ST. CLAIRSVILLE Darlene Pempek, Director of Community Supports for the BHN Alliance, received the Child Advocate of the Year honor at the Annual Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Lunch held at Undo's West in St. Clairsville on April 6th.

The recognition was given by the Belmont County Department of Job and Family Services and the Belmont County Commissioners.

Pempek is well-known across the county from her work in the Commissioners' office from 1989-2005, serving as the Board of Commissioners' Clerk for 10 years.

Pempek joined the Belmont County Board of Developmental Disabilities in 2005 where she oversees the coordination of supports for families of children with disabilities in Belmont, Harrison and Noble counties (BHN Alliance). She also represents the Alliance at the county Clusters where she collaborates with the other agencies to serve youth at risk.

In presenting the award, Belmont County DJFS Director Vince Gianangeli noted Pempek's strong support of county agencies when she was still in the commissioners' office. He also pointed out the influence of Pempek's older brother, the late Chet Kalis, who served as Director of Belmont DJFS and later District Manager for the State of Ohio Job and Family Services. He said that she credits him with helping her find her purpose and calling through his example of selfless commitment to others.

In accepting the honor, Pempek said she was blessed to be part of a collaborative team across Belmont County that works together for the benefit of children."In order for effective treatment to occur and families to remain together, coordination is imperative," Pempek said.

She noted the positive influence one person can have on an abused child looking for hope.

"Any one of us can be that hope for a child any one of us by our actions, our words, can be the one that touches a young life and enlightens that hope," Pempek said.

Pempek and her husband, Gary, are the parents of two adult daughters and grandparents to two grandsons.