Christian Opportunity Center (COC) has selected Pella Christian High School’s Rayla Wilson as the 2015 Sarah M. Braun Memorial Scholarship recipient.
Named in honor of the late daughter of COC Executive Director Rod Braun and his wife Robin and made possible by the COC Foundation Fund, the $1,000 scholarship is presented to a high school senior pursuing an academic focus in human services.
Wilson plans to major in elementary education with a minor in special education at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul beginning in the fall of 2015.
Criteria for the scholarship include academic performance, extracurricular activities, community involvement, and personal character and personality. Applications for the scholarship are accepted from all COC service areas.
Daughter of Neil and Angela, Wilson is a Presidential Scholar at Pella Christian, achieving honor roll recognition each semester during her high school career. She also received four superior ratings in flute ensembles.
A Pella native and member of Federated Fellowship Church, Wilson is employed at Jaarsma Bakery and volunteers at The Mango Tree, a ministry of Many Hands for Haiti.
Founded in 1969, COC provides residential and vocational support and services to more than 250 people with disabilities in Marion, Mahaska, Warren and Polk counties. For more information visit www.christianopportunity.org.
Christian Opportunity Center (COC) living skills advisor Sharon Byers recently celebrated 40 years of service with the organization, the first employee to reach the milestone.
After volunteering at COC in just its fifth year as a school program, Byers was hired as the first workshop supervisor on Sept. 7, 1974. Byers served in that capacity for 37 years before transferring to her current position in Pella’s life skills program.
“I volunteered at COC because I wanted to be part of an organization that was known for helping people who needed support and encouragement,” Byers said. “I have stayed at COC because I have a Christian love for the people I serve. It is fulfilling to see them gain self-confidence and connect with others, all while finding and holding community jobs.”
Byers has many cherished memories in her 40 years with COC, but one is held in high regard.
In May of 1985, Gary and Matilda Vermeer financed a trip to Florida for 49 people served and 11 staff members. The trip was complete with visits to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center and Sea World.
Byers, who spent three months helping plan the vacation, was one of the staff members on the trip. Her treasured memory is not only the trip itself, but also hearing about the joy it brought one of the persons served.
“I visited a person I served in the nursing home before he passed away,” Byers said. “Before Florida, he had never been on a vacation, let alone outside the state of Iowa. He told me the Disney World trip was the best time of his life.”
COC Executive Director Rod Braun said Byers’ time has impacted many lives.
“Forty years of service is a significant milestone and we congratulate Sharon for her dedicated service to the mission of COC,” Braun said. “She has been a blessing to hundreds of people with disabilities and to her many co-workers.”
And if you are considering working at COC, Byers would encourage you to apply.
“If you are looking for a job that will make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities and will also make a difference in your life, you will get that and more at COC,” said Byers.
Byers’ service accomplishment was recognized with a reception and time of fellowship at COC’s Leadership Team’s bi-monthly meeting in January.
Founded in 1969, COC continues to provide opportunities for more than 250 people with disabilities in Marion, Mahaska, Warren and Polk counties. For more information visit http://christianopportunity.org/ or connect with Christian Opportunity Center on Facebook and IowaCOC on Twitter.