DALLAS — The Family Service Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania revamped its traditional spring gala into a Spring Fling auction Thursday at the Irem Clubhouse while also honoring two people who have gone above and beyond in helping local youth.
The nonprofit offers 13 programs to children, families and individuals to help them achieve their full potential, including clinical services, community education and outreach, a 24-hour helpline and more.
Misericordia University President Dr. Thomas J. Botzman was honored with the John N. Conyngham Leadership Award for his enduring work to develop entrepreneurship within the higher education system and surrounding community. The award was presented to him by Chris Borton, of Borton-Lawson.
Brandon’s Forever Home co-founder, attorney Lorine Ogurkis, received the Anna Bertels Community Service Award for her outstanding service and commitment to foster youth. State Rep. Tarah Toohil presented her award.
Both Botzman and Ogurkis were also awarded with a certificate of recognition from state Sen. John Yudichak’s office.
“We just thought the two of them — in building the community and building families — that’s what we’re all about,” association CEO Michael Zimmerman said of the honorees.
Not only did the event honor community standouts, it also showed just how much good work the Family Service Association does.
Event emcee Rabbi Larry Kaplan said the organization linked over 85,000 callers to needed resources through its Help Line/211 program last year, while also rejoining dozens of children with their family members through its Family Finding Program.
“With Family Finding, we find connections and supports for kids that are either in foster care or are in the home and are involved with Luzerne County Children and Youth,” said Family Finding coordinator Grace Tavaris. “So we try to keep them connected with their immediate family or people that have lost connections with them.”
The evening also featured Wakeba and Diavian Tooley to share how the program helped them reconnect and change their lives for the better.
Speaking about the history of Brandon’s Forever Home in Hazleton, an emotional Ogurkis commended the association for working with her and other groups to support those in need. Brandon’s tries to raise awareness about children in foster care and their need for permanent homes.
“If my son went somewhere else in life and didn’t get to have the experiences he’s going to have just by being in our family, how come there are 500 other children on a yearly basis in our county that won’t be able to experience that,” she said of creating the home, noting that both her son and daughter are adopted. “(The association) works really well with trying to keep children with family, and we provide support systems for that.”
The Times Leader Media Group was a sponsor of Thursday’s event.