CSULB professor's work with homeless does not go unnoticed

LONG BEACH - Betty McMicken, an associate professor in the Communicative Disorders Department at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), has been awarded the "Anne Douglas Legacy of Vision Award," which was presented to her on Sept. 12 at the Los Angeles Mission's 76th Gala.The focus of the gala was to honor Douglas, who 20 years ago opened the Anne Douglas Center (ADC) for women at the Los Angeles Mission. The purpose of the Anne Douglas Legacy of Vision Award is to honor an outstanding volunteer who is actively involved in giving back to the community. In the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the L.A. Mission in 2011, the initial "Anne Douglas Legacy of Vision Award" was given to Douglas herself. The award was presented to McMicken by Anne Douglas and her husband Kirk Douglas, the legendary actor who suffered a stroke in 1996. McMicken became his speech therapist in 2007 and soon thereafter became heavily involved with the L.A. Mission and more specifically the ADC. "This award is for 'outstanding volunteer service to the community' in this case the community served by the Anne Douglas Center," said McMicken. "This award is a testament to my following in Anne Douglas' footsteps and finding a way to help the homeless through my professional skills and philanthropy. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Anne Douglas Center, I am so proud to inherit Anne's Legacy of Vision Award. I consider it her bequest of foresight, her heirloom of heritage, and it will be treasured as such." McMicken was chosen, in part, because of her tireless efforts at the ADC since she first became involved five years ago, when she was introduced to the plight of homeless men and women, the lifelong struggles they have encountered, and their needs which the Los Angeles Mission and the ADC so capably address. "It was unanimously decided who would receive this award," wrote Herb Smith, executive director of the L.A. Mission in a letter to McMicken. "You were clearly the first choice of the mission and the Douglas family. Mrs. Douglas kindly refers to you as her angel. I personally value your insight on our services and your understanding of the clientele we serve. "You are a most deserving recipient of this award," he added. "Not only do you show up and engage with the ladies of the Anne Douglas Center, but you have brought countless volunteers, students, and other professionals to support our ladies. In addition to your time and talent, you have also given generously from your own resources to support the Los Angeles Mission and Anne Douglas Center." McMicken noted that the awards ceremony took place just three blocks from Berkeley Hall School, where she received her education from nursery school through ninth grade and credits it for giving her a strong spiritual and humanitarian foundation. "That's where I received my foundation in altruism, in reaching out to those less fortunate than me," she said. "Now I am receiving this Legacy of Vision Award and it's so characteristic of everything that I learned in my foundation, everything that was taught to me day after day at Berkeley Hall. That education guided me into a profession where I am able to help other people and it made me aware of the plight of people less advantaged. Reaching out as a volunteer from that basis has been the most natural thing in the world for me. I'm definitely in the right profession." At the ADC McMicken initiated services not previously available, such as speech pathology, as well as cognitive and communication disorder assessment and treatment. Also, she has been instrumental in having rehabilitation services recognized and brought in to the L.A. Mission to where the facility now has a volunteer occupational therapist, physical therapist and a speech pathologist. Clinical psychology services will also begin this month. "The mission and all of its services are free, supported only by donations," said McMicken. "Lots of people with goodness in their heart volunteer." And, because of her professional skills and extensive experience over four decades, McMicken has brought even more to the center. "I have expanded my services into assistance with case management because I have the background in medical assessment and am able to recognize brain-based problems," she said. "Sometimes it's subtle, but many times they are overt dysfunctions that are medically and/or pharmacology related in the homeless population, so I am able to then make referrals. I think that's where I've been particularly instrumental in ensuring individuals obtain services they probably would not have received otherwise, such as identifying problems that are associated with brain injury or delayed language. This was not available in the past. "I was surprised because the caseload I see in hospitals in rehabilitation have many of the same problems as some of the homeless individuals at the mission," she added. "I did not realize that there were so many people with cognitive and communication disorders among the homeless, but of course it makes perfect sense because it's something that keeps them in that position, a lifelong disability. Being able to identify it, understand it and help with guidance has been a wonderful, purposeful way to spend my time." Additionally, McMicken helped to begin the eBay project of the ADC as a cooperative effort between a friend of Anne Douglas and her assistance in donating unsold clothing from her "Suzy's Repeat Boutique" in Rancho Mirage. "I literally have driven to Rancho Mirage every month for the past four years, loaded the bed of my truck with unsold designer clothing, and brought it to the Anne Douglas Center to be sorted and sold through our eBay site," said McMicken. "This project is staffed by graduates of the Anne Douglas Center who have carefully been taught a new business skill. The money raised goes toward supporting our programs." The donors of the clothing receive tax deductible receipts from the center. She has also contributed monetarily, dedicating a portion of her income specifically to the ADC. Among other things, her donations have been used to remodel and refurbish the center's shower area, redo the public address system, purchase new dining room and patio furniture and with the help of her friends at Center Theater Group has sent groups of 20 women from the Anne Douglas Center to the Ahmanson Theatre four times to see plays. They recently went to performance of "Mary Poppins." "I do what I can," she said. "My 'tithing' is for the Anne Douglas Center, so I put aside a certain percent of my income every year and do what needs to be done. It has given me a phenomenal sense of purpose. It's hard for me to explain because I go down there and I feel energized and right at home. I understand the men and women in rehabilitation, not only the history of addiction, but their struggles and their needs." McMicken earned her B.S., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Southern California and was chair of the Communicative Disorders Department at Cal State Los Angeles before retiring in 1998. She joined CSULB as a part-time lecturer that same year, became an assistant professor in 2006 and is now an associate professor at the university.

********** Published: September 20, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 23