Fall, A Time to Connect With What Inspires You Most

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By Megan Briggs, Director of Family Services

A Year to Remember: What being a part of the Habitat Family Really Means

I decided to take a break from our family voices series to highlight a few memorable moments from 2017. Each fall, I reflect on my entire year, and purposefully seek out those in my life that have impacted me to let them know just how meaningful their relationship has been for me. As I thought about this year, I realized the amazing network that surrounds me, and I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmingly grateful for the experiences this has brought me, and I thought it might be great to share with you, as supporters of this work.

 

Norristown Citizens in Action & Pottstown Community Action Committee: These groups are simply my inspiration. The groups are each part of our Neighborhood Revitalization efforts in which we engage residents in a particular neighborhood to work on the issues that they want to address. We’ve built these groups up slowly over the year, sometimes with a lot of ups and downs. Somehow, folks keep showing up, and their motivation is because they love their neighborhood, and they want to do something positive. Especially in these turbulent times, to witness their un-ending optimism and grit is beautiful. These are the folks that are going to be, or already are, the root of their entire community, and somehow, they’ve become a root in my world, too. Both of these groups are a concrete example of what can happen when you give over the power for leadership to the community members themselves. I am thankful for their willingness to invest in their community, and their selves. It’s a daily reminder to do the same thing in my own life.

Family Selection Committee: This committee is charged with selecting the best fit family for each housing opportunity that we have available. The group is made up of 8 members currently, who mostly come from the financial industry. In January, when I started my role here, two members of the group in particular, Mary Metz and Lorrie Scott, mentored me through some difficult choices, and spent time sitting down with me to transfer history and context of the organization. They both separately contributed an enormous amount of hours brainstorming on how we can structure our programs for efficiency and serve our families in the best way possible. The committee also went through a transition with some members dropping off, and new members joining. All of the current members couldn’t be more committed to a fair, transparent, and thorough selection process, and spend a lot of hours each month reviewing detailed financial files to catch any and everything possible. Because some members of the group have been a part of the process for years, they are able to work independently without taking away Family Services staff time, which is critical with our busy schedules! For example, two members will be going out to do a home site visit independent of Habitat MontDelco Staff today. To be able to rely on this group of experts is essential. I am thankful for this group’s professionalism, history, and mentorship.

Family Services Team: What can I really say? This team is amazing. When I began in January, it was just me. Then we hired on Saroj Chettri, who had been interning/volunteering since the previous fall. Since starting, Saroj has done a ton of work to structure the Critical Home Repair program. It runs like a machine now! He also is often behind the scenes slowly building relationships with neighborhood members to motivate them to keep coming out to events, meetings, etc. His approach is working successfully. Personally, I wouldn’t have made it through this year without him. His endless patience, hard work ethic, and strategic approach is invaluable.

Next, we hired Caitlyn Farrell onto the team as Intake and Education Coordinator. There aren’t words to describe Cait’s impact over the last 7 months. She has completely transformed both our education programs and intake process. She diligently responds to each family with grace, and forms meaningful relationships. Cait is also an incredibly hard worker, and often does the most difficult things without asking for recognition. She’s added a tremendous amount to the team, and the organization.

Kelcey Silver is the newest member of the Family Services team, who is serving as an AmeriCorps member this year. She started at the end of August, and jumped in to provide structure and programming for our Almost Home Junior class, the littlest members of our programs ages 9 months – 12 years old. Kelcey has breathed new life into Almost Home Junior, bringing exciting activities to these young people who have loved her presence and energy.

We, as a team, reflect regularly on our progress, work together to better our programs, and most importantly laugh and share big moments together. This team is the solid ground in a constantly shifting world, and for that I am thankful.

Almost Home Class: It’s hard to walk away from any Almost Home class session and not be stunned at the hard work, motivation, and self-improvement that these families are pouring into this class. The families attend 16 (16!) 2 hour sessions. The Almost Home class members in the first session in the spring at the OIC will always stick with me. Every night after class, I would replay in my head the amazing moments of complete honesty, vulnerability and strength of the entire class as they supported each other towards meeting their goals. This session, I’ve seen the same thing. I am thankful for each families’ willingness to be brave enough to try something new and invest in themselves.

Financial Coaches: Currently, we have 7 coaches who are paired with families who have completed the Almost Home class or who have been selected as a partner family. The coaches we have are dedicated individuals who spend hours with each family in order to support them individually on achieving their financial and life goals – and the coaching program has had proven results! The connection I’ve witnessed by bringing together coaches and families is heart-warming – I am thankful for these folks who are out in the field listening, supporting, and giving that extra push so that families have the support they need.

Home-buying and current homeowners:  Of course, partner families, those who are selected to purchase a home through our program, have been a force of nature. To work alongside them to set goals, and then watch them as they achieve them, is truly fortunate. I’ve been there as they have shared their life stories, struggles, tribulations, and triumphs. I see the determination in their eyes when they talk about how many sweat equity hours they have left, and what they will do to improve their lives once they are in the home. Our current homeowners are quite amazing too -- some of them volunteer in our Almost Home Junior class, and all are willing to connect with and encourage new partner families. I am thankful that they trust me enough to open up and share their stories, because their stories have changed me.

In addition to these groups, I am thankful for finding mentorship among my co-workers like all the Habitat MontDelco Directors and of course, our ring leader and CEO, Marianne Lynch, to propel my growth and push me to be better. In addition, there are a number of partners in both Norristown and Pottstown who make this work fun, and are actually willing to meaningfully collaborate for impact.

In summary, someone asked me the other day why I have worked in the non-profit world for so long, and if I ever get burnt out. My response was that I work in this field selfishly, because it makes me better, it grounds me, and it inspires me. That is even clearer to me as I reflect on this beautiful network around me. For this next year, I am hoping you have the opportunity to connect with what inspires you the most. Happy Fall, everyone.