Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Our First Blog

This is the debut of the Alternative House “blog”. As the Executive Director I have the opportunity to be the first staff person to blog. At the moment, that seems like a mixed blessing. As Gina, our Development Director, commented when I asked her how long this piece should be, “your newsletter articles are always longer than they’re supposed to be. I’m sure you will have no trouble filling up the blog.” Faced with a blank piece of paper, however, that doesn’t seem so certain.
The thing that I am best at talking about or writing about are the kids who are in our programs and the staff and volunteers here at Alternative House who do such an amazing job, so that is what this first posting will be about.
Alternative House has helped thousands of young people over the 37 years we’ve been in existence. Just this past year, we helped 13 young mothers and 15 children in our Assisting Young Mothers (AYM) program and almost 200 young people at our Emergency Shelter for Teenagers. Our Outreach staff worked with more than 1,500 young people providing help and support to youth who are at risk of dropping out of school or making other unsafe choices.
To help these young people be safe and make positive choices takes some very special people. The dedication of the staff at Alternative House is incredible. Our Directors and Program Coordinators are available 24 hours a day to provide guidance to staff when a young person has a crisis. Our counselors work very hard to help young people find their way to a more stable, positive place.
Our Outreach staff recently went that extra step for a young person who took a devastating blow. A girl who has been coming to our drop-in teen center in Culmore recently lost her mother. Her father is disabled and the mother was the primary financial support for the family. Our counselors have connected the father to resources in our community so that they will be able to keep their apartment. We have been able to help with food and clothing and link the family to longer term help. But the counselors in our Outreach program didn’t stop there. Since the family has no money, grief counseling seemed out of the question. However, after many phone calls, our staff found “Camp of Hope” which will provide counseling twice a week for this young girl as she struggles to cope with the death of her mother and the family’s precarious financial situation.
This is just one example of the way the people who work at Alternative House go beyond what is expected and strive for excellence.
Our volunteers also go way beyond for the young people in our programs. Community members do everything from helping with dinner to answering our 24-hour hotline (1-800-SAY-TEEN) to shooting hoops with a youth at the Shelter. It means a lot to the young people in our programs to know that there are people who care enough about what happens to them that they will take time out of their busy day to show they care. Last year volunteers provided almost 9,000 hours of service.
My final thoughts are on the young people who come to Alternative House. At first glance a young person who ran from an abusive home, a young mother who doesn’t have her high school degree and is homeless or a youth struggling to stay out of neighborhood gangs may not seem to have a lot going for them. What you find after meeting these young people and talking with them are that each one has special qualities and gifts and most just need a little help to build on them. That’s the help that Alternative House provides.

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