DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and one woman in the Miami Valley is being recognized for her work.
The Ohio Children’s Trust Fund is honoring eight people throughout the state for promoting and preserving the well-being of children.
“Throughout our state, there are adults and groups of individuals who dedicate their lives, their time, their career to really making an impact for Ohio’s families,” says Nicole Sillaman, Executive Director of the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund.
Angel Bernard has been named as one of this year’s “Everyday Ohio Heroes.” It’s not just the work she does at Dayton’s homeless shelters; her personal story is what sets her apart.
“There’s a lot of trauma. There’s behavioral issues, future generational poverty, future generational cycles of abuse as well, and abuse comes in many forms. What we’ve noticed is that since we’ve been open, the children that were here are now, are here as adults and they have their children,” states Bernard.
As a licensed social worker, she knows just what these families are going through; she’s lived it.
“I understand where they’re at. I understand what they’re going through, what they’re feeling, and then the barriers that they have to overcome,” says Bernard. “I’m from Toledo, and I was homeless for over ten years, and [had] an active addiction. Moved to Dayton eight years ago to get sober, and this is where I’m at now.”
Getting another chance at life, she’s giving others that same opportunity.
“People believed in me, and that’s what I want to do. Just the one person that says ‘you can do that,’ that’s the person I want to be,” says Bernard.
Working with St. Vincent de Paul, she helps put resources into families’ hands.
“She’s working within our homeless shelter system. She’s offering concrete support. So, those are those resources such as ensuring kids and families have clothing and they have food. She’s also helping to make sure that parents have access to support programs and parent education,” describes Sillaman.
Serving some of the most vulnerable in our community, she provides protection for children and gets families into affordable housing. While she’s humbled by the award, she says that’s not what it’s about.
“I like to help the people that I used to be. And seeing a family come together, and reunite, and get those keys to the apartment, it is the most rewarding thing I can see in life,” states Bernard.
Bernard also has received the Emerging Leader Award from the National Association of Social Work and Montgomery County’s Homeless Solutionary Award. She will also graduate from the Ohio State University in May with her master’s degree in social work.