A Year of Opportunities
It's been a year since I accepted the position of Executive Director. A mentor once told me that the days and weeks are long, but the years are short. And indeed, we had some long days and weeks. And indeed, the year has seemed short, yet full of opportunities, growth, and development at The Willow.
I set some goals for this first year, which I outlined in a post at the onset of my tenure. This seems like a good time to revisit them First, I intended to set in motion a large-scale training toward true low-barrier functioning. I am delighted to report that we have secured funding for this project through the Kansas Health Foundation and the Douglas County Community Foundation, and will be partnering with The Children's Shelter to do this work. Both of our organizations provide shelter and work with trauma, and I hope we can learn from one another as well as the staff at Risking Connections who will be traveling here many times over the next 18 months to work with us. Once our training is complete, we hope to act as trainers for the whole community. We believe that being trauma informed is important not for just human services providers, but everyone who is interested in learning and utilizing trauma-informed care.
I wanted to grow our prevention efforts. Today, we have added a half-time Prevention Educator and have plans to add another full time person in the next six months. This means we can be part of the conversation on Healthy Relationships with students from an early age.
We also are working with several local groups to work on a "train the trainer" model of prevention delivery that will bring our prevention efforts from a "one time, once a year" model to "all the time, with the people you see every day" model. Watch for opportunities to be trained in the very near future and become part of the solution!
We have added a Foster Transitions Program. Knowing that individuals who are exiting foster care are at high risk to be re-abused or trafficked, we implemented a program to reach those young people and support them. Education about healthy relationships, supportive services for emotional support, employment, and housing, as well as peer support that we can build into their lives will create an environment of success they can rely on as they leave the foster care world and begin to live independently.
Our new Transitional Housing Program begins in April. Made possible through a partnership between The Willow, Tenants to Homeowners, KU Endowment, and The City of Lawrence, Restoration House is a transisitonal housing space for four individuals and six families who have survived domestic violence to live for 1-2 years, while offering supportive services, affordable rent and utilities, and educational opportunities.
In the midst of all this new growth, our core service - the shelter - has blossomed as well. This year we put in new flooring, paint, and furniture in the common areas of the home, and gave the advocate office a facelift with carpet, paint, and redesign. We are currently collecting pledges for our Adopt A Bedroom campaign, which is underway. Once all the beds are adopted, we will be doing a large-scale upgrade to the rooms so they will be clean, safe, welcoming, and accessible. Information about that project can be found here: asoftplace.org and we hope to have this project near completion by the end of 2019.
These are all steps we've taken to improve services for our survivors. We have continued to work hard on diversity, inclusion, and positive culture within The Willow as well. All of these things have happened because of the hard work of a staff that is unparalleled in their dedication to survivors, growth, and excellence.
I am so grateful every day to walk through the doors and see the energetic work of so many amazing people, on behalf of so many amazing people. What a year it's been. I am still humbled to be in this service and I imagine that will never change. Thank you all for your support. We cannot do this without each of you.