National Award Recipients Honored at Social Work Leadership Meeting

Honorees help brain injured adults, LGBT advocates, the working poor, and foster children

WASHINGTON, DC (April 13, 2012)—Tonight, the National Association of Social Workers honors four recipients of its national awards program at the organization’s Annual Leadership Meeting in Washington, DC.  The annual awards are given for Public Elected Official of the Year, Public Citizen of the Year, Social Worker of the Year, and Lifetime Achievement. This year’s recipients have made significant contributions to their communities in Massachusetts, Florida, California and Nebraska.

“NASW is proud to showcase another amazing group of social work and community leaders through our national awards program,” said NASW President Jeane Anastas, PhD, LMSW.  “They are role models for us all.”

Marshall Wong, MSW, has received the Social Worker of the Year Award. He is the hate crime coordinator for the Los Angeles County Commission, and established the Hate Crime Victim Assistance and Community Advocacy Initiative in Los Angeles.

Mr. Wong is most recognized for serving as co-chairman of API Equality-L.A., a coalition of organizations that focuses on the fair treatment of the Asian and Pacific Islander LGBT community within the greater Los Angeles area, and provides advocacy and community education. Mr. Wong also works to ensure that students from immigrant families can continue their educations in the U.S.

Description: “My parents grew up in a time of legalized segregation. I decided at a very young age that I didn’t want others to have to go through that,” says Mr. Wong. “The field of social work is about furthering the democratization of society.”

Ann Coyne, PhD, MSW, has received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Coyne, a professor of social work at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) and a founder and consultant for the Nebraska State Foster Care Review Board, is being recognized for her contributions in Nebraska and internationally to help children. 

Dr. Coyne established a sister relationship with the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Nicaragua (UNAN), in Leon, Nicaragua, to help the university develop its own social work curriculum. UNO social work students work with UNAN-Leon students and faculty and often travel to Nicaragua to offer aid after natural disasters. In addition, Dr. Coyne has helped many special needs children in orphanages get medical attention and find adoptive homes through her work with the Omaha Rotary Club.

Description:“What I really want students to carry into this world is a huge commitment to people—disabled, old, babies, working, or unemployed—all different people that make up society,” says Dr. Coyne.

Sherl Morden, recipient of the Public Citizen of the Year award, is president of Second Chance Northwest Florida. Recognized by Panama City, Florida Mayor Scott W. Clemons, Ms. Morden volunteered in 2008 as executive director to maintain services for adults with brain injuries despite program funding cuts.

According to Mayor Clemons and the NASW Florida Chapter, Second Chance of Florida would not be able to continue serving survivors and their families who need its services without her dedication.

Description: “My lifelong work is working with others. The members of Second Chance mean the world to me. We’re like a big family that works through its challenges together,” says Ms. Morden.

Massachusetts State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-MA), from Acton, Massachusetts, has received the Public Elected Official of the Year Award. State Senator Eldridge has championed many causes during his time in the legislature between 2002 and 2012.

In working with the NASW Massachusetts Chapter to sponsor and co-sponsor bills, he successfully campaigned to raise minimum wage requirements in Massachusetts to $8 an hour, and was the lead sponsor of the bill for Social Work Loan Forgiveness. He also co-sponsored bills promoting social work safety in the workplace and funding critical social work services.

Description: “You have to forcefully advocate for issues to make a difference. You can’t work around the edges on issues of poverty, affordable housing and civil rights and make a meaningful difference in people’s lives,” says State Senator Eldridge.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers with nearly 145,000 members. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.
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