The 35th annual Audrey Robbins Humanitarian Award winners were recognized at a luncheon last week for their commitment to the Association of Community Services of Howard County. Through their accomplishments aiding those with mental illnesses, helping adoptive families, and offering a lifetime of commitment to citizen services, these three women join the 70 people who have received the award since 1975.
NAMI — Howard County, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, was awarded Volunteer Team of the Year at the luncheon.
Donna Wells, executive director of the Mental Health Authority, was this year's winner of Employee of the Year.
"Donna developed the agency," said nominator Andrea Ingram, executive director of Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center. "Shaping policies, involving the community, developing the board, and making this quasi-public agency a functional and effective organization."
Ingram said that since creating the organization in 1998, Wells implemented a process to identify and remedy the needs of the county's mentally ill community, developing an organized and effective system of care.
Since then she has developed a Mobile Crisis Team, a Mobile Crisis Center, a housing program for people with mental illness and mental health services for the county detention center.
Kathleen Dugan, co-founder of the Center for Adoptive Support and Education, received the Volunteer of the Year.
Dugan is the mother 12, eight of whom she adopted. She has referred to her ability to help children as her "gift," and co-worker Tamera Martin called Dugan a "phenomenal woman" who "wholeheartedly" deserves the award.
Since its start in 1998, CASE has grown into a nationally known nonprofit that has served more than 3,000 families and offered more than 7,000 counseling sessions for adoptive families.
"Kathy is somebody who walks the walk," says Clarksville resident and adoptive parent of two Michael Battle. He and his wife have regularly used the services offered through CASE.
"She is an encouraging, positive force in every interaction we've ever had with her," he said. "She's taught us what real stewardship means."
According to CASE, in addition to volunteering countless hours there, Dugan donated thousands of dollars to get the organization up and running, paying rent on the office, funding four full-time staff members and buying all the office supplies. Since its start, Dugan has donated more than $2.5 million to CASE, about $500,000 of it during the recent recession.
Susan Rosenbaum received the newly created Lifetime Achievement Award for 34 years of dedication to the Howard County Department of Citizen Services as director.
Since her start as a program coordinator for the Office on Aging in 1977, Rosenbaum has made many contributions to the county, including opening the first senior center and developing the Supportive Housing Program for those with disabilities.
"She never asked anyone to do anything that she wouldn't do herself," said nominator Dale Jackson. "She would always jump in. No one spoke with more passion about the human service needs in our community."
"She would do whatever it took to get a job done," said ACS Communications Coordinator Karen Lubieniecki.
NAMI was recognized as the Volunteer Team of the Year for providing education and support to those dealing with a mental illness and to family members providing care.
"When our son was diagnosed in 1980 with bipolar disorder, we had no idea what to do," said Claudia Friend, who served as president of the group from 1990 to 1993 and nominated it for this year's award. "We needed help. All the research and information that NAMI provided us with was so helpful. We wanted to reach out and improve and strengthen the group."
After their experience with the group, Friend and her husband did what they could to develop the modest group into the large organization it is today. According to current President Susan Helsel, the group provides 500 new families support a year and its programs have tripled since she started in 2002.
"We have 48 volunteers who do things on a regular basis," Helsel said. "We'd be nothing without them."
NAMI is known around the county for its popular "Sunday Supper" program. Every month since 1982, volunteers have provided a dinner for 50 to 60 people with mental illnesses. NAMI provides a service to pick up participants who do not have access to a car.
"It's been so rewarding to see it grow," Friend said. "Some of the people who come really wouldn't have much of a social life otherwise. Even if they take [their] medication, they might not be able to participate in day-to-day activities."
The ACS of Howard County awards were named after Audrey Robbins, a former director of the Howard County Department of Social Services. Robbins worked outside the department to provide resources to those in need. After her death, members of the ACS in 1975 decided to honor her commitment to bettering the lives of the less fortunate by naming their annual award after her.
The ACS is a network of groups that advocate the advancement of human services in Howard County. Since its founding in 1963, it has been composed of a network of 140 nonprofit, for profit and government agencies, and citizen advocates.