Many area students struggle to excel in school because of unstable home environments.

When students in Dalton and Whitfield County find themselves struggling because of a lack of basic necessities, it’s often school social workers who come to the rescue. Three local social workers — Jackie Taylor of Dalton Public Schools, and Teresa Sefcik and Sinder Sims-Verheyen of Whitfield County Schools — go above and beyond the call of duty to help those in need, say people who know them.

“I worked with Sinder when I was principal at Pleasant Grove,” said Judy Gilreath, now assistant superintendent of support services for Whitfield County Schools. “She works with children and parents on attendance or any medical needs they have, such as helping them find eyeglasses. She’s wonderful and very caring and tries to find resources to meet those needs. She was always dependable; we could always call her cell phone and get in touch really quickly.”

Margaret Zeisig, director of community solutions for the local United Way, said her organization provides information referral services, helping connect these social workers with a benefactor when they come seeking assistance.

“All three go above and beyond what most school social workers do,” Zeisig said. “They help get food, clothing and even homes for some families. They help stabilize children’s homes so they can be ready for school.”

Zeisig says these individuals work with families that, for the most part, are unstably housed. They are not entirely homeless, but they may move from one family member’s house to another.

“The social workers try to keep these children in the same school,” Zeisig said. “Every time they are re-enrolled, it takes six months to catch them back up educationally.”

Michelle Smith, director of information referral at the United Way, said most people don’t realize what these three social workers do for the community.

“Some think of a social worker as working with truant families. They do that, but they do more. I’ve seen them out on Christmas Eve, making sure everyone has something (under the tree). The caring they have for their families goes above and beyond what their job requires,” Smith said. “I’ve worked with them over the years through our 211 call center and our Christmas clearance center. Maybe a child needs counseling or doesn’t have a bed. They may call me, and we work together on a specific process to help them find resources. They truly care about the families they work with.”

For their dedication to improving the lives of area families, The Daily Citizen names Teresa Sefcik, Sinder Sims-Verheyen and Jackie Taylor Citizens of the Week.

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