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AMERICUS, Ga. (June 12, 2014)—The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving (RCI) at Georgia Southwestern State University today announced the winners of the 2014 Mattie J.T. Stepanek Caregiving Scholarships. “Through the generous funding of Johnson & Johnson, these scholarship recipients can pursue a caregiving goal that will enhance their learning and/or training in specific skills” said Leisa Easom, Ph.D., executive director of the RCI.  Each winner receives a $2,500 scholarship.

The winners are:

  • Jean Coffey, San Diego, Calif. – Previously a caregiver for her father and grandfather, Coffee is inspired to help those who are less fortunate through positive thinking and a desire to see others grow. She plans to obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing and develop a holistic program for physical therapy and development for autistic children.   
  • Wendy Melland, Kansas City, Mo. – With support from hospice, Melland was the primary caregiver for both of her parents before their deaths and now provides care and support to her 15-year-old daughter diagnosed with mitochondrial disease. She wants to attend conferences with her daughter to stay abreast with the latest medical information, advancement, and tools to enhance their care and quality of life.  
  • Karen L. Marshall, Washington, D.C. – Her experiences as a caregiver for her parents motivated her to found the nonprofit Kadamba Tree Foundation which offers stress management and other educational programs to family caregivers. This scholarship will allow her to continue spreading a message of hope and empowerment to others.
  • Erica Seppala, Astoria, N.Y. – A longtime advocate for women’s health as a community educator, Seppala now plans to become a Certified Nurse Midwife.  Working in a community-based health center in a medically underserved area, she will advocate for evidence-based practice that provides better health outcomes for women and children.

The purpose of the Mattie J.T. Stepanek Caregiving Scholarship is to provide financial assistance to family caregivers who are seeking training or education in specific skills, procedures and strategies that lead to more effective care while serving to protect their own health and well-being.

“This year marks the tenth anniversary of Mattie’s passing,” said Mattie’s mother, Jeni Stepanek. “What an amazing gift it has been to watch my son’s legacy grow across this decade, and to witness that the essence and purpose of those who leave this world before us continues to touch other generations as the future unfolds. And what a privilege it has been to serve on the Scholarship Selection Committee for a mission that is so near and dear to Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter’s heart and that mattered so much to Mattie --- caregiving.”

She added, “The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Caregiving Scholarship Program is one of those inspiring contributions that establishes Johnson & Johnson and the Rosalynn Carter Institute as role models for what we desperately need right now in our world: those who do more than simply want to make a difference and who instead make the choice to move from attitude to action, and in doing so, create the change our world needs.”

The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving was established at Georgia Southwestern State University in 1987 in honor of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, a GSW alumna who serves as president of the institute's Board of Directors. The RCI establishes local, state and national partnerships committed to building quality, long-term, home and community-based services.

For additional information, contact the RCI at (229) 928-1234.

ABOUT JOHNSON & JOHNSON: Johnson & Johnson is the world's most comprehensive and broadly based manufacturer of health care products for the consumer, pharmaceutical, and professional markets. Its worldwide headquarters are located in New Brunswick, NJ, where the business was founded over a century ago.

- GSW -

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