A client asked me this question as we spent 6 hours together moving his things out of storage. He had commented a couple times about how I was making time and a half helping him move. Then he asked, “Are you getting paid time and a half, or are you salary?” I commented that I am a salaried employee. He couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t believe that it was 8:30 p.m. on a Friday night, and I am helping him move his furniture. “Why are you helping me?” He asked. “Why do you do what you do?”
He is not the first to ask me this question. My family, friends, and other professionals have posed this same question. I do very careful budgeting and have to watch how I spend my money, not because I live beyond my means, but because, in order to pay my bills, I must watch every penny that I make, and every penny that I spend. Myself, and several of my coworkers, work more than one job to make ends meet. There are other jobs in the community where we could choose to work where we would be making much more than what we do, but we choose to stay at Aurora. And that is when people ask, “Why do you do what you do? Why do you stay at Aurora? Why not get another job that pays more money?”
My response to everyone who asks me this question is the same. I love where I work. Aurora isn’t a work place; I view Aurora as my family. If I have an emergency and need to leave work, there is no hesitation, and the teamwork is so great that someone would take over anything that needs to be handled at work to let me take care of the things I need to take care of, just like I would do for any one of my coworkers. I have been able to laugh, cry, vent, solve problems, and have fun with my coworkers.
Jennifer and her Aurora team Katie and Sara
I have come into work at 5 a.m. to take a client to a scheduled surgery because they didn’t have transportation. I did this because my client has no family, and the bus system does not run that early. I have worked late, such as with the client mentioned in the first paragraph, to finish moving furniture because he had to work and we didn’t get everything accomplished by 5 p.m. I have worked weekends to make sure a client got to a social security doctor’s appointment.
I don’t get paid extra money for these jobs. I get paid in the gratitude I feel from my clients, in knowing that Aurora employees go the extra mile and make them feel validated when their needs are taken care of and the by letting the client know that their concerns are heard.
The cartoon clip above says it all to me. Some people think the homeless are alcoholics, drug abusers, lazy people who just can’t seem to get themselves together. But the truth is they could be you or me. A couple who lost their job because of their child being in the hospital, and one parent being with the child in the hospital and the other parent at home with their other kids; they lose their jobs, find new jobs at minimum wage, and are bringing in half as much money as they did, and end up sleeping in their car. A woman who has no family and decided to leave her abuser and take herself and her family to a shelter, which she has never experienced before and is terrified of asking for help, because she’s never had to do so and is afraid of being told no and not being able to make it on her own with no support system. The man who gets hurt outside of work, and the injury keeps him from working and he gets evicted. My clients and people who walk in to Aurora asking for assistance, whether it be a direction on where to turn for help with a problem or wanting our housing list to look for apartments – these are the people that I look up to. They have made it through struggles and hurdles that I may never understand, and still they get up every day and make it through the day with a smile on their face and no complaints. Or sometimes they are so overwhelmed with the struggles they face they just need a shoulder to cry on to tell them that they are strong and brave.
So why do I stay at Aurora? Because I love my coworkers, because I love serving my clients, because getting a big pay check isn’t what I need or what I am about.
Jennifer’s fiancé Rick with Jennifer and their boys Riley and Jake
Jennifer has worked at Aurora since 2008. She is a graduate from the University of Southern Indiana with her Bachelors and Master degrees and has her Certification in Financial Social Work. Jennifer is the Team Lead for the Housing Support Team. Jennifer also works at The Parenting Time Center, teaching a class to parents struggling in communication with each other. Jennifer also works at United Caring Shelter’s Ruth’s House as an on-call staff at the Women’s Shelter.