By CHRISTIE LEIGH MUELLER
Perhaps the most gracious, warm, inclusive and philanthropic beauty queen to ever grace Kentucky was Sug Schusterman. This beautiful woman and fashion industry maven was never intimidating; she made her company comfortable all the while giving selflessly back to the community.
With no shortage of dedication to a multitude of organizations throughout Louisville, Sug found a way to transform the volunteer side of the Heuser Hearing & Language Academy. As a long-time board member, Sug created the Butterfly Society in 2009 which is compiled of volunteers who serve as a support system for those experiencing hearing loss or any ear related disorders. The society is a resource of helping hands.
After a lifetime of volunteerism, the Spirit of Sug Award was created to keep her legacy alive.
According to Deborah Greenwald, the president of the Butterfly Society, â€œthe Spirit of Sug Award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated exceptional leadership and participation in volunteer activities for more than one organization in the Greater Louisville/Southern Indiana Region. A candidate must be someone who inspires, includes and engages others, just as Sug did.â€
To those in the volunteer world, it is no surprise that the awardâ€™s first recipient is long-time friend of Sugâ€™s and co-founder of Fabulous Finds, JoAnn Gammon.
Ms. Gammon is a humble, gracious and loving grandmother who claims to be uninteresting despite her quick wit, storied career and generous donator of time and energy to the community. While she is quick to point out that her age, just as her phone number, is not listed, it is clear that over time, Ms. Gammon has picked up on how to live a fulfilling life. â€œI have a sign on my bulletin board that asks, â€˜Are you busy or are you fulfilled?â€™ I can honestly say, I am both.â€
Ms. Gammon says the key to successful volunteering is to find a cause that you are passionate about. To find the deeper reason you want to give your time, just as she did with the Heuser Hearing & Language Academy. â€œOne day I was outside and there was a child who had just gotten a hearing aid implant. He asked, â€œIs that what a bird sounds like?â€™ It touched my heart,â€ Ms. Gammon said, as she humbly added, â€œit would have touched anyoneâ€™s heart.â€
But not just anyone would turn that experience into decades of service. For over twenty years, Ms. Gammon, and co-founder Carla Sue Broeker, have worked tirelessly to grow Fabulous Findsâ€”a resale shop that helps fund the instituteâ€“ from the small store it originally was on East Main St., to the business that is today on Frankfort Ave. A true success story that Ms. Gammon is quick to point out, would not be possible without the help of their volunteers.
â€œFabulous Finds survived thanks to the great help of all of our volunteers. We have one paid person. We stay open six days a week because we have the best volunteers. Itâ€™s a business,â€ Ms. Gammon states. And there is no better person to be behind this business than JoAnn Gammon. â€œI canâ€™t imagine getting up in the morning and not having a list of things to do,â€ Ms. Gammon describes herself. â€œMost people canâ€™t admit this, but I always say, ‘be reasonable, do it my way.â€™â€
To come full circle, last summer, after Sugâ€™s death, Ms. Gammon had the distinct privilege of selling Sugâ€™s fabulous wardrobe collection through Fabulous Finds. â€œI think of her often and everyone who buys her clothes does too. Her outfits were like her children, and I took care of them like they were her children,â€ Ms. Gammon explained with pride. â€œHer collection was a huge boost to our bottom line. Of course,â€ she said laughingly, â€œ you had to be a size minus-two to wear them. So I called every minus-two I knew.â€
Ms. Gammon thinks about her dear friend often. â€œSheâ€™d be so happy that we are talking about her. She left us far too early, but she left us with a lot of good. I learned kindness from her.â€
And kidness Ms. Gammon has shown. Despite her self-doubts as a leader, there is no better fitting winner of this inspiring award, according to Deborah Greenwald. Her volunteer resume is impressive. â€œShe has served the Louisville community for many years as a former board member of the Clifton Center, the Louisville Visual Arts Association, Brown Cancer Center, Heuser Hearing and Language Institute, the Broadway Series. She served on the board of the Louisville Orchestra, chairing their “A La Carte” series for several years as well as serving as President of the Association of the Louisville Orchestra. She has been a docent at The Speed Museum. She assisted in founding the Community Catholic School in Louisville’s west end.â€ And thatâ€™s just what she does outside of her family role as mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
As JoAnn Gammonâ€™s generous path continues sheâ€™s is guided by her late friend, â€œsheâ€™s my star in the sky.â€