Jerry and Melody Figurski display their award for Mr. and Mrs. Clearwater, an honor they recently received from the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce.
CLEARWATER – For Melody and Jerry Figurski it is all about friends: The friends they met when they first moved to Florida, friends that prompted them to help out in their community and friends that ultimately led them to be chosen Mr. and Mrs. Clearwater 2013.
The Figurskis received the honor at the recent annual dinner of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce. Bob Clifford, President and CEO of the chamber, said there could not have been a more deserving couple.
“I have known the Figurskis for many years, but I didn’t realize how much they were involved in the community until they won the award,” he said. “They are quiet people who don’t look for accolades, but they are certainly representative of the people who have won the award in the past; people who just keep giving back to their community.”
True to Clifford’s description, Melody Figurski said she and her husband were humbled by the award.
“We are truly honored,” she said. “This is such a good community and it was so good to us when we first came here.”
The family moved to Florida in 1975, and Figurski said right away they made friends. She said with that kind of a welcome, it wasn’t difficult to want to get involved in the community and help however they could.
Over the years, they were involved in many causes and organizations, but now the main bulk of their work involves UPARC, the organization that provides services to mentally handicapped people.
The couple was drawn to UPARC because of their handicapped daughter, 40-year-old Tracy. She is taking advantage of UPARC’s programs and according to Mrs. Figurski that is a relief for the family.
“Tracy is a consumer at UPARC,” she said. “That means that she participates in their daycare programs, goes on field trips and so on. And she lives in one of their group homes and she loves it. She has been there for 18 years and has many friends there.”
For Figurski, who has had some health issues, the fact that Tracy has a place to live that she likes is important. And that gives the couple the incentive to help where they can.
“The focus of our work now is UPARC,” she said. “It is a wonderful organization.”
The executive director of UPARC, Linda Hamilton, is quick to return the compliment.
“They are amazing and selfless people,” she said. “They serve on various committees in our organization. The two of them are great leaders and are examples for others to follow. I have really enjoyed our relationship with them myself. They show that it is amazing what you can accomplish for an organization when you volunteer as they do.”
Hamilton said the Figurskis were more than deserving of the award.
“We were aware they were getting the award even though they didn’t know,” she said. “They have been doing work here that goes back to the ’90s, and they do so much more work in the community and that work was recognized at the Chamber dinner, it was wonderful.”
Figurski said it was also wonderful that their other child, 37-year-old David, surprised them and flew in from his home in Denver to be at the dinner where his parents were being honored.
Since they moved to Clearwater, there is hardly a cause or a charity that they haven’t been involved in. They both did work for the American Cancer Society and the Morton Plant Mease Foundation. Melody was involved in the Junior League and Leadership Pinellas, and Jerry in the Bar Association. Both are involved in their church, and they were awarded Mr. and Mrs. Countryside for the work they did in their neighborhood.
According to Mrs. Figurski, the couple has been involved in their community ever since they first met.
“We were involved in student government when we were in college,” she said. “And we got involved in other activities in college. We are of like mind when it comes to volunteering.”
In fact, there were times that volunteering was taking up more time than they had.
“I remember once being asked to get involved in a charity and I said to Jerry I didn’t think I’d have time,” she said. “His answer was to suggest we hire some household help so I could get involved.”
At 68 and 69 years old, the couple is nearly retired. Melody is a retired teacher and Jerry is winding down his law practice. That does not mean they intend to wind down their volunteer efforts.
“This is our life, we won’t stop now,” she said. “This is such a good community, we’ll keep going.”