Written by Seán Kearney 4:56 pm Column, IWSH

IWSH Award Winners Deserve Recognition and Our Deepest Gratitude

Hello and thank you for taking the time to check in on our latest IWSH updates.

As you have been reading throughout this new issue of Official, September 2022 was a special month for the whole IAPMO community as the annual IAPMO Education and Business Conference returned in-person following a two-year virtual alternative. It was the first time that many close friends, colleagues and partners from across the IAPMO group were able to meet again face-to-face since the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdown. So, from the IWSH side, we were excited to be given the opportunity to present during the opening morning session of conference.

Those of you present saw and heard the latest updates from our new IWSH Senior Director Robyn Fischer, alongside our IWSH North American Program Directors Jed Scheuermann and Randy Lorge. Robyn, Jed and Randy were joined onstage by two very special guests: Sherry Bradley, director of the Bureau of Environmental Services for the Alabama Department of Public Health and director of the Black Belt Unincorporated Wastewater Project (BBUWP); and Michael Lavoie, a.k.a. “The Drain Whisperer,” a third-generation licensed plumber and plumbing inspector from Los Angeles.

Sherry and Michael were the recipients of our 2022 IWSH Awards, a special prize presented in recognition of exceptional volunteers and partners involved in IWSH activities.

In this column I always try to share some background and insights into goings-on around IWSH, and so I can tell you that in terms of our IWSH Award nominations and presentation this year — no joke — there was such a serious effort required on behalf of the IWSH team to keep the award secret from Sherry and Michael beforehand! A huge effort was required by all, as both Sherry and Michael are in such regular communication on various project-related matters and general check-ins, keeping this plan under wraps really wasn’t easy. A further challenge: we had to figure out a way to get them to the conference — pumped up and prepared to headline our panel presentation — but meanwhile keep the fact they would be receiving awards a complete secret. The whole experience was fun for all and credit to our team for managing to keep a lid on it. Sherry and Michael’s genuine surprise and delight on the day was priceless and it kicked us straight into an energized panel discussion on stage to follow. Well done and kudos to all who helped make it happen.

While I personally wasn’t present at conference (due to an IWSH project scoping visit assignment in Indonesia — now, there is a story for another issue), I was delighted to see Sherry and Michael receive our IWSH Awards. I have had the honor of meeting and working with both over the past few years. I first met Sherry at her office in the Alabama Department of Public Health in downtown Montgomery earlier this year. Sherry is such an impressive leader and passionate advocate for the work of the BBUWP, which she helped to establish “out of need,” in her own words. Her concern and consideration for the people of Lowndes County, her willingness to help and her commitment to improve their situation though building creative new partnerships across sectors is inspirational; for example connecting the public health sector with the local school system and the plumbing industry. I think everyone at IWSH is honored to have become involved with Sherry’s work and play a small but important role in helping BBUWP expand in 2022 through our first Community Plumbing Challenge (CPC) collaboration in Alabama, back in March.

As for Michael, I’m proud to say I was part of the IWSH team when he walked into his first CPC briefing in June 2019 – as a group of volunteers met in Page, Arizona, on a warm and sunny Sunday evening ahead of a week-long project with DigDeep in Navajo Mountain. Fresh from a seven-hour drive in his service van from his home in Los Angeles, Michael really hit the ground running that week and made such an impression on everyone he met with his energy, enthusiasm and excitement about the work IWSH and DigDeep were doing and the impact this work was having on those living without. Starting from those days volunteering in Navajo Mountain, he has been a standout supporter of IWSH work in North America, and was a driving force earlier this year once again as we travelled to Alabama to work with Sherry and Co. for the first time —also ensuring he obtained an Alabama state license in the lead up so that he could be involved hands-on.

Both Sherry and Michael have demonstrated such unique qualities and commitment to the shared vision and mission of IWSH, so I speak on behalf of all of the IWSH team by saying congratulations once more to both of them for their awards, and wish them every success for their future endeavors (which, we hope of course, will continue to involve more collaboration together).

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally if you would like to discuss ways to get involved with or support IWSH. You can email me at sean.kearney@iapmo.org, and you can find all our latest IWSH news and updates via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn @IWSHFoundation!

Seán Kearney
Managing Director of IWSH Foundation at IWSH Foundation

Last modified: May 8, 2024