Written by Suzanne Burnes, Just Growth Director
Merri Sheffield never knew a stranger. In 2018, the PSE team was introduced to her as a participant in her first PSE leadership development academy. Over the course of the next two years, she would come to be a consistent voice for equity in our circle and beyond and a dear friend to so many.
Merri came to PSE as an engaged and concerned resident of College Park, GA. She was so proud of her community and was truly a life-long learner – always seeking out opportunities to learn more, and deepen her understanding of the history of College Park and other communities across the Atlanta region facing struggles of poverty and displacement in the face of development pressures. Between 2016 and 2020, she participated in as many leadership classes as possible, starting with serving as the first College Park resident ever to participate in the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership and NeighborWorks’ Community Leadership Institute. It seems that she caught the leadership development bug after that, enrolling in United Way’s Community Building Institute, joining PSE as a member of the inaugural class of the TransFormation Academy, continuing to lead through United Way’s VIP and Community Building Institute programs and graduating from the Atlanta Watershed Learning Network.
From that first interaction with PSE through the TransFormation Academy, Merri made it clear that she was not one to shy away from difficult subjects. She went to an intensive 3-day Undoing Racism workshop with The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, and then joined PSE again for the Resident Leader’s for Equity Regional class and as a regular part of our Just Growth Circle. Merri brought candor, humility and humor to every conversation. She was a deep ally and advocate for the most vulnerable members of her community, never hesitating to use her voice to help others in need, to speak uncomfortable truths and elevate racial equity.
Merri Sheffield fought a difficult battle with illness the past few years, and let go of that struggle on April 21, 2022. She touched so many and the College Park community and equity ecosystem of metro Atlanta will never be the same. Merri’s infectious energy and passion will be greatly missed. Her friends and family will celebrate her life Saturday, April 30, 2022 at the College Park Auditorium at 11:00 am.