As I sit here at an empty desk, I’m a ball of emotions, unsure of how to feel exactly, because it is my last day with Aurora. I started my journey (and yes, it truly was a journey…) with Aurora three and half years ago. This was my first leap into the administrative side of social work and the non-profit world. I had all of this “formal”  knowledge, a little experience, and a lot of passion, but I really had no idea what was in store for me here.

I’m on sentence five and I already have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes…. I owe so much to Aurora and its staff, volunteers and clients so this is my tribute and thanks to them.

Over the past few years…

  • I have watched our talented staff bring hope and joy back into the lives of  thousands of shattered and devastated individuals and families. These people are true miracle workers. We think about doctors, EMTs, fire fighters, etc. as people who save lives–and that’s true—but there hasn’t been a day that goes by that I haven’t seen a least one of our team members assist someone in rebuilding and repairing issues and problems that other professionals would have walked away from immediately. And many times, had that Aurora person not been there to get them out of the darkest, deepest hole, only the worst could have happened. When I think about our social workers, I think about one of my favorite songs by Coldplay, called “Fix You.” They sing about lights guiding those who are broken home, and that’s what our team does— over 1,500 times every year –which is simply amazing.

  • My views on poverty and homelessness have changed completely. As I have written here before, I grew up really poor; however, I was determined that my adult life would be different. I ended up being a first-generation college graduate twice over, and while not rich, I am thankful that I have the basic necessities in life and plus a little more here and there. So when I got out of school, I always thought, “If I can do it, they can do it.” What I learned from working at Aurora was that each person may truly have the ability to succeed, they may lack the opportunity and more times than not, the support system. Many of us have had struggles and come out of difficult situations being stronger people because we had family and friends to lean on, and with our clients, that is likely not the case. I will not ever look at homeless person the same way again. I see past the sign he is holding and wonder what took him there. I appreciate the education from our very experienced and knowledge staff for teaching me these things.
  • I have learned that while our job is a serious one, you have to laugh and smile —or you will just cry. While I have watched our team perform miracles, I have also seen them not be able to help people for many reasons (lack of funding and rules tied to grants), and that is tough. I watched several of our case managers struggle with the deaths of their clients. I have watched our admin team be so frustrated with ridiculous budgets and low bank accounts. The best part of working here is that through the messes, they are still upbeat. Whether they know it or not, they taught me how to let things go –as long as you gave 110%, there is nothing else to do.
  • On the flip side of this, I learned that when you have think you have nothing else to give, you give a little more. I spent many nights upstairs with my partner-in-crime, Luanne, our Finance & Operations Manager, working on events and finishing grants. And then go home to work some more. So tired that you are ready to give up…  There are many people at Aurora who do this day in and day out –staying way past 5 p.m. to make sure “it’s done.” These are the same people that hoist unusually large desks up the stairs for a certain Director of Development and work on the weekends to ensure that the biggest fundraiser is a success (doing ridiculous things like hauling gingerbread houses to the mall).

I am certain I could write a novel about what I have learned in my time here. Aurora is full of inspiration, heart and soul. You know your time was good when you can say, “Remember the time…” and laugh. I have a lot of those.  I will be forever bonded to this place because I have formed life-long friendships with many of my fellow staff. I feel a little broken-hearted as my time is coming to a close. It’s hard to imagine not coming here next week. Driving a different route, seeing new faces, and being the “new girl” in the room again.

I started here when I was 25 — really unsure of myself and who I wanted to be as professional. It blows my mind that I stuck it out this long–as I am 29 now and feel like I am 50 some days. This job is stressful. You live this job. I am proud that I played a part in Aurora’s success for a few years. I am truly proud of the accomplishments that I was part of  including being the lead writer for $1.3 million in awarded grants, developing and executing a major fundraiser, and revamping our marketing strategies. It is because of the experienced and knowledge I gained at Aurora that I could obtain my new position.

I struggled with the decision to move on because I love Aurora so much, but on August 17, 2013 my life changed totally when I had my little girl, Kate. Now, something else –someone else–needs my undivided attention. I start my new job at Brescia University in Owensboro on Monday, but this is not goodbye. I couldn’t NOT be around in some form or fashion.

My daughter Kate, now 16 months, and I on her first birthday in August.

My daughter Kate, now 16 months, and I on her first birthday in August.

Thank you to the staff, volunteers, Board members, and clients for the wisdom, faith and support you have given me over the years. I wouldn’t be who I am as professional without you. Most of all, I want to thank Luzada for taking a chance on me and seeing something beyond my age — you have changed the course of my life.

Someone recently asked me, knowing that I was leaving, “Is Aurora really as good at what they do as you say?” Without a doubt, you are the best team of social workers and non-profit staff in the city, and I am proud that I could have served a long with you.

All the best,

Prior to joining Aurora in June 2011, Jayme Walters primarily focused her career on working with children, families, and education through non-profit organizations, including Youth First, Inc. and two emotional-growth boarding schools. Jayme earned a Bachelor of Social Work degree at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and continued her education at University of Georgia, where she completed the Masters of Social Work program. She is also certified in Non-Profit Management and Program Development. Jayme currently resides in Henderson, Kentucky with her husband, Jonathon and daughter, Kate. Jayme will serve as the Special Assistant to the President and Grants Director at Brescia University in Owensboro, Kentucky.