‘We can honor her by continuing to do good in this world’

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Carol Horstman (contributed)

Remembering Victim Services Executive Director Carol Horstman

CULLMAN, Ala.– The halls of Victim Services of Cullman are a bit quieter this month after executive director of seven years Carol Horstman passed away unexpectedly in her home on Nov. 27, 2023.

Ever the optimist, Horstman was a driving force in the advocacy and nonprofit world of Cullman; after starting at Victim Services in 2016 as a prevention educator, she quickly rose through the ranks and was named executive director in 2018. Horstman helped turn the tide of domestic violence awareness, prevention and treatment in Cullman County. The unexpected loss not only affects her family and friends, but also the clients served by Victim Services as Horstman was a force of positivity in what can generally be one of the most negative points of clients’ lives.

“She leaves a big void not only as an executive director but also as a coworker, friend and mentor,” said Victim Services Board President and Interim Director Gwen Parker. “Carol was a tremendous asset to our organization and had a wealth of knowledge about our services and processes. She was always soft spoken and had the biggest heart full of love and compassion for all she fell into contact with.”

Lauren Orth, a counselor at Victim Services, said it was more than a job for Horstman, it was truly a calling that impacted hundreds of survivors of domestic violence over the years.

“She gave her best to enable countless survivors of abuse and assault to find safety, healing and empowerment, not only by writing grants and effectively administering two shelters and numerous outreach programs, but because she truly cared about supporting survivors and those who worked with them,” Orth explained. “She well understood the complex issues related to domestic abuse, yet was always keen to learn more.”

Client Intake Advocate Lacey Lemley echoed Orth’s sentiments, “You could tell she wasn’t just ‘doing her job.’ It was her passion and she loved doing it! The impact she had on our community was huge and she’s left a hole in our heart, Victim Services and the community that won’t easily be filled.”

Sabrina Garrison, manager of Victim Services’ transition shelter, said Horstman’s support wasn’t reserved solely for clients; it was given freely to anyone who came through the door of Horstman’s life, employees included.

“When I had a rough patch after taking the transition house manager position, Carol went out of her way to help me any way she could. She listened to me, cried with me and guided me through the first few months of being in this position. Carol cared about us, not just as employees, but as family,” she said.

Court Advocate Lindsey Smith said Horstman’s support was just par for the course, noting that the always-open door of Horstman’s bright and colorful office was an invitation to any who came through to unload.

“Her door was always open for us whether it was to vent, cry or laugh. She was one in a million,” said Smith.

Horstman’s husband, Robert Horstman, said his wife’s steadfast attitude didn’t just stop when she clocked out for the day – her passion for advocacy and care was a lifelong practice, felt by him, their sons and grandchildren, and anyone else lucky enough to cross her path. Her natural instinct to care and nurture made her a safe place for many.

“Carol was a natural caretaker – raised my two boys, Ross and Seth Horstman – but was also a caretaker and motherly figure for any person she met,” he explained. “She had a heart for serving others openly, patiently and lovingly no matter the situation. She did this throughout her life with every person she met, every job that she held and every word that she spoke.”

Robert Horstman urged others to continue her legacy by doing what she did best – serving others.

“No matter where you live, you can find a way to serve others through your time, talents and generosity. Her legacy is to support those good-hearted organizations that help those in great need,” he said. “We can honor her by continuing to do good in this world by simply sharing a smile and treating others as we want to be treated, to the point of considering them better than ourselves.”

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