Tim and Shelly Stottlemyer were surprised and shocked when they found out they were chosen to be the Center for Mental Health’s 22nd Elizabeth McMahan Family of the Year for 2006.
“I guess I’ve never really thought of my family in that way,” Tim said.
The family was honored with the award at the Chamber of Commerce Wake Up with Anderson Breakfast Thursday morning. The Stottlemyers were chosen for their drive to support and care for the community around them, even when they were facing troubles in their own home. Madison County Commissioner Pat Dillon presented the award to the family.
Tim is the chief of the Edgewood Volunteer Fire Department, and Shelly works part-time at the North Anderson Church of God, where she is the early childhood coordinator.
“I guess I’m humbled,” Tim said. “I’ve never been one to really want to stand in the spotlight or to kind of stand out in that way. I think it’s an honor, and I am humbled to have that honor for our family.”
To be considered for the honor, the family had to demonstrate support for Anderson or another part of Madison County, show civic mindedness and community involvement, overcome personal adversity and obstacles and be involved in their church.
Shelly and Tim and their three daughters volunteer around the community with their church, the North Anderson Church of God.
Emily, 16, and Erin, 12, were not at the breakfast because they were at summer church camp and on a mission trip, respectively, but Shelly brought a framed picture of them to the event. Grace, 6, attended the breakfast with her parents.
The girls volunteer to help out in the community regularly. Emily is part of the Highland High School’s Peers mentor group, which pairs high school students with middle school students to encourage the younger children not to engage in alcohol, drugs or sex. She also has gone on many mission trips with the church youth group, including a trip to Florida in 2005 to help with hurricane relief.
Shelly said she believes Emily’s determination to help others comes from her time at the church.
“I think that truly it’s just a passion because she’s been raised inside our church,” she said. “We’ve always said it’s important to give back; it’s important to care.”
Erin also volunteers around the community. She went on her first mission trip, which was in Chicago, on Sunday. In Chicago, she worked at a women’s center and a depository food center, Shelly said.
Both girls return home to Edgewood Friday.
Grace, who will be a first-grader at Edgewood Elementary School in the fall, does her part too. With her sisters, Grace participated in the annual production of “The Christmas Carol” at their church. All proceeds from the play go to help Dove Harbor, a women’s shelter in Anderson.
But along with all of these community action initiatives, the family had some troubles of its own.
In 2004, Erin broke her arm and developed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy syndrome (RSD), a chronic neurological syndrome that is characterized by constant pain in places where nothing inflicts it.
“Pain signals that come from the brain were good to go when it broke,” Shelly said. “But the nerves never stopped saying ‘pain’ to her.”
The family is using the opportunity to raise awareness about the rare disease, which has no cure.
“We’re almost two years into this, and we still receive cards from people at church,” Shelly said.
Erin looks through the cards on her bad days, Shelly said.
“It really does help,” Shelly said. “As she’s growing up, she’s becoming this really, really inspirational woman in God. She will be able to help people who are in similar situations. She is an inspiration for others.”
Shelly said the family is more aware of special needs because of Erin’s disease.
“It has made us see so many avenues that have opened up,” she said.
Despite her pain, Erin is determined to return to playing her violin, which she had to give up because of surgeries and complications with RSD. She also stays active on a swim team and in choir. She even managed to maintain high grades in her classes at school, despite having to stay home on days when the pain was too much, Shelly said.
Shelly said she had mixed feelings about getting the award.
“It’s very humbling,” she said. “There are a lot of people who are more deserving than us.”
She said she knew of several families she felt were just as deserving of the award. She is planning to nominate these families next year.
However, the family’s neighbor, Norma Schlossberg, said she nominated the family because of everything they do for the community and the model they set for a close family.
“I was pleased the committee saw them the way I saw them,” she said.
The family appreciated the nomination.
“(Norma) is very active in the community, and she loves to see other people who are active in the community,” Tim said. “And I think she wants to bring awareness or inspire others to also become active in the community. She is just a dynamo in that area.”
Tonya Nichols, from the Center for Mental Health, gave the Stottlemyers a plaque and a gift pack for the award. The package was comprised of contributions from vendors and local companies including tickets from the Anderson Symphony Orchestra and Conner Prairie admission passes among other prizes.