Three decades of county support for and service to the local special needs community was recognized earlier this month when Union County was presented with the SC Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DSN) Golden Palmetto Award for 2011.
In a July 26 letter to Union County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair, DSN State Director Beverly A.H. Buscemi announced that “Union County has been selected to receive the SC Department of Disabilities and Special Needs Golden Palmetto Award for 2011. … Union County was nominated by the Union County Disabilities and Special Needs Board. Their nomination was excellent and they did an outstanding job of illustrating Union County Council’s long and supportive partnership in making people with disabilities a priority.”
Buscemi pointed out that the DSN Golden Palmetto Award has been presented annually for the past 37 years to “the county in South Carolina that has demonstrated exceptional support and commitment to people with disabilities.” She said the DSN Commission “particularly wants to express appreciation to Union County for approval of significant funding each year for the Union DSN Board and for the development of the Miracle League Baseball Program.”
The award was presented to Sinclair and Union County Council Member Kacie Petrie by Frey Lynn, chairman of the SC Disabilities and Special Needs Commission, during the Aug. 6 South Carolina Association of Counties Conference at Hilton Head. Also participating in the ceremony was Union County DSN Executive Director Lou Stackhouse and Debbie Woodard, treasurer for the Union County DSN Board of Director. Stackhouse said her group nominated the county for the DDSN Golden Palmetto Award in recognition of its nearly 30 years of support for and service to the local special needs community.
“Union County began its support in the mid-1980s, not only financially, but in helping to bring services to Union County for special needs people,” Stackhouse said Monday morning. “Prior to that, people with disabilities were served at institutions like Whitten Center in Union. Since 1985, the people of Union County has supported the Day, Residential Service Coordination, Early Intervention programs of this agency. Beginning about 18 months ago, the county has been instrumental in the development of Miracle League Baseball.”
Stackhouse pointed out that Union County was among 44 counties in South Carolina nominated for the 2011 award.
“The Golden Palmetto is given annually to the county that exemplifies support of the Disabilities and Special Needs Board,” she said. “The Union DSN Board nominated Union County and its government for this prestigious award and of the 44 counties nominated, Union County was given this honor. This was our agency’s way of saying thank you for the people of Union County and their government’s many years of commitment to people with special needs.”
Union County allocates approximately $30,000 to Union County DSN as part of its annual budget. In addition, Union County Council voted earlier this year to allow the Miracle League to use Field No. 1 at the Timken Sports Complex for its games. Council also authorized the League to apply to the county for State Parks And Recreation Department (PARD) funds to help cover the cost of adapting the field for the special needs athletes who will be playing on it. The League is currently in the process of raising of $250,000 to pay for covering the field with a low-impact surface that will make it easier for special needs athletes to play and reduce the chances of them hurting themselves if the fall.
Sinclair said his own involvement with and support of the local special needs community, dates back to when he was an assistant principal at Union High School and principal at Sims Junior High School. He said he remembers in particular one special needs child who always gave him a hug. This is one of his most precious memories of his time as an educator and has inspired him to continue to support the special needs community as supervisor.
“That’s a segment of our population that sometimes gets overlooked and my experience with special needs children is that if you want unconditional love, go visit a special needs child,” Sinclair said. “So I’m glad we’re able to support them.”
As for the special needs child who always hugged him when she was in school, Sinclair said he still get hugs from her.
“Every time I see her, even today, she still gives me a hug,” Sinclair said. “She is a special needs person, but her unconditional love fills a special need of mine.”