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  • Writer's pictureMegan Stuke

Looking forward to 2021

I always resist the impulse to blame the calendar year for problems, as if 2020 caused systemic racism, COVID-19, and political discord. We all knew things would not magically transform on New Year's Day, but somehow that hope lingers: A new year! A fresh start! But the calendar is just that - a somewhat arbitrary way we number days. And sometimes, we use that tool to create meaning. That's what humans do - we make meaning out of things. And that's a good thing. So even if 2021 isn't the magic reset button many hoped it would be, there is still meaning to be made and numbers that can speak.

2020, via the pandemic, made us rethink our services, redesign our delivery, and reconsider our priorities at The Willow. Many of that was scary, traumatic, and painful. Some of that resulted in things that we believe are overall better for the survivors we serve, and for that, we are grateful.

We weren't able to serve as many people in our shelter home as we usually do due to restrictions for congregate housing under COVID-19. We found new ways to create safe nights of rest, and we still ended up providing over 8,500 safe nights. We are grateful that we were able to open new avenues of safe housing in recent years through our partnerships. Transitional housing played an essential role in safety through the pandemic. We were able to purchase and furnish another 9 bedroom home despite the fundraising challenges of the year. It will open in a matter of days to provide another layer of support to survivors in need of a safe home.

This makes us know that by the time the pandemic ends, The Willow will be positioned to serve so many more people in need than we were before, both through additional beds and through more creative and adaptable services. I am so proud of our staff for taking every opportunity to learn, adapt, and grow that this challenging year provided.

Soon, we will also open a transitional house for youth coming out of the foster care system, and we are calling that residence The Phoenix House. Lawrence, KS, uses the image of the phoenix rising from the ashes as a symbol of our city's perseverance through historical tragedies. We love this image for our services, particularly this year, as we see survivors rising from adversity in so many, ever more complicated ways.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. It is shining bright, and we are focused on it as we know we will come from the adversity of the pandemic and our national challenges better and bolder, with the help of many partners and the communities we serve. It is our great honor to work with the survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence in our communities.

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