Mercer County organization to be honored with Governor's Service - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Mercer County organization to be honored with Governor's Service Award

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CHARLESTON, W.VA. (News Release) – Friends Unlimited was formed by a group of concerned parents to provide social activities for developmentally disabled adults in Mercer County.

On Wednesday, July 30, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin will honor Friends Unlimited for its dedication to service at the annual Governor’s Service Awards banquet at the Charleston Civic Center. The banquet is held as a part of Faces of Leadership, the annual state volunteerism conference.

Presented since 1995, the Governor’s Service Awards honors individuals, families and organizations that exemplify outstanding dedication to volunteerism and community service in West Virginia. Friends Unlimited will receive its award in the Organization category.

In 2005 in Mercer County, there were no organized social activities for adults with developmental disabilities. In response to this need, Friends Unlimited was born. The group provides dances, cookouts, bowling events and other outings throughout the year. These events are free and provide a safe and fun night out for adults who have few such opportunities.

For the past 7 years, Friends Unlimited (F.UN.) has provided eight events each year with attendees coming from agency group homes, families, and independent living residences. The activities draw people from across the county and also from neighboring counties. Participation in events has grown dramatically from 35 people at the first cookout to 175 at recent dinner dances.

Linda Modena attends F.UN. events with her daughter, Laura. “It never fails to bring tears of joy to see the happiness on so many faces at these events. Friends Unlimited has given a sense of dignity and value to the disabled adults of our area.”

The core group of 15-20 volunteers has solicited help as the events have grown in popularity. Southern Highlands Community Mental Health Center, RESCARE, and Mercer County Economic Opportunity Industries each sponsor one event a year. The volunteer base has also expanded to include Rotary International, churches, schools and youth groups. Local merchants often assist with refreshments. The organization has received financial support from the Kathlyn Monk Charitable Trust and from the Community Foundation of the Virginias.

The social calendar begins each year with a cookout and ends with the prom, which is held in the beautifully decorated gym at Princeton High the evening after the school prom.

“A guest would only need to spend five minutes at a F.UN. event to know that participants enter smiling a little brighter and carrying themselves a little straighter,” says Kellan Sarles, who nominated the organization. “Clearly they look forward to each event, enjoy themselves and do not want to go home!”

The Governor’s Service Awards are administered by Volunteer West Virginia, the state’s Commission for National and Community Service. A volunteer review committee reads and selects the recipients on the basis of achievement, community needs, continuing involvement, innovation and impact of service.

Other recipients of the 2014 Governor’s Service Awards include, by category:

· Lifetime Achievement: Oreana ‘Rene’ White, Pocahontas County; Mario Liberatore, Mason County

· Youth: Emma Brannare, Ohio County

· Adult: Mitch Anthony, Ohio County; Greg Smith, Ohio County

· Senior: Jean Evansmore, Fayette County; Paul Billiard, Brooke County

· National Service: Tom Myslinsky, Wetzel County; Jean Srodes, Pocahontas County

· Organization: Empty Bowls, Monongalia County

· Business: FNB Bank, Hampshire County; Bordas and Bordas Attorneys, Ohio County

For tickets to the awards banquet, or information about the conference, contact Moya Doneghy at (304) 558-0111 or 1-800-WV-HELPS, or by email at moya.doneghy@wv.gov .

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