FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 20, 2005) – A public servant from Eastern Kentucky has won an award created by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to honor family support services staff.
Diana Mullins, a Harlan County native who works in the Pineville Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) office, has been named the first recipient of the Sheila G. Eckler Award.
She received the award at a DCBS regional administrators’ meeting this week in Louisville.
The award is named for Sheila Eckler, a Pulaski County family support worker who died on Jan. 23, 1998, on her way to a meeting in Frankfort. She lost control of her vehicle and struck a tree about 17 miles from her Somerset home.
Chuck Eckler, Sheila’s husband, was part of the award presentation.
Mullins, who has worked for the Cabinet for 27 years, supervises a staff of 13 in one of Bell County’s two Division of Family Support offices. Her staff determines customer eligibility for services like food stamps, Medicaid and cash assistance to families.
Representing the Cumberland Valley Service Region, Mullins is one of 12 regional nominees who were honored at the Louisville meeting.
Mullins did not know Eckler, who worked just a few counties west of Mullins, but said she has learned that Sheila Eckler was “a really upbeat, innovative type of person. Those are big shoes to fill.”
Cabinet Secretary James W. Holsinger, Jr., M.D., called Mullins a perfect choice for the initial award.
“Diana sets the standard for employees who offer the essential services that help Kentuckians in their day-to-day lives,” he said. “She leads her staff to work together with families who need a helping hand toward self-sufficiency.”
A co-worker wrote Mullins’ nomination. “Her goal is for the work that she supervises to be accurate and in accordance with policy and procedure,” it reads. “At the same time, she has an abounding compassion for the needy and underprivileged. Her staff and others who work with her respect her not only as a supervisor, but as a caring person and a person of integrity.”
DCBS Commissioner Mike Robinson said Mullins has assisted thousands of customers through her years of providing preventive family support services like nutrition assistance and health care coverage.
“Even as the leader of her office, Diana has a selfless attitude that inspires her staff to do more for their clients,” he said.
Mullins said she likes the variety of tasks she takes on at her job.
“I consider myself a working supervisor,” she said. “I’m still directly involved with clients through taking applications and referrals. If we are shorthanded, I try to help out whenever I can.
“People have a great respect for you if you are right there with them, doing what they do,” she said.
Mullins said one improvement in the Cabinet’s quality of service delivery over the years is how staff now serves customers comprehensively.
“Customers may come to us just for food stamps, but we ask them to complete a questionnaire that we can use as a screening tool,” she said. “We may learn about a problem that they wouldn’t even think to tell us about – like a child’s developmental delay – and we can offer them a tool to help them or direct them to services through our community partnerships.”
Mullins said former customers will approach her in public to say “thanks.”
“They come up to you and tell you what a difference you made in their lives,” she said. “They will tell you that if not for your encouragement, they would not have gotten their GED or returned to school to be able to provide for their families.”
“It feels good to know that you talked to this person, gave them inspiration and they became a successful person,” Mullins said. “It’s absolutely one of the highlights of this job.”
Sheila G. Eckler Award Regional Nominees
Barren River Service Region
Big Sandy Service Region
Bluegrass Fayette Service Region
Bluegrass Rural Service Region
Gateway/Buffalo Trace Service Region
Green River Service Region
KIPDA Jefferson Service Region
KIPDA Rural Service Region
Lake Cumberland Service Region
Northern Kentucky Service Region
Purchase Service Region
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