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Video to profile DWM employees’ volunteer work

Monday, July 18, 2016 - 12:00am

Many state employees derive satisfaction knowing they serve to help others. But altruism takes on new meaning for public servants like Elizabeth Werner and Troy Harrison.

When they’re not working for the state Division of Waste Management, there’s a good chance they’re volunteering their time to help someone else.

“It makes me feel good,” says Werner, who works in Raleigh. “I just enjoy helping others.”

Werner volunteers for the American Red Cross, Meals On Wheels and a couple of charity road races. Harrison, who works in Asheville, spends his vacations traveling between western North Carolina and Central America so he can help the children in a poor town in Honduras.

The Office of State Human Resources has decided to profile Werner and Harrison for Compassion in Action, a video series chronicling state employees who volunteer to help others. The agency expects to post the videos to the state website and YouTube later this summer.

Werner and Harrison came to the office’s attention earlier this year after both were nominated for a Governor’s Award for Excellence. They were not selected for the Governor’s Award, but colleagues like Tony Gallagher, who nominated them for the Governor’s Award, are impressed by their volunteerism.

“They spend a significant chunk of their free time doing those things,” said Gallagher, who leads the state’s Compositing and Land Application branch. “I thought they really should be recognized for it.”

Harrison: It makes the world a better place

For the past 24 years, Harrison has used his vacation leave so he can fly down to the town of Taulabe, Honduras, once or twice a year. In Asheville, Harrison, an inspector for the state septage program, works through a charitable organization started through his church called the Honduras Fountain of Life. The local charity works closely with a Honduran ministry to help young girls in a local orphanage.

“We’re working through the Honduran ministry to teach them English,” Harrison says. “If a child can learn English, his opportunities really open up. And the whole point of this is to break the cycle of poverty.”

Through the Honduran ministry, Harrison’s group has been able to clothe and get medical care to many of the orphans, many of whom are from homes where they faced abuse or poor living conditions. He said they also help build churches in the community.

Harrison says he volunteers for a simple reason.

“If you can help other people, it makes the world a better place. A lot of people feel they can’t make a difference. But they really can. All it takes is finding something and doing something.”  

Troy Harrison, an inspector in the Division of Waste Management, spends many of his vacations traveling to Honduras to help make a better life for children living in an orphanage. 

Werner: They can keep their own independence

For most of the past 15 years of Monday evenings, Werner has greeted blood donors at the Red Cross’ Peartree Lane center. When she’s not at the permanent center, she’s likely organizing a mobile blood drive for the state Department of Environmental Quality, where she works as a hydrogeologist in the Solid Waste section.

Today, she also helps coordinate the Red Cross’ annual charity ball. It’s a lot of work and long hours. But so too are the efforts she puts into Meals on Wheels. Each Friday, she carves out an hour at lunch to deliver meals to Wake County residents.

There’s something special in Werner’s smile when she thinks about the people she’s served over 12 years with Meals on Wheels, including “Ms. Sallie” Sikes, who wrote Werner a poem thanking her for her work. 

The time she can spend with people is always short but meaningful. 

“It allows them to stay in the comfort of their own home when they can’t cook for themselves anymore,” she says. “That’s the main key with Meals on Wheels, to enable them to keep their independence.”

Elizabeth Werner, who works for the Division of Waste Management, poses with Sallie Sikes, a woman who used to be on Werner’s regular Meals on Wheels route. Sikes once wrote Werner a poem.