Steve, Alice, Leah and Ben Lessmann named Madison’s Family of the Year
MADISON – The city of Madison has a new family ambassador. The Lessmann family was named the 2020 Madison Family of the Year on Sunday. Steve, Alice, Leah and Ben Lessmann were recognized during a ceremony at city hall Sunday afternoon. They were one of three finalist families to be nominated for the annual honor.
The other families were the Detulleo family: Glenn and Jen Detulleo with the three children, Ebba, Berlin and Benham; and the Edwards family: Kareem, Sarita, Jeffrey, Rian, Josiah, Jeremiah, and Elijah.
Established in 1996, the Madison Family of the Year (MFOTY) program was formed by the mayor’s office to recognize the diversity and richness of family life in Madison. The program is led by a committee of volunteers in the Madison community.
The program recognizes those families that maintain exceptional traits, as well as support activities and programs which make Madison a great place to live.
The Lessmann Family
“Live every day like it is your last,” by Ray Charles, is a phrase the Lessmann family truly embraces. Steve and Alice grew up in the Huntsville/Madison area and chose Madison City as their “forever” community. Whether volunteering for Madison’s schools, Asbury United Methodist Church, CASA of Madison County, Downtown Rescue Mission, Harris Home, or even in Costa Rica on a medical mission to serve remote towns and villages, the Lessmanns say volunteerism is a cornerstone of their family.
As small business owners, Steve and Alice instilled their faith and family-based core values in their corporate structure. Their business, Signalink, Inc., won the 2019 Madison Chamber of Commerce’s Best Business of the Year and the 2019 Best Professional Services Business awards.
Involved in the area business community, they are dedicated to advocating and promoting other aspiring and existing small businesses, as reflected by Alice’s work as the 2019 Vice Chair of the Huntsville/Madison Chamber’s Women’s Business Council, and her work with the Women’s Economic Development Council and Women in Defense organizations, as well as Steve’s work as a board member of the Madison Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities (CEO) program for high school seniors.
Alice is a graduate of the Leadership Greater Huntsville’s Flagship program, and serves as Board Secretary for Madison Visionary Partners. As retired military members of the Army National Guard, both Steve and Alice are very active in supporting organizations that serve veterans.
Leah, a 10th grader and Ben, an 8th grader, participate in extracurricular activities ranging from wrestling to cheerleading to basketball to drama to volleyball. Leah is involved with the Student 2 Student program at Bob Jones High School, was accepted into the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards program this year, and is involved in the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America.
Ben was chosen by his principal to participate in the Junior Nationals Young Leaders Camp, volunteers in the preschool at Asbury, and enjoys playing Madison sports. Both children prioritize education and were accepted into the National Junior Honor Society.
“Our family knows that our faith in God, community involvement and sharing life is a gift that brings us together and strengthens our love for each other.”
The Detulleo Family
“Ice, Ice, Baby” isn’t their theme song, but the Detulleos definitely know a lot about the cold stuff. Jen and Glenn moved to Madison almost 10 years ago thanks to Glenn’s professional hockey career. Today, Glenn is Head Coach and General Manager for the Huntsville Havoc, and recently earned his 200th coaching win for the team. He also coached the Havoc to win the league championship in both the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons.
Jen, a professional photographer and owner of JFD Photography in Madison, specializes in featuring Madison people and places in her work, and donates much of her time and talents to the Madison/Huntsville community and to non-profits like Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, AYSO, the YMCA, and others.
The entire family is actively engaged in philanthropy for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and has helped raise well over $110,000 in the past 3 years with Jen as team captain of the Huntsville Havoc St. Jude Fundraising Team. The family also enjoys volunteering along with the Havoc for the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, Still Serving Veterans, Manna House, and more.
The family is also active with sports, and Jen coached AYSO for several years. All three Detulleo children have been a part of the AYSO program here in Madison, as well as played youth hockey with NAHA over the years.
Ebba, an 8th grader, plays soccer for Discovery Middle School and the NASA Strikers and also competes on the high school track team where she has won numerous medals. The Arts also figure prominently, with 6th grader Berlin being a Company Dancer for The Dance Company, as well as a talented artist.
Benham is a 3rd grader at Madison Elementary and is involved with scouts, gymnastics, and art. This variety of athletics and arts equals a well-rounded family!
With a family motto of “Be the hardest worker and have the most fun” you know having a Detulleo around is a great time.
The Edwards Family
“The Edwards are a family of faith.” Faith in their community, faith in each other, and faith in God. Through faith comes strength, and the Edwards Family has that in spades. Kareem is a Senior Manager for FedEx Corporation during the week and also serves as an Ordained Deacon and Youth Department Leader at Healing Spring Baptist Church. Sarita is a licensed Minister with a background in Healthcare Administration; she is currently a stay-at-home Mom.
The Edwards’ commitment to their advocacy work requires a vast amount of strength, and it’s something they do together as a family. Their son, Elijah, was prenatally diagnosed (2016) with Trisomy 18, a rare, genetic, chromosomal abnormality; and is medically defined as “incompatible with life.” In March 2019 they founded the E.WE Foundation, which raises awareness about early access to diagnostic therapies that can create better outcomes for chronically ill infants.
The family has lobbied together on behalf of the Newborn Screenings Saves Lives Reauthorization Act to both the Alabama 5th Congressional District and the state Senate. Sarita also works along with Madison City Schools and the Madison Community to provide support and resources for families with special needs children.
Education is another passion of the Edwards. The whole family is very active in the PTA at Columbia Elementary and Discovery Middle School. Oldest son, Jeffrey, a Bob Jones graduate and former football player, is pursuing a degree in Fitness, Performance, and Conditioning at Auburn University.
Fifth grader, Josiah, is a member of a Community LEGO Robotics Team. Jeremiah, a 4th grader at Columbia, is a musician. Rian, an 8th grader at Discovery Middle, is a former track athlete and aspiring theater and drama student.
Sarita also volunteered for Madison Forward this past Fall to ensure the passage of the school property tax, alongside the whole family.
“We celebrate every victory and talk through our defeats. We believe that these qualities solidify our family foundation.”