Several events have happened recently at My Friend’s House that have prompted me to write this article. There are three parts to this story, so bear with me.
Part One: On Monday, we were celebrating a resident’s 17th birthday. For a birthday at My Friend’s House, a resident gets to choose dinner and a cake. That’s it. This is not a big affair. This youth chose Kentucky Fried Chicken and a jar of Nutella. Pretty basic. We decided to bake a cake anyways with chocolate frosting, sprinkles and candles, but we did not forget the jar of Nutella. Dinner was served and all the residents were enjoying the chicken and sides when a staff member brought out the cake and set it in front of the birthday boy. Suddenly, he started to cry big elephant tears. He said, and I quote, “No one has ever baked me a cake or made dinner for me on my birthday.” Once again, I was dumbstruck by a revelation from a resident. Not one person in this young man’s life had ever cared enough about him to celebrate his birthday in any meaningful way. Our residents often, unknowingly, reveal their past losses, traumas and abuses in every day conversations or in more dramatic ways, such as this one. It knocks the wind out of my sails every single time I learn about what a resident has endured in their young life.
Part Two: Later in the week, our birthday boy had a complete melt down. I am not even sure what actually brought on this episode, likely something was triggered. He was irate, screaming, pounding walls, running around. I walked outside, saw this happening, and attempted to intervene and calm him down. This was a huge mistake on my part. A trained direct care staff worker had already been working with him using her skills in de-escalation techniques. I definitely made the situation more difficult for this team member. I am still learning how to handle situations with residents. It takes education and practice to react appropriately, and to know what to say and when. Some of our staff have amazing natural abilities to know when to intervene and stop a situation from escalating. Nine months into this job and I am still trying to get the hang of how to work with our residents.
Part Three: I have been thinking about how to write a story explaining why My Friend’s House needs operating revenue. The first two parts of this article explain it for me. Many of the boys that come to live at My Friend’s House have years of trauma hidden in their hormone-pumping, anxiety-ridden teen selves. Their outer shell is pretty tough and puts on a good face for others, but inside they have suffered more in their short lives than most of us will in our lifetimes.
The trained and dedicated staff at My Friend’s House is here 24/7, not only to provide security, normalcy and routine, but also to provide a therapeutic, healing environment. This team is very hands-on and is constantly reinforcing appropriate behaviors, handing out consequences when needed, and reassuring our youth of their progress and steps. This work can only be accomplished by people who are trained and paid to work at MFH.
In my experience working in human service organizations, there is only one way to truly help another individual - it’s the trained staff member that stands alongside the person suffering, to help them heal, to walk their path with them, and help them find a better way of life. This human transformation leads to breaking the bonds of suffering and poverty. Technology cannot do this for a person. Structured, rigid programs cannot accomplish this for a person. Only people can truly help people. Life-changing work is not a quick fix. It happens one person at a time with a one-on-one approach.
My Friend’s House is very fortunate to have many in-kind donors that, through their charity, provide food, clothing and other necessities that help reduce our operating costs. Please do not stop giving in-kind gifts.
However, the biggest line item we have in our budget every year is compensation for staff. Direct Care staff, the team that does the heavy lifting with our residents, start out earning $14 an hour – even with a college degree. And most of these staff work at MFH on a part-time basis because they have second jobs to make ends meet.
Please consider making a financial donation right now. Every single donation makes a difference in helping us pay our staff, keep the house operating and provide care for our residents. It takes a community, so never think your donation is too small to make a difference. IT DOES. Of course, we appreciate the large donations, too.
The most important action you can take at this moment is to sign-up to be a monthly donor. Monthly donations provide a sustainable revenue source that we can count on to infuse dollars into our expenses. $10 or $25 or $50 a month may not be a 'big hit' to your bank account, but collectively, these donations add up to a 'big hit' to help pay our team and change a precious, young life. In whatever way you choose to impact My Friend’s House, we need you. If you are new to our organization, welcome. Please give me a call or send an email anytime you want to ask a question or get more information. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 615-594-2505.