Heart of the Community 2021: Seven ‘unsung’ heroes of the community honored during virtual event. Harbin Clinic cardiologists help deliver meals for event.

Heart of the Community 2021: Seven ‘unsung’ heroes of the community honored during virtual event. Harbin Clinic cardiologists help deliver meals for event.

The 2021 Heart of the Community Award honorees at Saturday’s Heart Walk. Facebook photo.
Screenshot of co-hosts Mary Hardin Thornton and Bob Berry during the online event.

This year’s Heart of the Community Awards, ‘An Affair of the Heart’ ceremony looked a little bit different than ever before. For the first time in its 35 year history, the event was held in a virtual online presentation via Zoom due to the ongoing COVID pandemic. This year’s event honored seven of Rome’s “unsung” heroes, recognized for their commitment to volunteer service which makes this community a better place in which to live, work and raise a family.

The 2021 recipients include:  Emily Hjort, Dr. Matt McClain, Nelle Reagan (posthumous award), Monica Sheppard, Allen and Alfred Shropshire, and Julie Smith.  Click here for more on this year’s honorees.

Redmond Regional Medical Center is the presenting sponsor for these awards. On Saturday morning, the annual Heart of the Community Heart Walk, Cycle and Paddle took place at Ridge Ferry Park. Participants took part in a heart-healthy walk along Rome’s beautiful trail system, all while social distancing and wearing face masks. The Heart of the Community Award recipients were recognized during the event.

The Heart of the Community Foundation pre-sold meal options for ‘watch parties’ at home. Some Harbin Clinic cardiologists took time to deliver meals to those in need at The Shelter on Saturday as part of the event (see below).


Media release: On Feb. 27, seven of Rome’s “unsung” heroes will be honored at the Heart of the Community Awards of Honor Zoom presentation. For 35 years, Redmond Regional Medical Center has been the presenting sponsor for these awards. The individuals are recognized for their commitment to volunteer service which makes this community a better place in which to live, work and raise a family.

The 2021 recipients include:  Emily Hjort, Dr. Matt McClain, Nelle Reagan (posthumous award), Monica Sheppard, Allen and Alfred Shropshire, and Julie Smith.



A native of Douglasville, Emily and her husband, Peter, moved to Rome in 1998 from Thomasville. She immediately began giving selflessly and tirelessly to Rome and Floyd County. Her past activities and service includes:

  • Volunteer, Good Neighbor Ministries
  • Leadership Georgia Class of 1997
  • Leadership Georgia Program Chair 2001
  • Co-Chairman, American Cancer Society Cattle Barron’s Ball
  • Trustee Darlington School
  • President, Darlington Upper School Parents Association
  • Charter Steering Committee Member to Establish Young Life in Rome
  • President, Rome Area Council for the Arts
  • Board Member, Heart of the Community
  • Creator of HeArt Art Project
  • Creator of RACA’s Firefly Fling Annual Student Art Contest
  • Member of Leadership Team that launched the year long ‘Ellen Axon Wilson 100th Anniversary Homecoming Celebration’, which culminated in the gift to the City of Rome of a statue of Wilson on the Town Green

Her current activities and service includes:

  • Young Lives Board Member and Volunteer
  • Colonial Dames
  • HOPE Alliance Volunteer
  • Foster Family Support Team at Seven Hills Fellowship
  • Vice President, Rome Area Council for the Arts

Emily and Peter are the proud parents of Peter W. Hjort, III and Margaret Hjort Morin.

Nominated by Andy Davis and Nancy Knight: “Emily is a tireless and selfless volunteer. She has given her time, money and talents to improve our community.”



Dr. McClain has been a Radiologist with Rome Radiology Group since 2006. A graduate of Georgia State University and the Medical College of Georgia, he completed a Diagnostic Radiology Residency and a Musculoskeletal Radiology Fellowship at the University of Virginia.

He has been a driving force in improving Radiology in Rome. According to Dr. Kirk Kizziah, Dr. McClain’s partner and the current Rome Radiology Board President, “Dr. McClain has added countless innovations and business solutions to our practice, working long hours to make us more efficient as a group, and allowing us to constantly elevate our standards of care.  He tirelessly cares for patients and frequently gives of his own time to make our lives easier and our practice thrive.”

Dr. McClain’s activities and awards:

  • HCA Research Institute Clinical Research Investigator 2020
  • Founder of Plasma Therapy, non-profit March 2020, developed to coordinate an facilitate collecting, banking and administration of Convalescent Plasma for COVID-19 in conjunction with Blood Assurance
  • Board of Directors of The Exchange Club Family Resource Center
  • President of Rome Radiology 2014-2018
  • Chief Resident, Medical College 2003-2004
  • Georgia State delegate to the American College of Radiology 2002-2005
  • Outstanding President of the Year, Medical College Of Georgia Diagnostic Radiology 2003-2003
  • Pediatric Radiology Student of the Year, Medical College of Georgia 2000

Even before the national recognition of the potential impact of COVID-19, Dr. McClain anticipated the challenges and potential impact on our community. He devoted hours of research in an effort to understand the virus and innovative therapy options. In addition to his full-time profession as a radiologist, he created a non-profit organization, Plasma Therapy, dedicated to supporting the medical community with treatment options for COVID-19. He participated with Mayo Clinic as a principal investigator in its Convalescent Plasma Expanded Access study and began enrolling and treating patients mid-April.

He led the local convalescent plasma program, researching protocols, writing protocols, submitting applications to the FDA, presenting to internal review boards at the facilities, fielding media interviews, coordinating with blood banks, creating a website to educate the community and provide a point of contact for potential plasma donors.

Another former radiology partner, Dr. Bill Harbin, describes him as “an individual with the highest standards, a tremendous work ethic and a deep and sincere dedication to patient welfare. The establishment of this (convalescent plasma) program required the designation of a principal medical investigator, a role that Matt enthusiastically shouldered….without Matt’s vision and hard work, the plasma therapy that many patients received in Rome and Floyd County likely would not have occurred, and some may not have survived COVID-19.”

Dr. McClain is married to Heather McClain and they are the parents of four children, Jack. William, Lily Anne and Analise.



The definition of a matriarch is a woman who dominated as family, group or state. With a dazzling career in radio from 1960 until 2019, Nelle Reagan was known as the matriarch of mass media. She was a pioneer in the broadcast industry where she influenced and served as a mentor to other women and men.

Her service in radio continued until her cancer diagnosis in December 2019. We lost Nelle to this disease on Feb. 7, 2020.

For many years Nelle was very active in this community:

  • Georgia Radio Hall of Fame 2013
  • 1961 Excellence in Journalism Award from the Associated Press
  • Adult Leadership Award Rome Floyd Commission and Children and Youth
  • Public Affairs Coordinator for Rome Radio Partners where she used her show Talk of the Town to be the community voice.  She publicized and never missed an opportunity to
    promote an event or fund-raising activity.
  • Advisory Board for Blood Assurance
  • Free Clinic of Rome Tomato Sandwich Supper.  Her strawberry cake in the silent auction would sell for $500 or more.
  • Advocate for Floyd Against Drugs
  • Served for 20 years as Chair of the Bob Richards Youth Detention Center
  • Grand Marshall Rome Christmas Parade 2012
  • Keep Rome/Floyd Beautiful
  • Board of Visitors for Shorter College
  • Rome Symphony Orchestra Auxiliary
  • Past President Rome Civitan Club
  • West Rome United Methodist Church

Nominated by John Druckenmiller (with letters of support from La Donna Collins, Barbara Earle and Mandy Perry). “Nelle Reagan was unparalled in her service to Rome and Floyd County. Our community has been fortunate to be touched by her love, selflessness and the voice of many.”


A native of Tucker, Ga., Monica is a graduate of Berry College where she received a B.S. Degree in Horticulture.


  • Helped get Rome designated as Bee City, USA
  • Serves as Co-President Bee City, USA
  • Co-founder and current President of Rome/Floyd Beekeepers Association
  • Board and Co-Executive Director of Chiaha Harvest Fair for 15 years
  • Rome International Film Festival Board and has served as Secretary and President
  • Founding Board member for Claws for Paws
  • Coosa River Basin Initiative, Board and Vice President
  • Volunteer with Empty Bowls
  • Chair, Rome City Commission’s  Alcohol Control Committee
  • Weekly columnist for the Rome News Tribune
  • Former board member of the Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia.

Monica is the mother of one daughter, Ramsey Cook.

Nominated by Randy Davis and others. “She is selfless, devoted, determined, generous and charitable.”


Allen and Alfred were born June 25, 1934, in Rome, sons of Jessie and Pharies Shropshire Sr.

Both graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania with Honors and Degrees in Biology and Chemistry, and then served two years in the U.S. Army as Admission Clerks at the Base Hospital at Fort Jackson, Columbia, South Carolina. (1957-1959).

Following Army Service, both worked in Philadelphia. Allen was a research assistant in Cardiovascular Research at Jefferson Hospital, while Alfred worked at Albert Einstein Medical Center in the field of developing a drug to be taken as protection against radiation.

Two years later, in 1961, they moved their employment to Wyeth Laboratory and Pharmaceuticals in Radnor, Penn. Allen worked in Cardiovascular Research while Alfred worked in Nueropsycho-pharmacology.

Allen and Alfred activities:

  • Red Cross Blood Donors
  • Members and Volunteer with Rome NAACP
  • Volunteers with Habitat for Humanity
  • Assisted with renovations of Food Pantry at South Broad Methodist Church, Rome History Museum and Women’s Shelter
  • Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
  • Helped design and construct Christmas Parade floats, Metropolitan UMC
  • Recipients of Community Service Award from Bishop Norris K. Allen in Rome

Alfred Shropshire activities:

  • Member of Westminster Presbyterian Church as an Elder and on the Worship Committee while developing a Lenten Devotional Booklet each year.
  • Volunteer with West Rome Community Kitchen and Wesley Southern Methodist food distribution
  • Worked with “Morning Star” to build decks for portable buildings
  • Volunteer with Habitat “Brush With Kindness” making repairs to homes in Rome/Floyd County
  • Volunteer with “Kingdom Builders” of Marietta doing home repair projects in Rome
  • Alfred was married to the late Pearl Thompson and they have twin girls, Tracey and Karen, and one son, Alfred Jr.

Allen Shropshire activities:

  • An officer and member for the E.S. Brown Heritage Foundation
  • Volunteer and Supervisor for two Summer Academic Camps children 4-12.
  • Member of Metropolitan Methodist Church where he serves as a Trustee, Church School Teacher and member of Men’s Choir.
  • Volunteer cook for “Men Who Cook” at Metropolitan Church
  • He and his wife hosted a radio show on WRGA, “Food For Thought.” The show, which covered community subjects and activities, was broadcast from 1998-2007.
  • Allen is married to the Mary Lue Foster and they are the parents of two adult children, Steven and Jessica.

Nominated by John M. and Laney M. Stevenson: “Allen and Alfred exemplify the phrase of ‘Being a Blessing to Others.’ ”


A native of Stone Mountain, Julie graduated from Shorter College with a B.A in Communication and a Master of Arts in Leadership. She has made her mission to be involved in our community and champion causes in which she is passionate.

Her areas of service include:

  • TRED (Trails for Recreation, and Economic Development) Rome/Floyd–Volunteer and now first Executive Director
  • William S. Davies Homeless Shelter Board
  • Exchange Club Family Resource Center Board
  • Former Elm Street Elementary School Parent Volunteer
  • YMCA’s Outreach Feeding Program
  • Rome First Methodist Church-liturgist
  • Rome City Schools Parent Advisory Committee
  • 2017 SPLOST Citizens Advisory Committee Member

Julie and her husband, Trey, are the proud parents of two sons, Nate and Charlie.

Nominated by Allison Watters and others. Mary Hardin Thornton says, “Julie is the person you want on your team or committee. She possesses the qualities a person only gains from becoming fully involved in her work. She understands how things work and always remains fair and positive.”

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