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Statewide Awards for Arthur Wayne Nelson and Ken Williams

National Association of Social Workers Recognize Longtime Local Advocates


On Saturday October 9, two Santa Barbara residents were honored at the NASW-CA Annual Conference and Job Fair at the Westin Los Angeles Airport, Los Angeles: Mr. Arthur Wayne Nelson was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award and Mr. Ken Williams was named the Public Citizen of the Year. The two Santa Barbara residents were selected from candidates throughout California.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to Arthur Wayne Nelson. Born in California in the late 1920s, Arthur Wayne Nelson attended grade school and high school in Santa Maria, California. A Bachelors’ Degree in Social Science was awarded from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California.

Immediately after graduation, the military draft orders arrived to report for basic training at Fort Ord. Military service was then for two years occupation duty in Germany with the 28th Infantry Division. The career in Social Work began upon returning to the States as a Social Worker Trainee in the Santa Barbara County Welfare Department. The year of 1957 marked graduation with the Master’s Degree in Social Welfare and Charter Membership in the newly formed National Association of Social Workers.

Employment followed as a Child Welfare Worker in the Adoptions Unit of the Santa Barbara County Welfare Department with subsequent promotions to Child Welfare Supervisor, Staff Training Officer, and then, for fifteen years, as Director of the Department. The position of Director also allowed for participation on Boards of Directors of the Salvation Army, United Way and American Red Cross. Leadership positions were held in the Channel Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, The Santa Barbara Council of Social Services and the California County Welfare Directors Association.

The retirement years were made meaningful with an appointment by the California Governor’s Office to the State Social Welfare Advisory Committee. A number of special projects were studied including the use of magnetic stripe cards in the financial assistance programs and establishing funding priorities. The subsequent publications of the Committee were utilized by the State Department of Social Welfare and the California Legislature. This Lifetime Achievement Award is a high honor celebrating Mr. Nelson’s chosen career in Social Work and the many ways he helped improve social services to the residents of Santa Barbara County.

The California Public Citizen of the Year was awarded to Ken Williams. He has touched the lives of the homeless in Santa Barbara for the last 30 years in his work with the Department of Social Services as an outreach social worker. This last year there has been an unprecedented number of deaths of the homeless in Santa Barbara. Ken has fought to keep this issue in the public eye through letters to local papers and advocacy at City Council meetings. Most of the causes of death were due to the ravages of unemployment, addiction, exhaustion and mental decline. A few were unsolved suspected murders resulting from beatings. To draw attention to the problem Ken Williams organized vigils to memorialize the dead and wrote columns in the local papers. By December of 2009, there had been 28 deaths of homeless people in Santa Barbara.

A documentary film called Shelter chronicles the daily outreach of Williams as he talks with people on the street, checking on their health needs and generally looking out for them. The film was released in 2009.

Ken Williams is the conscience of Santa Barbara and keeps us all aware of the issues that plague the homeless on a daily basis. It is his voice that cries out when services are slashed and when the public turns their backs on people who are not able to advocate for themselves. He is a voice of common sense and true compassion. He speaks for homeless who are both living and dead.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers with nearly 150,000 members. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy

Source: National Association of Social Workers

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