ESR honor longtime staff members

ESR honor longtime staff members
October 26
04:00 2017

Experiment in Self-Reliance (ESR) hosted a Garden and Bench Dedication on Oct. 11 in honor of longtime staff members of the agency. The garden and bench, which were donated by RAI Services and RJ Reynolds in a recent Day of Service for ESR, were dedicated to Debra N. Perkins, Deborah Austin-Thomas and Ola G. Ashford for their service to the agency.

ESR, which was chartered in 1964, has spent the past 53 years working to empower people to become self-reliant. Many staff members have stayed at the agency for decades, and have only started to retire in the past 5 years. Debra N. Perkins, Deborah Austin-Thomas, and Ola G. Ashford are the remaining staff members from the early days with talents and skills they continue to share.

RAI and RJR Tobacco adopted ESR on Sept. 15 as a part of ESR’s Day of Service in which the agency celebrated its 53rd birthday. The companies planted a garden, donated a bench, revitalized the agency shelters and helped ESR focus on programs and clients by eliminating some of the day-to-day maintenance. ESR chose to have a Day of Service as a part of being a Community Action Agency, which focuses on the community, clients, and the agency. As a way to honor the staff members, ESR chose to dedicate its newly donated garden and bench in a ceremony.

Staff, board members, interns, and family members of those honored gathered at 11:30 am with a welcome from ESR’s Board Chairman David Clayton. Pastor Gloria Samuels of Great Commission Community Church gave an inspirational speech to honor the agency veterans and celebrate Reynolds’ donation to ESR. Honored staff members were given a certificate and a plaque in their honor at their corresponding dedication location. Reynolds volunteers were also honored with certificates in thanks of their service and donation during the Day of Service.
Debra N. Perkins, ESR’s senior finance director, celebrated 40 years this year and has seen the organization grow and change.

“Forty years has truly flown by. I have seen a lot of people come and go and miss all of them,” said Perkins. “It was a nice surprise to be honored. Thanks to everyone at ESR for all their hard work.”

Ola G. Ashford, who has been with ESR for the past 24 years, started out as an intern.
“I had become so much inspired by the work the agency was doing, that I just got hooked,” said Ashford. Her lifelong dedication to the agency and clients has helped broaden her perspective about challenges people face in the community, and has also provided a way for her to act on her compassion for others.

“Working here has authentically changed my life about people, their struggles and ambitions people have. ESR transitions clients’ lives and gives them a future, which leads to prosperity if they are committed. This agency catapults clients into a self-sufficient lifestyle by working with a caring Success Coach and caring staff. That is why I have been so committed to ESR because I know the journey. I know the mission and I know the results.”

Deborah Austin-Thomas, who started at ESR in 1977, has spent the past 40 years at the agency as an executive assistant to three executive directors – Louise G. Wilson, Robert Law and Twana W. Roebuck. Austin-Thomas doesn’t consider her role at the agency “work” in the traditional sense.

“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress but working hard for something you love (my community) is called passion,” said Austin-Thomas. “The only way to do great work for your community is to love what you do.”
ESR would like to thank RAI Services and RJR Tobacco for their garden and bench donations, and Debra N. Perkins, Deborah Austin-Thomas, and Ola G. Ashford for their years of servitude to the agency.

ESR is a nonprofit Community Action Agency that empowers low-to-moderate income residents to become self-reliant. Programs help clients with financial education, housing, free tax preparation, down payment assistance, education assistance, career enhancement, and more.
For more information, visit ESR’s website at or call 336-722-9400.

About Author

WS Chronicle

WS Chronicle

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors