Each quarter the Bureau of Community Relations recognizes mentors and volunteers who go above and beyond in serving the Department of Corrections and the communities in which they serve.
Here are the individuals we wish to recognize this quarter.
Ms. Connie Amerson is currently the Classification Supervisor and has held this position for approximately four years at Century Correctional Institution. She has been with the Department for 15 years, she started out in 1991 as a Secretary. After she obtained her degree from the University of West Florida, she became a Classification officer in 1995. Later, she became a Senior Classification Officer and she then advanced to the Release Officer position.
One of her duties as supervisor is to provide guidance to her staff. Instead of telling her staff the answer, she directs them to where the answer can be found. This provides the means for the individual to grow and become more efficient. Besides her duties as a classification supervisor, Ms. Amerson is a Guardian ad Litem volunteer. A guardian ad Litem is appointed by a judge to represent the best interest of children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned. The Guardian ad Litem role includes gathering information that is used in court. Besides gathering information, the Guardian ad Litem develops recommendations and provides reports to the court, summarizing the information gathered. They also monitor the child’s well being, and the family’s progress in reaching the goals set by the court while striving to expedite the proceedings and protect the child from any potential harm resulting from litigation. The Guardian ad Litem are also a special advocate/spokesperson for the best interest of the child during the court proceedings. Ms. Amerson is a foster grandparent, and she has been able to see first hand what a difference the Guardian ad Litem program can make in a child’s life.
Ms. Amerson has 10 grandchildren; she has them over to her home often. She enjoys all the time she is able to spend with her grandchildren and she has a significant role in their lives. She sets a positive role model, by her high morals and ethics.
Mrs. Joanne Dayan began her career with the Department of Corrections in 1986 at Union Correctional Institution. Mrs. Dayan was initially assigned to the Mail Room for a short period and then transferred to Medical Records, where she was assigned as a Data Entry Operator. Mrs. Dayan is a long-time member of FCCD, FPOA, pistol matches, fund- raisers and has volunteered numerous hours of her time selling tickets, t-shirts, and various other items for any good cause.
As a 69 year old woman, Mrs. Dayan is an inspiration for us all, we believe God healed her and left her on earth to share her story with others going through cancer and to spread joy with her always-smiling face. Mrs. Dayan has 20 years in with the Department and is still going strong – WAY TO GO JODY!!!! Mrs. Dayan is a member of the Episcopalian Church of Starke and an active member of Daughter’s of the King. She is the wonderful mother of 5 children, John, Michael, Mary Ellen, Don, and Jennifer, and they are VERY PROUD of her and thankful she is being recognized, it is very-well deserved.
Mrs. Dayan volunteers extensively in her community with several organizations. She is involved with Habitat for Humanity of Bradford County. She has assisted in fund raising with the sell of raffle tickets, serving meals to the individuals performing the construction of the homes. Her efforts have assisted in many families having their own home which would have been impossible without the efforts of individuals such as Mrs. Dayan.
Mrs. Dayan also volunteers and is a member of the Daughters of the King. This organization goes out in the community to visit and assist the sick in her area. Mrs. Dayan also visits with people that have been diagnosed with cancer and provides literature and information to them. She also conveys her own experience as a cancer survivor, which encourages and gives hopes to those recently diagnosed.
Mrs. Dayan also volunteers extensively FCCD in many of its fund raising activities and community service. She was recently involved with FCCD in providing presents for the elderly and visiting many of them in the local nursing home. Mrs. Dayan is also actively involved in the employees club at Union CI always willing to give more than asked to her fellow employees and the department.
Mrs. Dayan is truly an asset to the Department of Corrections and her local community. It is truly an honor to recognize her for her untiring volunteer service.
Colonel Danny Olinger of Sumter Correctional Institution has actively mentored since the mentoring initiative’s inception. Colonel Olinger provides one-on-one assistance for reading, mathematics and other educational needs, as well as support children’s athletic endeavors. He mentors students at South Sumter High School, assists in coaching the Junior Varsity Baseball team and umpires in Sumter, Hernando and Marion counties for the Dixie Youth, Dixie Boys and Girls Softball teams. Colonel Olinger also umpired the American Athletic Union baseball team and was recognized by the Sumter County Times for making a difference in children’s lives.
Sergeant Salvador Barnhart is 36 years old. He was born and raised in the small farming town of Immokalee, Florida. He was adopted by his wonderful mother Catalina at the age of 6 months old. At age seven his mother was widowed which required that he gain the experience of working out in the agriculture fields as he was growing up. Sergeant Barnhart graduated from High School and decided that agriculture was not in his future, so he enlisted in the U.S. Army for 2 years. After having the distinct honor of serving his country he came back to his hometown and married his wife Jane. They have 2 beautiful daughters and 1 precious son.
Sergeant Barnhart has been an active member on the board of Immokalee Little League for the past 15 years. As an active member of the board he has served as Vice President, and Head Umpire. In addition to serving on the board he has been actively involved in the coaching of boy's baseball, coaching of girl's softball, and assisting with the Pop Warner Football League.
Sergeant Barnhart has worked at Hendry Correctional Institution for approximately 10 years and proudly holds the rank of Correctional Officer Sergeant.
He was elected as Vice-President of the Hendry C.I. Employee's Club for this year and just recently moved up to President.
Sergeant Barnhart's efforts on behalf of the children of Immokalee is a true example of the rich gift that volunteers and mentors give back to their communities.
Walter Langley is a Correctional Probation Senior Officer assigned as a Community Control Officer at the Tallahassee Main office, Circuit II. Walter mentors young men ages 12 to 21 in the J. Edwin Larson Chapter, International Order of DeMolay where he currently serves as Chairman of the Advisory Council and is a past Chapter Dad. J. Edwin Larson Chapter was named after J. Edwin Larson (Former Insurance Commissioner, State of Florida.
The organization was founded nationally in 1919 and is dedicated to preparing young men to lead successful, happy and productive lives through activities that develop civic awareness, personal responsibility and leadership skills vital to society. Walter became a DeMolay in 1973 as a young man himself and was an active member until his majority in 1981. He has since served as an advisor in DeMolay Chapters in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Walter has been recognized for his dedication from the International Supreme Council of the Order of DeMolay and has been invested with the Degree of Chevalier (the highest award given to active members of the Order for distinguished DeMolay service), The Cross of Honor (the highest award given for service as an advisor), and the Legion of Honor (for outstanding leadership and service to God, country and humanity).
Walter is the husband of Melody Langley, an accountant for the Department of Corrections and father of two sons, William and Tommy, both Past Master Councilors of J. Edwin Larson chapter and recipients of the Degree of Chevalier.
DeMolay alumni include Walt Disney, John Wayne, Walter Cronkite, John Steinbeck, Burl Ives and Reubin O. Askew (Thirty-seventh governor of the State of Florida January 5, 1971 to January 2, 1979).
Joyce Dietz has been volunteering her time with the Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization. She has been working with a young man for nine years. Joyce became Steven’s Big Sister when he was nine years old and he is presently a senior in high school. Joyce has spent time with Steven weekly during those nine years and she has tried to influence him with strong family values. Joyce is a wonderful person and just wanted to steer Steven in the right direction. She has done a great job with Steven as he has progressed through some difficult years. Steven has not had a lot of stability in his life and Joyce has been there for him!
Joyce Dietz has been employed with the Department of Corrections for over 25 years and she is presently working as a Probation and Parole Specialist at the Sarasota Circuit Office. She worked many years as the Circuit Administrator’s staff assistant and did an excellent job of coordinating many circuit activities. Joyce Dietz has a warm heart and has really made a difference in a young man’s life.
Jill Gewecke has been a Correctional Probation Officer with the Department of Corrections in Broward County for 13 years and currently supervises a Pre-Trial caseload. In 2003, she started her involvement with the summer reading program, which was for the third grade students who failed the FCAT. Officer Gewecke immediately enjoyed spending time with the children and assisting them with their reading skills and when asked to continue helping out other students she agreed without hesitation. Since that time, she has been mentoring the same student since 2003, her fourth grade year. Mentoring includes meeting with the student once per week and sometimes attending school functions. Last year Officer Gewecke attended her student’s fifth grade graduation and assisted with the after graduation party. It has been a joy for her to see and share in the forward progress to a better future that her student has made. Also, she was honored when her student requested that she follow her to middle school, because they have made such a strong bond. Officer Gewecke plans to follow this student through the duration of her schooling.
Dr. Mark Mahoney has been involved in volunteer and mentoring initiatives for many years. Prior to 1995, when he began working with the Florida Department of Corrections, he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the South American countries of Chile and Ecuador working in the areas of education and health education/promotion. He also worked with an international non-governmental organization (NGO) in blindness prevention activities around the world for a three-year period.
He has worked as an Assistant Cub Scout Pack Leader over the past three years and also serves on the Board of Directors for the Tallahassee Irish Society. Over the past two years, he has served as the co-chairperson and is presently the chairperson for Frank B. Hartsfield Elementary School’s School Advisory Council (SAC) with its primary objective to assist with school improvement initiatives.
Most recently, Dr. Mahoney received the Centennial Laureate Award from Florida State University’s College of Education during its’ 100th year anniversary for significant, sustained contributions in professional or volunteer work that address the health and development of individuals, families or communities.
He is a double alumnus of Florida State University, having received his B.S. degree in nutrition from the College of Human Sciences and his Ph.D. in International/Intercultural Development Education from the College of Education. He is the proud parent of an up and coming fifth grader, which also keeps him very busy.