September 16, 2020

The Accidental Employee

One of the things people often say to me when I’m talking with them about a program or event at PFC is “Oh, I didn’t realize you WORK for them now- when did that start?”   I always understand why I get this response and laugh to myself, realizing I’ve worked for Partnerships for Children as an employee for 4 years now.  But my journey and work with PFC started years before that as someone invited to a fun event for a good cause.  When Girls & Giving, our annual Girls’ Night Out to raise funds and friends for Holiday Wishes, comes around each year, I celebrate my own PFC anniversary.  My first introduction to Partnerships was accepting a last minute invitation to this girls’ night out event, not because I knew of our mission or what this incredible organization did, but because I had very small children at home and jumped at that chance to shower, and skip bath and bedtime.  It was fun and meaningful. And I skipped bath and bedtime…mission accomplished.

I was then asked about sponsoring a child through Holiday Wishes by my friend, Kate, from my fake book club (yes, fake… we don’t read.) I was really moved by how passionately she felt about this organization and this program.  I sponsored two children that first year.  I thought this would be a good opportunity for my two kids to learn something about giving during the season of “how many gifts will Santa bring me.”  I definitely didn’t think it would cement my relationship with this organization.  I didn’t think it would forever change the way my kids and I thought about the holiday season.  I certainly didn’t think I would wonder about the children on my lists for years to come. 

So when I got that first list and saw what my assigned two teen boys had asked for, I cried.  One of them was 16 and asked for Subway gift cards so he could leave campus to eat with his friends and a red hoodie.  Not an Under Armor or Nike hoodie…just a red one.  The other boy was 13 and wanted a Spider Man twin travel set of bedding and a bike.  I will never forget talking with my oldest son, who was only just turning 5, about why he wanted a travel set of sheets and seeing the reality of this child’s life sink into my son’s reality.  We both cried. We went to the warehouse to drop off our gifts and I couldn’t believe the magnitude of this program.  The magnitude of the need.  And I was hooked.  I knew I was a Holiday Wishes lifer…I just didn’t know that I wasn’t finished drinking the kool-aid.

Flash forward another few years and my friend Paige, from the same fake book club, asked me to join the Partnerships Gala committee.  While I had participated in Girls & Giving and Holiday Wishes, I never thought about serving behind the scenes.  I now had a third child so had managed to stretch that bath and bedtime hour out into something endless.  I reluctantly said yes, again, never imagining that the experience would be anything more than working to plan a party to support a good cause.  But like everything else with Partnerships for Children, it touched my heart in ways I wasn’t expecting or prepared for. .  I had been to a lot of events and supported a number of great local causes but this gala and the people around it were different. The programs they were supporting were different.  I learned about our YES! Mentoring and Heart Gallery programs and was introduced to what beyond a red hoodie and travel sheets we offered to the teens I had thought about for years.  I learned of the Rainbow Room in depth and my heart broke realizing the diapers I threw in my cart each week were scarce resources to so many children.  I had very limited time to spend away from my three young children and those constant bath and bedtimes, but I realized that I had found something else that was constant too.  The needs of the kids served through Partnerships programs are constant.  They are 24/7 like my own children, but without someone, sometimes anyone, making sure they are met.  I read PFC’s mission statement for the first time that first gala I worked on.  To empower and support abused and neglected children in the care of Child Protective Services.  It sounds simple, but I’ve learned to do it well as an organization, it too is constant.

So yes, I “work” for PFC now as an employee.  I worked for PFC as a volunteer.  And no matter my title, I will always work for PFC.  Partnerships is made up of a collection of people, some paid, most not, who serve everyday to fulfill that mission statement.  Their journeys are varied.  I have the opportunity to work with and talk with many of them now and like mine, their journeys have evolved.  It’s been an incredible journey to be on that will always have given me and my children more back than we’ve given to it. 

Adopting a child or signing up to mentor may not be your starting point.  For me, it started very small and my journey was slow.  It was buying a ticket to a “friendraiser” event.  It was then signing up to sponsor my first Holiday Wishes kiddos.  It was bundling diapers for the Rainbow Room with my children and then saying yes to serve on a committee.  Behind the scenes now, I see that’s never just lip service.  Every single program we run to serve children in our community runs on the time, effort and generosity of our volunteers.  There really is no way too small to step into PFC. 

Girls & Giving would be coming around the end of this month, but like so much else this year, Covid has changed that.  While we won’t have the event as we usually do, we will still use the opportunity as a friendraiser to bring new faces into the Holiday Wishes program. And I will celebrate another PFC anniversary. My journey is not unlike most of the people I know in this organization. That friend Paige is now the Board Chair this year.  And Kate went on to serve as the Holiday Wishes Chair.  And the fake book club… 13+ years and still going strong, not one book read as a club, but 100% of us have served and supported Partnerships for Children in multiple ways.  Maybe it’s ok we don’t read each month…