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WORK IN SOCIAL SERVICES IS CHALLENGING, REWARDING

Having read social welfare examiner Dave Florek's anecdotes and observations about our staff and welfare reform (Surroundings, July 15), I'd like to add some comments of my own and offer a different viewpoint.

I also work in the county Department of Social Services and am approaching my 24th year of employment. I have known the feeling Florek describes of being overwhelmed by a high caseload and trying to prioritize which cases are the most needy.

I also understand that working in a place where you continuously see people at the most hopeless and helpless moments of their lives may reinforce a feeling of cynicism. This is especially true in times when our external environment does not seem to place a high value on what we do from day to day.

However, two attributes of the work in Social Services that attracted me were job security and a sense that I could fulfill a worthy mission.

Despite Florek's mention of a paunchy, jowly staff, I know that many of my "lifer" colleagues are fit and athletic. We have men and women on staff who participate in events such as the annual Chase Corporate Challenge Race, the Mother's Day Run and our own Department of Social Services annual run that has raised money for the Food Bank of Western New York.

Even though those of us who have worked here for 20-plus years are in our 40s or 50s, we don't consider ourselves hard-looking or cynical. In fact, some of us may not agree with welfare reform because we are too idealistic.

As editor of the department's newsletter, I see concrete evidence of the good work our staff does in the many unsolicited letters of thanks from our clients and other community agencies submitted by worker's supervisors for our Kudos column.

From having read these accolades, I know that our employees are socially responsible and caring individuals at work, at home and in their communities.

For some of us, it is not cynicism but idealism that prevents us from being enthusiastic about welfare reform. Most of us do support the premise that reform is needed but worry about people falling through the cracks.

Many of us "lifers" are spending our careers trying to defeat what former President Franklin D. Roosevelt called "the forces of selfishness."

Deborah C. May Williamsville

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