This week we’re kicking off our newest segment of Grayson Local – “Porch Chats with Jennie” series. Porch Chats are designed to feature every day people with extraordinary stories…. whether those stories be about everyday Grayson life or something on a larger scale. I’m excited to kick off this series because it gets to the heart of what Grayson Local is really all about; this community and the amazing people in it. That’s why I was so happy to sit down with local Graysonite, Nikki Logan, and talk life, survival, giving back, and what makes her tick.
Nikki hasn’t always been a Graysonite, her story starts halfway across the world, in Vietnam, where it only took 2 adoptive american parents, 1 plane crash, a ton of volunteers, and President Ford to get her here… but more about that in a minute.
I was lucky I even got to talk to Nikki tonight; a tornado warning had came and went and she had just finished mowing her lawn in what can only be described as spectacular weather. She explained it was how she was raised – she had great parents that raised her and her 5 other adopted siblings with values. Values that demonstrated work hard for everything you do, that nothing is handed to you and you need to earn what you have. She simply said “its how I live, its how I work”.
Raised in Connecticut, Nikki moved to Atlanta in 2004 to complete her culinary externship at the Horseradish Grill in Buckhead. She moved here with 2 bags and a bicycle, knowing no-one. Her journey eventually took her to Gwinnett, where she was a manager at Roberts Elementary in Suwanee for 4 and a half years. About 14 months ago she transitioned to the School Nutrition Program Manager job at Starling Elementary. She said,
“It suits me because this is where I belong… in Grayson. I’m closer to home and to friends.”
I couldn’t get that more. She laughed and said ” I thought I was going to be a teacher, instead I’m working for the school in the lunchroom”. …and she clearly loves it, but she wasn’t always in a kitchen. Pre-Grayson days Nikki served her country in the Marine Core, spending more than a year overseas in Japan. But its not the years of service that was as amazing as what drove her to join.
I said in the beginning of this piece that Nikki’s story began in Vietnam. When the Vietnam war ended, women and children were being evacuated; Nikki was adopted through the “Friends of Children” organization and was being brought here, to America, to be with her new family. She was en-route to them when her plane, which had a faulty door, blew out and the pressure broke the plane into 3 pieces. The pilot avoided Saigon and crashed in a Rice Patty. Out of 315 only 176 survived – Nikki was one of the survivors. She lamented,
“it makes me want to give back, so many people that helped – it was what brought me here”
Nikki herself gained a little fame as a tiny baby for Operation Baby Lift, being the 1st baby carried off the plane in San Diego, CA by President Gerald Ford. The 40th anniversary of Operation Baby Lift was just earlier this month (April 5). You can read more about it [here] and see some of the memorabilia Nikki brought by to share in the gallery below.
She remembers back in the 90’s when she was working in a general store and a Vietnam vet hugged her, saying thank god you’re alive and that you’re here. He cried. She paused for a moment and said quietly…
“A complete stranger, a grown man, he cried. I realized then, I wanted to serve. I wanted to give back”.
I wasn’t even sure what to say next, but instead let it all sink in. What an amazing story of survival, gratitude, and service… and it all lives here, in our tiny town. It sits in our restaurants, works in our schools, volunteers at our events.
Although her time in the service is done, Nikki continues to give back. Just this past weekend she was a volunteer at the Grayson Golf Charity event that benefits the Children’s Fund. It’s not her story of survival or her journey to America that makes her amazing, it’s what she’s done with those experiences and what she brings to the community.
I asked Nikki what are 3 things you would want people to know about you… she said:
“I love food and cooking for friends. I think I’m pretty funny. I value friendships and relationships, they’re very important to me.
As for the cooking part of it… its all about bringing people together and the love I put into it, the love I feel for my friends, my family”.
It started getting later, and our porch chat was coming to an end, but I was sad to see it happen. We did get one quick picture before she left for the evening, so if you see Nikki out and around, say “hi”. She’s just one of the reasons Grayson is such a great place to live.