Nearly 100 state employees were recognized Wednesday by state Health and Welfare Agency officials for volunteering to temporarily leave their families and regular jobs to assist victims of the Northridge earthquake.
During a brief ceremony at the state government building in Van Nuys, Health and Welfare Secretary Sandra R. Smoley thanked the employees from the agency's 12 departments for making sacrifices to help other people.
"In this disaster, I can honestly say that state government worked," Smoley said. "I think they'll all come back as better employees."
Eloise Anderson, director of the Department of Social Services, also thanked the employees who stayed behind and performed the additional duties of those who had temporarily left.
"Give your co-workers who picked up the slack a little hug," Anderson told the crowd of about 100 people.
After assisting victims of the disaster, many of the employees went back to their regular jobs invigorated.
"The experience broadened my understanding of people," said Miguel Perez, 46, of Northridge, who temporarily left his job as a vocational counselor with the Department of Rehabilitation to help coordinate transportation and couriers for the application centers. "There are a lot of brave people out there."
More than 500 employees from the Los Angeles area and offices throughout the state volunteered to work for two to six weeks, mostly at disaster application centers set up immediately after the Jan. 17 quake.
Most worked at the centers explaining the state's Individual and Family Grant Program, a last-resort assistance program for victims who do not qualify for Small Business Administration loans.
Since May 22, more than 167,000 applications have been received for the state grant program. Of those, 47,600 have been processed and nearly $40 million in grants has been awarded, according to Liz Brady, a spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services.