Betty Kell Yates was surprised with the Bell Ringer Award on Thursday night, conferred for her nearly half-century of service to the mental health community.
“The Bell Ringer is given annually to a person who goes above and beyond in service,” said Janell Hawkins who presented the award. “Betty Kell Yates certainly is that person.”
Yates has been with CHEER Mental Health in some capacity since its doors opened here 44 years ago.
“She was there when CHEER first started,” Hawkins told the crowd on hand at Central Church of Christ. “She was with Dan Smith back when CHEER was located over at the Magness House.”
Yates worked as an employee for CHEER and now serves as a volunteer. Hawkins said Yates genuinely cares for patients and people she has met over the years who have needed to seek mental health assistance.
“She has kept up with the patients over the years,” Hawkins said.
Her involvement with CHEER comes naturally, Hawkins noted, as she is a second generation activist as her parents, Tom and Artie Kell, were involved with CHEER.
“They were big supporters of CHEER,” Hawkins said, noting the family involvement goes even further. “Her aunt, Robbie Sharp, also served many years.”
Yates admitted she was “astounded” to be receiving the award but says it is extra special since both her mother and aunt were also conferred the Bell Ringer in years past.
“My mother’s influence was a great example to me,” said Yates, adding she was also influenced by her role model in the mental health industry, Nelma Justin.
Yates is married to Jim Yates. They have a daughter, Sherry Ferguson, and a granddaughter, Sarah Ferguson.
Yates is a member of Central Church of Christ where she is active in the church’s benevolence and jail ministries.
The night also included honors for member of the CHEER organization. Dr. Lawanna Slatten was conferred the employee of the year award, while Lou Shawna Scott was named case manager of the year.
Longtime CHEER chairman Harry Dunn was recognized for his 15 years of service at the helm of the organization. Dunn is stepping down as chair.