2018 Hometown Heroes

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2018 Hometown Heroes 

Mike Barcik

Nominated by Frank Burdette

As Co-Captain of the annual MLK, Jr. Service Project Weatherization Program since its inception in 2005, Mike is an integral part of drastically reducing homeowners’ utility bills while improving their thermal comfort and indoor air quality.

Mike patiently and effectively teaches volunteers about the basics of building science and weatherization and guides the hands-on improvements graciously working on his belly in the dusty and cobweb-entangled attics and crawlspaces of the city.

Mike gets to know the homeowners and their family members by name finding ways to connect with them personally. He diligently makes follow-up visits to ensure owner satisfaction and tie up loose ends. He wrote, directed and starred in an instructional video to train MLK Project House Captains on the basics of weatherization and combustion safety.

 

Emily Berg

Nominated by Erin Murphy

Emily Berg founded the Mead Road Mardi Gras Parade and Party in 2005 as a way to bring the New Orleans traditions of her childhood to her children. Over the years the parade has grown in popularity and attendance and in 2014, Emily fulfilled her dream of making the event a community fundraiser. Since that time, the Mead Road Mardi Gras Parade and Party has raised $24,000 for the Decatur Education Foundation to fund music and theater grants for City Schools of Decatur. Funds have been used to purchase items to aid in musical education including instruments, a PA system for the musical theater group and copyrights for musical productions, and more.

Emily has devoted countless hours over the last four years to plan a fun, inclusive community event that also benefits our schools and students and emphasizes the fundamental importance of music in our world.

Emily and her husband Dave embody the qualities that we all hope to have in neighbors – friendly, helpful, outgoing, and incredibly generous. Through their tireless work in producing the annual Mead Road Mardi Gras Parade and Party, they have fostered a fellowship along our street that transcends age and generations, and provided countless sweet memories our children will carry with them as they go out into the world.

 

Beth Byrnes

Nominated by Amanda Jolley

Beth is the founder and president of the Clairemont Gateway Association and has been active in positive development of Walden Square on Clairemont. Beth and her husband Henri were early advocates of this development and worked tirelessly to engage4 the neighborhood to join in the discussion and hearings with city leaders. Beth has also spearheaded a number of causes impacting our neighborhood including the right to protect the Clairemont gateway from development of a large storage facility. She actively worked with the neighborhood surrounding the area to defeat the development.

Beth has a grandchild who attends Westchester Elementary and she takes time out of her busy week to volunteer with the administration to assist in whatever office duties they have. She is always willing to share her time to assist whenever possible to allow them to be more effective educators.

 

Anne Clarke

Nominated by Gary Garrett

Anne Clarke has provided long-time service and love for the community foremost for her efforts in managing, organizing and running on a real-time basis the Oakhurst Jazz Night series that happens every Thursday night in both April and September. She has kept the neighborhood-favorite event relevant and fun for the community.

Anne identifies the stellar acts that perform, negotiates with the bands, arranges the location and logistics for day-of performance activities coordinating with the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association and the Community Center of South Decatur, enlists sponsors and community partners who help with financial support, and promotes the series throughout the community.

Anne works on behalf of the community in other ways including organizing and hosting a major recital to benefit the Angels Among Us Pet Rescue, organizing community support for a Golf Tournament fundraiser, and editing and publishing the Oakhurst Village Magazine for years. She is also a mainstay in helping with the annual Oakhurst Barbeque Blues and Bluegrass Festival which benefits non-profits working in and around Oakhurst.

 

Joyce Cohrs

Nominated by Friends of Decatur Library

Joyce Cohrs has been a loyal and skillful volunteer for The Friends of Decatur Library (FoDL) for many years. FoDL is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to raising money for the Decatur Library from three used book sales each year. This money helps fund the library’s programming of activities and events for all ages.

FoDL was “rejuvenated” around 2000 by library staff, as the group had waned, a fairly common situation with many groups as volunteers move away or lost interest, and Joyce was pivotal in this rejuvenation.

Joyce earned a Master of Library Science degree from Emory University in 1969-70. In 1973 she was a reference library at the Decatur branch, and in 1975 she went to Dubai as records administrator for an oil company. When she returned to the US, she worked for the Decatur Library System as head of technical services for five years. In 1983 she went to Cairo, Egypt to set up an engineering library for the Georgia Tech Research Institute. Returning from Egypt, she worked at the Cobb County Library System and retired in 1993.

 

Kristin Ebersold

Nominated by Jenny Shannin, Jenni Stolarski, & Genia Topple Cayce

Kristin is the picture of engagement in Decatur.  Not only is she engaged in the schools for all 3 of her children, but she brings her neighbors together, supports Decatur community at large and lives her life in a way that connects and bonds those around her encouraging their engagement as well. She most often accomplishes this through planning events, connecting people based on their need and area of expertise, attending community functions, and being a vocal citizen across all areas of her beloved community.  

Examples of her contributions in schools include serving as a room parent, starting the fall and spring picnics at Oakhurst, organizing the fall festival at F.Ave, creating the PTO volunteer social at F.Ave and chairing the PTO committee for playground design and development. In the neighborhood she takes food to and checks on elder neighbors, hosts social gatherings to bring people together around Decatur events, coordinates meal trains and support to help Decatur residents who are in need, and rallies people to spread joy.

 In the community at large she organized a street party to increase awareness of childhood cancer; caroling and baked goods for the police department during the holidays, promote city events and encourages other to attend with her and volunteers at Hagar House. She is raising her kids to be citizens of Decatur who are engaged and give back.

 

Quonisha Jackson

Nominated by Emily Beard

Quonisha is the walking, talking definition of attributes this title seeks to honor in our community. Her list of civic engagement and volunteer activities is far too long to catalogue here. Whether she is tutoring a high school student in math or coaching her son’s Middle Georgia Bears Elite football team, Quonisha does not just pick one cause and give an hour here and there, she takes it all on superhero style and doesn’t miss a beat. Service to others is a natural impulse for her. She has a generosity of spirit and a wonderful sense of humor.

Quonisha and I serve on the School Leadership Team at Clairemont and I have witnessed firsthand how important her voice is as a community leader. As President of the Swanton Allen Wilson Resident’s Association, she represents the Decatur Housing Authority community in issues at the neighborhood, school, greater community and city level. She is unrelenting in her demands for equity, respect, and inclusion.

Last spring in the midst of a terrible tragedy Quonisha was instrumental in organizing a large community vigil in memory of a Renfroe student Shykia Ward Reese. Even through her own grief over the loss of her neighbor and young friend, Quonisha rallied the devastated community and helped bring comfort and solidarity.

 

Linda Lael

Nominated by Russ Madison

Linda Lael has served in many volunteer roles ranging from one-time events to long-term commitments. She has volunteered for a number of years with AARP Tax-Aide. She is an IRS-Certified VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) tax counselor at Decatur Recreation Center.

Linda is a tireless advocate for those who need help, especially older adults. She helps senior citizens who are unable to drive to get to medical appointments. She also volunteers at the annual Martin Luther King Jr Service Project where she checks in volunteers every year. She has served in all these roles for years, demonstrating her care and affection for this community. She is a public servant who isn’t paid for it.

 

Tim Martin

Nominated by Katie Abel, Susan Sparks, Tammy Washington, & Kyle Williams

Tim has been a volunteer with the Decatur Business Association (DBA) since 2007 before he even moved to Decatur. He has focused on making sure all the free, community events hosted by DBA are fun, free, inclusive and open, build community and support our local businesses. He chaired the Concerts Committee; stepped up as President-Elect and served as President in 2015. He continues his service to help secure sponsorship funding required to keep DBA community events free.

As part of Leadership DeKalb, he helped re-brand the DeKalb Rape Crisis Center as the Day League and served as co-chair of the Decatur Rotary Foundation. Tim rolls up his sleeves and gets to work. He has put in countless volunteer hours staffing everything from rock climbing walls and silent auctions at community events, swinging a hammer with the MLK Jr Service Project, and leading parents, small group/bible study with his church.

He listens more than he talks, builds consensus and works to instill camaraderie. He volunteers his time and talents when he sees a need and steps up.

 

Ellyn Mathys

Nominated by Greg White

Ellen Mathys is the founder of the Oakhurst Pollinator Garden (established in 2017) at the Oakhurst Dog Park and spends numerous hours checking on plants and wildlife at the Oakhurst Dog Park. Ellen Mathys has lived with her family in Decatur since 2008. Over the past two decades, Ellen has worked in over twenty-five countries in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia, in the area of International Food Security and Disaster Early Warning.  She has a Master’s in Public Health from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Her favorite parts of the world are West Africa, Ethiopia, Nepal and Decatur, Georgia.  Ellen is married to Dr. Robert Kircaldy, a medical epidemiologist with the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. Ellen has a 13 year old daughter Sofia who attends Renfroe Middle School. 

As the Oakhurst Pollinator Garden Ambassador at the Oakhurst Dog Park Ellen has enhanced the space and created a place for people to connect to nature. Ellen and her family are well known in the neighborhood for going all out for Halloween, happily welcoming (and scaring) hundreds of trick-or-treaters every year at their 2nd Avenue home. Decatur Active Living highly recommends Ellen Mathys to be considered as one of your new Hometown Heroes that make Decatur an All- American City.

 

Amina Mohamad

Nominated by Lee Ann Harvey and Melvin Whitlock

Amina is a committed volunteer. Her volunteer services go beyond the call of duty. She is a leader not only in the Somali community, but also in the Decatur Housing Authority (DHA) apartment neighborhood. For several years Ms. Amina has volunteered for a variety of DHA programs. She has volunteered in DHA After-School programs, Girl Scouts, National Night Out, Cub Scouts, Excellence Award program, Thanksgiving Luncheons, Youth Winter programs, Red Ribbon Week, and the Summer Lunch programs.

Amina is frequently asked to translate for others in the Somali community who have not yet mastered the English language as well as she has. She readily volunteers as a translator for DHA. Amina also volunteers her time to contact other Somali families by phone and in person to let them know about important upcoming events. She has sometimes spent hours with Somali mothers to help one after the other to apply for special programs.

Even when she is not volunteering, Amina makes Decatur and the world a better place just through her smile, her sense of humor, her caring and nurturing heart and her love for everyone.

Amina is an advocate and serves the City of Decatur well with extended hands.

 

Beate Sass

Nominated by Gary Garrett, Gail Rothman, and Angie Macon

Beate Sass is the epitome of a Hometown Hero. She created the I Am Decatur project where she interviewed dozens of Decaturites of all ages and backgrounds and took photographic portraits, capturing the subjects in the context of their lives and stories. The project celebrates people and their lives and how all of us are connected through our shared human experience. The I Am Decatur project has lifted up many voices that often go unheard and we are all better for that.  

Beate has also been involved with the Community School in Decatur, a unique program educating struggling learners in a deliberate, compassionate way addressing their underlying processing challenges. She worked with the Decatur Arts Alliance to host an art exhibition in which the students, ages 11 through young adulthood, produced paintings, drawings and other art for a month-long exhibition. Her passion for her community and its residents, her interest and love for all people of all walks of life and her talent with both the camera and telling the rich stories of our community makes her our Hometown Hero.

 

Sara Shay Sullivan and Christy Amador

Nominated by Linda Harris and Renae Madison

Sara and Christy served as Co-Chairs of the Better Together Advisory Board from its inception in November, 2016 until stepping down in August, 2018. From the beginning Sara and Christy embodied and modeled the importance of different perspectives and creating a safe space for dialogue around differences. At the first meeting of the Better Together Advisory Board, they began a monthly “Welcome/Check-in” process designed to deepen the connection among board members, modeling conversation across differences immediately and continuing it on a routine basis. As a result, the board made a practice of listening deeply and empathetically, staying open to differing perspectives and experiences without judgement.

Sara and Christy spent amazing energy reminding the board of the importance of their work, especially when the steps seemed insignificant in attempting to accomplish some of the complex and challenging goals that will take continuous work in stops and starts. Sara and Christy each brought a different energy that was important to weaving the group together and keeping them focused on the big picture as well as celebrating the small wins.  As staff liaisons to the Advisory Board, we appreciated their commitment to the process during the time they served and believe the establishment of this important board and its new role in the community is a direct result of their dedication and hard work. And yet, they were not ones to stand up and take credit so many do not know the role they played. We believe they embody the definition of a City of Decatur Hometown Hero and we are honored to nominate them.

 

Anna Summerlin

Nominated by Lee Ann Harvey

Anna Summerlin is one of the “hidden heroes” in our community who quietly make a difference in people’s lives. She has spent countless hours over the last decade volunteering with A Season of Giving/Christmas Decatur. Anna has been instrumental in helping to expand the program over the past decade. Anna is co-chair of the program and spends several months helping with planning. She updates all forms, training materials, and articles about the program. Anna is an active participant in every aspect of the program. She is involved with planning the application days; interviews parents and guardians to help compile their children’s wish lists; and works in the distribution center to help with gift intake, organization, and gift pick up.

The minute you talk with Anna about the program, you can feel the love she feels for the families and the older residents who will receive the gifts. She is moved when she interviews a parent who has a child with a disability and “adopts” the child, so she can be the one to purchase gifts for them. It is easy to see the immediate bond she feels for the child, even though she has not met them.

Anna is one of the behind the scenes individuals who end up having a tremendous impact on hundreds of people without even realizing it. She makes Decatur a better place due to her heartfelt love for the vulnerable members of our community.