As Mental Health Awareness month comes to a close, the Wyoming County Mental Health Department recently hosted a recognition breakfast at Byrncliff Resort & Conference Center, Varysburg.
Awards were given out for Outstanding Business of the Year – Silver Lake Marina, Outstanding Community Member – Village of Warsaw Police Chief Pete Hoffmeister, Outstanding Community Organization – Restore Sexual Assault Services, and a Special Recognition Award was presented to former Mental Health Department Director of Community Services Nancy Balbick.
Silver Lake Marine, 4213 W. Lake Road, Silver Springs, was recognized for offering an opportunity to Joe Jackson. Silver Lake Marine President Quinn Bellamy was able to customize the job for Jackson to be able to help him be gainfully employed.
“My first memory with Joe was at our wedding reception in the showroom 14 years ago,” Bellamy said. “At one point in the reception, after the standard dances, a song came on that I would be prone to dance to. So I was dancing alone at the reception, when lo and behold, cutting the rug with me was Joe Jackson. Now we are together in that same showroom working side by side.”
Hoffmeister was nominated for his integrity.
“We found in this man a place of respect, heart, and help,” Joann Robb said. “He is caring, compassionate, helpful, approachable, and kind-hearted. He can be trusted. We can call upon him for help with the assurance that help will be provided.”
“I surround myself with people who help and they make me look good,” Hoffmeister said. “I was born and raised in Warsaw and will serve the community until the day I retire.”
Restore Sexual Assault Services, specifically Outreach & Education Specialist Lauren Berger, was recognized for the protection and counseling of the most vulnerable in the community and collaborative efforts with assisting organizations.
“While Lauren is always hanging around our meetings, what I remember the most about her was at the 10th anniversary of the Suicide Prevention Walk,” Balbick said. “At the balloon launch, Lauren wrote and spoke a meditation that was important and needed to be heard by the people who were there. Restore is a better organization with her.”
Balbick received special recognition for her impact on thousands of lives throughout her career.
“In the same paper that headlined John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, there was an article written on mental health in which those same words could have been written today,” Gordon Lew said. “We must continue to bring awareness and services to those afflicted with mental health issues – and Nancy does just that."
Balbick began her career in the Foster Care field, and then the Child Protective Services Unit, before moving on to the Genesee County Mental Health Department. It was there that she found her passion, got her degree, and shortly thereafter, began her work with the Wyoming County Mental Health Department.
Although she has worked for the department for a dozen or more years, she recently retired from her county position to open a private practice in Warsaw.
In addition to the award presentations, guest speaker Megan Stapley, of Suburban Adult Services Inc. (SASI), spoke about High Hurdles Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program. The program, developed in 1997, is designed to provide a therapeutic riding experience for children with developmental disabilities.
High Hurdles currently serves riders from 3 to 83 years old. The program helps clients feel more in tune with themselves by working toward a goal without the feeling of working, program officials say.
“There was a boy who wouldn’t speak,” Stapley said. “He would use noise, but the sound never meant the same thing twice. With horse therapy, he would mimic the sounds used to train the horses. He started using the ‘whoa’ sound to get the horse to stop or the ‘click’ sound to get the horse to trot. He started using vocalization as a means to get the animal to do something.”
Through the activity on a horse, instructors say it is more the horse teaching the rider than the counselor teaching them. According to Stapley, some of the horses even choose their own riders.
“Some of them (horses) do better with certain conditions or choose riders that have certain afflictions.”
For more information about High Hurdles click here.
For more information about the Mental Health Department click here, or call (585) 786-8871.