Just before he announced the surprise recipient of the 2020 Kay Kent Excellence in Public Health Service Award, Director Dan Partridge admitted several potential clues earlier in the day likely gave away the news.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Kay Kent Award luncheon had to be rescheduled to Sept. 4 from traditional National Public Health Week in April. Earlier that day in the Leadership
team meeting, questions about the food became a key piece to try to dodge as the winner was in the room.
“What are we eating? Where did it come from?” Dan said. “We decided to do this a while ago now. I do know where our award winner’s favorite place was — La Estrella. And Jery you are our Kay Kent award winner.”
Healthy Dads Coordinator Jery Márquez was nominated and selected to win the 2020 Kay Kent Excellence in Public Health Service Award, the highest award for LDCPH staff member. He was selected because of his work and advocacy for fathers and their families in Douglas County.
“The environment that each of you create here makes it so easy for me," Jery said. "The support and the kind words that come from you make a big difference.The work that each of us do is so important, especially during these times.”
Jery had been working closely and in the building with LDCPH staff before was actually a staff member, Dan said. In 2011, Kansas Children’s Service League hired Jery as a full-time employee as the fatherhood coordinator on a two-year grant.
“Dan welcomed me to have my office here,” Jery said. “I was doing similar work that I’m doing now.”
He officially joined the LDCPH staff in 2016 and leads the Healthy Dads program that provides the skills and knowledge men need to build positive, lasting relationships with their children.
“You’ve been here in various jobs, and whether it was as someone who had an office here or later on staff here, you bring that same commitment and passion, and drive, to the work that you love, regardless of who you work for,” Dan said. “That’s really what I like to see and look for in all of us — that we’re centered and grounded in the work we’re trying to do. Thank you for being that example for me and others.”
In leading the Healthy Dads program, Jery facilitates classes for fathers in the community and at the Douglas County Jail. The program offers support and teaches important skills to fathers to help them support their families and children.
“This work isn’t just a job to him," said Healthy Dads specialist Zach Carter, who nominated Jery. "You can tell that this is truly a passion, that he has a real, in-depth understanding of the problem and he has created a program that encompasses so many aspects of that problem.”
Last year, a Healthy Dads graduate came to his office to record a promotional video for the program, and after the interview Jery began talking to the graduate and working with him about connecting him and his family to food resources. Jery is always working to connect people with what they need.
“I think the most important thing he does as the leader of Healthy Dads is that he is on the front lines of seeking to improve the social determinants of health for Douglas County fathers and their families,” said Communications Officer George Diepenbrock, who also nominated Jery. “I see this work as crucial for public health and especially important in our work to address health inequities in Douglas County.”
A recent state of Kansas Youth and Family Stability grant will help expand the program to work with youth and mothers in Douglas County. Jery is excited for the added direction of the program.
“I have felt privileged to be able work with the fathers that I work with,” Jery said, “And it’s about helping their children.”