Executive Director, Sanctuary on 8th Street
Photograph by laird
What brought you to Sanctuary on 8th Street?
I think of that question from time to time and I always come back to this: I was meant to work here. I majored in education but knew that my passion did not correspond with that of a traditional classroom teacher. I felt called to work with kids but in what way I was unsure. In 2010 I was hired as a summer camp counselor, then stepped into the program director position. In 2016 I was offered the position of executive director after my now good friend and former executive director, Vicky Watkins, retired.
What is your vision for the Sanctuary?
My vision is to continue to strengthen the relationships with our kids and families. We do this by hiring individuals who have a passion for working with at-hope youth, by bringing in programming that the kids enjoy and by being fun, yet firm when we interact with them. Our guiding star is the belief that programs do not change lives. but relationships do. Recently, I interviewed a third grader and I asked why she loves the Sanctuary. She told me, “The Sanctuary is like a little family to us; they provide a home for us!” I hope we never stray from her thoughts and feelings.
How has the pandemic affected the Sanctuary and its scope of services for nearby families?
It has been hard for the families we serve just like it has been hard for all of us. We tried to help our families by providing weekly food pickup and school supplies. We were shut down except for our virtual summer camp. During that time, we texted and called kids and parents to stay in touch. The outreach provided helped strengthen our relationships with the parents and kids. The pandemic affected volunteerism and made us rethink our annual fundraiser, The SHINDIG.
The Sanctuary’s stated vision is to become a catalyst for expanding opportunities for children and families in need. What is the biggest need you see in your Springfield neighborhood (or beyond) right now?
The Springfield and Eastside communities have changed quite a bit over the last decade. Beautification efforts, new businesses, and new families have come to the area. However, many residents of the neighborhood are still living in poverty and there is an ongoing need for affordable housing, adequate public transportation, well-funded public schools, quality affordable childcare, and well-paying jobs.
How would you describe the culture, the personality, of the Sanctuary and its youth?
Hope happens at the Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is full of love, positivity, encouragement, and affirmation. The culture is fun yet firm, using all situations as a way to teach and build character. The staff and youth are like a small family. Working hard, being nice, and having a good attitude are traits that we model for the kids. We promote emotional intelligence.