2017 Hometown Heroes

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2017 Hometown Heroes 

Bill Adams

Nominated by: Cheryl Burnette and Greg White

Bill Adams has been on the Active Living Advisory Board since its inception in 2009. He served as Chair for many years and established a number of subcommittees that are still active today. The Road Race committee was formed so that the race coordinators could meet and learn from each other, as well as to collaborate to get more folks in the community active. The Water Fountain committee secured a grant for two water fountains under his guidance. The fountains were placed around Decatur enabling walkers and others to stay hydrated.

The Active Living Board was not Bill’s first volunteer “job” in Decatur. He was a youth sports coach for over seven years, and states that he began coaching as a way to be a positive role model for the children as well as the fact that he enjoyed coaching and wanted to coach his sons. He coached both basketball and baseball. Bill served on the Decatur Bulldogs Booster Club Board from 2005 until 2008. He was also the Varsity Boys Soccer Reporter for the booster club’s newsletter from 2006-2008.  While on the Board, he and Don Hooten started the Run with the Dogs 5k as a fundraiser for the club. The race continues today. He is a valued volunteer for City events such as the Decatur Book Festival and the Decatur Arts Festival.

Bill served on the Board of Decatur-based Progressive Redevelopment, Inc., (the state’s largest nonprofit developer of affordable, multifamily housing) for about 11 years. He also participated in the Decatur Roundtables in 2000 and 2010.

In addition to volunteering in Decatur, Bill does a lot of volunteer work in Atlanta and in Grant Park where he is owner of Adams Realtors. He was a founding board member of Historic Oakland Cemetery, Inc. and the Grant Park Family Health Center. He served on the board of the Atlanta Habitat for Humanity affiliate for five years. Bill has served on the Board of the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors. He also was Chair of the board of the Grant Park Conservancy for five years. He currently serves as Board Chair of Capital Hill Neighborhood Development Corp. (a Community Development Corporation formed by the 3 churches near the State Capitol to promote downtown housing).

Bill Adams has made Decatur a better place by coaching and mentoring our youth and currently works to help keep our community more active and healthy through his work with the Decatur Active Living Board. Bill feels that youth sports teach great life skills. Success in sports as in life is based on teamwork; children learn to win and lose with class. They also learn that hard work pays off and develop self-esteem.


Jenny Penick Garner and Tracy Rylands

Nominated by: Zack Ray

Jenny Garner and Tracy Rylands have done exceptional work on the Decatur Cemetery records project. Over the last three years, they have devoted almost 500 hours to sifting through 20,000 plus cemetery records. At the completion, the Decatur Cemetery will have an accurate normalized data set identifying ownership, interments, open graves, unmarked graves, and numerous updates to years of messy data.

Tracy and Jenny sorted through a 50 year old index card file to remove redundancies, update records to match a database, and clear discrepancies. They spent hours walking the cemetery grounds and peering under bushes to identify markers. Through their research and diligence, Tracy and Jenny identified markers and names lost to time. Their service has significantly improved the recorded history of the Decatur Cemetery and, therefore, the Decatur Community. Without their assistance, the operations of Decatur Cemetery would be severely hindered as new information technology systems become implemented.


Andy Gonzales

Nominated by: Lena Stevens

Andy Gonzales had been recruited five years ago by then Mayor Bill Floyd and City Manager Peggy Merriss to host an outdoor dinner party in the Decatur Cemetery to raise money for Decatur’s Kitchen Garden. It was a seedling of an idea at the time and it would have died on the vine if it weren’t for the support from Andy Gonzales, Mike Gallagher, and dozens of other chefs, wait staff, and volunteers. Andy’s job was the lynchpin in the event – Head Chef. While he’s not the sort of guy to take a victory lap, behind the scenes of this now well-known event, Andy Gonzales spends months working with chefs to develop the menu, organize donations for wine and beer, and coordinate the drop off of local produce.

Decatur’s Dinner Party not only raises money for a worthy cause, but it also provides a showcase for the two things that are incredibly valuable to the identity of this community – amazing restaurants and local agriculture. It’s the kind of event that just simply wouldn’t work, if the chefs weren’t inspired to come together and dedicate themselves to finding creative ways to cook with local produce. Andy’s work makes it fun for these chefs to participate while also keeping things organized. Every year, he busts out his little leather book with notes from the previous event. He talks through what went well the previous year, and what could be improved. Andy has never wavered in his support, and the event simply would not be what it is today without him.

According to Robin Chanin, Executive Director of Global Growers, Andy’s role as the Head Chef for Decatur’s Dinner Party has resulted in more than $100,000 raised for Global Growers over the past five years.

Andy is someone who invests his time, energy, and resources into making Decatur better. He has a passion for food that he shares with our community. As the chef at Steinbeck’s Ale House, he’s also partnered with local restaurants to host an annual event called the Smoke & Glory Showdown to benefit the Giving Kitchen and Camp Horizon. Oakhurst Market, where Andy is part owner, supports countless community events from the Madison Avenue Soapbox Derby to Oakhurst Jazz Nights.


Marnie Grodzin

Nominated by: Jenn Ballentine

Marnie Grodzin and her family moved to Decatur just four years ago and in that short time Marnie has contributed to the community in numerous, impactful ways. She has completed Decatur 101 and Citizens Police Academy and is well connected to city leadership and staff. She has volunteered for the Book Festival, the information desk at the police department and assisted with a variety of activities and events within F.AVE, Renfroe and Decatur High School.  Marnie currently co-leads the Climate Committee at the high school and recently ran for the School Leadership Team at Renfroe.

Over the last several years, Marnie has also been an active weekly volunteer with the Atlanta Ronald McDonald House and headed a working group committee for re:loom, a program of the Initiative for Affordable Housing (IAH). As part of this committee, Marnie worked with IAH staff and board members to build up the re:loom program, market it and related products in the community, and grow the organization as a whole.

In addition to these activities, Marnie volunteered with the Decatur Prevention Initiative (DPI) where she helped implement a new program for youth. In June of 2016, Marnie took a group of five Decatur High school students to a four-day camp at Oxford Emory. After the camp, Marnie continued to meet with the youth weekly and has grown the group to include 20 kids. Last April, Marnie assumed a part-time position with DPI as the Youth Development Coordinator. In this role, Marnie is part of a community coalition, leads the Decatur Youth Action Team (DYAT) and develops and works on programs to make “Decatur Greater” for youth and families.

Marnie is dedicated to connecting people within the community and helping to build and strengthen relationships. In the past, Marnie has opened up her house for brown bag lunches where people can come, share a meal, and get to know their neighbors.  When she learned about a local Syrian refugee family that was struggling to make ends meet, Marnie volunteered countless hours of her time and energy to help the family start and promote a Syrian cookie business that would help provide them with much needed income.

Marnie’s love for her community and her dedication and passion for making a difference and helping others is evident. She commits herself wholly and deeply to the causes and people she cares about and is always ready and willing to lend a helping hand. In this way, she is truly a hometown hero.


Nancy Hostetter

Nominated by: Leonard Thibadeau

Nancy lives on a street that is used as a cut through between two of Decatur's main streets, Clairemont and West Ponce de Leon Avenue. After many, many public meetings, the City agreed to put into place several traffic calming initiatives to try and slow the traffic down.  Closest to Nancy's house was Decatur's first traffic circle. This was an expensive project and the city was able to plant one tree and some low shrubs and grasses and had no money for maintenance. Seeing a special need, Nancy volunteered to take on that traffic circle.

Nancy, who is an Occupational Therapist in Cobb County, is also an accomplished potter. She had a vision of what to do to make that circle stand out with plantings, but also with pottery sculpture. Working at her studio at Mudfire, she threw small pots, almost like globes with holes on each end, and stacked them up to make various size totems. Very subtle, but beautiful. Then she began adding her own plantings to the circle. At the peak of this summer season, the circle was alive with flowers and grasses and her twelve totems. A great addition to the neighborhood. Volunteer Power!

For the last four years, Nancy has volunteered at the Global Village Project in Decatur. She is a mentor to recently arrived refugee girls, often times with gaps in their education, giving them academic and social knowledge that they will need for success in middle and high school. Without this program and dedicated volunteers like Nancy, these young women might never have the opportunity to complete their formal education. She was very proud of her girls and was quick to show her latest picture of them. Nancy, quietly making a difference.

Before she became involved with the Global Village Project, she had mentored a girl in the "I Have a Dream" project that was sponsored in Atlanta by St. Luke's Episcopal Church and Ebenezer Baptist Church. Nancy drove downtown and mentored a young woman from middle school, through high school, and did what it took to get her into college. Nancy devoted time and energy to make a difference in that young woman's life. She also volunteered in the Decatur schools, contributing her talent as an artist.

Nancy Hostetter should be recognized by Decatur as a Hometown Hero for her quiet and tireless work to make a difference in other people's lives.  This type of person is what makes Decatur so very special.


Mia Manekofsky

Nominated by: Jill Joplin

“Miss Mia!” It is very common to walk through the Decatur Library’s Children’s Section and hear a child or parent calling for Miss Mia. You might also hear students or teachers calling her name at Decatur’s Early Childhood Learning Center or any of Decatur’s elementary schools. Mia Manekofsky is the Decatur Library’s Youth Services Principal Librarian. She began working with the children of Decatur in 2009. In her role, Mia not only helps children, parents and caregivers chose the perfect book, she also plans and implements numerous fun and unique library programs inside and outside the Library. On any given morning at the Decatur Library, you might find Mia leading either Books and Babies, Musical Mother Goose, Toddler Time and Nursey Rhymes, or Pre-school Storytime. Or in the afternoons, she might be leading a book discussion with the Eager Readers Book Club, the Book Buddies Book Club, the Book Bunch, or the Book Club Plus group. These efforts reach children ages birth to 15 years old. These are not just book clubs that choose a title and meet up to discuss the book. Mia works tirelessly to incorporate a relevant craft or activity to make the book more exciting or relevant to the participants.

In addition to these regular library storytimes and book clubs, Mia also plans and runs special programs that she often creates from her own ideas or patron ideas. In 2015, Mia envisioned and implemented the Embrace Our World program series for the Decatur Library, which offered multi-cultural programming to expose children and families to diverse cultures found in our county. This idea began as a patron suggestion that Mia put to action. She sought and secured funding in 2015 through the DeKalb Library Foundation from the Decatur Craft Beer Festival to support the programs associated with this series, which celebrated the cultures of Japan and Greece. In 2016, a patron offered to help with a second year of programming focused on Indian culture. Mia again sought and secured Decatur Craft Beer Festival Funding, which helped fund numerous programs, including a HOLI festival in Glenlake Park, Let’s Dress Up that featured sari wearing and henna painting, Blockprinting, Cooking with Indian Spices, and an author talk with local author Surishtha Sehgal and her book “Wheels on the Tuk Tuk.” In addition, Mia cultivated a relationship with a yoga instructor for this program series who now teaches a free monthly yoga class for the Library.

In the summer of 2017, Mia worked with the High Museum of Art to bring the puppetry work of author Ashley Bryan to the Decatur Library. She scheduled a visit by High Museum staff and sought Foundation funding to have an Ashely Bryan book available to all the participants. Also in the summer of 2017, Mia and her staff created a putt-putt golf evening in the library to celebrate the Summer Reading Program. More than 50 families participated and they all remarked on what a great time they had playing putt-putt inside the Library on a hot summer evening-- many begged her to schedule this program on a monthly basis!

Mia makes numerous trips to schools and daycare centers around Decatur to bring the Library to the community. She regularly visits College Heights and the other Decatur elementary schools to conduct storytimes, book talks, and library card sign-ups. She conducted numerous workshops for Decatur teachers on the Library’s research databases. Miss Mia regularly works in the children’s section of the Decatur Arts Festival and the Decatur Book Festival. She also provides Library programs at the Woodlands Garden. Mia never turns down a request to work with children and parents outside the library walls.

Mia Manekofsky’s dedication and active involvement with our children, teachers, students, and parents is great benefit to the City of Decatur.


Amy Marti

Nominated by: Jenn Ballentine

Amy Marti, a stay at home mom of two twin eleven-year old girls, has worked tirelessly in Decatur and the surrounding community for the last decade. Passionate about ensuring that Decatur’s schools are welcoming and performing at their highest potential, Amy has served as PTA President-Elect and PTA President at Winnona Park Elementary School, School Leadership Team member at F.AVE and was recently elected to the Renfroe School Leadership Team. In these roles, Amy has assisted with a variety of community-building events and participated in numerous teacher and staff interviews and helped to bring talented new individuals to the schools.  Her efforts in these roles has made the schools a better place for the teachers, students and parents of Decatur.

Even though her children are no longer at Winnona Park, and haven’t been for several years, Amy continues to volunteer in the Media Center at Winnona Park once a week, shelving books and helping teachers, students and librarians with whatever is needed. Amy is always lending a helping hand and looking for ways she can make a difference.

In addition to volunteering her time and effort in the schools, Amy is very active in the community. She has been the Troop Leader for her daughters’ Girl Scout troop for several years, coordinating numerous volunteer opportunities and other enriching experiences for the girls. She is actively involved at her church, Oakhurst Presbyterian and has a part-time job taking notes for deaf students at the Columbia Seminary.

Amy enjoys local politics and served as the Campaign Manager for Tasha White, one of the City Schools of Decatur Board of Education members. She is now working with another potential school board member on her campaign. Amy is dedicated to making positive changes in her community and ensuring that everyone has a voice.  Amy does much of this work quietly and thoughtfully with little recognition and is truly a hometown hero.


City Schools of Decatur Special Education PTA (SEPTA) founding board members: Gwen Bair, Kara Campbell, Amy Logan, Nura Moshtael,

Nominated by: Julie King

City Schools of Decatur Special Education PTA (SEPTA) was founded in October 2016 with a mission to serve students, families, and teachers in special education and gifted programs in the City of Decatur school system. Historically, parent teacher associations and organizations serve each individual school within our city’s school system, but nothing existed before this group to address and serve the unique needs of the special education and gifted students. This PTA includes parents, staff, and community members from all the CSD schools.  In the initial year of its existence, this founding board led SEPTA in its mission to provide programs and supports in tremendous ways.

They held monthly recognition of special needs education, gifted teachers, and support staff with its “Super Heroes for Special Educators” program. They provided parent and staff education programs at monthly board meetings, including topics such as parent coaching, assistive technology, and interpretation of psychoeducational testing. The annual Awards Night included awards for students, teachers, and volunteers in special education. Awards are non-traditional to recognize the unique contributions that special needs students make to our schools that are sometimes overlooked in general education environments that are more academically focused. They awarded their first honorarium to graduating DHS student with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) who was college bound.

SEPTA provided community resources for community, staff, and families through website and active Facebook with close to 300 followers. The also provided two SEPTA representatives during the hiring process for the new City Schools of Decatur special education director.  

The founding board, Gwen Bair, Kara Campbell, Amy Logan, and Nura Moshtael, led the City Schools of Decatur in having the first and only Special Education PTA in the state of Georgia. The Decatur Education Foundation also provided financial support in this initial year of existence. The goal for SEPTA is to continue to grow its membership and involvement in the special needs community of Decatur. A large community fundraising event is planned for the 2017-2018 school year. The board believes strongly in supporting students and has a goal of providing scholarship money to all graduation Decatur High School students with an IEP.

This pioneering group, who has really stepped out into a challenging environment to steer relationships between parents and the schools into a more positive relationship. This group is providing a haven for families to get support from others in a similar situation. It is also opening the communication between families and administrators with a new advocacy committee to address areas for improving services to children. Recent speakers this year have been the CSD Director of Equity, CSD Director of Student Supports and CSD Director of Instruction and Curriculum.

This important group is creating such amazing positive changes for children, families and our schools.