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ALPHA Center employee honored for forty years of service

Posted: September 10, 2013 3:42 p.m.
Updated: September 11, 2013 5:00 a.m.
Miciah Bennett/

The ALPHA Center’s Executive Director Paul Napper, Prevention Specialist Tina Griggs, ADSAP Director Vera Ferguson, Debbie Napper and Harry Barker celebrate Ferguson’s 40th anniversary with the ALPHA Center at a special luncheon last Friday.

Caring, compassionate, loving, loyal and hardworking are the words used to describe Camden-native Vera Ferguson last Friday.

Ferguson was not only honored for 40-years of service with the ALPHA Behavioral Health Center, but 40 years of kindness and generosity, according to ALPHA Center employees. Current and former ALPHA Center employees gathered for a special lunch celebrating Ferguson last Friday, alongside with a couple of special guests.

Rep. Laurie Funderburk presented a proclamation from the state of South Carolina honoring Ferguson’s dedication to the ALPHA Center and Kershaw County. Kershaw County Councilman Jimmy Jones, presented a proclamation from Kershaw County Council recognizing Ferguson’s "unwavering dedication" during her tenure at the ALPHA Center. Ferguson is just beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside, Jones added.

Born and raised in Camden, Ferguson married out of high school and moved to New York. Shortly after Ferguson returned to Camden in 1973, she was informed that she had been set up for a job interview.

"A family friend- a local principal and member of Camden Second Presbyterian—said I set you up for a job interview. I said ‘Okay.’ I did the interview and two weeks later I was working," Ferguson said.

When Ferguson started at what is now known as the ALPHA Behavioral Health Center, there were just two employees. Her office was formerly located in the old jailhouse with mental health, she said. The agency kept growing well into the 80s when Paul Napper became the director. In 1989, they agency expanded to include counselors and they started helping people in neighboring Chesterfield and Lee counties. The agency also changed its name from the Kershaw County Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse to the ALPHA (All Life’s Problem’s Have Answers) Center, Ferguson said.

Ferguson said the ALPHA Center had grown rapidly and she’s done quite a number of jobs for the agency including bookkeeping, clerical work and clinical counseling. Ferguson is currently director of Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP). She’s held the title for about five years, she said; before that she was the Criminal Justice Coordinator. ADSAP is required for anyone convicted of a DUI; anyone with a blood-alcohol level of .15 or higher; and any person that refuses a blod-alcohol test, which is considered an imply consent violation. Imply consent violators get their licenses suspended for six months, in addition to enrolling and successfully completing ADSAP, Ferguson said. Ferguson maintains a state and national certificate in addiction counseling.

Ferguson said she valued her work at the ALPHA Center. One of the "fringe benefits" of working there throughout the years is the willingness to let employees have the time to take of their blood relatives. If anyone had to leave to take care of one of their family members, it was okay; you can’t find that in other places, she said. Ferguson has two adult sons, one is currently living in the area and the other is New Orleans. She is the eldest of two daughters.

"It’s a family; and it became even more close-knit as we grew. Paul and Debbie are like my brother and sister," Ferguson said on Friday.

To help celebrate the special occasion for, what many described, a special person, the ALPHA Center took the time to send Ferguson for a manicure and pedicure and selected an outfit for her to wear on Friday. The gesture was just a small gift compared to everything Ferguson has given to the ALPHA Center throughout the years, the ALPHA Center’s Executive Director Paul Napper said.

Harry Barker got emotion during his comments on how Ferguson has helped him helped him change his life around. A 17-year alcoholic, Barker said Ferguson, and Debbie Napper, Paul Napper’s wife and former ALPHA Center employee, encouraged him to get sober. Barker has been sober for 28 years, he said.

"Vera-- without a doubt—is the most reliable person I’ve ever worked with. She exemplifies what a fellow employee should be," Barker said. "Make no mistake; I will love her as long as I have the capacity to love."

The ALPHA Center’s Prevention Specialist Tina Griggs said Ferguson is another mother to her. Griggs started working at the ALPHA Center when she was in her 20s, she said; her ALPHA Center co-workers have seen her marry and have children.

"You are always positive, encouraging and I love you very much," Griggs said to Ferguson during the celebration.

Former ALPHA Center employee Lee McElveen said it was a privilege to work with Ferguson. It’s rare to see people dedicate so many years to one organization; Ferguson is loyal to everyone she helps, McElveen said.

After Annie Bates started working at the ALPHA Center, very little time had passed when she noticed that Ferguson "could do anything." Ferguson has a mind like steel track, Bates said, and you could tell that she genuinely cares. Bates helped nominate Ferguson for the South Carolina Association of Alcoholic and Drug Abuse Counselors’ Counselor of the Year. Ferguson earned the title in 2008.

Ferguson said she has been blessed to work at the ALPHA Center and was thankful of her parents who taught her work ethic and how to make an honest living.

The ALPHA Center keeps me going; this is my family, Ferguson said during her brief thank you speech.

"Thanks everyone for loving me," Ferguson said, to which several ALPHA Center employees replied, "It’s easy."


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