March 7, 2013. Retiring director of social services in Watauga County Jim Atkinson was given the 2013 Great Friend to Families Award presented by The Children’s Playhouse on March 2. Now in its fifth year, the award recognizes sustained contributions by an individual to the well-being of young children and their families in the High Country area and presents awards in two categories: Helping Hands and Helping Hearts. Atkinson, the overall winner, was chosen by a committee of judges which included Rosanne Peacock, Mary Hall, and the 2012 winner Trish Lanier.
Playhouse Executive Director Kathy Parham explained that the Helping Hands awards celebrates professionals who over the course of their careers have shown extraordinary dedication to improving the lives of children and families and the Helping Hearts awards recognizes individuals who have touched the lives of children and families through generous philanthropy and/or outstanding volunteerism.
Playhouse Board President Tara Stollenmaier White introduced the Helping Hands and Helping Hearts winners. The 2013 Helping Hands award winners were Atkinson; Renee Boughman of FARM Cafe; Lucy Hoffman of Avery Amigos and WAMY Community Action; Edith Mubanda, Laurie Cimino, and Eloisa Hernandez-Ruiz of the Watauga County Health Dept. WIC Program; Kelly Sheets of Two Rivers Community School; Nancee Pond of the teen parent GED program; and Lillian Worley of the Appalachian District Health Department dental office.
The 2013 Helping Hearts were Amber Bateman (Quiet Givers), Leigh Girard (Temple of the High Country Sisterhood, Children’s Council of Watauga County), Evelyn Johnson (Kiwanis, Watauga County Library, Watauga Baptist Church), Roachel Laney (Special Olympics, Victory Junction Gang Camp, Santa’s Toy Box and the Red Cross), Mary Mast (Watauga County Schools), Amber Mellon (Girl Scouts, Watauga County Schools, The Children’s Playhouse) and Madison Welch (Hunger Coalition, Who Needs a Change?, Humane Society).
Appalachian District Health Department social work Trish Lanier, who won the award last year, presented Atkinson with the award. Atkinson was nominated by Dick and Joan Hearn with a nomination statement written by Jackie Hoffman, who described how Atkinson has worked for DSS for 31 years and held the position of director since 1997. He has served on numerous boards and groups which foster both the physical and mental health of children and families in this community during his time at DSS, but also helped troubled children in his personal life as well. Hoffman wrote: “I have spoken to his now grown children about his career; they can recall on many accounts in their childhood their dad bringing children into their home because they had nowhere else to go . . . He has without a doubt dedicated his life to the well-being of young children and their families especially but not limited to the High Country area.”
Atkinson received a framed original photograph by Megan Long and $500 to donate to the High Country nonprofit of his choice, which he chose to donate back to The Children’s Playhouse.
The luncheon also featured a speech by Parham about The Children’s Playhouse, music by local young fiddler Liam Purcell, aged 10, and a presentation, “Creating Spaces for Family,” by educator, parent, former Playhouse president, and a children’s rights activist William Purcell.
The event was sponsored by presenting sponsors, Drs. Mayhew, Conn Scheffler, and Hardaway,
Adult and Child Orthodontists and Pediatric Dentists, and major sponsors
Earth Fare, Galileo’s, Anonymous, Mast General Store, and the law practice of Eggers, Eggers, Eggers, and Eggers. Contributing sponsors are Blue Ridge Electric Membership Association, HUGS, Harris-Teeter, High Country Home Builders Association, Stick Boy, Kilwin’s, and Espresso News. Volunteers from The Playhouse led by Beth Darnell prepared the food.
Proceeds from the event benefited The Children’s Playhouse, a nonprofit children’s museum in Boone.
This is the 5th year of the Great Friend to Families Award. Previous over all winners were Judith Winecoff (2009), Pat Morgan (2010), Dick and Joan Hearn (2011), and Trish Lanier (2012).
About The Children’s Playhouse
A nonprofit children’s museum founded in 2002, The Children’s Playhouse provides an enriching play environment for children from birth to age eight that at the same time offering parents and caregivers friendly support in the important job of raising children. Located at 400 Tracy Circle near downtown Boone, The Children’s Playhouse boasts a number of play areas including a pretend vet clinic, an art room, dress up area, pretend kitchen, block play area, train table, indoor Romp and Stomp room with climbing wall–all tucked into an intimate, child-friendly space. Admission to The Children’s Playhouse is $5 per person. A one year Playhouse Passport Membership for $125 includes admission to The Playhouse and free or reduced admission more than 150 other children’s museums nationwide. Scholarship memberships are available for families that meet income guidelines. The Children’s Playhouse is supported in part by grants from the Janes and Barnickel Foundations, theTown of Boone, the High Country Women’s Fund, the High Country United Way, and Kiwanis Club. For more information, call 828-263-0011 or visit the website, www.goplayhouse.org.