Decatur Salutes 2009 Hometown Heros
Bill and Vicki Ainslie
Bill and Vicki epitomize parents who commit to making certain that all students are able to achieve a high level of success. Bill and Vicki are an integral part of the Decatur Bulldog Athletic Booster Club (DBABC) and youth sports. Bill has served as chair of DBABC raising funds for all of the athletic programs at both Renfroe Middle and Decatur High Schools. He has been coach of the basketball teams for many years and was one of the people who recently brought the exciting game of lacrosse to Decatur. In addition, Bill is “grillmaster extraordinaire” at many Decatur sporting events. Vicki, as his counterpart, assumes the role of promotion of Decatur sports. Vicki has served as the communications chairperson for Renfroe Middle and Decatur High Schools for the past several years, as well as serving on the concession committee. She has contributed much to Decatur schools over the years, compiling directories for Clairemont Elementary, Glennwood Academy, Renfroe Middle School and Decatur High School. Vicki also edited the Clairemont Elementary cookbook for many years. Bill and Vicki not only love and care for the community, they display it generously by donating hundreds of hours of their time and volunteering with devotion and invaluable expertise. Nominated by: Michael Harbin, Connie Raines, Leonard and Carolyn Thibadeau.
Decatur’s Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Service Project provides house maintenance and repair, free of charge, to low-income Decatur senior citizen homeowners during the MLK Jr. three-day holiday weekend each January. Michelle Bray is the owner of Bray Electrical Services in Decatur. For the past five years, she has volunteered her services, her crew, and all materials at little or no cost to the MLK Jr. Project. She and her crew completely rewired one of the project homes. Several other times, she rewired the attics of homes so that insulation could be installed. Without this rewiring, the attic could not be insulated. Michelle postponed “for profit” jobs until the day after the MLK Jr. Monday holiday so that she could finish what she so generously was doing for Decatur’s seniors at no cost to them or to the MLK Jr. Project. Her willingness to provide services to Decatur’s seniors through the annual MLK Jr. Project is unmatched by any other contractor in recent years. Michelle quietly makes a difference without a thought for publicity, advertising, or potential profit. Michelle Bray has truly made Decatur a better place through her generous and selfless contributions of expertise, labor and materials in order to enable this vulnerable population to remain in their homes safely and comfortably, improving their quality of life. Nominated by: Susan Cobleigh and Mike Curtice
Thursday nights in April and September are Jazz Nights in Oakhurst, transforming the Old Scottish Rite facility, which stood vacant for years. Initially begun by the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association, Jazz Nights create a neighborhood synergy and community spirit while bringing out families with young children, neighbors, and friends from across town. For this sixth season, Bill Bryson is the unsung “volunteer extraordinaire” who has set the whole thing in motion - from orchestrating the bands, soliciting sponsorships and advertisements and publicity, to the set up, cleanup and all things in between. He takes it upon himself to make sure all the details are handled. He always makes certain that the grounds are cleaned up each Thursday night after the concert, and then he’s back first thing Friday morning to double-check everything in the daylight. Jazz Nights have continued their greatness only through Bill’s hard work over the past few years. Bill, along with his wife Elyse, work on choosing bands months in advance of Jazz Nights. Bill receives many CDs with demo music for each season. They are always looking for an eclectic mix to please the diverse Oakhurst community. Bill has been the consistent champion of this effort. He approaches this in the sincere spirit of bettering the community and makes it a great experience for all involved -- the artists, the volunteers, and (of course!) the audience! Nominated by: Gary and Patti Garrett.
Greg and Nicole Coleson
Greg and Nicole approached the City of Decatur with the idea of opening an organic farmer’s market in downtown Decatur. They believed that Decatur needed a quality organic market within walking distance of all of the condominiums being developed in downtown Decatur. An initial test was done on the Square on Wednesdays. Since that time, the organic market has gained momentum and has expanded. Through the efforts of Greg and Nicole, the market concept has acquired a strong following and now averages 18 vendors and 250 customers a week. Greg and Nicole do not make a profit from the market. They began this effort as volunteers and invested their own time and money into bringing the organic market to downtown Decatur and making it self sufficient. They are committed to making certain that all of the City’s residents have access to healthy, affordable food options. In addition, they are working with downtown restaurants to develop a strong support system for locally grown foods by providing a steady market for local farmers. Unlike many people who have an idea but wait for someone else to do the work, Greg and Nicole invested their time and their money to follow through on this vision. As a result of their volunteer contribution, Decatur now has a successful organic farmers market in the downtown district. Nominated by: Lyn Menne.
Mary and Bill Flad
Mary and Bill loved attending events in Decatur and asked how they could get involved. They soon volunteered for several events held by the Decatur Arts Alliance. Bill got involved with the Performing Arts Stage at the Decatur Arts Festival and quickly became a co-chair of that area. For the past six years, he has spent countless hours listening to bands, recruiting them to play at the Arts Festival for limited funds, staffing the performing arts stage for two days during the Arts Festival, helping the sound engineer with set-up and break-down, helping the bands load and unload, helping the bands sell their CDs, and emceeing between bands. He always steps in where needed and helps out with the other Arts Alliance events throughout the year. Mary brought her corporate skills and her love of literature to the Decatur Arts Festival by organizing the Literary Arts section of the festival. The Literary Arts Stage was fairly new to the festival and had begun to languish for several years until Mary arrived on the scene. She recruited a variety of written word performers including storytellers, poets, playwrights, songwriters, book binders, and many, many more to make that stage a stable, viable and much-loved part of the Festival. She also brought in the national Read Your Favorite Poem program and recruited Decatur citizens and businesses owners to submit their favorite poem and then read it during the festival. Mary has helped with the Artists Market section of the Arts Festival in several capacities, including recruiting jurors and coordinating the entire jury process. Bill and Mary Flad are examples of people who care about our community and who work hard to make it better for all of us. Nominated by: Cheryl Burnette.
Gary and his wife moved the Decatur three years ago and he hit the ground running with his volunteer efforts. Gary is a member of the Decatur CAPS (Citizens Assisting Public Safety), which is making our city safer, stronger, and better prepared to manage any emergency situation. He is part of a group that epitomizes excellence in community emergency planning, fosters successful public-private partnerships, and demonstrates collaboration. The group performs tasks that frees up police officers, and more importantly serves as a liaison between the officers and the community. Gary always avails himself to our local CAPS team and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for any type of emergency. He has been called upon to assist with traffic direction, crowd control and perimeter security during all the major events in Decatur (Wine Festival, Art Festival, Beer Festival, Book Festival, etc). While the rest of us are out enjoying ourselves at the events, Gary is ensuring our time spent there is safe and comfortable. Gary assists in strengthening police relations and promoting community participation. In a day and time when the term “role model” seems to have lost its luster, Gary is an example for others to emulate. Nominated by: Nancy Noblett.
Dot has been involved with the Decatur Arts Alliance for a decade as both a board member and a committee member for the annual Decatur Arts Festival. She works on the Arts Festival’s Fine Arts committee where she helps with the jury process to select the artwork to be displayed, as well as supervising the volunteers who assist at the exhibit. She frequently fills in when a volunteer is unable to make it. Over the past couple of years, Dot has served on the Decatur Book Festival committee and helps plan the VIP event for the authors. She also assists with supervising the volunteers who help check in early arriving authors. Following Hurricane Katrina, Dot decided to find ways to help those in need. She contacted the American Red Cross and became a trained volunteer on the Disaster Relief Team. As a Disaster Relief Team volunteer, Dot is called around the clock to come out and assist at fires or other emergencies. She assists these victims with any services they need as a result of the emergency. She also coordinates mission trips that her fellow church members at Holy Trinity Church take to New Orleans to help the recovery process. This year, Dot worked on her church becoming more involved in local projects and has arranged for them to sponsor and volunteer at a home during the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Project that provides home repairs and yard work for Decatur’s senior citizens. While her first love is the arts, Dot also looks at how she can help those in need through her direct action or by arranging for others to help her do so. Nominated by: Lee Ann Harvey.
Mercedes has been involved with the Decatur Business Association (DBA) and their big fundraising event, Decatur Beach Party, for a number of years. The Decatur Beach Party is the DBA’s only fundraising event to benefit downtown improvement projects and DBA events, such as the free concerts in May and September. She began working as a volunteer at one of the Entry Gates at the Beach Party several years ago. For the past two years, she has co-chaired the Entry Gate subcommittee. Mercedes was responsible for recruiting many of the volunteers for the Entry Gates, maintaining the Gate volunteer schedule, developing an orientation packet, and leading orientations to train over 100 volunteers who would be working at the Entry Gates. She kept in constant contact with the Entry Gate Captains to provide them with additional information and answer to their questions. On the day of the event, she works from early in the morning until late at night. She keeps a watchful eye on her volunteers and even made arrangements for the Entry Gate Captains to have dinner brought to them during their seven hour shift. Mercedes brought oversight of the Entry Gates at the Beach Party to a new level through her extraordinary organizational skills, professionalism, and her customer service outlook. Mercedes also co-chairs the DBA Membership Committee and works to draw in new members and increase attendance at the meetings. Nominated by: Lee Ann Harvey.
Vernita moved to Decatur a few years ago and she jumped right into volunteering and serving the community. Vernita volunteers at the Decatur Beach Party, starting out early in the morning helping with set up. She has done this for over four years, arriving at 9 am and assisting with setting up fencing around the perimeter. She works extremely hard and also helps to take the lead by working with new volunteers and showing them what is needed. Not only does Vernita help for many hours with set up, but she returns in the evening for another round of volunteering. She is a member of the CAPS program (Citizens Assisting Public Safety) and helps with crowd control, staffing barricades, and other jobs. Vernita also does double duty as a festival volunteer and as a CAPS volunteer at the Decatur Arts Festival and the Decatur Book Festival. She is a tireless volunteer, and these are just samples of the many events and projects she participates in. She is active in her Condo Association as well as with other organizations within the City of Decatur, including the DeKalb Historical Society. Vernita also helped out the Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence when they put out a call for help. She was part of the group they named “The Artisan Angels” for providing resources, food and more to help the organization with their goals of helping battered women. She is tireless, reliable, hard working, and always is generous with a smile. Nominated by: Cheryl Burnette.