Decatur spotlight: Lifelong community coordinator looks to the city’s future
Lee Ann Harvey joined the city of Decatur 13 years ago not knowing how long she’d work there.
The city hired her as its volunteer coordinator, a position funded with grant money.
“What I really liked about it was, they didn’t have a volunteer coordinator,” Harvey said. “This was a brand new position where a person would be forming a new program. When I was first hired, they had gotten a 3-year start-up grant from the United Way. I was initially hired for the three years to start the program, then after that the city commission voted to put it in the budget to fund a volunteer coordinator.”
Harvey excelled at the job, and in April of this year was promoted to the city’s Lifelong Community Coordinator. In that role she’s focusing her efforts on the city’s elderly population, helping the city find ways to make life better for seniors living here.
“Basically, it’s making Decatur a place where people can live throughout their lifetimes, cradle to grave, so we can keep our older residents in the community,” Harvey said. “Things that will benefit the older residents will ultimately benefit people of all ages.”
Harvey is best known for her work with the city’s annual MLK Service Project. Each year, on a cold January weekend around Martin Luther King Jr. Day, hundreds of people show up in local neighborhoods and get to work.
It’s the accomplishment Harvey says she’s proudest of.
“We started it in 2003,” Harvey said. “At that time were very naive and did the same model that a lot of other groups do, working just a half day on the King Holiday itself. We found the homes needed a whole lot more work than that. A lot of the volunteers kept going back week after week. We were very surprised. We had eight homes that year. We were so surprised that 100 people turned out that year.”
The numbers have swelled to about 1,000 volunteers. Harvey spends a lot of sleepless nights coordinating and supervising the project. Harvey also coordinates the city’s Season of Giving/Christmas Decatur program.
Harvey hails from Buffalo, N.Y., and has lived in the South since 1995. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business from American Intercontinental University. In 2007, she received the Thomas O. Davis Award from the Decatur Business Association.
According to the announcement of the award, Cynthia and Ethel Walker, who were part of the MLK Jr. Service Project, said in their nomination, “Lee Ann has made a world of difference to my mother, myself and her home . . . we could never repay Lee Ann for all of her hard work, time, and patience and for all she did to help over the past two years.”
Harvey enjoys traveling when she isn’t coordinating volunteers and thinking about how to make life better for the elderly living in Decatur.
“I’m not an exotic traveler,” Harvey said. “I love history. I love presidential things. I have a vast collection of pictures of presidential grave sites.”
She said she’s “lost track” of how many pictures she has.
Harvey said her favorite part of the job has been meeting so many people interested in getting involved with their community.
“I’ve met literally thousands of people to hear their passion for the city, doing whatever it takes to get things done,” Harvey said. “I’ve had people who are scientists at the CDC or attorneys who help me break down events.”
Editor’s note: Decaturish asked the city of Decatur to nominate a deserving employee for a Spotlight profile. This will become an occasional feature.