Bakersfield is a special community and each year we set aside time to honor our local heroes. Rightly so, those heroes are usually our first responders, law enforcement, EMTs and firefighters. I have family and friends in those professions and I, too, celebrate them.

However, the month of March is set aside nationally to honor other professionals who are our community’s heroes: social workers. Social workers go into homes that most of us would never enter — dirty, bug-ridden and often dangerous — to check on the well-being of children. They work at hospitals counseling the ill and those who have lost loved ones. They work with those suffering mental illness and the aging population. They encourage and coach the unemployed. They counsel and mentor our foster youth.

Having retired from a 37-year career at Human Services, I have witnessed the heartbreak of a social worker called to respond to a home where a child was tragically killed by their parent or caretaker. I’ve talked with social workers who lose sleep at night worrying about the children on their caseload. I’ve seen tears of joy by a social worker witnessing the final adoption of a child placed in a forever home. I’ve seen the tireless commitment of social workers working with our foster youth at the Dream Center, helping them daily make life decisions that will move them to independence and stability.

Social workers are indeed heroes in our community. A special “thank you” for their unending commitment to improving the lives of others in our community.

— Barbara Zimmerman, Bakersfield