Longtime Executive Director of Parks and Recreation Receives Stefani Pierson Champion for Youth Award | Newspaper
MARTINSBURG – With an atmosphere more akin to a massive family reunion than an awards ceremony, crowds of citizens came out on Thursday evening to celebrate the Boys and Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle’s Stefani Pierson Champion for the Steve Catlett Youth Award winner and the impact he has had on the community over the past four decades.
The awards ceremony created to honor local children, the Champion for Youth award was named after longtime Boys and Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle executive director Stefani Pierson, who has been described as a leader dynamic who dedicated her life and time to improving life. children from the region.
Keeping the memory of Pierson alive, the Youth Champion has been chosen each year as a member of the community whose impact and efforts have improved the lives of the children of the East Panhandle.
That’s why this year’s winner, Catlett, former executive director of Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks and Recreation for more than four decades, was an obvious choice.
After kicking off the events of the evening with a Let There Be Rock School performance and a mix of Elton John classics – a Catlett favorite – as the crowd dined, Martinsburg Mayor Harriet Johnson read a proclamation to the crowd, paying homage to Catlett as not only a huge system of influence and support for the children of the area, but a friend and colleague to many members of the community.
In his proclamation, Johnson noted that it was his passion and drive that brought the original budget of $ 43,000 and two parks in the park to the multi-million dollar budget with two recreation centers and over a dozen parks. that it is today.
Before finally handing the microphone to the winner of the evening, Roger Engle, MBCPR board member, and Catlett’s brother Mark gave heartfelt speeches, both evoking the generosity and kindness of Catlett’s heart. , his willingness to kneel in the mud to help drain a park. lake, then turn around and stand in a suit and tie in a senator’s office to lobby for more support for parks statewide.
Accepting the honor with a wry smile, Catlett first listed the laureates who had received the award in years past, some in attendance on Thursday evening, and thanked the community at large for not only showing her continued support over the years. years, but also believe in his dream and vision to improve the quality of life in Berkeley County a bit.
“It is very humbling to receive this award. We have worked very hard over my career with a wonderful board of directors to make Berkeley County a better place to live, ”said Catlett. “We first focused on young people. We are trying to provide for all of Berkeley County, but the youth was the real goal. When I started in 1976, we only have two or three parks, but now we have over 400 acres of park … it’s amazing. I appreciate being recognized as such, but it wasn’t all about me. We have had a lot of great people who have worked with me. But, despite everything we have done, we still have a lot of work to do for our community.
While the evening was dedicated to honoring Catlett and her massive impact on Berkeley County, the Stefani Pierson Champion for Youth event also honored several Boys and Girls Club children and alumni who had seen their lives improved thanks to the support. that they had received from the program.
The Youth of the Year award went to current club youth Madison Higgs, who is part of the 2021 class of Jefferson High School and plans to attend the University of West Virginia in the fall to study exercise physiology, with minors in biology and addiction, with the ultimate goal of someday becoming an emergency physician.
Higgs was chosen for a myriad of reasons, from her kind nature to her academic prowess to her heart of community spirit, officials noting that she has been a Girl Scout for over 10 years and was a founding member of the Jefferson County Students Against Destructive Decisions. group.
In addition to honoring Higgs, the event honored former club student Amber Owens as a shining example of how the support and care she received as a club youth in his youth reverberated in his adult life.
Now a mother, Owens is an administrative assistant at the Bank of Charles Town and graduated from Shepherd University with her BA in Business Administration, with a minor in Economics, as well as her Masters in Business Administration. These are all accomplishments that she attributes to the support and care she received when she was with the club.
“Looking back, I see how the club has had a positive influence in my life. The club has helped me bond with people who are more outgoing than me, and it has helped me step out of my comfort zone, ”said Owens. “I had positive adult influences among the staff who worked there every school year and summer, who struck up a conversation with me about anything, be it school or something as simple as the way my day was going. I always know there is a place for me at the club, and I am very grateful to have a place where I can do my homework, socialize with kids my age, learn how I could be more involved in my community. and have a meal at the end of the day. To quote myself at 18, ‘The Boys and Girls Club for me is a matter of luck – it gave me a chance.’ “
Previous winners of the Champion for Youth award are: Vicky Bullett in 2009; Dave Rogers in 2010; Joan Roach in 2011; William Queen in 2012; Robert Miller in 2013; Mark Cucuzzella, Lisa Dunn Poland and Tom Seely in 2014; Pat Murphy in 2015; Randy Lewis and Steve Dopson in 2016; Becky Linton in 2017; Monte Carter in 2018; and Kendra DeOms in 2019.
For those who weren’t able to attend the Thursday night event but would still like to support the kids at the club in Catlett’s honor, visit www.BGCEPWV.net, click on the Donate button, select Youth Champion from the drop-down menu and donate there.
Interested parties can also call 304-263-1832 for assistance.