SAYS honors staff, volunteers, youths at celebration dinner


St. Augustine Youth Services (SAYS) recently held an end-of-school celebration dinner at Creekside Dinery to honor its staff, volunteers and the youth they serve.

Recognized for her 15 years of service was SAYS bookkeeper Renee Marcey, who retired earlier this year. KC Tooley, Zoe Vermillion, Jeremy Thompson and Jorge Oliveras were recognized for 10 years of service; Helen Arbitt and Brett and Leanora Harwood for five years; and Mamie and Sylvester Gostynski, Ambria Page, Lamaris Martin and Robin Burchfield for three years.

Executive Director Schuyler Siefker thanked each staff member for their dedication and service to the program’s youths. “Our boys are blessed to have the consistency of care provided by these staff members,” she said.

Siefker presented each boy with a “certificate of awesomeness” that described his best attribute. Awards presented included most improved academically, most determined, most brave, best style and most positive attitude.

Several of the organization’s most dedicated supporters were also recognized for their service. Reverend Jim Bullock was recognized for mentoring several of the older boys each year. In addition to accompanying the boys to court, he will take them home to dinner, spend time with them and work with them on their treatment goals each week. As soon as one of the boys he mentors leaves SAYS, he is ready for the next one.

Barbara Welch, meanwhile, has been volunteering in the SAYS office once a week since the organization was located at its former downtown location on Saragossa St. Writing thank-you notes, filing, mailing out newsletters and volunteering at events are just some of the duties Welch has performed, staff said.

Other volunteers recognized at the dinner included Heidi and Bubba Jimmerson – who designated SAYS as the charity recipient of their annual Christmas party – Amanda Sims, Anne Farnell of the Marsh Creek Women’s Association, Michele and Chip Hollister, Chris Shee of MasterCraft Building Group, and Ed Wlodarczyk, president-elect of the Sunrise Rotary of St. Augustine.

Each volunteer was presented a handmade “heart in the hand” certificate symbolic of charity given from the heart. Siefker thanked the volunteers as well as the staff for giving from their heart and making a difference at SAYS.

Founded in 1989, SAYS provides a therapeutic residential group home for boys ages 6-18 who are victims of severe abuse and/or neglect and are diagnosed with mental health issues.