Rosalynn Carter Institute honors caregivers

The Southern Caregiver Resource Center (SCRC) was given the coveted Rosalynn Carter Leadership in Caregiving Award. Left to righ: Sharon D'Agostino of Johnson & Johnson, Kerri D'Aniello of Johnson & Johnson, Leisa Easom of the RCI, Laura Bauer of the RCI, Roberto Velasquez of SCRC, Kurt Buske of SCRC, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, Lorie Von Tilburg of SCRC, and Rick Martinez of Johnson & Johnson. / RCI

In a press release issued by the Rosalynn Carter Institute, the RCI has honored Georgians by giving out top caregiving awards.

"I am so excited by all the progress that has been made since we started," said former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. "I am energized after hearing about all the wonderful work currently being done to support caregivers across the lifespan. Working to improve the lives of those who are struggling is noble; it is God's work."

During the annual awards gala Thursday, Oct. 25, Carter presented awards for Georgia Paraprofessional Caregiver of the Year, Volunteer Caregiver of the Year, Family Caregiver of the Year, and an award with her namesake, the Rosalynn Carter Leadership in Caregiving Award â" the highest award given in the caregiving field.

Wilani Martin a certified nursing assistant from Jefferson received the Georgia Paraprofessional Caregiver of the Year award. Employed by Bentley Assisted Living, Martin was nominated by the Atlanta Regional Commission Caregivers-Network (CARE-NET).

Lucille Brock Thomas a retired teacher from Screven received the Volunteer Caregiver of the Year award. Thomas founded Caregivers Resources and Support Services, Inc. in 1997. Since then, her organization has trained over 100 volunteers and served over 1200 caregivers. She was nominated by the Heart of Georgia Altamaha CARE-NET.

Ashley Stroud from Decatur received the Family Caregiver of the Year award. Stroud has selflessly careD for her mother, father and grandfather simultaneously. She was nominated by the Atlanta Regional CARE-NET

The Southern Caregiver Resource Center (SCRC) was given the coveted Rosalynn Carter Leadership in Caregiving Award. Lorie Von Tillburg, SCRC executive director; Kurt Buske, associate director, and Roberto Velasquez, director of business and strategic development, were on hand to receive the award.

SCRC's winning program took an effective evidence-based caregiver intervention REACH-OUT (Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer Caregiver's Health) and successfully translated it into usage with Hispanic caregivers of those with Alzheimer's disease. To do so, they created a new Spanish title, CUIDAR (Cuidadores Unidos Inspirados en Dar AmoR), which is loosely translated as "caregivers united and inspired to give love." SCRC revised the materials to make them culturally appropriate, and used Promotoras - local respected Latina women trained to provide basic health education to community members - as program outreach staff.

They also leveraged community partnerships and grant funding from several sources to develop a menu of evidence-based caregiver programs that are improving the health and well-being of caregivers in the San Diego area. Johnson & Johnson generously sponsors this award each year with a $20,000 stipend and a statuette designed by renowned sculptor Frank Eliscu, designer of the Heisman Trophy.

"The Rosalynn Carter Institute is appreciative of Johnson & Johnson's generous support," said RCI Executive Director Leisa Easom, Ph.D.. "It has enabled the RCI to host this outstanding summit and to bring new programs to support family caregivers to communities all across the country."

The night was a special one for Mrs. Carter as she was recognized for establishing the RCI 25 years ago. With Monica Kaufman Pearson, RCI board member emerita and retired WSB-TV anchor, serving as the gala emcee, Carter was congratulated for her years of service to the caregiving field. Governor Nathan Deal wrote a commendation that was presented and read by state Rep. and RCI Board Co-Chair Mike Cheokas. Video tributes from special friends like Ted Turner, Rep. Sanford Bishop and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were shown, as well.

Georgia Southwestern's Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving was created in 1987 in honor of former First Lady and GSW alumna Rosalynn Carter. Through research, education and training, the RCI promotes the mental health and well being of individuals, families and professional caregivers; encourages effective caregiving practices; builds public awareness of caregiving needs; and advances public and social policies that enhance caring communities.