West Hosts National Social Conference

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‘New Frontiers of Caring’

by Robert Docter –

More than 400 social service program administrators, case managers, social workers, addictions specialists and corps officers from throughout the nation met for six days in San Diego, Calif., to explore the conference theme “New Frontiers in Caring: Community Amid Diversity.”

Meeting at a time when tremendous change in the federal support system has been thrust on the poor and indigent, the addict and alcoholic, the single parent and child, the recent legal immigrant and teen pregnant minor, the homeless and helpless, Army specialists in the delivery of emergency assistance and long range treatment examined aspects of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 —otherwise known as “Welfare Reform” among a wide ranging series of workshop topics.

Plenary sessions featured presentations from some of the most dynamic speakers exploring Christian principles and practices in this the last decade of the twentieth century. These included Dr. Ronald J. Sider, president of evangelicals for social action; Mr. Philip Yancey, author and editor; Marsena Buck, ACSW, LCSW, chair of the California Board of Behavioral Science Examiners and former director of income maintenance for the Department of Social Services of Stanislaus County, Calif.; and Bishop George McKinney, pastor of St. Stephen’s Church of God in Christ in San Diego.

Army leaders also addressed the conference. These included the National Commander, Commissioner Robert A. Watson; Lt. Colonel Raymond L. Peacock, ACSW, program secretary, USA West; Lt. Colonel Paul E. Bollwahn, ACSW, national social services consultant; and Lt. Colonel Donald G. Sather, divisional commander. The Sierra Del Mar Division hosted the welcome banquet.

Four programs were nominated to receive the prestigious National Social Service Award. The winner was the Ft. Myers Primary Care Clinic/Interim Care Center which delivers health care for the homeless ill and for people with AIDS. This is an extremely sophisticated model of health care delivery which draws on volunteer physicians in the community to augment staff physicians and nurses. The program is administered by Major John Carter. Treatment includes mental health services, all forms of surgery, social services, life-skill management and vocational assessment in a holistic continuum of service designed to move clients from homelessness to permanent employment. The West’s nominee, San Francisco Harbor Light, also was recognized.

Each of the Army’s four American territories identified an individual who has demonstrated exceptional excellence in social service ministry. Envoy Gerald Koch, ACSW, administrator of the Denver Downtown Service Center, was the honored recipient from the West. He has wide experience in social service administration and has successfully developed the Denver program to include new funding and grant acquisition.

Bollwahn summarized the conference in describing it as a “springboard for new ideas–with new levels of accountability and advocacy.”

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