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SCCS announces 2014 ‘Champions for Children’ Award winners

6/5/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

AKRON — Summit County Children Services’ (SCCS) Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) recently hosted its Fifth Annual Community Appreciation Breakfast to recognize and thank volunteers, businesses, organizations and community leaders, as well as families served by the agency, for their support of SCCS and the children and families of the area. 

The 2014 “Champions for Children,” with information provided by SCCS, included:

  • Public Service Award recipient (and event keynote speaker) Judge Carol Dezso, Summit County Domestic Relations Court: Dezso has served in the court for 30 years — nine as a magistrate and 21 as a judge. Under her tenure, the court and SCCS have collaborated on numerous initiatives and projects to support the needs of children and parents, addressing domestic violence, child support, child abuse and mental health issues. She also was instrumental in the creation of the Child and Family Leadership Exchange in 1994, a program that promotes collaboration and excellence in leadership among Summit County professionals serving children and families.
  • Community Leadership Award recipient Fred Wright, president and CEO of the Akron Urban League: A social justice advocate celebrating 25 years with the National Urban League Movement, Wright was honored for the many successful programs and services offered by the Akron Urban League that emphasize the paths to self-sufficiency — education, job training and entrepreneurship. 
  • Community Partner Award recipients:
    √ Akron-Summit County Public Library: For more than 20 years, the library has been a sponsor of many SCCS programs, including Child and Family Awareness Month programs, National Adoption Awareness Month events and the first two Meth Lab Community Forums held in 2012-13.
    √ “Connecting the Dots” program partners (Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Summit County Department of Job and Family Services, Goodwill Industries of Akron and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Summit, Medina and Stark Counties): Connecting the Dots is a unique state and local partnership providing paid employment, educational support and mentorship opportunities to support SCCS youths in their transition from foster care to adulthood at age 18.
    √ 2013 “Meth Lab Community Forum” partners (Akron Police Department [APD], Summit County Sheriff’s Office, Akron Children’s Hospital and Apryl Miller): SCCS teamed up the past two years with the APD, the sheriff’s office and Children’s Hospital to present to community residents an educational program about the dangers of methamphetamine use. In 2013, Miller participated by sharing her personal story of cooking and using meth at a young age, being arrested and spending time in jail before facing her addiction and beginning her journey to recovery.
    √ Terry Westfere, chief investigator for the Legal Department at the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA): In his role at AMHA, Westfere supports and provides security to SCCS social workers when they are in the field, particularly when there are concerns regarding the safety and well-being of children.
  • Community Volunteer Award recipients:
    √ Shelley Walker, director of social work, Akron Children’s Hospital: Employed at Akron Children’s Hospital for 36 years as a pediatric medical social worker, Walker recently stepped down from the SCCS CAC after 30 years of service to that group, including multiple terms as vice chair. During that time, she has enjoyed supporting the agency’s programs and helping to advocate for child protective services.
    √ Assistant Chief Charles Brown, APD. As a 27-year veteran of the APD and a member of the SCCS CAC since 2006, Brown decided to resign from that committee this year, but not before providing an invaluable link among the agency, the police department and the community served by both organizations, according to SCCS officials.
  • Corporate Support Award recipients:
    √ Sterling Jewelers Inc.: For the past three years, Sterling has been the lead donor of the SCCS School Supplies Program, which provides a new backpack filled with basic school supplies for children in agency care. During these three years, the company has donated school supplies valued at $25,000, as well as another $10,000 in 2013 to support the agency’s Holiday Toy Room.
    √ Madison Walker Memorial Toy Run: Madison Walker was an active 4-year-old who died from bacterial meningitis in 2006 shortly before her fifth birthday, according to SCCS officials. Her family and friends created this organization to raise awareness of the disease and to raise funds to benefit others. In 2013 the group sponsored a special holiday party for families involved with the SCCS Alternative Response Program, providing all food, gifts, entertainment and volunteers — even a visit by Santa Claus.
    √ Akron Sail and Power Squadron: A local boating social/educational organization, for the past seven years this group has donated toys, gifts and money valued at more than $10,000 to support the SCCS Holiday Toy Room. Members of the group also volunteered their time in the Toy Room to help client parents select toys and gifts for their children.
    √ Mount Zwingli United Church of Christ: Because so many other groups are inclined to provide for younger-age children, the members of this church have demonstrated for more than 15 years a “soft spot” for teens by providing Easter baskets and holiday gifts for teens in the custody of SCCS and those youths who have recently emancipated at age 18.
    √ John and Tracey Norton and “We Believe”: Wanting to give back to the community by providing gifts to children at the holidays, the Nortons recruited the support of several friends and family members in 2011 and provided gifts to a dozen SCCS client families. The following year, calling themselves “We Believe,” they recruited more families, friends and colleagues and provided gifts for 40 families plus some donated funds for the agency’s Beds for Kids program. Last year, the “We Believe” group provided gifts for 75 families and more than $600 for Beds for Kids.

In addition, five local families were presented with Family Achievement Awards for overcoming obstacles and exhibiting a positive family life.

One of the recipients was involved with SCCS’ Father Factor program, which is designed to link fathers with needed services, then help them engage in the lives of their children. One of the recipients was involved with the agency’s STARS Program — a grant-funded community collaboration to address parental substance abuse. Three of the recipients were young mothers who had their children removed but then were linked by SCCS to appropriate treatment and parenting programs, which resulted in the ultimate return of their children to them at the appropriate time.

For details on becoming involved in the 2015 Child and Family Awareness Month celebration, call SCCS at 330-379-2090.

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