MAYVILLE - Southern Tier Environments for Living (STEL) celebrated National Mental Health Month by honoring several individuals and organizations at a recent luncheon at Chautauqua Suites Meeting and Conference Center in Mayville. The luncheon also featured Keynote Speaker Dr. Steven Dubovsky. The topic of his presentation was "Bipolar Disorder."
Winner of the "2011 DuBois Award for Employee of the Year" was Supportive Case Manager Kelly Hinman of Olean. DuBois, one of the founders of Southern Tier Environments for Living, helped to incorporate STEL as a non-profit agency. He believed that people with mental illness can live productive lives, outside the confines of a mental hospital.
The nomination opens with the following statement, "Kelly has always demonstrated exceptional job performance. She works in a professional manner with her clients and goes above and beyond in her interest and advocacy for the individuals she serves." Another nomination stated, "Based on my supervisory association over the past years, I have found Ms. Hinman's quality of work to be superb." Most recently, Hinman was cited by the son of one of STEL's residents who wrote, "There are just not enough adjectives to describe the job that Kelly has done over the past nine years, but amazing, wonderful, fantastic, caring and supportive come to mind. We cannot say enough about the job Kelly did in supporting my mother and keeping her on track."
Shown from left, in front row are Abigail Boardman, Lisa Vanstrom, Kelly Hinman and Rosie Sanden. Back row, STEL executive director Thomas J. Whitney, Harry Reed, Scott Swift, STEL board president David Maternowski and Marty Sanden.
The "Success of the Year" award is presented annually to a recipient of STEL services who has demonstrated exceptional progress in achieving personal rehabilitation goals. The winner of this year's award is Gowanda resident Harry Reed who was nominated by three people. One narrative stated, "Upon admission to the Aldrich Community Residence, Harry was very serious about doing whatever it took to begin the road to success." Another nomination reported, "Mr. Reed is a true example to others that there is nothing we cannot overcome and conquer." An added note says, "Harry has given back to the community and its many needy families as he donated approximately $1,000 to the local food banks during Thanksgiving season."
After moving to the Treatment Apartment Program, Reed has now achieved his overall rehabilitation goal by being accepted into STEL's Supported Housing Program.
In October 2003, John Theismann, vocational specialist in STEL's Work Force Program, passed away. He was a dedicated individual who cared for his consumers and helped to ensure their success in the workplace. In his memory, STEL established the John Theismann Vocational Services Award that honors consumers who are successful, not only at work, but also in overcoming barriers, both inside and outside the workplace. The recipient of this year's award is Jamestown resident Abigail Boardman. The nomination begins, "By no means is Abigail's life perfect or smooth sailing, but she meets her challenges head on and knows she has the support of her family, her friends and STEL Supported Housing." After obtaining a job at Tops Market, she started out as a cashier getting as few as four to six hours a week then worked her way up to as many as 24 to 30 hours per week. Just recently, she was approached by management to begin training as an assistant manager position. Boardman is a single mom, with 4-year-old Aurora and 2-year-old Isabella. Her counselor says "Abigail has expressed to me the pride she feels when she is able to choose how to spend money on a treat for her children, knowing that it is a direct reflection of her hard work, desire to succeed and love for her children." The award was presented by Theismann's widow, Carolyn, and their son, Jonathan.
The Southern Tier Environments for Living "Community Service Awards," one for an individual and one for an organization, were introduced several years ago. The awards have the following criteria: (1) Selection is based on volunteer or professional service to individuals in the Southern Tier community who have psychiatric disabilities; and (2) the quality of the service must be documented in a narrative that provides specific examples. The recipient of this year's "Community Service Award to an Individual" involved a first-time departure from the norm and honored a husband and wife team, Marty and Rosie Sanden of Dunkirk. For the past six years, Compeer Chautauqua has benefited from their support as volunteers. Over the course of their volunteering, they have a combined total of over 900 hours offering simple friendship to adults and youth striving for better mental health. In addition to friendship and financial support, the Sandens also make themselves available for volunteer recruitment presentations. When they noticed that there were not many opportunities for Compeer-sponsored social activities in Northern Chautauqua County, they took the initiative to solicit support from churches in the area. As a result, there are now game nights, dinners and learning activities in an ongoing relationship with Fredonia Presbyterian Church.
The winner of this year's "Community Service Award to an Organization" is Hart Comfort House in Wellsville. Comfort House opened its doors in December to provide palliative support to terminally ill people of Allegany County. The home itself was donated by the family of Gerald and Mary Hart and completely renovated with donations from the community. Comfort House is equipped to care for two individuals at a time and admission is based solely on need. There is no cost to the patient. There are also guest rooms for family members to stay with their loved ones. The house is staffed 24-hours-a-day with health care professionals and a massive force of volunteers who work four hour shifts. The STEL staff members who nominated the house reported that one of their residents was admitted to Comfort House in January and was in fact their first "customer." The nomination began, "I cannot say enough about the wonderful care which enabled our resident to complete his life with dignity in a warm, loving atmosphere. The nomination concluded by saying, "The Comfort House is a great asset to the Wellsville community and very deserving of recognition for the loving care that they provide." The award was accepted by Program Director Scott Swift.
Dubovsky is professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University at Buffalo and is adjunct professor or psychiatry and medicine at the University of Colorado. In his keynote address, Dubovsky described the latest developments in bipolar disorder research that have identified as many as five types of the disorder. He also discussed new pharmaceutical approaches to stabilization of patients. All of his presentation contained cutting edge information on identification, classification and treatment of bipolar illness.
The awards were presented by STEL executive director Thomas J. Whitney and David Maternowski, president of the STEL board of directors. Fr. Joseph Vatter, pastor of All Saints Church in Lockport and STEL board member, offered the Invocation. Dennis Webster of Media One acted as master of ceremonies.
STEL offers residential and rehabilitation services to individuals with psychiatric disabilities. The agency's service area includes Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and southern Erie Counties. For further information, contact the STEL administrative offices at 715 Central Ave., Dunkirk or call 366-3200. The email is STEL@stel.org.