For Chester County, accolades abound

Superlatives dominated the Chester County Board of Commissioners’ Sunshine meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 13, ranging from the work of a tireless Red Cross advocate to a revered, multi-tasking chaplain.

Denise Graf (holding citation) is joined by the Chester County Commissioners and members of the county's Department of Emergency Services.

Denise Graf (holding citation) is joined by the Chester County Commissioners and members of the county's Department of Emergency Services.

The commissioners issued proclamations to each of two women who have made a positive difference in the lives of numerous county residents.

Denise Graf has volunteered her time and her expertise with the American Red Cross, serving the Southeastern Pennsylvania region in many capacities. Notably, she functioned as the Chester County Disaster Action Team Captain from 2007 to 2016, totaling more than 3,700 hours, which included sheltering efforts over a 10-day period following Ice Storm Niko.

John Haynes, the deputy director of 911 operations for the Chester County Department of Emergency Services (DES), explained that Graf spent hundreds of hours working on logistics and outreach to ensure that if there was a major fire and people were displaced, for example, they would have the assistance they needed.

Graf responded that the DES members made her job easy. “Their goal truly is: Do what’s right for the people of Chester County,” she said.

The commissioners also heard a litany of accolades about Rev. Doris Haley, who has served for more than four decades as a volunteer at Chester County Prison, the Chester County Youth Center, and as chaplain at Pocopson Home.

Rev. Doris

Rev. Doris Haley (seated with citation) is joined by the county commissioners and representatives from the many institutions where she volunteers.

Representatives from all of those institutions praised Rev. Haley for her commitment to helping those on the fringe of society. As the outreach coordinator for families of prisoners, Rev. Haley has provided practical resources, such as food, clothing and medicine, and for spiritual and well-being needs such as Bible studies, hayrides, a Mother’s Day lunch, Easter egg hunts, and the Christmas Angel Tree program.

Haley started the School of Learning for the children of inmates and also runs an after-school program for them. At the Youth Center, she regularly meets with detention and sheltered youth, sharing encouragement and teaching through her own life stories. As the chaplain at Pocopson Home, Rev. Haley reads to, shops and writes letters for residents, leads a Friday hymn sing, holds Bible studies, hospital visits, religious counseling, and schedules services for all denominations.

Years ago, she sponsored her own AM radio broadcast direct from the prison’s chapel. In addition to her services to the county, Rev. Haley is the chaplain for the Lions Clubs in Chester and Berks counties, and is on the board of Chester County Family Academy.

“Her energy is contagious; it’s boundless,” enthused Jacqueline McKenna, administrator of the Pocopson Home. Gary Blair, director of the Chester County Youth Center, said his staff has this assessment of Haley: “She’s a saint.”

During brief remarks, Rev. Haley said she grew up poor in a large family, the seventh child and only girl. She said everyone was always encouraged to share. “My heart is overwhelmed,” she said of the recognition. Then she smiled and added: “I’m only 39.”

Commissioner Kathi Cozzone said Rev. Haley had touched thousands of lives. “You are truly an inspiration for so many people,” Cozzone said.

Commissioners’ Chairman Terence Farrell noted that the honorees’ impressive accomplishments capped a summer that was replete with positive achievements.

The National Association of Counties (NACo) presented Chester County with its Digital Cities & Counties Challenge Award. NACo’s Employment & Training Award went to the County Cup program. The Chester County Conservation District Board earned the state Conservation Commission Award for Leadership, and the county picked up two wins from the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP): for Road & Bridge Safety Improvements and for Mark Rupsis, who earned the Outstanding Chief Clerk/Chief Executive Award.

Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline shows off the county's sustainability award along with her fellow commissioners and members of the county's Planning Commission.

Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline shows off the county's sustainability award along with her fellow commissioners and members of the county's Planning Commission.

And the distinctions haven’t stopped, Farrell said. The Chester County Clerk of Courts and the Department of Computing and Information Services (DCIS) recently received a NACo Achievement Award for its Document Management Innovation Project.

Clerk of Courts Robin Marcello said  the project was “a wonderful, collaborative, team effort” with DCIS that enables members of the court system to view case files online in a secure environment.

Finally, the Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association presented its Diamond Level Award for Sustainability to Chester County earlier this week. Commissioner Michelle Kichline, a member of the GVFTMA board, noted proudly that the award is crafted in bamboo, a sustainable material. She said Chester County was the first county ever to receive diamond-level status, for a series of initiatives that included its ride guide, bike racks at county facilities, and trail extensions.

The county is working to move up from its ranking earlier this year by SmartAsset, an online financial services business, as the fourth happiest U.S. county to the top spot.

Responding to the sunshine that Rev. Haley reportedly spreads daily, Haynes offered some hope at the conclusion of the meeting. “I believe Rev. Haley helped us with our goal to be the happiest county,” he said.

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