Brownstown woman always likes a challenge

A 57-year-old Brownstown woman has spent much of her adulthood championing projects and issues that few others have the time or inclination to tackle.

One of the first projects Jody Deckard decided to put her effort into involved raising enough funds to purchase a thermal imaging camera— developed by the military — for the Seymour Fire Department.

At the time, the only departments that had those cameras — used to locate people inside burning homes and buildings — were the big city ones that could afford the $18,000 price tag.

After watching a report on “Dateline NBC” about thermal imaging cameras in the summer of 1996, Deckard later decided to take it upon herself to try to raise $36,000 to purchase two thermal imaging cameras for the Seymour Fire Department.

“I just thought Seymour and Jackson County needed those,” the Seymour native said.

“I talked to Fred Hines (the city’s fire chief at the time) and he was all on board for it,” Deckard said.

There was a reason why she decided to raise enough to purchase two cameras instead of just one.

“Whenever we started the campaign, the railroads tracks divided the city,” she said.

So the thought was to place a camera at the fire department headquarters on the east side of the Louisville & Indiana Railroad tracks and at Station 2 on the west side of the tracks.

The campaign started in the fall of 1998.

Jody’s husband, Jay, said at the time, even Hines expressed doubt about the ability to raise the money to purchase the cameras because the fundraising started with bake sales. The campaign, however, took hold and grew rapidly thanks to Jody’s efforts.

Early on, she had sought and received approval to work on the project from Aisin USA Mfg. Inc., where she was working as an executive assistant.

She also had the support of her husband.

“I kept talking about it so much to my husband that he finally told me, ‘Jody, if you feel so strongly about it, you should just go ahead and do it,’” she said.

So Jody went to work and wrote letters seeking support from Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce members.

“I thought that if I didn’t get a lot of response to the letters, I would have to spend my weekends raising funds,” Deckard said.

The support, however, wound up being tremendous. Businesses, churches, civic organizations and individuals donated to the cause.

The couple had 3-year-old twins, Dusty and Deah, at home at that time, and that meant Jody couldn’t do work on it much in the evenings. The twins, however, also were one of the reasons she decided she wanted to tackle the project at all.

“When I started this, I thought it would probably be this summer before I was finished,” Deckard told The Tribune in the middle of January in 1999.

At that time, she was just $7,000 short of having the funds for two cameras.

By early February 1999, the Seymour Fire Department had the first thermal imaging camera, and Jody’s fundraising work was rapidly winding down. The second camera arrived in the spring of that year.

Jody said when she had started the campaign, she never would have thought it would be completed in just a few short months. She would later be made a lifetime honorary member of the Seymour Fire Department for her work.

It would be the biggest fundraising effort Jody had ever attempted at the time, but not her last.

Jay said his wife has always been supported by her employers when it come to allowing her time for community service.

The president at Aisin at the time supported her fully, and some of that might have been because there was always the possibility the thermal imaging cameras might have to be used there at some time.

After leaving Aisin in 2000 to raise her children and take care of some aging family members, Jody returned to work in June 2008 when Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. hired her to be the workforce partnership coordinator.

That organization supported some of her more recent community service efforts, including raising awareness of bullying and child trafficking in Jackson County.

Jay said his wife spent years working on the bullying issue.

“That was a project of Leadership Jackson County,” Jody said. “It was called ‘United We Stand.’”

It was a project her team decided to work on and continued after they graduated for a while. But she continued to work on it years afterwards.

“It was to inform the community and let them know that it was going on,” she said.

The effort involved bringing in anti-bullying advocate Jim Williams of Brentwood, Tennessee, to speak to students at schools in the county. The team spent time calling businesses asking for donations to pay for Williams’ visits to the county, but it wasn’t a problem, Jody said.

“The community was sold on it,” she said.

Deckard said she has a little bit of a personal issue with bullying.

“I was bullied a little bit in grade school and know that it goes on,” she said.

Bullying was something that was rarely talked about a lot back in those days, Jay said.

These days, the government has started supporting anti-bullying efforts as well as human trafficking, another issue Jody took on a few years back, he said.

Jody started working on the human trafficking issue a few years back after she received an email that led to a website that had a video on the subject.

“That kind of sparked a fire in me to get involved,” she said. “I had never done anything like that.”

She started reading about the issue and approached the elders at Brownstown Christian Church, the church she, Jay and their family attended, about showing “Blind Eyes Opened.”

The documentary about sex trafficking in the United States was shown at the church in February and also in the auditoriums at Brownstown Central and Seymour high schools that month.

Deckard said the film, directed by Geoffrey Rogers, is mostly real life interviews with victims of human trafficking and perpetrators of the crime.

As a follow-up, Laura Donatelli-Bow with the Indiana Trafficking Victims Assistance Program provided training and education during a couple of visits to the county at Brownstown Christian Church and at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Seymour.

Even more recently, Jody led the church’s efforts to operate a food stand at the Jackson County Fair in 2021.

“I just like a good challenge,” she said.

During the 2021 fair, Jody wound up working 91 hours, Jay said. That didn’t, however, include everything it took to get the fair stand going.

“We didn’t even find out about until six weeks before the fair,” Jay said. “She put a committee together in 48 hours. Even I couldn’t believe everybody said yes.”

Jay said the fair stand was not even the biggest church project his wife ever tackled.

“Her pet project is Move the Mountain,” he said. That project is designed to reduce the church debt.

Jody also spent time as a member of the PTO at Brownstown Elementary School and spent time helping in the classrooms at one time. She also led the children’s choir at Brownstown Christian Church and was a member of the praise team at the church for many years.

She also spent time on the board of the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce, now known as the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, and was vice president of the board of Leadership Jackson County.

Jody said her reason for getting involved is pretty easy to explain.

“I’ve always gotten involved in things because they are good for my family and the community,” she said. “It wasn’t about me. It benefited everybody.”

Jay applauds his wife’s efforts to tackle some of the issues she has over the years.

“One thing about her, she has never been afraid to get on the phone and call people,” he said. “I am a used car salesman, but I’m not a cold caller.”