OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of Community and Faith Engagement (OCFE) hosted its 35th annual Volunteer and Community Partner Recognition Awards Ceremony on April 18, 2018 at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City. The theme of this year's event was 'Defining Excellence!' Twelve organizations and six individuals were recognized for their efforts and contributions to communities statewide. The awards were presented by Sheree Powell, DHS Director of Communications and Community Relations.
Vickie Jones received the Donna Nigh Award for Public Service. The award is named after former Oklahoma First Lady Donna Nigh and given to a person or group that dramatically improves the quality of life for Oklahomans in need. Nigh spent more than 40 years advocating for Oklahomans with disabilities and her accomplishments set a high standard for volunteerism in the public sector.
Jones was recognized for her advocacy for children with disabilities in Okmulgee. A grandmother of an autistic child, Jones hosted an Autism Awareness Day at the Okmulgee County Courthouse to discuss the challenges faced by families with children with disabilities. She started the Autism in Church program to help congregations learn how to include children with disabilities in any church setting and created the Walk for Autism event in Okmulgee to raise awareness. Jones also encouraged the Okmulgee mayor to declare Light-It-Up-Blue Day, complete with blue dye in the water fountains at city hall and blue lightbulbs on homes to symbolically 'shine a light' on autism. Jones said she will continue her advocacy by being what she calls 'that voice for those without a voice.'
"We salute all our volunteers - they are so inspiring," said DHS OCFE Administrator Karen Jacobs. "From individuals to group efforts, we have seen a genuine outpouring of compassion and commitment to help others. It is humbling to see so many people get involved in their communities to help meet the ongoing needs of families and children across the state."
From left: DHS Communications Director Sheree Powell, Vickie Jones, former Oklahoma First Lady Donna Nigh