2013 Hometown Heroes

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Kristin Allin 2013 Hometown Heroes
Nominated by: Stephanie Van Parys, Joy Provost, Lucia Pawloski
Kristin Allin’s contributions to the Wylde Center and its Decatur Farm to School program have been significant. During her time on the Wylde Center board (2011-13), Kristin has served as the secretary. She used her contacts and experience to revamp the Wylde Center’s annual fundraiser to turn the event into a successful and sold out Beer Garden. She used her marketing and communications experience to rebrand the Wylde Center’s name and messaging. She guided the strategic planning process, which is now used as a roadmap for both the staff and board. For the past four years, Kristin and her husband, Billy, generously hosted a fall fundraiser at the Oakhurst Garden, absorbing the cost of the event into their business, Cakes and Ale. The Decatur Farm to School Initiative (DF2S) began as a grassroots effort by parents, City Schools of Decatur (CSD), and community members to try to connect local farms with CSD so students could be better connected with more fresh fruits and vegetables and less processed foods in the cafeteria and provide them with outdoor classroom opportunities to give them a better awareness of where their food comes from and how the food they eat affects their bodies and the environment around them. Kristin presented the initiative to the board and it was unanimously adopted by the CSD School Board in 2009. With her business savvy and understanding of the practicalities of running an efficient, profitable full-time kitchen, she was an integral voice in the both the development and implementation of this initiative, understanding the challenges that the CSD Nutrition Department can face. Kristin spearheaded the first DF2S Dine Out fundraiser, connecting with other local restaurants to support the initiative. Since then, the Dine Outs have become our biggest fundraisers for the program, and Cakes & Ale continues to participate, allowing the program to continue to provide farm to school teacher trainings, student internships, outdoor classroom experiences, and district-wide taste tests to CSD.

Richard Backwell and Lee Goldsmith
Nominated by: Greg White
Richard Backwell and Lee Goldsmith are considered the watchmen and champions for Oakhurst Dog Park on a daily basis. Richard became interested in the Oakhurst Dog Park because his dogs needed exercise and socialization and the Oakhurst Dog Park meet those needs. As one of the Dog Park champions, Richard was not able to do the heavy physical work but has taken on the interest of controlling vegetation in the Oakhurst Dog Park. He takes great pride in controlling the invasive plants and plays a key role in organizing other dog owners on Dog Park Work Days. He is well educated in the types of invasive plants and visits the park daily. Richard takes pride in making sure the facility is clean. He is the social dog owner that everyone knows. Richard is our other eye at the Oakhurst Dog Park along with his four dogs. Lee became interested in the Oakhurst Dog Park when his dog was a puppy. Since Lee was going daily, he adopted the mindset of wanting to make the Oakhurst Dog Park better and address the drainage issue. Lee is our champion because he had the idea of spreading mulch on the paths to control water run off. Lee is the organizer for work days - making signs, coordinating tools, providing snacks and encouraging dog owners to clean up behind their dogs. Lee is a key supporter of the park because he helps save the trees in the Oakhurst Dog Park from invasive species. Both Richard and Lee are quick to send emails to keep Decatur Active Living informed of maintenance issues. The communication that they provide makes our dog park system operate at a high level. Their spirit of volunteering and connecting dog owners is the Decatur way.

Kurt Buchsteiner
Nominated by: Mary Flad and Lee Ann Harvey
Kurt Buchsteiner is an outstanding example of the volunteer who contributes his professional skills and training to a variety of Decatur events, helping to ensure safe, successful and fun events. These events in turn make Decatur an even better place to live and work by raising money for local nonprofits, providing entertainment for our residents and visitors, and increasing the prestige of our little town. The Decatur Craft Beer Festival and The Decatur Wine Festival are both fundraisers for community nonprofits. Kurt assumes managerial oversight of up to sixteen direct report team captains directing the work of hundreds volunteers. He makes sure of the optimum deployment of volunteers throughout the events, redirecting their assignments as required, and the delivery of supplies to each station throughout the day. At the AJC Decatur Book Festival, he steps up to what is surely the most challenging job of the event, the closing down of our street fair. Kurt directs five teams of close down volunteers to assist 150 exhibitors and sponsors with packing their supplies and helping them transport their goods to the four assigned load-out zones. Kurt and his crew must clear out 19,000 square feet of outdoor exhibitor space quickly, safely, and pleasantly. At the Decatur Arts Festival, Kurt directs three teams for artists load-out, in a process similar to the one described for the book festival, for 168 individual artists, their display tents and their wares. Again, more than 16,000 square feet of exhibitor space must be cleared out quickly, safely and with good humor. In real life, Kurt is a professional process engineer. His work in Decatur reflects both his managerial experience and his understanding of process management. Following each festival, Kurt makes valuable recommendations to staff for process improvements. Kurt is an outstanding volunteer and an asset to our community.

Jack Jackman
Nominated by: Linda Harris
Jack Jackman became an integral Decatur volunteer after his wife, Sherry, became Visitors Center Manager and Volunteer! Decatur Coordinator for Special Events volunteers. When we hired Sherry, we didn’t realize we were getting two for the price of one! Jack volunteers to set up and staff the Visitors Information tent on the weekends. Week after week, he hauls the tent, sets it up, sits for hours visiting with those who are seeking information and then breaks it down and returns the tent to storage. Jack volunteers at every festival doing whatever it takes – pick up trash, deliver programs, put up posters – all with a smile on his face. He has been a key part of the Book Festival, Beer Festival, Wine Festival, Arts Festival, Concerts and more. A new volunteer software system was recently implemented to make it more efficient for volunteers and allow them to sign up online. The initial set-up took hours of tedious data entry to organize the different venues and volunteer shifts. Jack volunteered to do the behind the scenes work in order to get the software up and running. He was happy to lend his expertise and was available when volunteers had questions or ran into difficulties with the system. As a result of his efforts, we now have a more efficient and effective system for scheduling and tracking volunteers. He got this done within a few weeks - just in time for our most complicated festival. Jack is a key volunteer at every school his children have attended, including helping create the Clairemont Parents’ Morning Coffee when his kids were at Clairemont Elementary. Jack is truly one of those people who volunteers because he wants to serve the community. He rarely calls attention to himself but jumps in to fill a need where he sees it. Decatur is better because of his efforts.

Tamara Jones
Nominated by: Lee Ann Harvey
Tamara Jones has been a volunteer with A Season of Giving/Christmas Decatur for the past five years. She is a diligent volunteer in the office making certain that the wish lists of low income children and senior citizens are sent to donors who will purchase gifts for them. She is very organized and detail oriented, which is a necessity when assigning over 600 wish lists to donors every year. Tamara consistently works in the office once or twice a week for several months. She routinely trains new volunteers and monitors their work. Tamara also helps out in the distribution center. During her volunteer shifts, she supervises the volunteers who check the gifts for each child. Tamara also works once a week in the Decatur Education Foundation office. She is very involved in the schools that her five children attend. She is on the board of the Renfroe Middle School PTA and coordinates Renfroe’s Safe Routes to School program. Tamara coordinates the volunteers for the Decatur High School Community Garden work days. She also works with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop and is in charge of their camping trips. Each year, the Girl Scout troop takes a wish list for one of the Season of Giving children. She then works with them to raise money to purchase the gifts by doing yard work in the neighborhood. Tamara is one of those very important behind the scenes volunteers who quietly keeps records and people organized. She is always eager to go the extra mile to get any task done. It is remarkable that she is able to find the time to do so much volunteering with five very active children. There is a saying that if you want something done, ask a busy person. Tamara personifies this by all of the things she is able to accomplish.

Diane Loupe
Nominated by: Tamara Jones
Diane Loupe has been a dedicated volunteer at Decatur events for many years - the AJC Decatur Book Festival, Decatur Craft Beer Festival, Decatur Wine Festival, Decatur Craft Beer Festival, Decatur Education Foundation Low Country Boil fundraiser, school talent show, PTA, and Decatur High School (DHS) Community Garden. Three years ago, she volunteered to be the chair of the DHS Grounds Committee. She keeps track of all the plot assignments and bookkeeping. Diane wrote a grant for the garden and received money from the Decatur Craft Beer Festival. She worked with DHS students to paint the garden truck and drove it in the DHS homecoming parade. She comes to almost every workday (we have two a month) and works hard with other volunteers to keep the garden beautiful. Beyond the garden work days, she comes to the garden to plant flowers (she is the one who planted all the beautiful sunflowers and marigolds from seeds she had saved). She works tirelessly at the garden. Diane wanted to be more educated about gardening, so she completed the DeKalb County Extension Service Master Gardener Program. Diane loves Decatur and enjoys putting her energy into making it a great place to live.

Lucia Pawloski
Nominated by: Stephanie Van Parys and Jennifer Weissman
Lucia Pawloski works at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a biologist, so she understands the long-term effects of childhood obesity and the benefits of eating fresh, local produce. In 2007, when her oldest child enrolled in the City Schools of Decatur (CSD), she signed her daughter up for the hot lunch program, but found the food unacceptable. It became her mission to not only improve her daughter’s food, but school meals for all CSD children. She joined the PTA’s nutrition committee in 2007, reached out to the Farm to School Coordinator with Georgia Organics in 2009, and was the driving force behind the Decatur Farm to School (DF2S) three-year plan submitted and approved by the CSD board in November 2009. Under Lucia’s leadership as DF2S chair, the program has successfully achieved many of the goals identified in this first plan. Under Lucia’s leadership DF2S has also forged important collaborations throughout the city of Decatur. When Lucia held a community town hall meeting early on in the history of DF2S, she and the original DF2S committee brought together parents, school leadership, business owners, nonprofits, scientists and health professionals. These diverse stakeholders shared their perspectives and joined forces with DF2S. In the following years, Lucia has continued to see the skills and resources that different groups bring to this effort, and she invites and encourages their participation. In fact, this collaborative model has inspired districts, not only across the state, but across the country as well. Lucia may be more comfortable calling herself a collaborator than a leader. However, those who have worked with her know that she has the vision, the intelligence and the determination to bring success to her efforts. Her enthusiasm and commitment to the cause inspire others to participate; her inclusiveness, patience and humility keep us engaged.

Nia Schooler
Nominated by: Gail Rothman
Nia’s first love is the arts and she is always promoting the arts in our community. She created and chaired the Decatur Arts Live event in 2010 and 2011 for the 4/5 Academy, chairing it even after her son had left the school. It was created as a new fundraiser to replace the school carnival. She put together an amazing day of art which drew 1,000 people and featured 25 creative and performing acts. The event raised $10,000 for the school PTO. Nia created another 4/5 Academy tradition "The Literary Café," where students received two sessions of learning and practice in their classes with a professional Public Speaking coach. The practice sessions culminated in an evening event where children could voluntarily come to share their selected piece - an essay, a poem, a movie review, a monologue - reading/performing it aloud in front of parents and their class. Select students performed in front of the entire parent/student gathering. Nia felt that it was important for kids of this age (10-12) to have an experience with speaking in front of an audience and getting comfortable expressing their voice, before they start experiencing the angst that comes with middle school. Nia was chair of the Cultural Arts committee at the 4/5 Academy, bringing four to five performers to the school assemblies throughout the year to promote the arts—string quartets, flamenco dancers, a disabled pianist, and drummers who teach the mechanics of sound. She was responsible for the creation of an Artist in Residence program when the 4/5 Academy moved from Glennwood to Fifth Avenue, which encouraged the students to create art pieces that have become permanent installations at the new 4/5 Academy. Nia then took her endless energy and volunteer spirit to Renfroe Middle School where she chaired the Art in the Garden event. She was instrumental in bringing theater back to Renfroe and worked as a stage parent and director for two productions at Renfroe. She is currently involved with a new strings ensemble at Renfroe that provides an opportunity for students to gain instruction in strings during an afterschool program. She organizes house concerts to bring awareness and funds to the project. Nia’s love for the arts, arts education, and arts in the schools comes from a strong belief that it is important for the mind to "play" and experience delight.

Amy Weaver
Nominated by: Friends of Decatur Cemetery
Amy Weaver has been a logistical wonder in implementing the Friends of Decatur Cemetery (FODC) Salute to Veterans project each November since 2009. The project endeavors to recognize those men and women buried in Decatur Cemetery who have served their country in the armed services. Amy worked with FODC member Nancie Sill and the cemetery manager from the beginning to gather and organize data on the over 1000 veterans who have called Decatur Cemetery “Home.” In many cases, it was necessary to walk the cemetery to record the information. In addition, Amy has purchased flags for each of these graves with the assistance of FODC and co-sponsor American Legion Harold Byrd Chapter 66, even making sure that damaged flags are replaced or destroyed in accordance within proper flag guidelines. She has also has solicited additional sponsors for the project. Each year, volunteers from FODC gather at Amy's house to sort, steam, box, and label the flags to enable the over 100 community volunteers from local scout troops, school groups, and interested individuals to respectfully place the flags on each grave. The groups gather on the Saturday before Veteran's Day (11/11), are given something warm to drink, a biscuit, and a box of flags with a spreadsheet, detailing the locations to be covered. Amy coordinates each aspect of the distribution and also the removal of the flags after the Veterans Day ceremony. Amy shows up every year, even on cold and blustery November days when it would be easy to stay inside, in order to honor the Decatur Cemetery veterans.