For 38 years, Karen Blackwell has tried to help as many people as she could in Cumberland County through her work in the county’s Department of Social Services (DSS).
Working for Social Services is far from the easiest job in the world. Employees with the agencies help secure assistance for individuals and families experiencing financial and social challenges, including for families in poverty and children in the foster care system.
In other words, they help those in the community encountering job losses, illness and failures in health and other social and economic woes — many of whom are possibly going through the hardest times in their lives.
Blackwell, who has been with the department since Feb. 1, 1979, is set to retire as director of the agency at the end of September.
In her 15-year stint as director, Blackwell has seen hard and trying cases. I commend her for her hard work and dedication in helping members of our community experiencing their darkest days.
“People come back years later and let you know you were a positive impact in their lives and were able to help them,” Blackwell said. “You may not know it at the time, but you may hear it years later.”
Blackwell’s strong desire to help others is evidenced in a hard part of her position she pointed to. She noted a difficult aspect of her position is not being able to help everyone. Some might not reach income qualifications to receive financial aid, and some may choose not to take the assistance.
However, Blackwell said the services the county offers have made her career meaningful.
“It’s been a good 38 years,” Blackwell said.
“You’ve got to have a great desire to want to help people and understand that you’re not going to help everybody, because not everybody wants to be helped,” Blackwell said when offering advice to future social workers. “But you will gain a lot of rewards from being in the field.”
JORDAN MILES is managing editor of The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. His email address is Jordan.Miles@FarmvilleHerald.com.