Remembering 10 years
It has been ten years since I walked through the door to work my first shift at Frederick Place. I was excited but doubting my ability to do the job. I had a degree in surgical technology, and I had chosen that profession because it offered the least amount of human interaction possible. You see, I did not like people. I preferred stainless steel surgical instruments to direct patient care that dealt with “feelings.” Within a month of that first day, I realized I do like people. Well, most people. I have grown and changed by leaps and bounds thanks to my fellow musketeers putting their faith and trust in me during the last ten years. If I had gone from being a private introvert unwilling to talk about my life, to someone who can talk for hours sharing my most embarrassing experiences, what else has changed at Frederick Place? In two words; A lot. As our ten-year anniversary approaches, I would like to share with you some of those changes, as well as what has not changed.
The most noticeable changes are ones you can all see as you drive by Frederick Place. The old rickety iron overhang that was above the side door is now a much-needed covered porch with access to a lift for our disabled residents. The backyard is home to a big, beautiful garage that was built when we ran out of storage space in the basement. It did not take long to fill up, and we have had to put items in the rafters. Not complaining, believe me. A lack of storage problem is much easier to deal with than a lack of supplies. Inside the house, the women’s laundry room was remodeled and turned into a combination bathroom and laundry room. I do not know how we ever did it with one bathroom for as long as we did. The other change upstairs was the addition of bunk beds in all the rooms. We have the potential to house twelve women instead of six or eight.
Tammy, Becca, and I are the only ones left from that very first group of strangers hired to begin an adventure unlike any of us had experienced before. I was naïve enough to think the original six of us would be together for many years to come. However, opportunities present themselves, people move on, and staff changes. Since we opened the doors, the three musketeers have said farewell to 15 coworkers and three interns. Many were here a year or longer, but some only a couple months. There are reminders of some of them all around the house; our very first teamwork exercise in the form of a crayon drawing, initials scribbled on the bottom of desk drawers, handwritten masking tape labels, our logo and forms created long ago. I am grateful to have met all of them and experienced the lesson or blessing they were while here.
Other than during business hours, there is typically only one staff person on duty which creates the need for a way to communicate. Thus, the handwritten communication log was created and was in place for a couple years. Rumor has it that I was driving my coworkers crazy with my notes that started on one page followed by arrows directing them to the continuation of my entry and so on. I do not remember when we switched to having our communication log from hard copy to our laptop, but I am sure glad we did. It does not take me nearly as long to type my lengthy notes, and I rarely need to add arrows!
Our client intake files have also changed. Our first files had maybe 8 pages of forms in total. Our current file has 26 pages (both sides) on one half and 15 (both sides) on the other half. We have had to add forms related to client rights and responsibilities, informed consent, and release of information authorization for them to take advantage of programs available to them. These releases also allow their information to be put into a database used to identify needs and improve on available services and accessibility. By far the biggest change in the file is the number of rules. Those first intake files had 15 rules/guidelines for residents, give or take a few. Today we have 62 in place. Seeing that number gives the impression that jail might be better than Frederick Place. Truth be told, every single rule that has been added in the last ten years is because someone did something once, and we decided that behavior was important enough to become a rule. For instance, we never expected a resident might ask another resident for their urine to pass a random drug test; but one did, so it is now a rule.
I have just passed 1,000 in the word count and that marks another change. When I started this little column, I was tasked with keeping my word count as close to 500 as possible due to space. I was a novice writer and 500 seemed like a million. I quickly found that the hardest part of writing was deleting words to stay within the limit. As NATH Notes grew so did my word count. I do try to keep it under 1,000 but decided our anniversary warranted a few hundred more words than that.
There are a few things that have not changed during the last ten years. Emma is still here and continues to make her presence known to residents and staff. I am still obsessed with Springsteen. Our dedication to our zero-tolerance policy has never wavered, fulfilling the commitment we made to the community in 2011. The fact that we are still here means there continues to be homelessness issues in the Northwoods. Our unwritten policy of giving people a hand up, not a handout, is still our mantra. The Fred Family may change but our support and respect for each other is always there. The continued support of our generous community remains solidly intact, and we do not take that for granted. We are just as grateful for our generous community as we were the day we opened our doors. Any gesture, whether small or large, does make a difference. If you believe you have not made a difference, think again. Thank you all for being our “drops.” We could not do it without you!!
Happy Anniversary to the current members of the Fred Family! I look forward to celebrating many more with you!