GAL Volunteers Recognized at Local Awards Ceremony

On Thursday, April 25, 2013, the Tallahassee Democrat held their annual Volunteer of the Year awards luncheon. Nominated in the social services category from our program were volunteer guardians ad litem Mattie Johnson, Lisa Peerson and Jan Watford.

According to Circuit Director Deborah Moore, Johnson, Peerson and Watford are extremely kind-hearted, committed to advocating for our children and excellent program representatives.

All three women were recognized at the event with certificates, but Watford was surprised and delighted to discover that she won the Jefferson Award, the highest accolade handed out. Watford will next represent our area at the national Jefferson Award event this June in Washington, D.C.

"We are extremely happy for all three of our very special guardian ad litem volunteers," said Moore.

The Democrat's article on the event is presented below in case you missed it. You can also read the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program's nomination letter for Jan Watford.

Thank you to the Tallahassee Democrat and congratulations to our wonderful volunteers!

Mattie Johnson, Jan Watford and Lisa Peerson
Johnson, Watford and Peerson
click to see larger photographs on Flickr

Tallahassee Democrat honors Volunteers of the Year
by Jordan Culver
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Tallahassee Democrat

The Tallahassee Democrat honored its 2013 Volunteers of the Year Thursday afternoon during a ceremony in a packed University Center Club at Florida State University.

Categories included arts, business and government agencies, civic services, education, nonprofit organizations, religion and social services and youth. The Jefferson Award for Public Service honoree was then chosen from the winners of those categories.

Jan Watford, who volunteers with Leon County's guardian ad litem program, was chosen as the Civic Services Volunteer of the Year and was also this year's Jefferson Award winner. She will travel to Washington to compete in a national competition.

Award winners received a plaque and a $300 donation to the charity of their choice from the Tallahassee Democrat. Nominees also received a certificate.

Other winners included: Bonnie Dunkle (arts), Burch Orthodontics (business/government agency), Brent Hartsfield (religion/social services), Maxwell Carraway (education), Delta Kappa Omega Foundation (nonprofit organization/club) and Kaytron Coker (youth).

Copyright © 2013, Tallahassee Democrat. All Rights Reserved.

Circuit Director's Nomination Letter for Jan Watford

Jan Watford has been a guardian ad litem volunteer with our program for seven years. Jan's enthusiasm for her role and responsibilities as a guardian ad litem volunteer has stayed strong the entire time.

About six months ago, Jan agreed to serve as a volunteer team leader. Jan comes into our office every day and works closely with one of our volunteer supervisors to help her support volunteers by answering emails and voice messages, remind volunteers about court hearings, reassure and encourage volunteers and organize and manage files. Jan also serves as a peer mentor for new volunteers. Jan provides guidance and direction to our new volunteers during their first year, a very critical time for our new volunteers.

Last year, Jan agreed to serve as chair of our Independent Living Advisory Committee. Jan is especially passionate about our older youth transitioning from foster case out on their own. Jan has been instrumental to help the circuit director move the committee forward and begin training all of our volunteers with a national curriculum to support guardian ad litem volunteers to serve as mentors as well as advocates for our older youth.

Jan has endless energy when it comes to her guardian ad litem volunteer activities. We all get emails from her late into the night! Jan also participates on our Educational Advocacy Committee. Jan is a great help to the circuit director to help communicate regularly with our committee members, create agendas, write up minutes and distribute information.

Every guardian ad litem child deserves someone in their corner standing up for them. Jan makes sure that every child she represents gets every bit of time and attention that she has available. Everyone who meets and talks with Jan is always impressed with how persistent and relentless she can be when it comes to the best interest of the guardian ad litem children. The help that Jan provides as a volunteer team leader supporting one of our volunteer supervisors is invaluable as it directly affects our volunteer retention. Jan provides the much needed backup to our volunteer supervisor and ensures our volunteers receive support in a timely and caring manner.

Jan continues to stay involved with the older youth well after our program and the court has discharged from the case. Jan is intent on making sure that the older youth she advocates for continue to benefit from support and guidance. Many of our youth leave the foster care system without the support of a parent and need someone that can depend on and knows they care like Jan. Whether she continues to mentor the youth or not, all her guardian ad litem children are in her heart forever.

Jan's advocacy is impressive to everyone, not just us. Jan was recently recognized at the Florida Department of Children and Families Black History Month celebration at the Old Capitol Museum for her many years of advocacy with a sibling group; three wonderful young men she is completely devoted to and always has been. The guardian ad litem volunteer role is rewarding but it can be challenging at times so to maintain involvement for so many years is a great achievement. When Jan was first assigned as the boys' guardian ad litem volunteer, they were not welcoming and could not communicate much with her but she was persistent and patience. After a while, they started to call her and ask when she is going to come visit next! Jan agreed to accompany the Guardian ad Litem Program circuit director and executive director to the Capitol recently to visit with various legislators and share her experience as a guardian ad litem volunteer.

When Jan was recognized at the event at the Old Capitol Museum, she received a standing ovation but what Jan talks most about is how happy they boys were that day. Jan is humble, but she deserves lots of accolades and standing ovations! When Jan hits a barrier or obstacle, Jan becomes very innovative and creative to reach her goal for the children that she represents. Jan has learned how to get creative to gather information and make things happen for her guardian ad litem children. Jan has learned how to win some of her children over by bringing treats on her visits and will often show up with homemade cookies. Jan visits her guardian ad litem children at their school and brings them lunch from their favorite place. Jan is the type of individual that is happiest when she making other happy and doing for others.

Whenever we need help, we always think of Jan because her answer is always yes! We are so grateful for Jan's participation in the Guardian ad Litem Program and for her passion and commitment to the guardian ad litem children. Jan attends just about every continuing education opportunity we have available for our guardian ad litem volunteers. Jan wants to learn as much as she can to be the best guardian ad litem volunteer and advocate for each of her children.

2013-07-28: added Jan Watford's nomination letter submitted for the award.

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