A career social worker, Steve Polovick has dealt with the worst of the worst and worked with people for whom all hope seems lost.

A career social worker, Steve Polovick has dealt with the worst of the worst and worked with people for whom all hope seems lost.

He knows he has a tough job, but he said just often enough, someone defies the odds and give him the heart to keep going.

"You get tough, and you realize you've never seen the last of something or seen it all," said Polovick, 46.

"It's the little guy who has absolutely no hope, and just often enough in my career, seems to overcome and persevere. And that's what keeps me in the trenches, waiting for the next one."

For his work, Polovick, has been honored with 2013 Barry Mastrine Award from the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County.

Polovick, who lives in Westerville with his wife and four children, currently works as the client rights officer for Southeast Inc.

A Delaware native, Polovick joined the U.S. Marines after high school, then lived for a few years in Mexico and Central America, working in fields and relying on newfound friends for his living.

"I was young, and I was very down on maybe the way the world was, and when I went down there, I got to see real hardship, real poverty, real war, real disease, just real everything," Polovick said. "I got to know, personally, disease and hunger and the brutality of weather and thirst and discrimination."

What he saw inspired him to pursue a career in social work. He earned his degree from Ohio Dominican University and has been a social worker since.

At Southeast Inc., an agency in downtown Columbus that provides services to people with mental health issues, addiction or who are homeless, he works to ensure that all clients are being served as they should.

Though most of his career has involved working with children and families, he now serves adults, many of whom suffer from multiple diagnoses or mental-health problems and addiction.

One initiative the ADAMH board praised him for in earning the award was the creation of a cooking class, which is about to start its second session, to teach clients how to cook well on the provisions they get from food pantries and on low incomes.

"It's been very successful, and I've seen real results with our clients in terms of what they can do and saving money," Polovick said. "It's basically doing what social workers are intending to do -- (making) people a little more independent."

In the community, Polovick is an active volunteer. He's worked for five years with Red Cross Disaster Services and has coached many of his children's sports.

He also is serving, by gubernatorial appointment, in his second term on the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage and Family Therapist Board, and is the chairman of its social worker committee.

Through his day job and volunteer work, Polovick said he's learned a simple lesson he would love to pass on to others.

"There isn't a single person out there who is any better or any worse than anybody else. It's so important to accept others and all that Golden Rule stuff. We just have to take care of each other. We just have to do that," Polovick said. "I just come to work every day, and that's how I deal with it."