If you know anything about Amherst, you know it is a community where supporting neighbors is ingrained in the culture. One great example is Family Outreach.
Family Outreach of Amherst is a resource for low-income families in Amherst and surrounding communities. The organization focuses on key issues struggling families face: mental health, domestic violence, addiction, housing and life skills. Family Outreach is rooted in the belief that families are experts in their own lives and should be active participants in creating change in their lives.
A new Family Outreach program called Strive 2 Thrive is assisting participants to achieve greater self-sufficiency and a more stable life by helping them identify and move in the direction of specific goals. These goals range from employment and education to community engagement opportunities.
Let me share a story with you, about Helen. She was raised by a very abusive mother and, little surprise, developed low self-esteem. All throughout school she struggled with serious anxiety. Even with extra help at school, it was difficult for Helen to be a productive person. She struggled with mental health. She became pregnant and left high school, and became homeless soon after.
This was some years ago, and Family Outreach worked with Helen to help her find housing for her and her son. Over the years, Family Outreach provided a number of services. A caseworker helped her secure a therapeutic mentor for her son and helped place him in a homework club with other children. Because Helen’s son is very hyperactive, her mornings and evenings are completely tied up with attending to his needs. On top of all that, Helen has a history with a particularly negative domestic relationship, which in part grows from her history of making some bad decisions and not learning how to make better decisions.
As you can probably tell, Helen didn’t always take time for herself, but that changed when she learned about Strive 2 Thrive through her case worker. She began by sitting down to talk with Rachel Condry, the Program Manager for Strive 2 Thrive. As they talked, Helen realized what she wanted to accomplish that she just wasn’t able to do on her own. Together they established an action plan and Rachel delegated steps to staff members who can provide hands-on support for Helen as she makes her way forward.
“Anyone can be successful,” Rachel says, “but you need to be self-initiating and self-sufficient. Strive 2 Thrive acknowledges that our clients are human, and if they are willing to commit to goals, we are happy to support them as they take the steps required to achieve those goals. My role is one part cheerleader, one part manager.”
What a great concept that is! One part cheerleader, one part manager. Without a doubt, there are days when we all could use that kind of support.
“We spent time with Helen brainstorming ideas on paper,” Rachel says. “She has creative ideas for her future and has a strong sense of what she is interested in, what she can do to make a difference in the world and how to express what she can do as an individual. She has a goal to open up her own daycare center.”
Given what’s involved, that is a long-term goal, so Rachel started Helen thinking about the career path that can get her there. Early steps including volunteering at a daycare, with a near-term goal of working as an employee in a daycare. Strive 2 Thrive staff are helping her look at online programs where she can get certified in early childhood studies. Eventually she wants to become a supervisor, and ultimately go into business for herself.
Will she get there? Nobody knows, but Strive 2 Thrive is ready with support and navigation to make her way. Rachel will tell you candidly that many people she works with have pie-in-the-sky ideas and it may take a long, long time to reach the goals they set. That said, she always encourages participants to think big and start small. A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step, right?
As Rachel says, “We point people in the direction of the resources they need and even accompany them if they need support in accessing those resources. Where do I start, and how? How do I keep moving forward? What do I need to do today and tomorrow and next week so I can keep moving forward and achieve my end goals? We help them figure that out and support them as they do it.”
Strive 2 Thrive staff work with participants to identify tasks to complete between meetings, and have regular contact with each participant to ensure they are receiving the support and resources they need to fulfill the tasks. Persons eligible to participate in Strive 2 Thrive must…
- be 16 or older
- reside in Amherst or surrounding towns
- have the ability to get to the office at 401 Main Street in Amherst
- commit to working hard towards the goals created by participant and Strive 2 Thrive staff/volunteers
Strive 2 Thrive receives funding from a Community Block Grant, the Community Foundation, a private Foundation, and from CHD, but our ability to continue working with participants on an ongoing basis to ensure they have the support and resources they need to successfully accomplish their goals…well, that also requires the generous support of individuals. It’s people like you who recognize the value of lending a hand to neighbors who are committing to moving themselves forward. Your contribution will help more citizens of Amherst and surrounding communities to set goals and stay focused. You can help them Strive 2 Thrive.