Richard Yep

Living in the Washington, D.C., area, you have the opportunity to “be there” during history-making moments, such as when I gathered with about 1.5 million other people on the National Mall to witness the swearing in of the 44th president of the United States, BarackObama. The peaceful transition of the presidency is a site to behold. I certainly wish President Obama all the best. Regardless of outcome, he will be recognized based on what he accomplishes.

I also know there are many people who work every day to help individuals attain a better and more fulfilling life. Despite their accomplishments, these people really remain the unsung “heroes” and “sheroes” of our society.

When more than 3,000 attendees gather from March 19-23 at the ACA Annual Conference & Exposition (, we will acknowledge the accomplishments of several individuals, both for actions performed recently and for a lifelong body of work.

But what about those who don’t get awards or certificates of appreciation yet still continue to fight the battle against poverty, injustice, discrimination and abuse?

For example, there is Joelle, a mental health professional in Northern Virginia who sees the “good” in her clients and embodies what a true advocate is all about. She is tireless in her efforts to ensure that those in need are able to access the services and benefits provided through government agencies. She sees beyond people’s outer layer, whether they are homeless, in trouble with the law, facing the loss of coping skills or in need of mental health services.

Then there is Joan Collison, the wife of ACA’s 36th president, Brooke Collison. For as long as I have known Joan (and for many years before that, I’m sure), she has been tireless in her efforts to eradicate racism and discrimination in her community. Her life’s work was not something that she “had” to do. Rather, she pursued it because it was the “right” thing to do. So I was not surprised when Brooke shared that for her 75th birthday, rather than giving her a material gift, Joan asked that people do something nice for someone else and then tell her about it in a message. What a fabulous request. Rather than benefiting one person, this “present” benefited three (Joan, the individual providing the help and the beneficiary of that help).

I also want to tell you about a woman who has been dedicated to the counseling profession for nearly 40 years. She has attended almost every ACA Annual Conference since the early 1970s and has befriended many ACA members (and staff) all along the way. And all of these attributes describe someone who is not even a professional counselor!

Jean Gaskins has been a dedicated ACA staff member for the last 38 years. Last month, Jean announced her retirement. We have wished her well despite the fact that we will miss her laughter in our hallways. She was also the only person who routinely got to greet the executive director by saying, “Hey, baby.” Coming from anyone else, it just doesn’t fit.

These are just a few examples of amazing women who embody what being a compassionate and caring member of our society is all about. Feel free to e-mail me an example of someone who has similarly impacted your life or community. Let’s all celebrate those who want to improve our world and the human condition.

I hope to see you in Charlotte, N.C., at the ACA Annual Conference later this month. Please contact me with any comments, questions or suggestions that you might have via e-mail at or by phone at 800.347.6647 ext. 231.

Thanks and be well.