Atkinson a friend to families
by Anna Oakes
Atkinson was among more than a dozen community members honored at the fifth annual Great Friend to Families Award presentation at the High Country Home Builders Plaza. The event is hosted by The Children's Playhouse as a fundraiser for the nonprofit children's museum, located in Boone.
Atkinson, who has served the Social Services Department for 32 years, has served on numerous boards and groups that foster both the physical and mental health of children and families in the community.
"His now-grown children recall on many (occasions) in their childhood their dad bringing children into their home because they had nowhere else to go," stated an excerpt from Atkinson's nomination statement.
As part of his award, Atkinson was allowed to designate a charity of his choice to receive a $500 donation; he chose The Children's Playhouse.
"This is the best place, the best community in the world to work," Atkinson said upon receiving the award.
A panel of judges selected Atkinson from a slate of Helping Hands and Helping Hearts award winners.
Helping Hands Awards honor professionals who have shown extraordinary dedication to improving the lives of children and families. Helping Hands winners included Atkinson, Renee Boughman, Lucy Hoffman, Edith Mubanda, Laurie Cimino, Eloisa Hernandez-Ruiz, Kelly Sheets Snider, Nancee Pond and Lillian Worley.
Helping Hearts Awards recognize individuals who touch the lives of children and families through generous philanthropy and/or volunteerism. Helping Hearts winners included Amber Bateman, Leigh Girard, Evelyn Shook Johnson, Roachel Laney, Mary Mast, Amber Mellon and Madison Welch.
Johnson was honored posthumously -- the 35-year employee of the Watauga Public Library, Sunday School teacher and active member of the Kiwanis Club passed away in January at the age of 54. Her sons Seth and Caleb and Kiwanis Club member Susan Jones accepted the award for Johnson.
"She lived life with her arms wide open," said Jones. "At Kiwanis she always made sure that we kept children a priority."
Welch, a 7-year-old second-grader at Mabel Elementary School, is the first child to be nominated for the Great Friend to Families Award.
William Purcell, a past president of The Children's Playhouse board, was the featured speaker at the awards luncheon. Purcell, who started bringing his children to The Children's Playhouse as a stay-at-home dad a decade ago, challenged attendees to carve out time for their families and to engage children in play and enrichment activities other than television, video games and electronic devices.
Purcell's son Liam, age 10, entertained attendees with fiddle and banjo tunes.
U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx was among the attendees at the luncheon, sponsored by numerous businesses and community groups.
The Children's Playhouse celebrated its 10th anniversary in November 2012. The museum offers stimulating programs, play areas and exhibits for children and informative parenting resources. Through fundraising efforts, the organization offers free memberships to families with children who have development delays and low-income families.
For more information, visit http://www.goplayhouse.org or call (828) 263-0011.