It’s been two years since she retired from her position as Bookkeeper at Arcado Elementary, but Joette Segars has been as active as ever volunteering with Lilburn Woman’s Club and her church and serving on the City of Lilburn Boards.
Most people who know her say she’s the kind of person you see everywhere — volunteering at events and engaging those she meets with a smile.
For someone so active in the community, those who haven’t met her would never guess that she was diagnosed with Cerebral palsy when she was just six months old.
But even this, Joette embraced with a smile.
“In life, we can do one of two things — we can focus on the positive, or on the negative. My son also has Cerebral palsy which is unusual, [and] we both choose to take the positive route.”
In 1994, Barrier Free Gwinnett awarded her the person of the year Award in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
“Joette always strived to be a role model and use her disability as an “ability” for the large special education population of students at the school as well as the parents and other stakeholders,” said former Arcado principal Dr. Linda Anderson, who nominated Joette for the award. “She tried to show how a person can live out their purpose in life as a productive member of society, despite any disability they might have. “
When she was growing up, Joette had difficulty entering buildings. Because her school didn’t have the needed accommodations, she didn’t begin school until fifth grade.
“My school years are not as fond memories,” Joette said in recollection. “I think that’s why God kept me at Arcado Elementary all those years. I wanted those kids to enjoy school.”
Joette sees her employment at Arcado as an ordained coincidence. When she quit her job as a data transcriber for the Internal Revenue Service after four years, she said to her husband, “I won’t go back to work unless a place opens up [down the street], has handicap parking/ramp and a restaurant in it, so I don’t have to leave.”
Then Arcado Elementary opened. It was close to home and had everything she needed — down to the handicap parking/ramp and the in-house cafeteria.
She sees her 35 years of employment at Arcado as one of her many ministries.
“If I can make a difference in just one child’s life a year, my handicap is all worth it,” Joette said.
Another program she holds close to heart is DivorceCare at First Baptist Church of Lilburn. She and her son Wesley work together on the project as co-facilitators.
“She basically leads the program,” said Susan Rumble, of Lilburn Baptists’ Member Care. “She does all the administrative work, enrolling people and facilitating. She does an excellent job keeping up with the students and following up with them.”
Separation and divorce are among life’s most painful and stressful experiences, according to Joette; and because she went through a similar experience, she hopes she can help others to cope with theirs.
Joette has been a member of the Lilburn Woman’s Club for eleven years. She serves on the Home Life Department and enjoys the opportunities it provides to get out and engage with others in the community.
“She’s a wonderful and passionate person,” said Sandy McGuire who serves on the Home Life Department of the Woman’s Club. “Hi-Hope Dance is one of the passion projects she works on,” McGuire continued. “She goes out of her way for that. She will go so far as personally buying items [for the dance] and will not submit the expense to the club. She goes above and beyond to make sure the kids [special needs adults] enjoy themselves. And she insists on greeting them at the door. She likes to be the greeter all the events she does.”
In Councilman Eddie Price’s opinion, few are as dedicated to the city and the community as Joette is. He met her in 2003 when he registered his daughter at Arcado and got to know her better when he got involved in local politics.
“When I got elected, she was appointed on the Merritt Board. I was happy — I knew her integrity,” Price said. “She loves our community on all levels, and she’s plugged into what’s going on. And she’s a lesson to those who aren’t.”
“She’s just a wonderful volunteer, and a tireless worker,” Susan Rumble said speaking to Joette’s work over the 60 years she’s been a member of Lilburn First Baptist. “She reads to children from Lilburn Christian Pre-School at least once a month . . . she’s a kind spirit, and she loves Jesus and the city of Lilburn.”
Joette hopes that by getting out despite her difficulties and by being friendly and outgoing she will be an encouragement to others. “I try to live my life so people can see Christ through me,” Joette said. “I’m hoping and praying I can be an encouragement to others, especially those with disabilities.”Although she’s stayed busy after retirement, Joette is a person and now has more time to spend with her son, Wesley, Glenda and, Sarah.