02/07/07 — Association recognizes volunteers

View Archive

Association recognizes volunteers

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on February 7, 2007 1:52 PM

Members of the Wayne County Mental Health Association gathered Tuesday to honor some of their own and to hear from the new commander of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Fourth Fighter Wing Commander Col. Steve Kwast said the base is a good place to look for volunteers to assist with community projects -- and that base personnel also are determined to make Wayne County the best community it can be.

The son of missionaries, Kwast spent the first part of his life in the jungles of Africa, where the center of the universe was the tribe. The survival of the tribe was foremost on everybody's mind in the village where he lived.

When his family moved from Africa to "the jungles of Los Angeles" the change in cultural perspective gave Kwast a strong sense of the need to reach out and connect with others.

"Unless people are connected, they can drift into a place where they are unhealthy," he said.

He said if he thinks of Seymour Johnson as just a base, he is destined to fail.

"I have to think about us as a community," he said. "We must rededicate ourselves to reconnecting with each other."

And connecting with Wayne County through volunteering is what Kwast said he wants for his Air Force families.

"When I send someone down the track to fight and win America's wars, it puts tremendous stress on the families," he said. He added that the relationships the family members gain through volunteering in the community function as a safety net during those times when they are under the stress of separation.

After Kwast's speech, the association recognized several volunteers.

Ralph Smiley received the A.H. Zealy Award for outstanding volunteer work.

Association board member Jim Slowinski, who presented the award, said Smiley has been "tireless helping to go out and raise money. One year, we were short of people, and he called his brother in from Kentucky to help us two days."

The A.H. Zealy Award is given each year to honor the late Dr. A. Hazel Zealy Jr., who spearheaded the formation of the Mental Health Association in Wayne County back in 1962.

Kim Bunch, the 2006 Mental Health Association treasurer, received the S.B. McPheeters Award, which goes each year to an outstanding member of the association's board of directors who has given above and beyond what is expected in time and talent to the association. Ms. Bunch has been a member of the Mental Health Association for seven years and has spent the entire time helping with treasurer's reports and keeping the books up to date.

The S.B. McPheeters Award is given to honor the late Dr. S.B. McPheeters, a director of the Wayne County Health Department who was instrumental in helping form the Mental Health Association and the mental health center.

The board's new secretary, Sarah Dalessio, received the third William Condron Award for outstanding advocacy and service as a volunteer.

Board member Nancy Moore, who presented the award, said Ms. Dalessio "knows the system past, present, what works and what does not work. We're so very proud of her. She is working on her degree to become a clinical social worker and is proof there is hope after a mental health challenge."

The late Bill Condron was the last director of the Wayne County Mental Health Center, and the award in his honor goes to an outstanding volunteer.

The President's Award went to outgoing association president Penny Withrow for outstanding service.

Dr. Steve Peters, the new president, presented the award, saying Ms. Withrow's "energy is quite remarkable."

The association accomplished a lot in 2006, he said, "and it's because of Penny's leadership."