Willoby, Griffith honored for dedication to children

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By Bryan Marshall

Grant County was well represented recently at the Keeping Children Safe Spirit Program.

The annual awards program, held at Receptions in Erlanger, was presented by Community Collaboration for Children, Community Partnership for Protecting Children, Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission, Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) and the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS).

Two of the Lifetime Achievement Award recipients and two Keeping Children Safe Spirit Award winners had Grant County connections.

Marylee Willoby of Community Partnership for Protecting Children (CPPC) and Joel Griffith of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky were honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

As county coroner, Willoby has developed relationships and protocol among health organizations to flag children who are seen often in emergency departments.

Since 2007, she also has trained nearly 600 students in a suicide prevention program, as well as spearheaded projects like Booster or Busted and Pancakes for Prevention, focused on raising healthy children.

As a school board member of Grant County Schools, Willoby urged the implementation of certifying every ninth grader in CPR, a certification that continues to be offered in the district’s health classes.

Willoby has been active in CPPC, an organization dedicated to preventing child abuse and neglect in Grant County, since 2005.

“It was very humbling to me because I do what I do out of the love of my heart,” Willoby said about the award. “One of the  hardest things I have to do is to work a child fatality. I’m trying to prevent that from happening so I don’t have to do that. To be honored by these people, I cried. It just means the world to me.”

From April 2001 until his retirement in December 2009, Griffith was the service region administer for CHFS/DCBS in the Northern Bluegrass Service Region of Kentucky.

The Grant County resident managed more than 450 employees while carrying out duties related to child protection, foster care, assistance to needy families, food stamps and Medicaid.

Griffith now is operations manager for Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky (www.pcaky.org), the only statewide child abuse prevention organization.

“I’ve always been committed to working with children and families,” he said. “I believe that the vast majority of parents want to be good parents and care for their children. If we’re able to provide the tools to support the family, they can be better parents. Of course, it was an honor to get the award, especially because it came from parents.”

Nancy Powell of the Sherman Elementary Family Resource Center and Kate Goodenough Hackett of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services also took home Keeping Children Safe Spirit Awards.

At Sherman Elementary, Powell helps community partners understand the problems faced by non-traditional families and relatives who raised children.

Goodenough Hackett is a 26-year veteran in social work who has worked for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services since 2004.

She has been involved with Community Partnership for Protecting Children since its inception in 2005.

Allison Mortenson of the Grant County Schools Youth Services Center also gave a presentation about developmental assets during the Keeping Children Safe Spirit Program.