Sharp leaves legacy of helping people through Family Services

February 01, 2004|HERB BROCK

The official record shows that Jeannine Sharp is a member of a family of three, consisting of herself and two now-grown children. But a strong argument could be made that she also has taken care of another, much larger family over the last several years - one numbering some 1,700 local people.

Seventeen hundred is the average number of people on the client list of Family Services Association of Boyle County, a local agency that tries to meet the essential needs of people in emergency situations. Sharp, the association's recently-retired executive director, could not begin to call the names of every one of the hundreds of people she has helped over the years, but the long-time head of the social-services organization has treated each one of them like family.

"Many of (the clients) have been friends, some like family, to me," said Sharp.

At the end of December, Sharp bid farewell to her "family" and "friends" as well as the board of Family Services and people representing the many other local social-service, emergency services and educational agencies with whom she had worked during her 15-year tenure as executive director of the association.


Sharp has been replaced as executive director by Victoria Scarborough, a registered nurse who has worked with Heritage Hospice and Woodlawn Children's Campus and also was a school teacher.

"Jeannine will be a tough act to follow," said Scarborough. "She's a gracious and compassionate person who embodies the mission of the association - to help people in need and do so with love and compassion, not distrust and condescension."

Scarborough said she views the mission of the organization the same way and believes its work is an example of how people can change the world, one community at a time.

"The 9/11 tragedy showed many of us how powerless we are to control world events or to change the world for the better," she said. "But while you can't change the world as a whole, you can do things to change the world where you live, your own community.

"And this is exactly what Jeannine has done and what I only hope I can do in her place."

Jim Rankin, president of the board of Family Services, is confident Scarborough will keep Sharp's spirit of community service as well as the organization's mission alive.

"Jeannine was Family Services. She took it over, built it up and made it an important community asset, an important local resource for helping people in need," said Rankin. "And Victoria shows the same dedication and hard work. In fact, she's started like a ball of fire. We hope we can keep her a long, long time, too."

Sharp's long service was supposed to be a short stint

Sharp's long service to the association was supposed to have been a short stint. The Danville native, who worked for 16 years with InterCounty Energy and then spent the next 15 years as a homemaker, raising her daughters, Angela Jones of Danville and Mary Sharp of Louisville, was looking at the time for at least a part-time job outside the home when she was hired by Family Services.

"The position I took at Family Services was to have lasted for only two months or so," she said. "But (then-executive director) Janie Pass resigned so she could take over the top job at (Heart of Kentucky) United Way, where's she still doing a marvelous job.

"So, what started out as a two-month job turned out to be a 15-year career."

One addition to the record not mentioned at first by Sharp: Just after graduating from Danville High School, she worked a short time for the organization, when it was known as the Family Welfare Association.

"I don't really count that time I spent with the association after high school as when I started at the association because I was only there a short while," she said. "But I did get at least an idea of what the association did and who it was helping."

That "idea" became Sharp's daily to-do list years in the late 1980s when she became the association's executive director. She soon became a fixture at Community House on South Third Street, which also houses offices of two other agencies which provide assistance to people in need - the Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity.

The assistance that Family Services provides includes paying, on a temporary basis, the rent, utility bills, food bills and sometimes prescription drug bills of people who find themselves in emergency situations.

"A couple of examples of the kinds of people we try to help are people who have lost their jobs and suddenly find themselves without any income, and single mothers who are receiving no help from their children's fathers," she said.

Family Services can't help everyone in need and doesn't attempt to. According to Sharp, there is strength in numbers and power in networks.

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