north Georgia home district.  In 2011 he was elected as Georgia’s 82nd governor, serving two full terms during which he led the state into an unparalleled period of growth.  While in office he took special interest in criminal justice reform, workforce development, and helping rural Georgians.

“Our 2023 honorees are true icons of Georgia and embody the very best of what it means to be true leaders and public servants, said Diane Vaughan, president of the Foundation of Wesley Woods. “From Gov Deal’s work on criminal justice reform and Sandra Deal’s tremendous literacy efforts in their beloved State to Veronica Biggins’s unwavering commitment to Atlanta’s civic leadership, they have all shown what it takes to be true heroes in our community. It is an honor to recognize their lifelong service and leadership with the Heroes, Saints, and Legends Award.”

Since the event’s inception in 1990, the Heroes, Saints & Legends gala has raised more than $7.8 million for charitable care, pastoral care and wellness programming at Wesley Woods.    

For additional information on the 2022 honorees, visit here. For sponsorship and ticket information, please visit www.wesleywoods.org/heroes.



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