2015 Hometown Heroes

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Special Folks Who Work Behind the Scenes to Make Decatur Greater

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Sally Brozek
Nominated by: Michael Harbin

Sally Brozek has used her training as a registered dietician and her expertise, experience and passion in the field of nutrition to impact the health of our Decatur community through years of education, advocacy and action. As a member of the Active Living Advisory Board and the Decatur Farmers Market Board, she is dedicated to keeping healthy nutrition habits at the forefront of Decatur discussions and actions related to building a healthy community. Over many years and in many arenas, Sally has developed programs and activities that promote, teach and facilitate healthy eating habits. These programs include coordinating “Eat Well Indie-catur” to encourage local restaurants/chefs to offer healthy entrees with incentives for patrons; developing handouts promoting healthy nutrition habits to be distributed by Active Living department staff to coaches and parents at enrollment for youth sports; coordinating and leading grocery store tours in downtown Decatur to teach shoppers healthy meal planning; serving as liaison between Georgia State University nutrition students at Decatur Farmers Market to promote nutrition and children’s activities; and working with seniors through the Decatur Library on a cookbook project.

Sally has given many hours of volunteer service to those projects, as well as at Farm to School dine out events, road races, and through Holy Trinity Parish to help at Hagar’s House and the Martin Luther King Jr. Service Project. The Decatur community is very fortunate to have a person of Sally’s experience, dedication and commitment who volunteers her time and talents to make Decatur an increasingly better place to live.

Eli Dodson
Nominated by: Debra Furtado and Jennifer Ross

Eli contacted Sgt. Jennifer Ross with the Decatur Police department to find out whether he could participate in the Citizens Police Academy (CPA), since he is confined to a wheelchair. That phone call changed many lives. Debra Furtado, Senior Connections Executive Director, was contacted about repairing Eli’s old wheelchair ramp that was falling apart. While getting to know him through the CPA and having a new wheelchair ramp built, a strong friendship was formed.

Eli cared a great deal about his community and was eager to get involved. He had always kept watch over his neighbors from his home. After graduating from the CPA and Decatur 101, he was ready to do more. He volunteers with the C.A.P.S. (Citizens Assisting Public Safety) program, where he helps the Police department in many ways. He serves as a test proctor for the promotional exams; manages the front lobby during an open house; staffs the front desk for any trainings or events; and assists at special events and races. 

Eli showed a group of first graders around the city, so they could see what it was like living with a physical challenge. They learned about differences and accommodations. The children presented their recommendations to the City Commission afterwards. He joined the Better Together Leadership Circle and has attended numerous meetings to work on improving diversity in our city. He speaks candidly with residents and staff on the difficult topics of race, economics, aging, taxes, and disability issues. He encourages everyone to communicate and participate. He loves his neighborhood, his community and his city. Even though he has challenges, he constantly looks for ways to help others and serve with kind words and a big smile. Eli embodies “service over self.”

Larry Holland
Nominated by: Sherry Jackman, Angie Macon, Sarah Seaton-Todd

Larry has owned a successful electrical company for 25 years, but by night he uses his artistic talent to create spontaneous temporary art installations that make Decatur the unique and fun city that it is. He takes it upon himself to consider the atmosphere of Decatur and find art that works here. He created the animal crossing signs, which invoked conversation among young and old alike. During Georgia Writes, he used a wide variety of quotes from Georgia artists, musicians, poets, and authors and placed them throughout the city. Larry developed Secret Doors Decatur, celebrating whimsy in unexpected places. He creates a sense of place within Decatur through his distinctive art installations, driven not by a desire for recognition, but by a love of his city and a genuine passion for creating art that will fit within the community. 

Sheri Kennedy 
Nominated by: Karna Candler

Sheri Kennedy has only been a resident of Decatur for a short time; however, she has greatly impacted the city and the Parkwood neighborhood through her extraordinary leadership skills. Her determination has transformed a Decatur neighborhood. The Parkwood Garden Club (PGC) that served as the neighborhood association, owns a 3.5 acre park between East and West Parkwood that was severely overgrown with ivy, privet, elaeagnus and other non-native plants. In 2010, Sheri volunteered to steer the Park Committee. She mobilized neighbors to clear the park of the bulk of the woody invasive plants, filling five truckloads of chipped non-native shrubs. Next, she attacked the ivy, which covered 90% of the park, with volunteer workdays. The removal of the ivy is ongoing but has been reduced to about 10% coverage now. In conjunction with these workdays, Sheri organized fundraising to purchase new native plants and then organized more workdays to plant them. To date, neighbors have planted over 2,500 native plants in the park. Sheri then organized volunteers to blaze five trails along the length of the creek. She lobbied for money to put up an attractive fence over the drain to replace the chain link one. She applied for and won grants to help pay for native plant purchases. She also maintained relationships with organizations such as Trees Atlanta in order to be able to purchase plants at wholesale prices. Sheri has spent hours and hours of time in the park weeding, planting, and watering.

Four years ago, as an officer in the PGC, Sheri chaired a small committee to rewrite the By-laws that were written in 1952. The result was a much better functioning neighborhood organization that has increased its membership to 95% of the 114 homes. Sheri was also instrumental in creating the PGC website and Facebook page. Two years ago, Sheri became a member of a 6 person committee formed to make sure neighbors were aware of the discussions going on and the consequences to the neighborhood of being absorbed into a new city or the City of Atlanta. The committee decided to pursue the annexation of the Parkwoods into the City of Decatur. Thus in July 2014, the Parkwood neighborhood was united within the city limits. Sheri has been a great volunteer for doing whatever is needed to help her Parkwoods neighborhood.

Helen Lowenthal
Nominated by: Russ Madison

As district coordinator for the AARP’s Tax-Aide program for District 5, which covers all of DeKalb County, Decatur resident Helen Lowenthal is responsible for saving local taxpayers thousands of dollars—probably hundreds of thousands of dollars—worth of tax preparation services over the past several years. During the 2015 tax season, Helen coordinated ten different DeKalb tax sites with dozens of certified tax preparer volunteers at each site. District 5 tax volunteers prepared returns on behalf of several thousand (presumably around 30,000) taxpayers in the DeKalb area, including Decatur residents through the Decatur Recreation Center tax site. Helen also spearheaded site visits by volunteer tax preparers to senior housing locations in Decatur to reach additional taxpayers who could not make it to the Tax-Aide sites.

Helen is a zealous advocate for helping the elderly comply with what she feels—and we’d all agree—is an unfair burden imposed by the federal government on citizens who are unable to afford professional tax preparation services. She is extremely well-organized and detail-oriented. She is also a tenacious recruiter for volunteers. She ensures that volunteers are trained well and are recognized for their efforts. Like the tax preparers themselves, Helen is an unpaid volunteer. Most people don’t realize how much work is involved in this project, and how much Helen has done to save money for Decatur and DeKalb’s elderly taxpayers over the years. She is a hometown hero!

Lorri Mills
Nominated by: Richelle Patton

Lorri Mills embodies all that is good about the City of Decatur. She selflessly gives her time, talents, and money to help so many people. Perhaps her most significant impact to the Decatur community is her leadership efforts to restore the Historic Scottish Rite hospital building in Oakhurst. When the nonprofit organization she worked for, Progressive Redevelopment, won the rights to redevelop the building, Lorri took the lead in overseeing all of the project management to secure the rehabilitation financing, oversee the development team of contractors and vendors, and ensure the building was lovingly restored to the beautiful building that it remains today. 

The Scottish Rite building was open for occupancy again in 2002. Lorri has continued to serve as its property manager. She not only makes sure the basic operations continue, but she has even come out in the middle of the night to help remove water when the building has started to flood in a hard rain. Lorri has been involved with countless other volunteer efforts in the City of Decatur. She has been an active member of Oakhurst Presbyterian Church, where she has served on many committees. She volunteers with CaringWorks, a nonprofit organization that provides services to low income individuals, many with mental illness and substance addictions. She is a graduate of Decatur’s Citizen’s Police Academy and has participated on other civic opportunities. Lorri Mills is indeed a hero to so many who know her. 

Anne Morris
Nominated by: Lee Ann Harvey

Anne Morris is one of the original members of the Lifelong Community Advisory Board. She was appointed to the board in July 2013. At the first meeting in August 2013, Anne was voted Vice Chair. She became temporary Board Chair in May 2014 and was elected Board Chair in July 2014. Anne oversaw the development of an online survey that was completed by 638 Decatur residents. The survey results have been presented at many civic associations and were the basis for the development of the Board’s 2015 Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan led to the establishment of four core committees – Housing, Transportation, Taxation and Affordability, and Communication. Anne participates in all of the committees and is responsible for the integration of the work of each committee into the work of the Board.

Anne has been involved in the community, especially as a volunteer, for many years. She is a regular weekly volunteer at the DeKalb Medical Hospital. Anne has been very active in her Village Walk Neighborhood Association. She is a graduate of the Citizens Police Academy and Decatur 101. She was one of the inaugural volunteers in the CAPS (Citizens Assisting Public Safety) program of the Decatur Police Department. As one of the CAPS, Anne assists at a variety of special events and marathons held in the city. She routinely volunteers through the CAPS to assist with Active Living Department programs, including Walk with a Doc, Magical Mornings (children’s program), and senior citizen events. She spent countless hours during inclement weather making senior citizen welfare check calls. She has also assisted with missing person searches. Anne has helped accompany Boy Scouts as part of an Eagle Scout project to distribute emergency kits to senior citizens. In addition, Anne has been a test proctor for Police Department promotional exams. Anne spends countless hours each week volunteering. She is always the first person to turn to and the first person to respond to requests for help. Decatur is a much better place as a result of her help.

Jeff Newbury
Nominated by: Lucas Ryter

Something special has happened at the Decatur DeKalb YMCA through its youth soccer program, DDYSC Soccer, which has had a big impact on the city of Decatur. The program has been around for over half a century and has been built in the spirit of the YMCA Outreach tradition. Jeff Newbury joined the program as a coach in 2003, believing that sports, and soccer specifically, remains one of the best ways to promote the development of youth. In 2004, Jeff became the Director of Coaching for the Academy and Select program and has focused the program on serving an even broader base of the community. Through his efforts, along with a handful of others, a uniquely effective community charity has evolved with almost no notice outside of its own doors (DDYSC Soccer Outreach).

Since inception of the Community Outreach Program, thousands of disadvantaged kids from extremely diverse backgrounds, supported by each other and by parents from all socio-economic walks of life, have benefitted from the Outreach. The kids were offered a safe and nurturing environment to develop self-esteem and mature into upstanding adults. Today, hundreds of kids are playing soccer, interacting with the community and finding nutritional, academic and emotional support as well as equipment and college preparation support without paying a dime. They are supported by scholarships worth over $70,000 annually and by the ever present support of program participants and their parents. There is tutoring, life mentoring, feeding, housing, transporting, training and an endless array of other services, all delivered by and between the members of the community, a village of people benefitting from each other. 

Jeff has worked tirelessly for nearly a decade to open DDYSC Soccer to disadvantaged youth in the Decatur and DeKalb County area. He is committed to using soccer to grow boys to men and girls to women and to making soccer accessible to all youth. Jeff has accomplished these goals by giving heroic hours of his time to the effort.

Kathy Phillips
Nominated by: Lori Leland-Kirk

Kathy has been a tireless volunteer in the City Schools of Decatur (CSD) and in the Decatur community for many years. She organized and led Girl Scout Troop 28433 made up of CSD students from 2008 to the present. Under Kathy's direction, Troop 28433 regularly participates in community service events in Decatur and the broader community including MLK service projects. They have participated in Decatur’s Season of Giving Program in numerous ways over the years and have decorated the holiday tree at the Decatur Recreation Center. They also participated in the Purple Farmers Market and donated local produce to senior citizens aging in place within Decatur community. In 2012 Troop 28433 raised funds to travel to Savannah to learn about Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts. The trip was such a success that Kathy and her troop set a goal of fundraising for a trip to Europe. This past June of 2015, they reached their goal and traveled to England, France, Switzerland and Italy with the Girl Scouts of America. Troop 28433 raised all the funds for their trip on their own with Kathy's direction over the course of three years. The scouts learned about money management, trip planning, working together, and Europe through experience. Kathy is also the Service Unit Director of the Decatur Service Unit of Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta. This unit serves over 600 local scouts. 

Kathy has been active in the City Schools of Decatur for years. She was Volunteer of the Year at Winnona Park Elementary School in 2009. In 2011-12 she was PTA Co-President at the newly opened 4/5 Academy at Fifth Avenue. She has chaired numerous school events from 2008 when her daughter was Winnona Park student to the present when her daughter is a Decatur High School Student. She went through training and volunteers for the DHS College Mentoring program. This is her fifth year to work one on one with seniors throughout their senior year to help them get into college. She is in her fourth year as a DHS Senior Project reviewer. Kathy also works on the DHS Gardening committee. Kathy Philips is a life long community volunteer and Decatur is a far better community for her efforts and commitment.

Michael Rossi
Nominated by: Tim Bricker

Mike Rossi has shared his time and leadership skills with several youth programs in Decatur for over a decade. As Cubmaster of Cub Scout Pack 134, he was worked to teach the ideals of Scouting to many Decatur boys. As a result of his leadership, in just 5 years the Pack grew from 30 to over 125 boys. This tremendous growth led to a problem: the Pack had outgrown their meeting space at the Decatur First Baptist Church. As an accomplished architect, Mike knew what needed to be done next; the Pack would need to create their own space. Mike volunteered to be the lead architect for the new 3,000 square foot Greenway Scout Hut, a building that will meet the needs of scouts for years to come while being sensitive to its surroundings. In addition to contributing his own time (unpaid), he made a substantial financial contribution. He also spent many hours working closely with the City Planning Department to meet the code requirements for this unique public space that will be used by both the Scouts and the church after-school program.

Mike’s commitment to Scouting is not limited to the Cub Pack; he is also an Assistant Scoutmaster and Quartermaster for Boy Scout Troop 134. In this role, he designed and built chuck boxes for new Scout patrols that were necessary as the additional Cub Scouts graduated to Boy Scouts. Mike also attends most of the Pack and Troop weekend outings with his two sons, which take place 1-2 times per month and the week-long Winter Camp. 

Mike is active in the Winnona Park neighborhood, having served as co-president of the Winnona Park Neighborhood Association (WPNA) and as Treasurer of the Winnona Park Elementary School PTA. He is still very involved with neighborhood events; wielding his chainsaw for the annual PTA Holiday Tree sale and the Scout Tree Recycling program (which he initiated). Mike has also been very active in youth sports, including a total of 12 seasons coaching youth soccer for the Decatur Active Living league and baseball for the Druid Hills Youth Sports league. He has also served on the Board of Trout Unlimited. Mike has also spent many hours volunteering for Decatur events, including the Book Festival and the Beer Festival. Whatever the setting, Mike is always willing to share his knowledge and great attitude.

Clay Scarborough
Nominated by: Cheryl Burnette

Clay Scarborough serves on the Decatur Active Living Board and is also Chair of the Road Race subcommittee. Clay owns Fleet Feet Running Store and is very active in promoting all kinds of physical activity in the City of Decatur. He is also involved with the Active Living Board promoting Team Decatur and the numerous road races that are held in the city throughout the year. Clay is an active supporter of the Decatur Education Foundation. He sponsors their Tour deCatur event and also offers to be the “number and shirt” pick up site for that race, as well as other Active Living Team Decatur races.

Clay is also chair of the Road Race committee of the Active Living Board. He schedules the meetings, prints out the agenda and takes the minutes! He has organized the groups who produce the road races in Decatur throughout the year and has given many insights into how to improve the attendance of races, worked with creating new routes when needed, and been an over-all resource to the race organizers. He is working on bundling services to keep the price down for the individual races (ex: shirts, race directors, getting water donated, and more.) Clay offers free walks and runs to team members so that they have an opportunity to train for the 5K. He has a big following of walkers and runners who train with his groups throughout the year. 

Clay Scarborough makes the City of Decatur a healthier and better place to live. Through his work with the Active Living Board, the Road Race Committee, supporting local races and by providing the community with free options for staying fit and having fun, he contributes to the over all quality of life of citizens in Decatur. Clay makes himself available to support activities by volunteering his time and talents. He is a valuable member of the board and the community.

Danielle Suchdev
Nominated by: Cheryl Burnette

Danielle has only been in Decatur for four years, but has been very active in her children’s school as well as on the Pedestrian Committee of the Active Living Board (ALB). She founded and serves on the Board of Directors of “Smarties Parents Association” for the Smarties Academy, a Spanish-immersion daycare. Prior to this leadership, the school did not have a parent’s group to help with fundraising, teacher appreciation, and unified communication between parent and staff. Danielle joined the Westchester PTA where her kindergarten daughter attends and is interested in helping with the Safe Routes to School program at that school. Danielle is also active in her neighborhood. She is very interested in improving pedestrian issues in the City and is a volunteer on the Pinetree Drive task force that was begun to work on traffic calming/pedestrian safety on her street. 

Danielle is an active member of the Pedestrian Committee of the ALB. She is very concerned about issues and activities that improve the quality of life for everyone. She started the Fourth Thursday and Third Sunday Strolls. These walks encourage residents of all ages and abilities to explore, connect and get fit. Sunday afternoon walks are planned for members of the community interested in learning about various aspects of Decatur and are at a leisurely pace. Thursday evening’s "Bright at Night" walks are at a brisker pace. Walks begin and end at the Decatur Recreation Center and include tips on pedestrian safety. Danielle works to keep the other members of the committee motivated and on task for making these monthly walks a reality. Danielle attended the Peter Kajiyama workshop held in Decatur and won a $500 prize for her ideas on being “Bright at Night.” The money will be used to purchase bright fun items for walkers to wear on the Thursday night walks.

Danielle is a valuable member of the community and has a history of helping to improve the quality of life in communities where she has lived. Her work with pedestrian safety makes Decatur a better and safer place for everyone to live. Danielle is a person who has ideas and then acts on them to bring them to fruition. 

Kelly Walsh
Nominated by: Michael Harbin

Kelly Walsh has used her leadership and organizational skills to take on key leadership roles with the city’s active Living Board and the Clairemont Elementary School PTA. In her second year as a board member, she accepted the responsibilities of Chair. She has the ability to run a well-organized, collaboratively inclusive meeting. She has the ability to bring focus and purpose to the board’s work. One of Kelly’s many gifts to Decatur is her passion for the benefits of physical activity. Kelly is a dedicated runner who is always looking for ways to make physical activity accessible to the widest range of individuals in the community. Her passion is evident in her volunteer support for the Decatur Bulldog Boosters’ Run with the Dogs 5K, the Oakhurst Arts Festival 5K, Team Decatur and the Grand Slam Fitness Challenge, Girls on the Run, and the Clairemont Cougars Track Club. 

The Clairemont/Great Lakes neighborhood can always count on Kelly to be at the center of planning and carrying out neighborhood get-togethers, including block parties and holiday parties. She is a member of the Decatur Business Association and serves on the Membership Committee. Kelly has a love for and dedication to her community.

Marty Wood
Nominated by: Sherry Jackman, Angie Macon, Sarah Seaton-Todd

Marty moved to Decatur in 2010 to be near her family and has been contributing her time and energy to all aspects of the community ever since then. With an unfailing warm and kind attitude, Marty never hesitates to step up to the plate wherever needed. She volunteers with the Decatur Visitors Center every Saturday, at Decatur Arts Alliance events, and with the Global Village School. As a Peace Corps alumni, Marty has been a tremendous presence in the immigrant community within Decatur. She has taught English to immigrants, helping with the acclimation experience. She brings the community together. After years as a high school guidance counselor, she serves as a mentor to young Decaturites, offering encouragement and support. She welcomes new Decatur residents by following up on their moves to the city and making them feel included. Marty is a friend to all, providing a steadying influence on even the most hectic days and contributing time and help in every situation. Marty’s dedication to her community is invaluable and her years of service to Decatur have helped bring people together and helped city events to run smoothly. She makes every ordinary day enjoyable for everyone around her.