“I’m not looking to change the world; I’m just looking to change my community,” said award recipient Luma Mufleh in a recorded message at the second annual DeKalb County CEO’s Community Hero Awards Ceremony April 10. Her statement captured the spirit of those honored.
Held at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta, the event recognized community achievers selected by a committee composed of individuals representing a cross section of the county. DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, who hosted the event, called the ceremony “our way of celebrating community service in DeKalb County and thanking those who contribute to make DeKalb a better place to live, work and play.”
Television news anchor JaQuitta Williams was mistress of ceremonies for the event.
Community Service Award recipient Ozie Jackie Adams was recognized for her more than 40 years of volunteer service in the fields of education, health care and community outreach. Adams, who began volunteering in local schools when her children were young and continued to do so long after they went to college, said, “What we do for our children today will determine what our tomorrow will be like.”
Other organizations at which she volunteers include Greenforest McCalep Christian Academy, Habitat for Humanity, Morehouse Medical School, the University of Georgia DeKalb Cooperative Extension Service, the National Association of Educators, the American Library Association, the Community Achievement Center, Golden Living Center and her own church, Ebenezer Baptist.
Another Community Service Award went to the Center for Pan Asian Community Services Inc. (CPACS), the first, largest and longest-standing service providing agency focused on Asian Pacific Islanders in the Southeast. Founded on the belief that “people need people,” CPACS health and social service to clients who struggle with cultural and language barriers.
The Environmental Change Award was presented to Tom and Killian Smith, a couple who have logged more than 4,800 volunteer hours during the past 10 years to make DeKalb County a greener place. Most of their efforts have been at the Arabia Mountain Preserve. A former engineer with the military and with the U.S. Forestry Service, Tom Smith has developed countless projects to make the nature preserve safer and more enjoyable. His wife, in addition to helping with the outdoor projects, has written articles about the preserve and maintains a scrapbook that chronicles the history of the area.
Another couple, J.W. and Althier Eady were selected for the Neighborhood Empowerment Award. After a series of break-ins in his neighborhood, J.W. Eady decided he had had enough. “They were kicking down doors and taking TVs right off the wall,” he recalled.
He and his wife organized The Parks of Stonecrest Neighborhood Watch Program. After they rallied their neighbors to be eyes and ears for community safety, crime in the area decreased significantly. The Eadys expanded their neighborhood improvement efforts to secure a grant to support clean-up and beautification campaigns that included improving the look of vacant lots and common areas.
Mufleh, along with Fugees Family Inc., the non-profit organization that she founded, was honored as the recipient of the Youth Volunteer Award. Jordan-born Mufleh took a wrong turn on her way home one day and noticed neighborhood youngsters trying to play soccer despite have no uniforms and inadequate equipment. She has not only organized the child survivors of war into four soccer teams, but also has provided support and structure to help them and their families. The youngsters, who are African and Asian, northern and southern Sudanese, Muslims—Sunni and Shi—and Christians, participate regularly in after-school tutoring and other academic enrichment.
Vanguard Award winner Bill Davis volunteers at Georgia’s only closed-circuit radio broadcast to Georgians who are blind, visually impaired or printed word disabled. Through Georgia Radio Reading Service (GaRRS), more than 200 volunteers read newspapers, books and magazines to nearly 16,000 Georgians, allowing them to be informed and involved in their communities. After discovering that many GaRRS listeners are veterans of the U.S. armed forces and that Georgia is home to the largest number of blind veterans in America, GaRRS began offering services especially for this audience.
The DeKalb County Veteran Affairs’ Advisory Board also received a Vanguard Award for its work during the past decade to “enhance the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the contributions and sacrifices of military veterans.”
Among the group’s accomplishments is overseeing the development and construction of the Veterans Memorial at Brook Run Park in Dunwoody. The group also organizes annual Memorial Day and Veterans Day observances, feed the homeless events, job fairs and greeting returning soldiers at the airport.