Morton will be presented the 2013 Frances E. Couch Lifetime Achievement Award at a luncheon next month. The award recognizes an “outstanding woman who embodies unselfish leadership, is committed to community service in East Alabama, and exemplifies the ideals of Girl Scouting,” according to a press release from Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama.
“I am honored beyond words,” Morton said. “I had no idea I had even been nominated, so it was totally unexpected. I am humbled by this recognition and certainly not deserving.”
Morton was part of a community initiative that established SAFE Family Services Center more than 15 years ago. Soon after it was started, she began serving as director while still working as a guidance counselor at Indian Valley Elementary School and eventually took over the job full time. Since its founding, SAFE has received more than $17 million in grants. It currently operates about 25 community programs and served a duplicated count of nearly 26,000 people last year alone.
The majority of Morton’s career was spent in special education. She started in Tuscaloosa teaching students with learning disabilities and later taught first through eighth grade special needs students in Sumter County. She and her husband Joe Morton, former Sylacauga City and state superintendent, moved to Sylacauga in 1978, where she worked as a psychometrist and later a counselor. Morton retired from Sylacauga City Schools three years ago with 32 years in education.
In addition to her role at SAFE, Morton is currently president of the Alabama Network of Family Resource Centers and is on the Board of Advisors for education at the University of Alabama. She is also involved in the Office of School Readiness Advisory Council, Blueprint for Alabama’s Children and is treasurer of Alabama Partnership for Children. She is an alumni of Leadership Alabama and Leadership Sylacauga and is part of the CLEAR Plan 2030 coalition.
Morton said directing SAFE has been one of the greatest blessings in her life.
“I absolutely feel as though I have been given an opportunity that not many people have, and that is to serve others and get paid for it,” she said. “As for the future, retirement is not in my immediate plan, but I absolutely enjoy and really feel blessed to be able to do this work.”
She said any recognition she receives is the result of work accomplished with the help of many people.
“This award is humbling, and this kind of thing is non-me,” Morton said. “I believe we all work together to make things happen, and that’s my joy in life. It shouldn’t be recognition for me, but for those I have had the privilege of working with.”
The Girl Scouts will also recognize Judge Debra Goldstein of Hoover with the 2013 Mildred Bell Johnson Lifetime Achievement award next month, as well as eight other Women of Distinction representing various counties.
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