UCS executive director Ralph Provenza addresses staff during the annual luncheon in the staff’s honor. (Tom Momberg)
UCS executive director Ralph Provenza addresses staff during the annual luncheon in the staff’s honor. (Tom Momberg)

BENNINGTON -- United Counseling Services of Bennington County held its annual luncheon on Wednesday to recognize its staff and honor award recipients.

The event, held at Bennington Museum, began with words from a UCS patient, Brian, who asked that his last name be withheld. UCS asked Brian to speak at the luncheon due to the significant strides they have seen him make in a short amount of time.

"With the support of a number of United Counseling Services programs, I was happy to have this opportunity," Brian said. "I have many memories of (UCS) being there for me Over the last 18 months, I have accomplished more than I ever thought I would, partly because I had a difficult time believing in myself and working toward where I wanted to be.

With his counselor Rose Rinaldi, UCS patient Brian, shares his recent strides thanks to services offered by UCS. (Tom Momberg)
With his counselor Rose Rinaldi, UCS patient Brian, shares his recent strides thanks to services offered by UCS. (Tom Momberg)
"

As a child, Brian accompanied his mom through counseling sessions. As a teen, he took advantage of children's services. After being released from incarceration in 2011, Brian went into community re-entry support services, called Individuals Preparing for Life, Action and Need. IPLAN is a UCS program that offers transition planning and early intervention, as well as clinical case management, counseling and housing to individuals coming out of incarceration. After Brian was no longer eligible for IPLAN services, he continued outpatient therapy with UCS.

"There were times when I may not have seen it that children's services and IPLAN supported my success and future goals," Brian said. "Now, I have been employed for 16 months, received two raises for my work and am living in my own apartment for the first time, and have a supportive girlfriend. My next goals include getting a driver's license, a bigger apartment, missionary work at my church and possibly a family."

UCS executive director Ralph Provenza said that the support staff in Bennington County have helped not only patients, but that they have worked hard to become a center of excellence in a competitive market.

"I join Brian in thanking you on behalf of the board and the division of directors for the help you provide for the people we serve," Provenza said.

After expressing staff appreciation, Provenza turned to awards. Every year, all award winners have their names inscribed on plaques in the UCS lobby, 100 Ledgehill Road.

Provenza announced the most significant award, the Dr. Peter Scully Memorial Award, which is awarded to the staff member who most demonstrates the qualities of professionalism, dedication, and sincerity. There were four individuals nominated, recognized and given gifts: Nancy Bemis, Rebecca Bishop, Amy Fela and Sasha Slattery.

The award was presented to two of the nominees, cowinners Bemis and Fela, who Provenza both personally recognized.

"Words cannot adequately convey the value Nancy adds to our team, our program and the community at large. Our fellow staff members appreciate both the enthusiasm and support she offers as well the skill she demonstrates in customer service and team building," he said in recognition of Bemis.

"Amy is an exemplary member of the UCS team who brings our mission statement to life on a daily basis. She believes in the work at UCS and strives to support the entire organization and me In any day you can find Amy working in multiple divisions helping her colleagues to meet their goals," Provenza said in recognition of Fela.

UCS president Bob Thompson presented the Harold C. Archie Memorial Award to staff member Dr. Michael Porter, who has given significant contributions to children's programs.

"Michael Porter has donated countless hours of time to offer vision screening for our Head Start kids," Thompson said. "He is beloved by the kids and families who he is in contact with, and we appreciate the respectful and engaging way he works with our children."

UCS board member Lee Romano presented the Cleveland and Phyllis Dodge Community Service Award to the many women who make up the barn sale committee. Over the past two years, those many women raised more than $40,000 for UCS at the Northshire Farm Sale. The sale will take place again this year on September 20 on Dorset West Road in Dorset.

UCS directors also took time at the luncheon to recognize staff members who have served anywhere from five to 35 years.

Visit UCS online at http://www.ucsvt.org/ to find more about its mission and offered services.

Contact Tom Momberg at tmomberg@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg.