Staff Retreat

By Katie Kemmerlin, Housing Support Team Case Manager

Yesterday, our entire staff attended a “mandatory” retreat with the goal to bring our team together and to re-establish the bonds that wear down, that only comes with the day to day tasks of dealing with crisis after crisis each day.

 A woman from Leadership Evansville, Lynn, and her fabulous assistant, Julie, spoke to us at the Daughters of Charity site about strengthening our relationships within our work family – all to propel us into a performance phase of mastery in the delivering of homeless services and moving from the ordinary to extraordinary. Each of our staff members, including administration, took assessment tests of our learning preferences to learn our personal strengths, weaknesses, how our personal priorities can contribute to the furthering of our mission. Each of us discussed what part about our work called us to not only to action, but also provides the fulfillment we need to continue to do our work with the love and attention our population so justly deserves.

Not one person mentioned their paycheck or medical benefits, which speaks to me about the level of love and dedication our clients receive in the services we provide. Some of our clients recognize how much we put into our jobs to make sure their days go a little more smoothly while some do not, but this recognition of our efforts was not mentioned at the retreat. Some of the reasons people stated why they continue to come to work at Aurora: “I get to say yes to someone, who almost always hears no”, “I get to follow someone through their life and experiences, and get to watch as their life gets better”, “I get to house people”, and “I get to listen, when no one else will.”

We each have acknowledged that we all are one crisis away from experiencing homelessness ourselves, which is a terrifying concept in this fragile economy.  As staff, we each have difficulties in the office as well as our own lives, and do our best to put aside our own problems to address someone else’s because each individual deserves our undivided attention. Each day brings a new challenge, and though some struggles are daunting even for us, we have no doubts about why we do it.

We are enriched by the work that we do, and as we get to know the people we serve on a more personal level, our staff is strengthened by the knowledge that our clients discover that within themselves they had the strength to fight for survival within themselves all along.  They just needed to be focused on the concept or problem, one at a time, to shoot themselves above and beyond what even the client thought they could do for themselves.  Aurora and its staff focuses the light the clients already possess, to help them light the path to their own dreams. As staff we are there, step by step, providing a steady hand and a quiet but persistent voice of encouragement and strength to those who walk through the door.

At the retreat, staff have learned about the ways we communicate on a personal and professional level, as well as some concepts to keep in mind as we communicate ideas to each other and with others. We had delicious food from “Just Rennie’s”, a little deli with a serious knowledge of savory foods and sweets. To celebrate and conclude our day, we went to “Fired Up!” for a little art therapy where we free painted with each other. I don’t think I had realized the level of creativity that some parts of our staff have and the parts that don’t. The overall effect was beautiful, quirky, and inspiring. Each of us made our own designs and had a blast doing it. It relaxed us all and allowed us to bond on more of a personal level, rather than professional, which can only help our cause when we later get back to the office.

Looking at the day overall, I feel that it was a wonderful experience and provided an excellent foundation to build on. Although we live in a financially fragile time where money is scarce for all, I remain perpetually optimistic in how we go forth and develop ourselves in the coming months. With our new executive director and developmental director, it is imperative that we examine all aspects of our operations, identify our staffs individual strengths, and build upon ourselves to strengthen what is going well within our agency, and hopefully expand into new territories to help address the different facets of the population we serve for the future. Though it was an excellent beginning, we are not yet done with our journey together and have areas we can always improve on. I hope we will each take this day and hold it close as we continue to grow as an agency. I truly look forward to contributing to the future of Aurora with my co-workers and our combined efforts to decrease the ever evolving and complex social problem known as homelessness. Perhaps Aurora may someday, be considered a light of origin in the development of spectacular social programs to address and decrease one of Americas most persistent social problems.  

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