NILES, Ohio (WKBN) — After a two-year break because of the pandemic, Trumbull County Children Services hosted their annual Rising Up and Moving On Luncheon.

First News Reporter Nadine Grimley was the master of ceremonies for the event at Ciminero’s in Niles and shared the stories of perseverance and giving back.

It’s a yearly celebration honoring families who’ve overcome their own challenges.

Take Shari Smith for example. She said she struggled with mental illness and addiction for most of her life which led to her involvement with Trumbull County Children Services.

“My life spiraled out of control, and I did lose four children to the system but then I was able to kinda get my life together after that,” said Smith.

Smith’s history with the agency began in 2014 when she struggled to maintain supervision of her children. She experienced depression and substance use.

Smith recently celebrated five years in recovery, and Tuesday she was honored with this year’s Rising Up and Moving On Award.

“I’m able to be a good mom today. I just had twins in September and like they said I haven’t had to have any involvement. Things are just really good for me today,” said Smith.

Smith excelled in Family Dependency Treatment Court and has worked at a recovery house where she sponsored many women and developed her own relapse prevention group.

Three other parents, Roxanne Phillips and Robert and Nicole Bennett received the award too.

“We give awards to the people who have really kind of confronted their challenges and worked with our community partners and are thriving now,” said Tim Schaffner with Trumbull County Children Services.

When the agency became involved with Phillips in 2020, she established sobriety and successfully completed intensive outpatient treatment services, and remains active in aftercare through OnDemand Counseling. She has worked alongside of peer recovery coaches and developed and completed a relapse and crisis intervention plan.

Robert and Nicole Bennett struggled with severe substance use which led to unstable housing. They were referred to the agency in 2019 and eventually became sober and became active participants in Family Dependency Treatment Court and regularly addressed their substance use disorders and mental health concerns. Rob now works at a local prison as a Chemical Dependency Counselor for the inmates.

Teenagers Nicholas Johnson and Aliana Carter both were given the Service to Children Award.

Carter, a biological daughter of foster parents, said a lot of children have come through her home having little to no clothing, so as part of a class project she collected and donated pajamas for children entering foster care. She said new pajamas can help a child get through that traumatic first night in a new foster home.

“I just wanted to make sure the foster kids that came in have comfy things to wear and for them to feel welcome in their homes,” said Carter.

Johnson chose to raise funds to build workout stations on the grounds of the children’s residential center. With the help of his Boy Scouts troop, family members, and his father, Johnson raised $2,500 and built the project in 12 days. The workstations are redesigned to increase the childrens’ activity level while making it fun and challenging.