In the past fiscal year, the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board helped thousands of area residents with behavioral health concerns or developmental disability. This work could not happen without a supportive community. To honor this generosity, RACSB recognized two outstanding volunteers who have improved the lives of people struggling with mental health concerns, substance use disorder, or developmental disability.
On Oct. 24, RACSB presented its annual Distinguished Volunteer Awards to two people who have shown an extraordinary commitment to helping others.
The 2017 Distinguished Behavioral Health Volunteer Award was presented to Ernest Ackermann, a professor emeritus of computer science at the University of Mary Washington, who volunteers with Mental Health America of Fredericksburg.
“Ernie has done so much to build supports and to reduce the stigma of mental illness in our community,” RACSB Executive Director Jane Yaun said as she presented the award during the agency’s annual Caroline County Clinic Open House. “We know that as people become less afraid to talk about mental illness, they are more likely to seek treatment. Countless lives have been vastly improved by Ernie’s efforts.”
Ackermann lives in Stafford County with his wife, Lynn.
The 2017 Distinguished Developmental Disability Volunteer Award was presented to Connie Spears, a retired special education teacher who heads the horticulture committee of Rappahannock Adult Activities, Inc.
“Beyond teaching and helping, Connie is an advocate,” said RACSB Board Member Debbie Draper. “As a teacher, she was formidable in getting what her students need. Now, she focuses that energy on writing to legislators. She is an unsung hero to me and to many others.”
Draper serves on the Board of Directors for RACSB. Her adult son, Kyle, was Spears’ student at Walker-Grant Middle School in Fredericksburg.
Spears started her career in 1970 working at a camp for children with developmental disability in North Carolina. She told the audience assembled at the open house that her work has been life-long and sprang from her affection for relatives who had disabilities.
Spears said that interactions with people who have disabilities has enriched her life.
“I feel like I have been the luckiest person in the world,” she said.