GAL Appreciation Day provides an opportunity for the local guardian ad litem community to get together with their families to socialize, have fun and recognize the exemplary work of our volunteers, community supporters and staff.
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This year's get together was held at the Holy Mother of God Greek Orthodox Church, which provided an outdoor space for children's activities as well as a large indoor hall to hold the luncheon, program and awards reception. The weather was quite warm with scattered clouds and temperatures climbing from 88 to 92 degrees through the event.
The day started with children's activities including face painting provided by volunteers from the local Kappa Alpha Theta chapter. Welcoming arriving guests were CAII volunteers, portraits of children provided by Heart Gallery North Florida and a table with raffle tickets available for $1.00.
As guests arrived and mingled, they were able to choose from an assortment of snacks and beverages provided by Trak Engineering, Inc. including popcorn, cupcakes, water, tea and soda plus beer and wine for the adults.
Before too long, it was time for the spaghetti luncheon prepared by volunteers with ingredients supplied by Barnaby's Family Inn. Volunteers manned the serving line, the contents of which consisted of pasta, meat sauce, vegetable sauce, salad, bread and dessert.
After the guests had a chance to help themselves to lunch, Circuit Director Deborah Moore and CAII Board President Brian Sealey took the stage to get the program started by welcoming the attendees and introducing a few special guests in the audience.
Concluding her welcoming remarks, Moore next provided an introduction for the day's first guest speaker. Currently the gubernatorially-appointed executive director of the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office, Alan Abramowitz is also a guardian ad litem volunteer himself, taking cases in the Big Bend region for our program.
Providing his thanks and perspective on the progress of the statewide program, Abramowitz discussed some of the program's recent good news and successes. After his speech, Abramowitz turned things over to the next keynote speaker, the Honorable Judge Karen Gievers. Following the July 2012 transfer of Judge Dawn Caloca-Johnson to the circuit criminal division, Judge Gievers has been presiding over the regular swearing in ceremonies for our guardians ad litem.
Following Judge Gievers' and Abramowitz's talks, Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program staff joined Sealey and Moore at the podium to begin the presentation of awards. The ceremony consisted of three groups of accolades: highlighting the work of volunteer team leaders, honorable mention awards and the eight annual honors.
Each staff member who works closely with a volunteer team leader took a few moments to extol the virtues of the volunteer and share some of the ways in which they provide valuable assistance to the program.
- Kathleen "Kathy" Cole recognized by Jessica Herndon
Kathy fearlessly tackles massive piles of paperwork that need to be filed; notifies GALs of upcoming hearings and meetings; and helps keep me organized — all with a smile on her face. I would be lost in a mountain of clutter without her!
- Janis Edwards recognized by Brenna Radigan
Janis Edwards was amazing and extremely helpful. On top of juggling her five children, she came weekly to help me file my never ending load of paperwork and to help keep track of visit reports. She always came in with a smile on her face and willing to do whatever was asked of her. She will truly be missed around the GAL office!
- Mattie "MJ" Johnson recognized by Christina Chapman
Words can only begin to describe how grateful I am to such a wonderful volunteer team leader! MJ is truly an inspiration to all who know her and I am blessed to have her on my team. "If you want to touch the past, touch a rock. If you want to touch the present, touch a flower. If you want to touch the future, touch a life." — author unknown
- Lisa Peerson recognized by Caitlyn Kio
Enthusiastic visitor, organizer extraordinaire and all around GAL MVP. I'd be lost without her.
- Jane Vollertsen recognized by Shavonda Sprowl
Jane has been working with me for a little over a month now. She is so sweet and I appreciate all the work she has done for me. I look forward to working with her in the future. I just want to say, "THANK YOU!"
- Janet "Jan" Watford recognized by Kimberly Nester
My volunteer team leader is our Volunteer of the Year. I can't say enough about Ms. Jan Watford. She came on late as the volunteer team leader [program] got started but she jumped right in. She helped me organize all eighty-plus out-of-circuit cases and created a tracking system for us. If she emails you about monthly visit reports, that's why! You're the best, Ms. Jan.
- Stuart Zirin recognized by Tiffany Ottley-Hymes
I have been truly blessed by our volunteer team leader Stuart Zirin. He is so helpful. He really helps to keep me in line and ensure that all volunteers are being made aware of any upcoming staffings or court hearings involving their cases. Tom Brokaw said, "it's easy to make a buck… it's a lot tougher to make a difference." Stuart makes that difference.
Next, honorable mention awards were given out to volunteers for demonstrating exceptional performance in one of twelve special categories.
- Bonnie and Clyde
John and Barbara Donaldson
Patrick "Pat" and Jane Dallet
Michael and Patricia "Pat" O'Connell
- Surrogate Parent
Valerie "Val" Kibler
- Stand By Me
- Yoda: Wise Mentor You Are
Dorothy "Dot" Binger
- Police (PI)
- On the Road Again… Again… Again…
- Santa's Most Valuable Elf
- Rookie Award
Sarah "Tippy" Amick
- Disaster Happens — The Clean Up Crew
Theresa "Terry" Flynn
- One Time Charmers
- Courtesy Awards
Finally, it was time for the presentation of the eight main awards.
- GAL Youth Supporter
- Child Advocates II Board Member of the Year
- Twenty or More Years of Service
Dorothy "Dot" Binger
Martha "Marti" Chumbler
- Community Supporters
Omega Wynn, District Manager
Capital City Imports
David Lloyd, Owner
- Business Supporter
Greenberg Traurig, P.A.
- The George Thompson Training Award
- Circuit Team Award
Barbara and John Donaldson, GAL Volunteers
Valentina Villalobos, GAL Child's Best Interest Attorney
Tiffany Ottley-Hymes, Child Advocacy Coordinator
- Volunteer of the Year
Janet "Jan" Watford
Before bringing the awards presentation to a close, Moore and Sealey gave out one final surprise award: a special recognition for Alan Abramowitz. After a few final remarks and the raffle drawing, Sealey and Moore thanked everyone again and brought the event to a close.
We thank the members of the GAL Appreciation Committee — Katherine Blyth, Leigh Merritt, Deborah Moore, Kimberly Nester and Brian Sealey — who made this event a success. We also give special thanks to our event sponsors.
- Special Thanks To…
- Barnaby's Family Inn
- Trak Engineering, Inc.
- Holy Mother of God Greek Orthodox Church
- Tallahassee State Bank
- David July
- Kappa Alpha Theta
- Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
We would like to echo the sentiments of the day in thanking and honoring the extraordinary people who make a difference in the lives of abused and neglected children.
We hope that you enjoyed yourself and are looking forward to next year's event.