Ocean City Today

Seven honored for contributions to  WYFCS in Berlin

By Josh Davis | Nov 09, 2017

(Nov. 10, 2017) Reese Cropper, Joe and Alyson Kendall, Janet Balbo, Carole Spurrier, Ellen Dyer and Dr. Rudy Magnone were honored last Friday for their contributions to Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services in Berlin.

The Ray community room was at capacity during the Annual Celebration, which included food prepared by Phil Cropper and students at Worcester Technical High School, and live jazz by Everett Spells.

During a dedication ceremony, staff and board members unveiled sculptures dedicated to each honoree that will hang permanently in the community center.

“Each year we recognize people in the community who have made a significant contribution to our organization through volunteerism or financial contribution,” Executive Director Steve Taylor said. “Awardees are chosen by a selection committee and presented with a sun sculpture. The sun represents the ‘Rays of Hope’ these individuals have given to the community.”

Worcester Youth works to improve mental health, protect abused children, prevent homelessness and hunger, and enlighten area children.

According to the nonprofit’s annual report, Worcester Youth served 374 clients and provided 4,761 therapy hours during the previous fiscal year. Sixty-three children were protected, 23 were placed in permanent homes and 48 volunteer advocates were trained.

Homelessness-prevention programs helped 520 families gain self-sufficiency, and youth programs provided 80 activities and more than 2,700 hours of contact for 130 at-risk children in the county.

Cropper, given the “Outstanding Contributor” award, said he did not come to support the nonprofit by chance.

“I needed them,” Cropper said. “I was going through [having] no problems at all and life got very difficult. I don’t know why. I don’t know what causes it … whatever the case may be, I ended up here.

“The one thing that I’ve decided to do, starting this year and starting with this night, is I’d like to see if we can try and get rid of this stigma of mental health issues,” he added.

Cropper recalled, when he was a child, having heard adults whisper that someone had an illness, like cancer.

“That’s the way it is today with mental health issues. It hit me like a brick tonight,” he said. “I’ve got some dear friends that are here tonight that have been here when I’ve been on my lowest levels. There’s nothing worse than having a police officer put you in handcuffs and take you to the hospital.

“Whatever we can do, reach out to your friends and let them know its OK – it’s OK to say, ‘I’m not doing well.’ Reach out to them, give them a hug and just go from there. It’s not a easy process,” Cropper continued. “The one thing I will say is thank God for Worcester Youth and Family … It’s your organization and what you all do that helped me and help so many people, and you deserve the extra effort.”

Joe and Alyson Kendall of Kendall Furniture were named “Volunteers of the Year.” Karen Bush, a Worcester Youth board member, said the couple was instrumental in organizing the annual Pirate Party at Sunset Grille, which raised $20,000 more than during the previous year.

Money raised during the event goes to the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) program, which supports abused and neglected children.

Balbo, Spurrier and Dyer were each recognized for serving 10 years or more as Court Appointed Special Advocates.

Magnone, the final honoree of the evening, was named “Outstanding Volunteer.”

During a tearful introduction, CASA Director Brigitte Southworth said Magnone came to the nonprofit about a decade ago.

“For all of us that work here at Worcester Youth and Family, we see the sweet man who comes in with a smile, gives all the ladies a hug, brings us treats, warms up his coffee, and gets down to work,” she said.

According to Southworth, Magnone served in the U.S. Army infantry during the Korean War. He has a bachelor’s degree in business education, master’s degrees in education and rehabilitative counseling, and a doctorate in education.

During the 1950s and 1960s, he taught developmentally disabled children and adults, counseled veterans and delinquent adolescents, worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, and was later active in the Civil Rights movement in Chemung County, New York.

He worked with inner-city children in Detroit while earning his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan and was named regional administrator for mental health, mental retardation and substance abuse for five counties in western Massachusetts. He worked in the state cabinet as the deputy commissioner of the Ohio Division of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, where he was responsible for four million people in 42 counties.

Former U.S. District Court Judge John Ries Bartels appointed Magnone “special master” in the New York federal court, where one of his roles was to assist in the Willowbrook State School case that led to the passage of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.

In 1997, he was named the chief facilities administrator for a mental health hospital and mental retardation facility in Augusta, Georgia, and in 2000 he was named state director for hospital administration, overseeing 10 hospitals that specialized in substance abuse and mental disabilities.

Magnone became a CASA volunteer in 2009, using his experience to advocate in court for several children and teenagers.

“Rudy kept coming in [and saying] ‘I want to do more, I want to do more, I have more energy, what else can I do?’” Southworth said.

He start-ed working with a senior-care program at Worcester Youth, spoke with civic groups, hung up posters and worked with case managers, Southworth said.

“Now, he comes in and does our survey for family connections, which is not an easy job,” Southworth said. “We have to call people that we have served after 30 days and he gets a lot of hang-ups, a lot of ‘I don’t want to talk to you,’ but he does a good job and he keeps trying.

“Rudy Magnone is an amazing, loving, devoted person who has truly made a difference in the lives of others,” she added.

Magnone, now 85, said his experience at the nonprofit has been wonderful.

“I retired when I was 70 and should’ve waited until I was 80, because I was going crazy trying to find things to do,” he said. “Like everybody has been saying, this is a wonderful group … I’ve worked with all kinds of people, everywhere, and all ages. This group is just a great group to be with.

“I see how hard they work, I see the kind of work they get done and I see how they get along and work together … I’ll be around as long as I can, and I appreciate you guys so much,” Magnone said.

For more information on Worcester Youth, visit www.gowoyo.org.

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