Social service workers: the face of our communities

Posted May 15, 2019 by

Read more stories like this in the Spring edition of the Public Employee Quarterly.

Larinelle Stevens is only a three-year employee at Franklin County Job and Family Services but has already met friends in high places. Just three years into his job as an Investigator, he and OCSEA Chapter 2508 President Lynne Morris were presented with a community service award along with Franklin County judges, school board members, city council members and prominent ministers—all to honor their good work in the Columbus community.

The award ceremony took place on Feb. 23 at “The Word Church” of God in Christ on Wilson Ave. in Columbus. It was sponsored by the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Columbus and Vicinity and was the first time the award was given to rank-and-file social service employees of a government agency, something Lynne and Larinelle felt especially honored by.

After coming on board at the FCJFS location on Morse Road, Larinelle quickly moved up in the ranks to an Investigator 3 position where he takes on cases regarding overpayments, agency and client errors and food stamp fraud. Lynne is a 26-year-employee and a case worker. She’s also the president of her local union there.

Larinelle says he feels privileged to have been mentored by both union leaders and management and felt grateful to hear himself be talked about at the award ceremony. “It was a blessing to hear those words at the ceremony, because when you have people on the highest tier acknowledge you, it motivates you,” said Larinelle.

Lynne said FCJFS has renewed its commitment to end the cycle of poverty and ensure Central Ohioans become productive members of the community. She says their management team has worked very hard with different ministerial and community groups to address the issues of the poor, and that all FCJFS employees have really embraced the mission.

But the award is also a way of giving FCJFS employees “a face” in the community, says Lynne. “Instead of just being a case worker sitting behind our desks, this is a way for us to be more involved in our community,” said Lynne, who no longer does house visits and sometimes doesn’t even see those she serves face-to-face, thanks to technology.

“Many Ohioans never really see the good work that is being done by government employees day in and day out. Honoring public employees puts those who do that day-to-day work, front and center,” she said. Since it was the executive management team who nominated the pair, Lynne says it had special meaning for her given that she’s worked hard to have good labor/management relations. “Unlike some unions, I have a good working relationship with my management. The executives here and the commissioners have a great relationship. The key is honesty and integrity. We don’t always agree, but I don’t get lip service either,” she said.

Lynne felt especially good that the head of her agency took the time to present the award herself. “Our director took her own personal time, her and her husband, and they came to make sure that she was giving us the award herself, because she didn’t want it to be strangers. She made it very personal and she said some great things about us. It came from the heart, not from a piece of paper. Everybody else was reading from paper and she read from her heart,” said Lynne.