11/19/06 — Mayor's Committee honors supporters of disabled

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Mayor's Committee honors supporters of disabled

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on November 19, 2006 2:00 AM

About half of the 85 people who live at the Waynesborough House have disabilities, and Mayor Al King said manager Joyce Johnson is like a mother to them all.

King presented the Mayor's Trophy to Ms. Johnson Friday during the annual banquet honoring those who have overcome disabilities and those who employ and in other ways help them. The Mayor's Committee for Persons with Disabilities presents the awards every year at banquets held in different locations. This year, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base hosted the banquet in the Officer's Club.

Ms. Johnson said many of the disabilities she encounters are related to age. A lot of the people at Waynesborough House have emphysema. Some suffer anxiety problems, and some have dementia

The Employer of the Year Award went to David Kearney, the manager at Piggly Wiggly. He was lauded for his courage and integrity in hiring employees who have disabilities.

Jonathan Greeson received the Employee of the Year Award for overcoming limitations brought on by muscular dystrophy to serve 4-Hers in Wayne County through the Cooperative Extension Service. The N.C. State University graduate is well-known throughout the county as a member of the Carolina Fury Wheelchair Hockey Team.

Mayor's Committee Chairman John Chance presented the Committee Member Award to Bobby Shoemake of Home Health and Hospice for his many years of service to the committee. Shoemake was instrumental in creating the committee's Web site, Chance said.

Keynote speaker for the evening, Irene Howell, told the 150 in attendance about her numerous facilities that provide services for the mentally handicapped.

Mrs. Howell operates 26 intermediate care and group homes throughout the state.

A Lenoir County native, she began a day-care business in 1956 while it was still a new concept. She helped start a group home for girls and a home for the mentally handicapped at Caswell Center in Kinston.

And when her grandson was born with a disability, she established Howell Child Care Center, the residential care facility at Walnut Creek.

The business grew, and before she knew it, she had 100 people on her waiting list, including one from Hawaii.

"They were moving into North Carolina so they could get the service," she said.

Some who came to her in the beginning as babies are still with her as adults, Mrs. Howell said. There was no place to send them as they grew older, and their parents would not allow her to let them go.

Master of ceremonies Chief Master Sgt. Charles Nail called Mrs. Howell "the Angel of North Carolina."

King thanked Mrs. Howell for her contributions to the lives of so many with disabilities.

"There are definitely angels among us, and she is one of them," he said.