August 19, 2020

The Fear of Change

Like many, I am very much a creature of habit and have always had a resistance to change. As I have gotten older, I have become more open to the idea of change. I was in a training one day and heard someone say, “The most dangerous phrase is, “We’ve always done it this way.”" It really stuck with me as I became receptive to the idea of change being okay. I began to think that without change, I couldn’t increase my reach to serve more kids in our communities through my work with Partnerships for Children.

Over the eight years I have been with PFC, we have grown from a 3-person team with 3 programs serving about 5,000 kids a year to a 14-person team with 5 programs serving over 12,000. That growth wouldn’t have been possible without change. I have been able to hold many different positions over the years, which has been a true blessing for my own growth. To be able to learn all aspects of how a non-profit runs and have a voice in shaping the future of PFC has been one of the best things I have been a part of, none of which would have happened without my willingness to accept change.

As much as I have grown to being open to change, nothing could have prepared me for 2020. Wow! What a year it has been so far. We are currently living in a world none of us have experienced before. For me, it has really tested my ability to take on change in a positive way and respond as needed. Amid so much unknown, it really took me a minute to even wrap my head around how to continue everyday life. Eventually, I was able to put things into perspective and realize how lucky I am to have the luxury of making a decision to navigate this change the best way possible for me, while so many don’t have that option. As much as I know how important the work, I do at PFC is, this has opened my eyes even more to the world our kids have to experience. These kids didn’t ask to be abused or neglected and have no control over the change being forced upon them. I realized I had to get in gear and respond to the call for help from not only the children we serve, but the caseworkers who protect them.

Since the pandemic started back in March, CPS caseworkers have been working tirelessly to continue the important work they do every day in difficult circumstances. They went out to homes to check on kids, spent hours looking for placements for new kids coming into care and shifted how they work without hesitation. Their commitment has inspired me. We have done everything in our power to support them to effectively serve children, from keeping our shelves extra stocked, to securing donations of PPE for their safety while visiting families. It really takes a village to safeguard these children from trauma they experience that will follow them the rest of their lives. After getting them the basics, we asked caseworkers how we could help families more and what their highest need was that we don’t typically provide in the Rainbow Room. The need of groceries was the obvious consensus. As soon as I heard that, I knew we had to change our rainbow room policy to include grocery gift cards as an item we provide to families. We partnered with local churches, completed grant applications, and spread the word to our donor base and the response was nothing short of amazing. Since then, we have distributed over 200 grocery gift cards to families in need who would have otherwise gone without if we had simply said, “But we’ve always done it like this.”

In addition to changing our policies on what we provide, I have had to figure out new ways to keep the Rainbow Room running without being able to have volunteer groups in our office. Volunteers are the life blood of PFC. They allow us to serve as many kids as we do and distribute over half a million dollars’ worth of inventory through the Rainbow Room each year. On average, the Rainbow Room sees over 800 volunteers a year that process donations and keep our shelves stocked. When everything shut down, so did our volunteer groups. I always knew I loved our volunteers, but never knew how much until change hit and allowed me to really appreciate everything they do for us and ultimately the kids we serve. Luckily, our volunteers are very open to change and wanted to support in any way they could. I, with some reluctance, decided, “Why do we have to do it like this?” I thought back to the same quote that keeps me moving through all of this. “We’ve always done it like this.” After a brief freak out, I realized they can and are willing to help from home. We launched socially distant volunteer activities and the response continues to blow me away. Over 25,000 diapers and 40,000 baby wipes have been bundled at home by volunteers. We have even had a huge response of new volunteers who have become a part of our PFC family.

These days it sometimes feels like we are living on some strange, alien world, but looking toward the future, I still have hope. I have learned more than ever that change is a good thing and my obsession with keeping things the same can hold me back from contributing to good changes that are needed. It’s all the way we look at things, and I for one am determined to respond to change as something that can help someone for the better.

“It is not the strongest of species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” -Charles Darwin