SHIIP statewide award winners announced

SHIIP, the Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program, congratulates the winners of four statewide awards for their outstanding work in providing free, unbiased counseling about Medicare and other health insurance issues to seniors in North Carolina.

This year’s awards resulted in the selection of two Statewide Coordinator of the Year Awardees.

SHIIP County of the Year: SHIIP’s coordinating site in Tyrell County is the Tyrell County Cooperative Extension Center. Co-Coordinators for this County are Dee Furlough and Michelle Haney. This county has a population of approximately 4,400 with 22% of the population being Medicare beneficiaries. There are four volunteers that work with a rural community health center. Each of the four volunteers work to their strengths to formulate a dynamic team. This county coordinating site has struggled to remain active, but their perseverance and overcoming many obstacles has enabled them to remain a viable asset to the N.C. SHIIP organization.

SHIIP Coordinator of the Year: Morgan Doughtie is the SHIIP coordinator at the Nash County Office on Aging. She has persevered through many challenges this past year. The Nash County area is considered a metropolitan area, but as you drive around the area and witness the significant impact on the farmland caused by flooding and storms over the past several years; you would not think of it as metropolitan. Morgan initiated a new senior Expo/Community Unity Festival and partnership with N.C. Med Assist in 2018. The huge success of the initial partnership resulted in the festival being an annual event. In addition, Morgan has a phenomenal social media presence and is not afraid to “go live” on Facebook to get the word out about SHIIP. Despite some of the hurdles experienced in the last year, she always keeps her focus on SHIIP’s beneficiaries and its mission.

SHIIP Coordinator of the Year: Sam Matthews is the SHIIP Coordinator at the Shepherd’s Center of Greater Winston Salem. Forsyth County represents North Carolina’s fourth highest populated county. This coordinator is recognized as a great communicator, who is punctual, proactive and willingly shares information with volunteer counselors. Sam holds the distinction of being the first coordinator to organize and offer a monthly “Welcome to Medicare” workshop in North Carolina. He is a strong and dedicated longtime SHIIP coordinator who is excellent in coordinating the county SHIIP program while maintaining responsibility for overall center director duties.

Mickey Hanula Volunteer of the Year: Our Statewide Volunteer of the Year comes from the Southeast Region. John Lutz previously lived in Florida and was part of the SHINE program for 10 years before moving to North Carolina in 2013 to join the N.C. SHIIP. John is known for working with a beneficiary for as long as it takes or as many times as it takes to help them to receive a resolution to their problem. In addition to SHIIP, he donates volunteer hours to Road to Recovery, a program that transports cancer patients to their chemotherapy appointments. He has served as the Senior Tar Heel Legislator alternate and has served on the Region O Aging Advisory Council for many years. His display of wisdom, knowledge and a selfless dedication and commitment to any endeavor solidifies his selection as Statewide Volunteer of the Year.

Jim Long Outstanding SHIIP Service Award: Each year, the N.C. SHIIP recognizes an individual or organization for their continued support and endorsement of SHIIP, to improve Medicare education and outreach for the citizens of North Carolina. This recognition comes in the form of the “Jim Long Outstanding SHIIP Service Award”, named for Jim Long, the Insurance Commissioner who created our N.C. SHIIP in 1986.

Darlene Nelson, who was a long-time partner and strong supporter of the SHIIP Program was recognized as the 2019 Jim Long Outstanding SHIIP Service Award recipient. Darlene was a SHIIP Coordinator in Stokes County from Oct. 1, 1999, until her unexpected death on Dec. 31, 2018. The award was awarded posthumously during the 2019 SHIIP Coordinator’s Conference.

Darlene was known for her infectious smile and “out of the box” thinking. She was very creative in getting the word out about SHIIP throughout her community and beyond. Her fellow Piedmont coordinators remember her as caring, down to earth, authentic, compassionate, enthusiastic, helpful, friendly, inventive, funny, genuine, energetic, creative and having great love for her family. Her dedication to SHIIP and its mission was always on display through the passion for how she approached her job. Darlene always emphasized the importance of displaying care and concern for others, making them feel special, taking time for those in need and making a difference in others’ lives.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey stated: “I am humbled by the outstanding services provided to the citizens of North Carolina and I congratulate each one of these deserving award winners for their dedication to SHIIP and to the Medicare beneficiaries in their communities. Without the assistance of our coordinators and volunteers, we would not be able to assist as many people in our great state.”

SHIIP is a division of the North Carolina Department of Insurance that offers free, objective information about Medicare, Medicare prescription drug coverage, Medicare Advantage, long-term care insurance and other health insurance issues. SHIIP has nearly 1,000 trained volunteers across the state that provide one-on-one counseling in all 100 counties. For more information about SHIIP or to get answers to Medicare questions, call SHIIP at 855-408-1212 or visit

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Please go to to download photos of statewide winners. Caption info can be obtained by clicking on the photo.)

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Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.