2011 Hometown Heroes

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Decatur Salutes 2011 Hometown Heroes

2011 Hometown HeroesAlan Ashe – Alan is one of the most dedicated and dependable volunteers at Sugar Creek Garden, showing up to help during regular volunteer hours and often taking the initiative to contribute outside of group tasks. His family jokes that when he goes to a volunteer work day they never know whether it refers to the garden, church or preschool. He serves Oakhurst Presbyterian Church as an active member of the church building and grounds committee where he organized an effort to rid the area surrounding Boy Scout Troop 107 of invasive plant species and return the area to its natural state. He created a video project honoring the 90th anniversary of the church whose proceeds will be used to help send children to summer camp programs. He helps organize community events such as the ongoing discussions to address socio-economic and race issues in the community. He participated in the cleaning and preparation of the Oakhurst Cooperative preschool’s new space including the outdoor play area by digging garden beds and painting cabinets inside the building. As he walks, he picks up trash saying “if everyone does a little bit, it makes a big difference.” Nominated by Lindsey Mann

Marc Brennan – Five different people and organizations nominated Marc for his various contributions to the community. As owner of Universal Joint and Steinbeck’s, he has supported the Decatur Education Foundation providing critical equipment for their critical fundraiser, the Low Country Shrimp Boil – not everyone has a pot big enough to cook a boil for 400! He saved the day for the MLK Project this year offering to donate ice when the ice donor dropped out at the last minute, providing the hot dogs and hamburgers at cost for the “volunteer thank you” cookout, and bringing the big grill over from U-Joint to spend the afternoon and evening grilling. As part of the Oakhurst business community, he has brought an innovative and entrepreneurial business acumen to Decatur and shows significant care for the community. He hosts fundraisers for various community causes such as organizing a softball tournament with proceeds going to a City of Decatur police officer who lost her home in a fire to the implementation of the Oakhurst Wine Crawl whose proceeds benefit the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association as well as the Oakhurst Arts & Music Festival. Marc supports the Decatur High School Booster Club and is treasurer of the Decatur Business Association. Nominated by Ann Berg, Gail Rothman, Gary Garrett, Angie Macon and Lee Ann Harvey.

Roger Bryant – As a treasured neighborhood mail carrier with the USPS, Roger delivers the mail with great care and flawless efficiency, but that is just the beginning of our reasons for recommending him. His daily attention to the individuals on his route makes him a weaver of good will – an exemplar of the highest qualities that make Decatur such a unique place to live. Stories of his dedication to the people on his route makes it evident that he touches lives in such an anonymous and yet personal way that it is difficult to know the extent of the impact on our community. As my daughter Natasha said, “He doesn’t just carry the mail, he carries grace with him and delivers it to us.” Other comments from neighbors submitting the nomination said such things as: Who hurries out to pick up the mail so as not to miss a chance to speak to the postal carrier – those lucky enough to have Roger as their carrier. He is ever-dependable, always genuinely glad to see you…never fails to be responsive and helpful. When an errant automobile destroyed our scuppernong vines, Roger appeared several days later with transplants from his 30-year old vines. He is indeed a grand Decatur hero for our neighborhood. Roger’s caring and positive attitude about his work and the community he serves makes a huge difference in the energy of our city. Nominated by Patricia D. Wilson and comments from 25 other neighbors.

Jodi Dick – Jodi has enriched the lives of dozens of Decatur children and she has done so with no recognition, no support from any organizations and for no other reason than her willingness to help. She has no children yet she has spent countless hours with other people’s children in Decatur. From the Decatur High Mock Trial team to the first Decatur Rec girls’ softball team, Jodi has created opportunities that would have not existed without her volunteering. She is immediate past president of the Georgia Innocence Project and remains on the board of the project. She has also worked on the Atlanta-based truancy project and been a volunteer at SkaterAid since the first event. When my oldest, now 23, signed up for soccer at Decatur Rec as a first grader, we were told there were not enough community coaches. Jodi, who is a solo practitioner trial attorney with a hectic practice, volunteered to coach the team. When Decatur Rec wanted to launch a girls’ softball team that would act as a feeder for the formation of Renfroe and Decatur High teams, Jodi led the effort. Six years ago she took on coaching the Decatur High Mock Trial team coaching team members one-on-one during weekends, driving team members, loaning students suits to wear in the competitions, offering extensive notes and feedback on student performances. Jodi has been an incredible boon to Decatur and its youth. And she has never earned any recognition. Nor has she looked for it. But she certainly deserves it. Nominated by Maureen Downey.

Daniel Flores – Daniel has served as the head of the Communications Committee for the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association for 3 years. Daniel is the primary individual responsible for publishing the Oakhurst Leaflet, a monthly newsletter published and hand-delivered to over 2,500 homes and businesses. He increased the information in the Leaflet from 12 pages to 16 pages and has grown and organized the advertising (sponsor) base which has been a key reason for that success. He works with sponsors, manages the editorial and advertising content of both the newsletter and the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association website. He designed and organized the website and all the web communications and the tasks associated with that effort including managing group emails along with ongoing upkeep and maintenance of this popular community resource. His contribution has definitely been a key in growing community involvement through his tireless efforts at maintaining the different modes of communication. He also volunteers with the Boys & Girls Clubs teaching art and through art projects. Nominated by Anne Clarke and Gary Garrett.

Walter Kellar – Walt had the idea and carried out the creation of the Tanyard Creek Community Garden. He lives in a home that is in the floodplain end of Oakland Street adjoining city-owned property that serves as a stormwater retention pond. He saw the potential of that land as a community resource, both as a garden and community gathering place. He consulted with city staff, a landscape architect that drew plans for the garden and the neighbors of adjoining properties. He found neighbors and others interested in garden plots and helping maintain the retention area. He organized those people, created rules, regulations and bylaws, and an organization with officers. He serves as President of that organization named the Tanyard Creek Community Garden (TCCG) and took the idea to the Zoning Board of Appeals to have the land use changed to allow for the garden. With the changed land use and the plan from the landscape architect, Walt laid out plots. Under the direction of the TCCG, he held a lottery for those original 25 plots. He has worked tirelessly to make sure the garden is maintained properly and coordinated efforts to have a community herb garden, blueberry plants, a fig tree and a community plot for okra, beans and sunflowers. Walt, in his soft-spoken, unassuming manner is the epitome of a Decatur, GA Hometown Hero. Nominated by Kristin VanderEnde and Leonard Thibadeau.

Lori Leland Kirk – Lori is a tireless community volunteer who has made a tremendous positive contribution through her leadership in the life of the city’s schools and in efforts to draw on her professional training as a landscape architect, urban designer and city planner to preserve and enhance Decatur’s historic character and built environment. She has been active in her children’s schools, co-chaired the Landscape Committee, and was the School Auction Committee Co-Chair, serving also as chaperone/driver for field trips, assisting teachers and offering support to teachers and students. She has devoted her energy and talents to making the schools a more vibrant and welcoming environment for students, teachers, families, administrators, and staff. At Winnona Park, she served as PTO Board member, chair of the Teacher Appreciation Committee, designed and installed a reading garden, assisted in school communications, and more. She received the Winnona Park Volunteer of the Year Award in 2010. Lori serves as the School Show Coordinator for Callanwolde’s performance of Nutcracker each fall and with her leadership and energy, this program has expanded to include a spring show featuring Dancing Princesses. At Glennwood Academy, Lori co-chaired the fall carnival, the school’s largest fundraising event. Lori serves on the Decatur Historic Preservation Commission where she serves with distinction and fairness. She serves on the newly formed Zoning Task Force. Nominated by Michelle Hillegass.

Louis & Sandra Rice – Louis & Sandra are both committed to the City of Decatur. Louis has volunteered during Decatur’s MLK, Jr. Service Project since its inception in 2009 where he has served as House Captain for several years, Tool Coordinator, co-chair of the Landscape subcommittee and Landscape chair and as a result of his involvement, became a Decatur Preservation Alliance (DPA) board member. The MLK, Jr. Service Project has grown from 100 volunteers in 2003 to over 1,200 volunteers in 2011. The majority of volunteers do seniors’ yard work. Louis does an initial assessment of the yard work that needs to be done and during the 3-day weekend, supervises the hundreds of volunteer groups doing yard work. In 2011, a total of 67 yards had volunteers who raked leaves, trimmed bushes and removed invasive plants filling approximately 1,700 yard waste bags. Sandra has also been involved in the MLK Project especially with her work with the Food committee. The project provides breakfast and lunch to the volunteers on Saturday and Monday and a cookout dinner Monday to celebrate the project’s success. Food comes from a variety of sources from local restaurants to groups and individuals. Sandra is renowned among the planning committee members for the pimento cheese sandwiches she makes every year. Through her association with the DPA, Sandra became involved with the annual fundraising Garden Tour. Louis & Sandra had their home on the tour and Sandra has chaired the committee. Sandra has also served on the Oakhurst Community Garden Project (OCGP) board as chair of the fundraising committee and also works with seniors during the annual Decatur Season of Giving program. Nominated by Lee Ann Harvey.

Susan Riley – Susan is a media specialist at Decatur High and is the stand-in “mother” for so many kids – and staff members – she is the heart of the school. Students with no mothers of their own, students facing disciplinary problems, students unable to manage the stress of studies, in over their heads, or without a parent or friend to lean on go to Susan, who makes the media center at the high school – and especially her small office there – a haven where no one is judged, everyone is listened to, and all students are praised and encouraged. Susan works late doing the small things at the high school that need doing. She attend countless sporting events and cheers the loudest. She has been a die-hard supporter of the ROTC program at Decatur High, a program that lends structure and support to many of the kids that need it the most. She takes the students who are most lost and insecure under her wing and lets them know she is always there to listen and give support. After raising five children of her own and sending them through the Decatur schools, Susan is now a “mom” to hundreds, and our high school would not be the same place without her. She is my hero, working behind the scenes with no credit far and above her job description to make personal connections to those kids that might fall through the cracks, forgotten without her. Nominated by Julia Levy and Lucy Fowler.

Mark Sanders – Mark is involved in his Oakhurst neighborhood and has been Vice President and President of the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association (ONA). He currently serves as Treasurer. Mark volunteers at many of the neighborhood’s activities, including the Oakhurst Arts & Music Festival, Jazz Nights, and BBQ, Blues & Bluegrass Festival. Mark also supervises distribution of the Oakhurst Leaflet – picking up the printed papers, bundling them for pick up by volunteers and notifying delivery volunteers when they are ready for distribution. In 2005, Mark volunteered with the ONA during Decatur’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Project when the neighborhood “adopted” a home and performed all the repairs. Mark’s home renovation skills led him to becoming increasingly involved in the project. He has served as a Zone Coordinator who supervises house captains. Mark serves on the Executive Committee that works year round to plan the project. In his role as Projects Committee chair, he recruited, scheduled and supervised the House Captains. He displays a unique aptitude for matching a House Captain’s skill level to the work to be done at a home. He created a Materials team to expedite purchase and transportation of materials. Nominated by Lee Ann Harvey.

Melissa Stratton – Since Melissa moved to the neighborhood eleven years ago she has been an active and enthusiastic advocate for the continued success of the Decatur community. Melissa’s heart for her neighborhood and her continued activism is what makes her our hometown hero. Melissa volunteers at the Oakhurst Festival, has been an active participant in the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association (ONA) serving as vice president and president. Melissa is a dynamic, transformational leader. Her unique ability and desire to get to know and support all of her neighbors, young and old, black and white, rich or poor makes her a special treasure to our community. We, her friends and neighbors, affectionately refer to her as “the Mayor” of Oakhurst. If we have a question or want to know about happenings, we call “the Mayor” because we know she will have the answer. She has organized block parties and made sure all neighbors were personally invited. One elderly neighbor, Gussie, was unable to walk to the event so Melissa picked her up and brought her to the event. Neighborhood children stop by her house to get a popsicle or to ask about this year’s haunted house. Many years ago Melissa began dressing up on Halloween and sitting on her front porch to entertain all of the kids. Soon she began to invite her friends to join her and her reputation grew. The event became bigger each year until she turned her driveway into a haunted house until it outgrew that space and moved to the Big H grocery. Melissa’s outstanding qualities and achievements over the last decade have been an integral part of the growing success of the Oakhurst neighborhood and the thriving Decatur community. Melissa is very modest and perhaps her best attribute is the enthusiasm she shares with us during all of her volunteer endeavors that I/many find contagious and inspiring. Nominated by Kathy Kearney, Karen Lionberger and Marc Brennan.

Seegar Swanson – Seegar’s community life is one of public service and interest in public affairs. He persistently and faithfully serves as a volunteer in Decatur Police’s CAPS (Citizens Assisting Public Safety) program, treasurer of Winnona Park Neighborhood Association and participated in city commission meetings, strategic plan and budget review. His volunteer work has ranged from sage advice on managing public monies in difficult times to clearing branches from our street to improve visibility and to helping old folks get up the stairs. His good cheer is matched by his experience as a school sports booster and coach. Seegar is a real contributing citizen to Decatur’s fabric of talent and spirit of the good neighbor. Amanda Thompson, Planning Director, noted that Seegar played a very important role as liaison between the city and the neighborhood for the traffic calming project on S. Columbia Dr. Stacy Green, Athletic Services Program Supervisor said Seegar volunteered as a coach for many seasons and was always helpful managing to give you a compliment when you were trying to compliment him. He often told us how appreciative he was of our efforts in offering wonderful programs. Police Chief Mike Booker said Seegar cares about the Police Department and about the City of Decatur, sending them weekly crime stats from the City of Atlanta, stepping in with the CAPS, and accompanying them on police memorials and funerals on his own time. Nominated by Gardner Neely and Lee Ann Harvey.

Kyle Williams – Kyle’s most notable characteristic is his ability to scan the horizon and see what the current concerns are in Decatur and what he can do to provide support and to solve problems. He holds an annual New Year’s Day party in his home that serves as a fundraising event – for two years attendees brought books for children at the College Heights Early Learning Center and the Frasier Center and now attendees bring art and other supplies to City School of Decatur teachers. His concern for education and his desire to support teachers led him to join the board of the Decatur Education Foundation. Kyle has become a good friend to the many senior citizens who live in his Oakhurst neighborhood. He stops by to visit with them and includes them in his New Year’s Day party. When seniors have home maintenance issues, they frequently call Kyle. As a member of Decatur Rotary, Kyle has called upon fellow Rotarians who are skilled in trades to provide assistance to the seniors. One hot summer he accumulated over three dozen fans for his senior neighbors without air conditioning. Kyle serves on the Zoning Board of Appeals and has helped property owners work through design solutions to help them achieve their needs whole protecting the interests of the community. Kyle volunteered as a facilitator of round table discussions held during the 2010 Strategic Planning process and is an avid volunteer in community events such as the Oakhurst Arts & Music Festival. Kyle cares deeply about Decatur and its residents and always looks at what he can do to help his community. Nominated by Alma Fleetwood and Lee Ann Harvey.