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Award honors former school social worker
IMG 9689-Michael-Hutcheson-and-Rachael-Long-named-first-Laura-H-Barnes-Social-Work-Award-winners
(left to right) Michael Hutcheson, Laura Barnes' husband Butch, Rachael Long, Barnes' son John, daughter Traci McBay and son in law Jason, granddaughters Brynlee and Ellison (not pictured but attending: Barnes' sister Sandra Oglesbee and brother-in-law Jerry, sister Marcia Pundsack and brother-in-law Jeff, and parents-in-law John and Betty Jo Barnes) - photo by Michelle Kim

Rockdale mourns the loss of two educators (March 31, 2012)

OBITUARY: Laura Holcomb Barnes (Feb. 12, 2012)

Child homelessness on the rise (Jan. 18, 2012)

Families in Transitiona 2010 series on homeless families and local efforts:
The Face of Homelessness (March 27, 2010)
Giving Homeless Students a Fighting Chance(April 3, 2010)
Building a Safety Net, (April 10, 2010)

Community organizer Michael Hutcheson and Rockdale County Public Schools employee Rachael Long were named the first recipients of the Laura H. Barnes Social Work Award, named in honor of the longtime school social worker who passed away suddenly last year and whose work touched countless lives.

Long is a coordinator with the STARS grant funded program in Rockdale County Public Schools and helps coordinate programs for bullying prevention, risky student behavior prevention, communication programs, and parent education.

Hutcheson is the executive director of the Rockdale Coalition for Children and Families and coordinates local non-profits to work with families and students in schools.

This is the sixth year of the tradition of choosing one person in the community and one person in the school system to name as an honorary social worker. But this is the first year the honor was named after Barnes, who passed away from heart complications in February 2012.

"Our honorees personify the caring and dedicated spirit Ms. Barnes displayed. We know she would be proud to have them as the first recipients," said RCPS Director of Community and Student Support April Fallon

Barnes' family was on hand and fought back tears as the awards were presented. Attending were her husband Butch, son John, daughter Traci McBay and son-in-law Jason, granddaughters Brynlee and Ellison, sister Sandra Oglesbee and brother-in-law Jerry, sister Marcia Pundsack and brother-in-law Jeff, and parents-in-law John and Betty Jo Barnes.

"Laura made the RCPS homeless education program what it is today," said Fallon in an interview last year. "She treated families, no matter their background or current circumstances, with dignity and respect. She was careful not to enable but to empower families to solve problems so that they could once again stabilize."

The award was also given in celebration of March as school social worker appreciation month and March 4-8 as school social work week. The national theme this year is "Weaving threads of resliency and self advocacy."

"School social workers serve as a vital part of the educational team... They're skilled in helping with issues of mental health issues, domestic violence, poverty, and linking families with resources," said Fallon.