During its late ’80s debut, the Olive Hill Adult Learning Center’s education program served only 80.

More than 1,200 now enroll each year for GED instruction or other help.

“Our library, which receives no public tax support, serves an additional 3,000 people annually,” said Teresa Brown, center director.

At a Thursday reception here, friends and co-workers gathered to honor the former director they say is responsible for that success — Sister Joanne Lammers, who is retiring from public work.

“Joanne’s leaving will be a tremendous loss to our community and we would like to see her recognized for her many contributions throughout Carter and Lewis counties,” Brown said.

Lammers started at the center in 1991 as a part-time worker, that is both volunteer director and instructor, said Sister Sara Aldridge, co-worker and friend.

That year, she put on the county’s first GED graduation, and enrollment rose dramatically during her remaining 14 years.

“The facility was rented until the board was able to purchase the building and property in 1999,” Aldridge wrote. “Through those eight years Joanne wrote grants and practiced wise fiscal management that provided the money to purchase the property.”

Lammers also led the learning center’s expansion with Carter Works, family literacy, English as a second language classes at the Con-Agra plant and others; and she designed the “new library” and recruited its volunteers — as well as the funding to have it built in 2000.

“What was supposed to be a five-year project was completed in five months,” Aldridge said. “Joanne's philosophy has always been to empower others. Everyone who has worked with her can attest to that. She has always encouraged staff to seek out the training they need to grow in the skills for their jobs. She believes that the credit for all the accomplishments at the learning center and library belong to the board, the staff, and the great people of Olive Hill who have supported the programs along the way.”

A charter member of the Grahn School Community Center board, and still member, Lammers was instrumental in organizing community support to renovate the school building, said Starlene Harris, its director.

Lammers recently retired as the adult education program coordinator for the Little Sandy Correctional Complex in Sandy Hook, leaving that post in late May to accept a leadership position with her religious congregation, Brown said.

Even before her work in Carter and Elliott counties, Lammers was recognized as an outstanding educator in Ohio, worked outreach in Lexington’s Kentucky Catholic Diocese, and founded shelters in Jackson and Lewis counties as well as the Lewis County Adult Literacy Council.

“Joanne's entire life is about serving others,” Brown said. “We here in Carter County have been fortunate to have had her to serve us for 15 years. We are saddened to see her go but realize there are others calling her. We appreciate all that Joanne has done to help those in our community. We wish her the best as she continues to touch lives and expand the horizons of others in her future.”

ALLEN BLAIR can be reached at ablair@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2657.

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