Decatur Salutes 2006 Hometown Heroes
Rick Brozek – Rick created the Clairemont Elementary Marketplace birdhouse auction, a three-year effort that raised thousands of dollars for Clairemont and provided a community building experience for students, parents and others. He found birdhouse construction plans, got the cedar donated, and constructed 200 birdhouses a year for three years. He recruited volunteer artists from the community, called on civic leaders to judge them, and asked Decatur businesses to donate prizes for the best birdhouses and then auctioned them to benefit the PTA. He raised $11,000 for the PTA and became known around the community as the “Birdhouse Man.” Nominated by Dorrie and Eric Sundquist.
Deb Burns – Deb’s participation and leadership during the 21 years she has lived in Decatur has been an outstanding example of what makes Decatur great. Her three children are products of the Decatur school system and she was an active parent at Clairemont Elementary for 16 consecutive years (the record). She was on the original committee that formed Decatur’s recycling program; conceived, chaired and implemented the Clairemont Marketplace, the successful school fundraiser that grossed $20,000 in 2005, and is now in its 15th year; conceived of Waddell Park and rallied neighbors to save the land from developers by raising money to purchase the property and donate it to the city to be maintained as a public greenspace; organized a cultural exchange of letters and photos between Renfroe students and refugees from the Amputee Camp in Sierra Leone. Nominated by Kate Lawes.
Haywood Curry – The Currys moved to Decatur in 1982. Their three children grew up in the city school system and graduated from Decatur High. In 1991 attendance and performance at Clairemont Elementary had declined. The Currys were part of a core group of parents who got together and determined they would keep their children in the public school system and do whatever it took to improve and support their neighborhood school. Clairemont soon became one of the top performing schools. Haywood is a strong supporter and leader in the Decatur Booster Club. He coached basketball for Decatur Recreation before his son was a player and continued doing so after his son’s playing years. He became a mentor and provided personal and financial support for one of the players, including helping him secure a full college scholarship. Haywood is a charter director of the Decatur Education Foundation and has served on the Decatur Housing Authority for 16 years. He is a man of principle, integrity and judgment. Nominated by Skip Fossett.
Dean Fenley – Dean has been involved in the Martin Luther King Jr. Service Project since its inception in 2003. In 2006, he assumed a greater leadership role by providing supervision over several of the homes during the three-day weekend project. He chairs the MLK Operations Team for 2007. He has spent countless hours handling follow-up work for the 2006 project and preparing for 2007. He has become an “on call fixit man” for many of the MLK seniors. He has given them his home phone number and routinely stops by to help them with small repairs throughout the year. This year he began volunteering at Woodlands Garden’s Midweek Gardeners Group and spends nearly every week there chopping out privet or ivy or dead limbs, clearing brush, and creating trails. In 2004, he and his neighbors successfully mobilized to raise the funds needed to purchase and preserve the two-acre tract of land now known as the Glenn Creek Nature Preserve. Nominated by Lee Ann Harvey.
Amanda Jolley – Amanda constantly tries to do something nice for friends and neighbors. She is involved at Clairemont Elementary and is always ready to find a way to do help someone in need. In 2005 she donated a kidney to a childhood friend who had been on dialysis for years and whose time was running out. Amanda’s kidney proved to be compatible which is rarely found except in relatives. Her friend of 12 years received the kidney and is doing well and will continue to live her life thanks to Amanda’s sacrifice. Decatur is fortunate to have a citizen with Amanda’s capacity for caring and giving. We all believe she must be an angel. It warms our hearts that people such as Amanda are in this world doing their wondrous acts of kindness and that they actually live in our neighborhood. Nominated by Clairemont Gateway Association c/o Beth Byrnes.
Sue Leonard – In addition to being a mom and working full-time, Sue took it upon herself to help three young girls living in Swanton Heights. She noticed that there were no children from the Housing Authority participating in the Decatur Gator Swim Team, despite the fact that Ebster Pool is literally next door to the complex. She discovered that most of the children lacked the swimming skills to qualify for the team. She worked with the Recreation Department to set up swim lessons. Three of the children developed a strong interest in swimming and she signed them up for scholarships with the Decatur YMCA swim team, took them to all their practices and meets and made contact with Glenwood Academy to get them signed up for tutoring. She has taken to heart the adage that “it takes a village to raise a child” and does this with no recognition and no reward other than the knowledge that these girls have opportunities open to them that would not have existed before. Nominated by Lynn Holden and Greg White.
J. Tom Morgan – In his professional and personal life J. Tom Morgan has contributed to the city, especially to the children of Decatur. As the district attorney for DeKalb County he was the first prosecutor in Georgia to specialize in the prosecution of crimes against children. His passion for protecting children inspired him to assist in founding the Georgia Center for Children, a private, nonprofit agency that provides free counseling to abused children in DeKalb and Fulton Counties. He has also served on the DeKalb Rape Crisis Center board. During his career with the District Attorney’s office, he took the time to make numerous presentations to parent and student groups in the city on the rights and responsibilities of teenagers, often conducting the presentations on his own time. He served as a board member for the Decatur-DeKalb YMCA and coached basketball for Decatur Recreation. Nominated by Mary Serdula and Annie Godfrey.
Will Montgomery – It is easy these days to criticize the teen population; however, every once in a while there are examples of teenagers rising to the occasion and doing remarkable things. One such example happened for our family when our house caught on fire and no one was home. Will Montgomery noticed the smoke from across Scott Boulevard and guessed it was our house. He ran to our home and managed to rescue our beloved lab, Lily, and our diva cat, Chocolate. It was a very brave thing to do. I do not know if Will qualifies as a “hometown hero” but he is certainly a hero to me. We lost some material possessions but all of that can be replaced. It would have been a great deal more tragic if we had lost our beloved pets. We will always be grateful for Will’s courage and generosity. Nominated by M.G. Finch.
Alex Sherrill – Alex became involved in the Martin Luther King Jr. Service project when he became a House Captain for the 2005 project. He is an exceptionally diligent volunteer who went back to the senior citizen’s home for weeks following the project to complete tasks. He routinely brought along friends and family members to help. In 2006 he took on a higher level of responsibility, providing supervision over several of the homes and making arrangements for numerous contractors to donate their services. As a result of his efforts, more than $3,000 in services were donated. As part of the Operations team for 2007, he will oversee all of the professional trades people prior to and throughout the MLK weekend. He eagerly helps with other projects through the Volunteer! Decatur program, volunteering at the Children’s Boardwalk Games at the Beach Party and the children’s activity area at the inaugural Book Festival. He is active in youth projects at his church, serving as a Sunday School teacher and a member of the Jamaica Adventure Committee. Nominated by Lee Ann Harvey.
William “Bill” Starr – Bill is employed by the DeKalb County Public Library as marketing/programming coordinator and executive director of the Georgia Center for the Book. In this dual role he has had an enormous impact on the cultural life of Decatur, as well as the entire Atlanta metro area. His monthly Festival of Writers program, presented at the Decatur Library over the past two years, has put Decatur on the literary map by regularly bringing some of Georgia’s and the nation’s most notable authors to our community. He was one of the catalysts that brought together the team that planned and implemented the inaugural AJC Decatur Book Festival. His work to secure the sponsorship of the Atlanta Journal Constitution was critical to the festival. He is also involved with the DeKalb History Center. Nominated by Darro Willey.
Scott Thompson – Scott is the first Decatur resident to donate his property for a conservation easement to support the Decatur Greenway efforts. His commitment to greenspace and preservation is evident in his other volunteer efforts, including service on the Waste Management Advisory Board. The board recently spearheaded a successful Electronics Recycling Day that is now a twice-yearly event. He is active in the Decatur Business Association where he co-chairs the Concerts on the Square Committee. He first served on this committee by spearheading the initial Silent Auction held in conjunction with the annual fundraiser. The auction raised $2,500 its first year. He has been active in the Martin Luther King Jr. Service Project and Decatur Rotary’s efforts to build an outdoor learning area for Woodlands. He coaches soccer and baseball, is active in the Young Professionals of Decatur, is a pack master for Cub Scout Pack 6 and helps build two Habitat Houses each year. Nominated by Kecia Cunningham.
Jim Toney – Jim and his wife, Gayle, recently celebrated their 50th anniversary. He attended Decatur High and Georgia State and recently retired from SunTrust Bank after working there for 42 years. He completed the DeKalb County Master Gardeners Program and began volunteering for gardening-related projects in 2000. He, along with other Master Gardeners, established the Master Gardener foundation planting and butterfly garden at Decatur Recreation Center. In 2004 he assumed leadership of the Scott Park Community Garden. He provides planting, tilling, information to gardeners, and weeding of the gardens of seniors who are temporarily unable to take care of their plots. He holds regular Recreation garden club meetings and serves as a garden host for the community garden tours. He is now rebuilding the composting center. He serves on the Decatur Cemetery Committee and offers his gardening skills to Woodlands. Jim recently received the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association (GRPA) Volunteer of the Year Award. Submitted by Mary Miller and Greg White.
Jim Warren – Since he first moved to Decatur Jim has been active in the Oakhurst neighborhood as well as the entire community. He had his home on the Tour of Homes and the next year became an active member of the committee. He now serves as the co-chair of that committee. He was on the board of the Community Center of South Decatur from 2004 to 2006 and played an active role in their events and board decisions. He is a member of the Oakhurst Beautification Committee, and the Oakhurst Wine Crawl and BBQ & Blues committees. He volunteers for the Arts Festival, the Decatur Wine Festival, the Decatur Book Festival, the Oakhurst Arts Festival, and other smaller events throughout the year. In 2006 he became chair of the Decatur Garden Tour. He and his committee took the existing garden tour and improved it, increasing attendance and dollars raised. He is a tireless volunteer. Nominated by Deena Keeler and Cheryl Burnette.
Special Hometown Hero Award Presented to Beer Tasting Festival Committee
Since its creation in 1998, the Great Decatur Beer Tasting Festival has served as a model of community participation and support. The organizers are local restaurant, pub and shop owners and have served on a volunteer basis for nine festivals.
They are committed to the community and show it by giving 75 percent of their proceeds back to the community, contributing to downtown improvement projects, and funding an annual advertising campaign for the Retail and Restaurant Committee’s Terrific Thursdays promotion each year.
With the 2006 donations, the Beer Tasting Festival Committee has given more than a half million dollars to the community. Downtown and city improvement projects have included purchasing outdoor furniture for the Old Courthouse lawn; matching funds for downtown signage and parking sign design; downtown tree maintenance; purchasing a Litter Vac that cleans downtown streets and sidewalks; contributing to the purchase of a mini fire truck for parades and children’s festivals; partial funding for a Skate Park at McKoy Park, Ebster Park playground equipment, recycling bins in Oakhurst and downtown, establishing a Girls Youth Lacrosse program at the Recreation Center, and the Dog Park pilot project; re-seeding of the Old Courthouse lawn; and partial funding of the new Wayfinding system.
Organizations that have received proceeds include all City Schools of Decatur library budgets and the Book Club Fund; Decatur Education Foundation; Our House, Inc.; DeKalb Rape Crisis Center; DEAM; Decatur Youth Fund; Oakhurst Recovery Program; MLK Jr. Service Project; Oakhurst Community Garden; Decatur Preservation Alliance; Friends of Decatur Cemetery; Trees Atlanta; Oakhurst Neighborhood senior citizen forums; DeKalb History Center; Ponce de Leon Heights Community Park and Playground; and the Community Center of South Decatur.
In 2006 the Beer Tasting Festival received the Gold Pinnacle Award from the International Festival & Events Association for Best Event/Program to Benefit a Local Charity.
The City Commission honored the entire committee with a special Hometown Hero award in recognition of their continued commitment to the community.