Dr. Nilous Avery honored for DSS service
By Kathy Chaffin
When it was time for Sandra Wilkes to make her report at Tuesday night’s Department of Social Services board meeting, she moved from her regular seat beside Chairman Dr. Nilous Avery to the presenter’s chair facing the board.
Wilkes, DSS director, said she was moving to the “green chair” because it was more comfortable and she had a lengthy report. As it turned out, her report was a review of Avery’s six years and eight months service on the board.
It was Avery who began recognizing Social Services staff at the board meetings several months ago. “The table is turned on you tonight,” Wilkes told the chairman, whose term expires June 30.
In a format much like the television show, “This is Your Life,” she went over some of the issues the board faced during Avery’s service. The pastor of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Marjorie Kinard in October of 2002, joining Debbie Beaver, Leda Belk, Jeff Morris and Zell Setzer on the board.
Wilkes said Avery may have realized at his very first meeting just how much time his service on the board would require. The agenda for the meeting included a report on the opening of the Child Advocacy Center and the establishment of a Child Residential Facility Study Committee.
Avery also learned that he was expected to attend a Department of Social Services retreat on the first Saturday in December and a Christmas party for foster children the following Saturday. And, Wilkes said, he was asked to bring presents for the children.
When the term expired eight months later, Avery was appointed to his first three-year term on the board and reappointed in 2006. He was elected vice chairman on July 1, 2006, and chairman on July 1, 2007, and again on July 1, 2008.
Because board members are only allowed to serve two consecutive three-year terms, Avery was attending his last meeting Tuesday night ó at least until he has been off the board for a year.
Wilkes read from a lengthy list of Avery’s contributions, including the following:
– Shopped, purchased and wrapped Christmas gifts for foster children for seven years, which averaged out to more than 100 gifts in all, and attended the annual Christmas parties for foster children.
– Opened his church many times for Social Services to use for such activities as the community roundtable on gangs and follow-up meetings and the last annual meeting of One Church, One Child, which is part of a nationwide program to solicit the help of churches in finding adoptive homes for foster children.
– “Not only listened but was genuinely interested” in hundreds of reports from staff on services provided by the department.
– “No doubt Dr. Avery also listened patiently to many complaints from the community about DSS, and then without being critical at all, let us know so we could follow up and take care of the concerns. He expected us to do our job and trusted us to do it.”
– Was very supportive and rejoiced with the staff when the Rowan County Board of Commissioners approved construction of a new Department of Social Services building adjoining the Rowan County Health Department, which would bring all of the Social Services programs under one roof. “He knew this would help staff, but more importantly would help those we serve.”
– “Throughout all these activities, Dr. Avery provided leadership and advocacy for the staff and for children, families and the elderly.”
In addition to facilitating many Social Services meetings, Wilkes said Avery served as guest speaker at agency functions and other meetings attended by the leadership team. “There is a very meaningful phrase that he used sometimes that we want to note,” she said, turning the presentation over to Tom Brewer, program administrator for the children’s services division.
“One of your most lasting inspirations for our staff,” Brewer said to Avery, “has been your demonstration of ‘The Power of One.’ As we seek to meet the mission of this agency, we often face the notion of whether ‘One Person’ can really make a positive difference in meeting the needs of our citizens …
“With the following words, you have inspired and challenged us to believe in ‘The Power of One.’ ”
Brewer then read a poem by that name that Avery sometimes quoted from in his messages to staff emphasizing the power of one person to make a difference in the world.
Afterward, Brewer presented a framed copy of the poem to the outgoing chairman.
At that time, Pat Spears, income-maintenance program administrator, opened an accordion door revealing a dry-erase board with a message thanking Avery for his leadership, a cake made by budget analyst Jane Johnson, other refreshments and a gift.
Avery opened the present and held up blue and green polo shirts inside so everyone could see the words, “The Power of One,” embroidered on them.
Later in the meeting, board member Lillian Morgan thanked Avery for his enthusiasm and constant positive attitude. “I think that you do a lot for uplifting the whole DSS staff,” she said. “Your enthusiasm keeps us going and that smile that you always have. You’re so upbeat.”
His last duty as board chairman will be to welcome people to the Child Well Being Community Roundtable Tuesday, scheduled for 1 to 4 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church Fellowship Building.
Avery said Wilkes’ presentation brought back a lot of memories. “It’s been a real learning experience,” he said of his service on the board. “I’m very proud of everything we have in place.”
Rowan County has a great Department of Social Services staff, he said. “They’re very conscientious and compassionate about people …”
Avery said he will continue his work in the community. “The curtain is closing, but the play is not over …” he said. “I’m just waiting for the next act.”
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-7683.
The Power of OneOne song can spark a moment.
One flower can wake the dream.
One tree can start a forest.
One bird can herald spring.
One smile begins a friendship.
One handclasp lifts a soul.
One star can guide a ship at sea.
One word can frame the goal.
One vote can change a nation.
One sunbeam lights a room.
One candle wipes out darkness.
One laugh will conquer gloom.
One step must start each journey
One word must start a prayer.
One hope will raise our spirits.
One touch can show you care.
One voice can speak with wisdom.
One heart can know what is true.
One snowflake can start an avalanche.
One life can make a difference.
I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do something I can do.
You see, it’s up to you.