There is nothing I like better than being able to honor people who truly deserve it. Last week I attended a celebration event for Healthy Families of Oregon (formerly Healthy Start). The Next Door is the home of Healthy Families of the Columbia Gorge, which has been one of our programs for over 20 years.
At the event, my co-workers were honored for their hard work and dedication. Together, they have a combined experience of several decades. Tami and Nancy were two of the founding members of the program–starting as volunteers before it was part of Healthy Start in the early 1990s. How amazing is that?!
Healthy Families of the Columbia Gorge team members from left: Vitalina Rodriquez, Tami Swanson, Nancy Johanson-Paul, Julie Ryan and Elisa Cartwright.
At the event we also had the delightful experience of being able to honor our community champion, also one of the founding members of the program, Joella Dethman. Julie Ryan, Healthy Families Manager, wrote the following about Joella in her nomination form:
Joella has been involved with Healthy Families from its inception in Hood River County in 1995. She was a part of the early planning meetings and a strong voice for the need of families in the community. She brought together nonprofits, agencies, schools and government entities, using data to determine which program would fit the best in Hood River County with the population that would be targeted for first births.
Joella was instrumental in getting local partners to “get on board” in support of Healthy Start. Through her enthusiasm and commitment to knowing all there was to know about Healthy Start, many partners also embraced the program with physical and financial support. Joella didn’t stop at the local level, but helped lead the certification process once the policies, practices and procedures were codified for the program. She traveled across the state, providing mentoring for other Healthy Start programs in helping them implement the policies that were instrumental in getting measurable outcomes. Fidelity of programming was her mantra.
A metaphor about her determination is that she “carries the torch” of progress and wouldn’t give up until she saw actions being taken that would help all families receive the quality services they needed. Outcomes for Hood River County include the lowest child abuse and neglect rates in the state in 2012. The families receiving services have benefited the most; receiving the resources and support to raise healthy children in a caring environment.
Joella’s heart is in her work and her work is for the betterment of the community, starting one child at a time, but working towards one system that meshes with another seamlessly. Children and families are always at the center of what she is investing in and she deserves to be recognized for all her investments to make a safer and more nurturing place for children to grow and thrive.
Thank you Joella, for your tireless and contagious spirit of enthusiasm; you really have made a positive difference!