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Seven years of appreciation celebrated
Retiring BCFC Director Tara Jennings with Mike Maxwell, interim Wendy Sims and Chairman Billy Reynolds. - photo by R. Blair

The Bryan County Family Connections Director torch has been passed.

Wendy Sims, who currently runs the BCFC juvenile diversion program, was appointed as interim BCFC director Thursday.

Current Director Tara Jennings recently announced she will be stepping down in order to accept an executive position with United Way.

In addition to well wishes, Jennings was presented with several awards at the banquet. Commission Chairman Jimmy Burnsed gave her an appreciation award from the county; Terry Lyles from local children’s advocacy center Helen’s Haven, presented Jennings with an appreciation award for helping get the center off the ground; and Sims presented Jennings with a framed BCFC appreciation award signed by board members and employees.

Other BCFC volunteers and partners were presented with certificates - as well as one very special award. Gini Nichols of the BCFC’s Bryan County Anti-Drug Coalition, recognized Richmond Hill Middle School 7th grader Makayla Peny as the winner of the group’s art contest. Peny’s artwork depicts a slot machine with the slogan "Don’t gamble with your life," and can be seen at

Nichols said the coalition plans to use Peny’s artwork and slogan in ads and billboards if they receive federal grant funding they recently just applied for. Makayla is daughter of BCSD Sgt. John Peny,

Volunteer awards for the most hours given to BCFC in 2007 went to Angie Pagan, Elizabeth Norman, and Gerald, Linda, Michael and Heather Vaccaro.

Jennings said BCFC has grown leaps and bounds through the years and she hopes they keep the same pace in her absence.

"I’d like to see this group use my work as a springboard to do a lot of good in our community," she said. "Since its inception in 2001, BCFC has been responsible for bringing in $800,000 in grant money to Bryan County. I only look for this trend to continue."

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