Of the 2,000 names listed on the Florida Network’s Wall of Gratitude, each person plays an essential role in helping families during their darkest times. In this series, “Stories Under the Roof”, we will introduce you to some of these remarkable professionals and the stories that motivate them to show up and make a positive difference in the lives of Florida’s youth and families each and every day. Today, we would like to introduce you to Pam Washington from the Arnette House in Ocala.
What do you want to tell the general public about the work you do?
“As a supervisor, I make sure to greet my staff with a ‘good morning!’ and a welcoming smile when I arrive to work. I communicate the needs of the youth and their daily activities with my staff to keep everyone at the shelter on the same page. These activities include assigning youths their chores and assisting them in completing them, having group meetings, facilitating homeschool classes and conducting screenings with prospective parents in order to evaluate if their child can come to the shelter. When the intake is set up, we have the parent bring the youth into the shelter. I have the parents and youth sign all intake papers, then talk with the youth. This gives me time to answer any questions they may have. I let them know that everyone is here for a reason, including the staff as well. This is the time that I love the most. The youth that come into our shelter really are looking for things that are missing in their lives. Many of the youth say that their parents don’t spend time with them at all. They tell me that they are not bad children, but more misunderstood or not listened to.”
“Once the youth finish the intake procedures, we introduce them to the other youth. We do everything with these kids- play card games, shoot pool, play board games, or just eat together and have a good conversation. The youth typically stay at our shelter from 21 to 30 days at a time. While the youth are here I take on a lot of different roles with them. At times I’m the parent, the mentor, the nurse, the disciplinarian, the counselor, and sometimes even their verbal punching bag. I enjoy being all of those things to these kids. I teach them, as well as their parents, coping skills and tools to help them succeed when they return home. I proudly end my day by telling the youth and staff, ‘Have a good evening and we will do it all again tomorrow.’”
Has the pandemic changed your perspective on your work?
“Yes, it has changed my perspective on my work because I have more compassion for the clients, their families and the staff. During the pandemic the youth are separated from their families for different reasons. Some of the parents are essential employees, as myself, and have no one to keep a watchful eye over their children. This pandemic reminds me of the old saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ Knowing that I am part of someone’s village changes my thoughts on how I looked at my job before this pandemic. My workload has changed with the amount of youth that we take in our shelter now. We have kept our numbers down due to social distancing rules for the safety of the youth and staff. Our shelter is usually full with 18 to 20 youth at one time.”
What is keeping you motivated?
“I stay motivated by taking it one day at a time. I work to be a good supervisor to my staff and good mentor to the youth we serve. I see a new client come into the shelter and know that they will leave our shelter with new tools to try and work on broken relationships at home. They will leave our shelter with a better understanding of what a good person they are no matter what has happened. I try to fill them with love, respect, creativity, empathy for others, and humility.”
What are you most looking forward to when this is over?
“I’m looking forward to being able to do my daily activities without fear that the person standing next to me has a deadly virus that I could potentially take home to my family. In February, I received a SeaWorld Fun Pass for my family as a gift for being a great supervisor and have not been able to use it due to COVID-19. When this is over I would love to take my family to Sea World to enjoy a weekend of fun and relaxation.”
We are so grateful for the amazing work Pam does and her passion for the youth and families she serves. Her dedication and willingness to go above and beyond to really make a difference in the lives of our youth is so inspiring!