OLD BENNINGTON>>Whether they've been employed for five years or 35 years, over 100 staff members were recognized at United Counseling Service (UCS) annual appreciation luncheon on Wednesday.
Each year the organization comes together to acknowledge staff for their accomplishments, as well as community partners, at the Mount Anthony Country Club.
"It's important to stop and recognize our staff, all the great things you do, all our friends and supporters, without whom we wouldn't be able to do what we do," Ralph Provenza, UCS executive director said. "We serve around 3,200 people throughout the year at UCS. This year, like in previous years, we were confronted with some challenges, among them the health care reform in the state and all of the uncertainty and crystal balls that don't ever come out to be."
Providing the county with nationally recognized services since 1958, UCS works with children, adults, families and seniors to improve their overall quality of life, according to its site. The non-profit came about when Bennington Family Service Center and the state-operated Bennington Child Guidance Clinic merged. In 1961, it developed a mental health program employing psychologists and social workers to further diversify community services.
"Despite these challenges, for the community, we remain the pivotal and responsible organization that seeks to improve the social determinates of health for the people that we serve and what I mean by that is mental health, family and economic stability, jobs," Provenza said, "housing and other factors that have a direct impact on population health and on health care spending and that is your neighborhood in addition to the counseling that is in our name.
The Harold C. "Archie" Warner Memorial Award, named after the individual who made significant contributions to UCS's children's program and served on the board for 16 years, was awarded to Judy Orton from Green Mountain Pediatrics for her work at Headstart.
For five year anniversaries, eight staff were applauded for their work and seven for double that. Fellow employees also celebrating the anniversary called up each member. Fifteen workers, including an intern, were given excellence awards, and are chosen by division directors each year.
Kathy Hamilton, director of developmental services received the Cleveland and Phyllis Dodge Community Service Award and will soon retire after 35 years.
Upon announcing the 10 year members, Rich Jorgenson quoted Oprah Winfrey.
"If you wanna fly high, surround yourself with people who would lift you up," he said, "so, we're here to lift each other up."
Amie Niles introduced three staff members who have served the community for 15 years. Two celebrated 20 years, one for 25 years and Nadine Wisher was recognized for being with UCS for 35 years.
Others stood up to be acknowledged for furthering education or certifications.
The 2016 Peter Scully Award was given to Tina Hessler, named after the doctor who was a medical director at UCS from 1977 to 1984.
"I am continually inspired by the work that everyone does here," Provenza said. "There are many of our folks that are here and not here performing little miracles everyday. We're very proud of it and the community benefits from it, for sure."
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.