UCS 2019 Annual Meeting — We Are All Connected
Who is your stretcher bearer? Annual Meeting Keynote Speaker, Reverend Adam Hamilton, United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, posed this question at last week's UCS Annual Meeting as he discussed the increasing social isolation we are feeling around the country and the world. Rev. Hamilton shared why we all need to have people in our lives we can connect with, especially in times of need. He asked us to think of who is there for us and who are we there for to be their "stretcher bearer". We Are All Connected was the theme of this year's event. UCS shared data from the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment's recent community health needs assessment noting that although Johnson County ranks first in the state in health outcomes, it lags behind the state and the country when measuring social connectedness. More than 1 in 9 adults in Johnson County report that they have inadequate emotional and social support.
The event featured the presentation of the annual Human Service Awards. UCS' Annual Human Service Awards recognize the profound impact we have in improving the human condition when we make the effort to care, to help, and to connect with those around us. Awards were presented in recognition of Citizen of the Year, Distinguished Public Service, and Excellence in Community Service, as well as the Karen Wulfkuhle Bridge Spanner Award.
UCS Board Member Justin Nichols introduced Mary F. Birch, the Citizen of the Year (video). Mary was recognized for her 35-year history of building community, advancing education, and developing leadership in Johnson County.
"I credit my family for who I am. My proudest accomplishment relates to the young people I employed and developed at the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce, who are still involved with the organization," said Mary, who is Government Relations Coordinator for Lathrop Gage. "I always had a little bit of community builder in me."
The Distinguished Public Service Award (video) was presented to Melissa Rooker by UCS Board Member Jennifer Bruning. What began as volunteer work through her own children's school PTA evolved into larger advocacy efforts and parent engagement. In 2012, she was elected to the first of three terms in the Kansas House of Representatives. Policy affecting kids and their healthy start in life was her top priority. She continues to serve kids and families.
"Now I am working with the Kansas Children's Cabinet and Trust Fund, and we are helping to develop a statewide strategic plan for early childhood as a system, as well as fund programs to create healthy development, strong families, and early learning opportunities," said Melissa. "We can all give back and strengthen our community."
UCS recognized the Teen Council and Student Ambassadors, Johnson County Mental Health Center, partnering six school districts in Johnson County, and community organizations involved in the #ZeroReasonsWhy community mobilization and story campaign with the UCS Excellence in Community Service Award (video). UCS Board Member Tom Herzog presented the award to a group of attending campaign teen and adult leadership.
"It is really amazing to see how the community is banding together to disrupt the rise in teenage suicide, and it is so important for all of us to work together to make progress toward our goal of ensuring that no teen takes their life due to suicide," said Pooja Jain, #ZeroReasonsWhy Teen Council member and senior at Blue Valley West High School. During her remarks, she invited attendees to come to the next Johnson County Mental Health Convening meeting on January 22 at Plexpod - Lenexa.
UCS Board President Kate Allen presented the Karen Wulfkuhle Bridge Spanner Award (video). to attending family members of Richard A. Worrel in posthumous recognition of his lifetime of service. Rick's life was defined by his love for God, his family, and making his community a better place. He served in many prominent business roles, including Chairman of the Board of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce and its Economic Development Council and Foundation, President of ACEC Kansas, Vice President of United Community Services of Johnson County, and a member of the ForwardOP Steering Committee. Genuine, caring, and selfless, Rick was a husband and father who nurtured deep relationships with nearly everyone he encountered.