McCook grad receives Jefferson Award

Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Sherry Wegener and her husband, Ron, both graduates of McCook High School, stand outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. Sherry received the coveted Jefferson Award for Public Service while in the nation's capitol.

Sherry Wegener, a graduate of McCook High School, and the daughter of Ray and Gladys Aldrich of McCook, attended the 35th annual Jefferson Awards National Ceremony in Washington, D.C., June 19, where she was recognized for more than 30 years of service to the youth of Klamath Falls, Ore.

"It all kind of happened by accident," said her mother. "They (Sherry and her husband, McCook graduate Ron) took in one foster child, and it grew."

"It" is "Integral Youth Services" established by Sherry and a friend, Joyce Berry, in 1989. IYS is a youth-service organization that has impacted tens of thousands of young lives. In 1991, IYS?opened Exodus House, a short-term shelter for runaway and homeless youth.

IYS also operates the Youth Center, an after school program and an outreach department, which provides clothing and food, a drop-in center and an alternative school for children.

According to a story in the Klamath Falls Herald and News, God has directed the Wegener's path.

Opening their home to foster children in 1976, the couple has taken in more than 2,500 children over the years under the auspices of the Wegener Shelter and Evaluation Center.

Sherry worked for many years as an unpaid volunteer with IYS, taking the position of executive director in 2004, where she directs the ongoing mission of IYS, with an emphasis on creating environments where youth can be successful.

The Jefferson Awards for Public Service is a program of the American Institute for Public Services, a non-profit founded by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, U.S. Senator Robert Taft Jr. and Sam Beard in 1972. They wanted to establish a Nobel Prize for public and community service to recognize those serving and to inspire others to serve.

Nominated by IYS staff, Sherry was one of 12 selected in the Oregon media market to receive the award.

Attending the local awards ceremony June 11, each of the 12 Oregon recipients received a golden medal and Wegener was chosen to represent the entire group at the national ceremony in the nation's capitol.

Sherry told a Herald and News reporter that she couldn't take credit for the success of Integral Youth Services, saying, "I have the most awesome staff. Most of them are definitely not here for the money. They believe in the mission of working for kids."

Wegener wants to help people realize their potential and to help them to figure out how to move on.

"If there's one thing that motivates me it's that I can come alongside someone and say, 'You can do it.'"

While still in high school, Sherry took an aptitude test that indicated she should be a social worker. She immediately dismissed that idea out of hand because the term social worker, to her, described someone working in the slum of New York, and she didn't think much of that idea at all.

Looking back, she realizes that the aptitude test was right all along.

Wegener's faith continues to carry her through. Acknowledging that fund raising is always an issue for non-profits, she is confident that what should happen, will happen.

"What we get we are supposed to have, and what we don't we aren't supposed to have," she told the Herald and News.

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