(Nov. 23, 2018) Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services honored seven local people who made outstanding contributions to the community during the Berlin-based organization’s open house, Nov. 9.
Recognized were “Outstanding Supporter” Judge Peggy Kent and “Outstanding Contributers” Pat Oltman, Helen Wiley, Carol Rose and Suzanne Parks, and Mary Yenney and Susan Hogan.
“We really can’t do what we do without the support of the community,” said Steven Taylor, the nonprofit organization’s executive director. “It’s really critical to have community support to run the programs that we run here … and make our community healthier and stronger, and that’s really our mission.”
Taylor said each of the honorees made a significant contribution. For each, Worcester Youth unveiled a sun-shaped sculpture that will remain on display inside the “Ray” room.
He said many of recipients were involved with Family Connections, a navigation program that helps connect impoverished families to resources, including food, clothing, medications, rent and utility assistance.
“The financial support these families receive is not necessarily from Worcester Youth and Family, but instead from the faith-based community that we’ll be honoring tonight,” Taylor said.
Carol Rose and Suzanne Parks of Buckingham Presbyterian Church were honored jointly.
“Carol and Suzanne … are extremely helpful and supportive to our neighbors and our friends,” Taylor said. “They make themselves available at any time and are often responding to a family crisis. Their selfless work to support families deserves our recognition, because without their assistance many people might find themselves in frightening living situations.”
Rose said she and Parks would share the recognition with “seven other ladies and one gentleman” on the Buckingham Deacon Board. She added the late Rev. Gary Baer “had the heart of Worcester Youth” and passed that onto the current board members.
“We’re greatly honored and we will continue working with you,” Rose said.
Mary Yenney and Susan Hogan of the Community Church of Ocean Pines were also honored together.
Taylor said both women devoted their lives to God and to helping people in need.
“They pride themselves on fairness and their ability to help others, and we thank them for everything they have done and continue to do for our community,” he said.
Yenney joked that she’s “been doing this job for 17 years and I’m tired.” She said Hogan recently came on to help.
“You know after 17 years I can’t give it up. She thinks I’m following her around, but I’m not,” Yenney said with a laugh. “It’s been a privilege of mine to be able to do this.
“And one of the things that I always say [is], ‘we’re out here to help the needy and not the greedy.’ This is one thing we have to think about all the time and do the best with everyone – but make sure we’re doing it for the right people,” she added.
Wiley was honored for her work with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and the Church Mouse Thrift Shop that provides funding and outreach through the ministry.
Taylor called Wiley “a doer and an achiever.”
“She has supported Worcester Youth and Family both financially and with clothing items from the thrift store,” he said. “Helen especially likes supporting our adolescent girls’ program, because she can see firsthand how the girls benefit from that experience. Helen is always supportive and excited about any opportunity that will benefit out young women, and our organization as a whole.”
Wiley said she was humbled and honored, and called the sun sculpture “a sign of hope.”
“We have to hold onto hope, with our country and the way things are going,” she said. “By us helping each other and being willing to lend a helping hand, it will make a difference, because love is kind.”
Wiley said the St. Paul’s vestry made it a point to be “out among the people” and welcoming to all community members. She said she shared the honor with the many volunteers who currently help at the Church Mouse, and with her forbearers Ruth Neville, Violet Matthews and Annabelle Hastings who all worked well into their 90s.
“I want to honor them, too, because they’re the ones that started it,” she said. “I just stepped in … and said, ‘let me water this garden that you all started.’
“The community is what it’s really all about … and I am so grateful for that,” Wiley added.
Pat Oltman from Stevenson United Methodist Church was honored for her financial support, work with the Spirit Kitchen held each Wednesday, and for the food pantry that operates through the church.
“They also host our annual holiday dinner that includes about 20 low-income families that we support, or about 100 individuals associated with Worcester Youth and Family’s youth programs,” Taylor said. “Whenever there is an urgent need, we always call Pat and she always comes through.”
Oltman said her ties to Worcester Youth went “way, way back.”
“You are all such a pleasure and everything you do is wonderful,” she said.
CASA Director Angela Manos introduced Worcester County Circuit Court Judge Peggy Kent Judge Peggy Kent, whom she called a personal hero.
“We’re honoring her because of her support and her efforts on the bench, particularly through our CASA program,” Manos said. “She has guided children and families to better lives, and she has done so in a way that is respectful and empathetic to their situations.
“For 21 years, she has handled some of the most volatile cases that have come through our court system. Along the way, she has introduced family-friendly and effective legal tools that are used for the betterment of our community, like mediation, settlement conferences [and] alternative dispute resolution,” she added.
Manos said Kent led with wisdom, fairness, integrity and compassion, and was respected by members of both political parties.
“A mother that was struggling with addiction and at risk of losing her children came to me once and told me that she was shocked by the amount of respect that Judge Kent showed her in the courtroom,” Manos said. “She hadn’t been treated like that before, and she told me that it was Peggy’s kind words that motivated her to be a better mother, to stay sober, and to be there for her children. That is community leadership.”
Kent said she didn’t deserve to share the stage with the other honorees, because they were all “right down in the trenches doing work.”
“I’m just presiding over the cases and, quite frankly, that’s just by virtue of luck,” she said. “But I will say that, that is my favorite docket. I have said that for years and it is the most emotional, but it is the most gratifying.
“There is always that little window of opportunity where somebody changes their life – after the fourth or fifth relapse they get it together, they get their kids back, they get a job, they become healthy. And those are the moments that make the rest of it all so worthwhile,” Kent added.
She praised the CASA program, which stands for “court appointed special advocates,” as well run, well recruited and filled with wonderful people.
“They are literally one child or one family, one volunteer. And it’s all volunteer work. They don’t get enough recognition for that,” Kent said. “They bond with these children and they spend hours with the child, getting to know the child, reporting back to court, and some of these bonds last years and years … it’s really wonderful to see. I love working with them.”
Worcester Youth Clinical Director Dr. Jennifer Leggour was also honored during the ceremony for 10 years of service at the nonprofit.
Phil Cropper and students at Worcester Technical High School provided food, Everett Spells offered live music, and Taylor Bank sponsored the event.
For more information on Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services, visit www.gowoyo.org.