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Local DHR worker wins national recognition

By Catherine Godbey · 340-2441

Growing up, children dream of becoming doctors, lawyers or president of the United States. Not many dream of becoming an advocate.

For Marilyn Ragan, adult services worker for the Morgan County Department of Human Resources, a childhood surrounded by those in need of advocates motivated her to become a social worker.

“I worked at the Wallace Center when I was younger, and my younger brother was mildly retarded,” Ragan said. “I’ve always been around people who needed advocates.”

The National Adult Protective Services Association will recognize Ragan’s service as an advocate for adult services at its annual conference in Atlanta on Thursday. The association named Ragan the recipient of the 2007 National Adult Protective Services Spirit Award after she won the Alabama Spirit Award, making her the state’s nominee for the award on the national level.

The national award recognizes an adult protective services worker who exemplifies a commitment to the growth and development of the field.

“It (the award) is quite an honor,” Ragan said. “... When the past president called me, I kept saying, ‘are you sure?’ ”

Morgan County DHR Director Tonita Phipps, who nominated Ragan for the Alabama Spirit Award, praised Ragan’s efforts in the adult services field.

‘Beyond the call of duty’

“She goes beyond the call of duty and takes her cases to heart while being as resourceful as need be to make sure the clients are protected from abuse and mistreatment and that they receive the proper resources,” Phipps said.

Phipps pointed to the annual Christmas party Ragan organizes with local churches and the Volunteer Center of Morgan County for her clients as an example of Ragan’s commitment.

Serving all of the clients in Morgan County, Ragan’s duties include investigating reports of abuse, managing protective services and petitioning for protective placement.

“This is where I’m going to be until I retire,” Ragan said. “It is something I really love doing.”

Along with the award ceremony, Ragan is anticipating the presentations at the conference, which will focus on resources for adult protective services and investigation tools. Ragan expects to take away ideas that will help strengthen Morgan County’s program.

“It’s necessary to increase funding to combat the abuse, neglect and exploitation of the elderly,” Ragan said.

“I would also like to see the community begin to volunteer so we won’t need as much funding because we could take care of ourselves.”

With this award, Ragan said, she hopes to shed light on the need for more funding and volunteers in the adult services arena.

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