Milestones: Hero’s work a family tradition

It’s certainly a notable accomplishment to be honored as a hero in one’s hometown. It’s even more remarkable when three members of the same family achieve the same recognition.

On Tuesday, when Lynne Curtice accepts an award as a Hometown Hero from the city of Decatur, she will follow in the footsteps of her husband and daughter, both of whom have been singled out for their contributions to the city.

“My husband got it four years ago, and my daughter won it four years before that,” said Curtice, a resident of Decatur for seven years. “We’re all take-charge people; it seems we all work better as leaders.”

Curtice’s husband, Mike, has organized home repairs for elderly residents; daughter Beth Thompson launched the Season of Giving, a citywide program that connects families with needy children and their holiday wish lists.

“I got involved in Season of Giving even before I moved here,” Curtice said. “My daughter called and asked me to adopt a child, and we did.

Curtice, who retired in May from teaching kindergarten at Decatur First Methodist, traces her family’s enthusiasm for making a difference to her father, who led by example.

“He really was an unsung hero,” Curtice said. “He did things he never wanted any credit for — helping a kid in trouble, giving someone a job. I always saw him doing the acts of kindness. He said if somebody needs your help, you should help them. I was taught that from the time I was little.”

When Curtice had her own two children, the family made the choice to take a different approach to the holiday season.

“We decided it wasn’t about what you’d get,” she said. “We always found a family through social services who needed help, and we’d do something for them. One time we gave a family a water heater. The kids pooled their allowances and we’d go shopping, then we’d wrap the gifts and take them to a family. That’s probably what started most of it for them.”

Curtice has been busy with the Season of Giving for four years, helping almost 600 children and seniors. She’s devoted energy to the Decatur Education Foundation, which provides unbudgeted items such as music classes and computers to local schools. Most recently, she collected more than 1,500 books for a library at Oliver House, the Decatur Housing Authority’s newest complex for seniors.

After Hurricane Sandy, Curtice organized a local drive for items to ship to the hardest-hit areas. Her grass-roots call for donations netted so many contributions that it took a semi to haul them up the East Coast the week before Thanksgiving.

“Writing a check is very anonymous; I wanted to do something,” she said. “I sent the word out, someone passed it onto another listserve and entire mailing lists, and it just bloomed. People went out and purchased diapers, pet food, blankets, clothing, cases of bottled water, cleaning products, flashlights — it was a godsend.”

This year’s Hometown Heroes Awards will go to 18 Decaturites who were nominated by fellow residents. Lee Ann Harvey, the city’s volunteer coordinator, submitted Curtice for consideration.

“The whole family’s been involved, but Lynne has taken on even more duties since she retired,” Harvey said. “She’s really thrown herself into volunteering, particularly by establishing the library at Oliver House.”

As far as Curtice is concerned, the award honors not just her work, but the efforts of her family and fellow volunteers.

“There are so many people who are my heroes, especially all the people I get to join me in doing these things,” she said. “I’m not a one-woman show.”

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