Tag Archives: Frontline Staff

The Connections We Make

Shifts pass when your feet hardly touch the ground, you’re busy prioritizing 10 plates of needs and wants, in a Cirque Du Soleil worthy juggle above your head and you’re craving the moment your office chair creaks beneath the weight of your exhausted bones.

Among the program posters, inspirational quotes, fact sheets, filing cabinets and client files, you can find tokens of appreciation left behind in the Advocate’s office as reminders of the reason why we return for the next shift to resume the juggling act.
A new intake comes in with set expectations that are – in a perfect workday – met and exceeded. The impact of their stay can be a drop in a pool or a cannonball in a puddle but when a woman moves on from the YW’s services, sometimes she leaves behind more than a success story and an earned pat on the back.

As proverbial House Mom’s we get all kinds of crafty goodies and sentimental cards in lieu of thanks. Whether they are personal gifts, as in a Pug-nosed card for a certain Pug-nose lover (Adore their squishy faces!) or something for everyone to utilize, like the nifty hand-painted rock that will not only prop open our office door but aid in ushering in the next wave of women in need with motivational script and crafty colours, we keep them around for years and reflect.

These tokens stick around on billboards, hang from tacks in the wall and prop our door open as reminders of the connections we have made to the women and families we serve. Housing may be their primary reason for being beneath our roof, but once they come under the umbrella of the YW’s services they find that much more happens beyond the doors then housing searches.
Since frontline staff don’t always get the pleasure of following-up with our ladies and their families once they have procured housing and moved on from the cameo spent with us in their lives, every so often, it’s nice to remember that the door-stopper rock, hand-written cards and beaded dream catchers were crafted with intentions that convey much more than “I was here”. 

An Advocate Drowning in a Sea of Hotshot Executives and Board Members

We would like to introduce you to our newest blogger, Sami-Jo. Sami-Jo has been a women’s advocate at the YW for 5 years, starting as a student and working her way to becoming one of our permanent, full time staff. Sami-Jo along with Suzanne Veenstra, YW’s Community & Public Relations Coordinator, were selected to attend the YWCA Canada‘s 2013 Annual Members Meeting through the Young Women’s Leadership Miles Fund, empowering women under 30 to attend national and international events. Sami-Jo has put together her reflections of her time at the AMM.

Having never participated in the YW’s events or blogs and staying mostly silent in staff meetings, not to mention having never traveled alone or looked 5 years in the future when considering my career, I found myself shocked when I handed over an application for the YWCA’s Young Women’s Leadership Miles Fund. Expecting anyone to fund a perpetual non-joiner was laughable, especially considering I was asking them to send me to Winnipeg for the YWCA’s 2013 Annual Membership Meeting. Unless a colleague briskly encouraged me to do it (*cough cough* Outreach Worker/Family Shelter Advocate Lori Papetti), I never would have thought twice. Nonetheless, I’m glad I stopped being so stubborn and gave in. Many times frontline staff have a sense their superiors think of them as transitory employees who are intelligent and useful but will ultimately spend a cameo of their lives in the company before moving on to other endeavours. Confession? I definitely thought so.

While in Winnipeg at the YWCA’s 2013 AMM’s I learned that it’s not easy for others who spend days sifting through policies, procedures, motions, allocations, membership fees, travel pools, committee reports, governance, succession planning, risk management plus the national strategic plan as well as Form 4301 threatening to change not-for-profit organizations forever AND a whole whack of issues my brain couldn’t process … (phew! That was a lot)
My rambling point again? Right! Management and Board Members have their plates, side dishes and serving bowls overflowing with issues I can’t even begin to tackle in my day to day life and we can’t expect them to understand what it means to be face-on in the trenches getting our hands dirty when they have bigger fish to fry. Fish that effect change to hundred’s or thousand’s of woman and families, instead of the ones directly in front of them, reaching more than I do in a year.
And…it all comes from funnelling ideas and needs from frontline staff; from the employees who speak to the woman and families we service, who see the changing atmosphere in our communities and who exhaust themselves trying to make people’s lives a little brighter, with the idea’s trickling down from the top. If we don’t let these “toppers” know what’s happening below we can’t expect greatness.
Left: Sami-Jo, Suzanne, Elisabeth (E.D.), Carolyn (Board Pres.)

In large meetings and ballrooms it didn’t make a difference to the others, that I was the “only frontline staff.” They were happy to hear stories and answer my questions about the world I had let my colleague talk me into delving deep into and I found myself absorbing all the positive vibes and spirit the YW seeks to spread not only in my community in the Niagara Region but around the world.

In those few days I felt a sense of belonging to this organization, in a way I had never felt before; a deeper understanding for what my role “should” entail. I felt a comradely with another colleague who I never knew what she did all day (though she was only a flight of stairs away) and a realization that “toppers” really aren’t all that scary and neither are the issues they face, they are just different than my own and reflect everything I try to accomplish everyday in a ‘wow-that’s-a-lot -of-responsibility’ kind of way.
Moving forward I will hold what the YWCA’S 2013 AMM and their keynote speakers imbedded within me and seek to tap into that reserve the next time I feel my confidence in my role wavering. Above all, I whole-heartedly recommend anyone not in upper management or board member level attend a future AMM and soak in the spirit of an organization who does everything they can to address issues concerning woman, girls and families struggling through every day life no matter what their budget, exhaustion or role entails.

– Sami-Jo
Women’s Advocate

The YWCA Niagara Region is one of 32 YW member associations across Canada. For more information about the YWCA Canada and the women’s movement we are a part of, click here.