The 10th annual Dr. Alexander Nesbitt Commitment to Caring Award was presented to Fran Decker, a social worker and longtime volunteer of the American Cancer Society and the Alzheimer’s Association. The presentation was made prior to Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak's annual educational seminar held in conjunction with National Healthcare Decisions Day on hospice and end-of-life care, on Tuesday, April 11.
A Geriatric Social Worker by trade, Fran, earned her master’s degree from West Virginia University. For more than 40 years, she has worked in the community in a variety of social service and health care settings including the Area Agency on Aging, Community Nursing Service, the American Cancer Society, Albright LIFE, and an elder law firm prior to retiring. She remains an active volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Cancer Society, and her church.
Fran’s passion for helping others began as a young teenager when her mother passed away and she took on the role of caring for her younger brother. From there a life of service was born. Fran would go on to care for her bed-ridden father and also a sister who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It was through this experience caring for her sister that ultimately pushed her to get more involved with the Alzheimer’s Association.
In 2016, Fran spearheaded the development of the Covenant Café, an early stage Alzheimer’s activity group that meets at the Covenant United Methodist Church in Lock Haven. This joint venture between the Outreach and Wellness Committee of Covenant United Methodist and the Alzheimer’s Association gives participants an opportunity to be involved in socially and physically stimulating programs which helps them remain as active as possible. Over the years, the program has grown from only four or five people attending to more than double that amount coming out in support of each other. Fran also helps to facilitate the Clinton County Alzheimer’s Support Group and annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
In addition to her work at the Alzheimer’s Association, Fran has also been heavily involved with the American Cancer Society. Colleagues have described her as very compassionate, hard-working, and an exceptional team player who always follows through. During her time at the cancer society, she started the Cancer Survivor Conference, which was held annually as a way for individuals whose lives were touched by cancer to share their personal wisdom and stories of encouragement. She also helps organize monthly support groups for cancer survivors and those struggling with mental health or bereavement issues.
Fran was the very first social worker on the interdisciplinary team at Albright LIFE. In this role, she provided social work services to Albright LIFE participants for community resource planning, counseling, and nursing home placement from the inception of the program until her retirement. She is very passionate about social work, especially about working with the elderly to help them find the resources that will allow them to have a better quality of life.
The best adjective to describe Fran is selfless. This expansive dedication to helping others is why Fran Decker was selected this year as the recipient of the 10th annual Dr. Alexander Nesbitt Commitment to Caring Award.
The Dr. Alexander Nesbitt Commitment to Caring Award was developed by the elder care law firm of Steinbacher, Goodall & Yurchak in 2014. In his opening remarks, Dr. Nesbitt spoke about the award, and acknowledged the 2023 recipient. “Our community is forever grateful for people such as Fran who constantly raise the bar and go above and beyond the call of duty to serve its members who are in need of assistance,” said Dr. Nesbitt. According to Attorney Julieanne E. Steinbacher, the award, inspired by Dr. Nesbitt, recognizes an individual(s) or nonprofit in the community who shows an extraordinary commitment to caring that improves the lives of others.