Connecting to Say "Thank You"

by Tammy L. Hopper, Chief Strategic Initiatives Officer

Recently, on a day like so many other days, I was sitting alone in my home working on the computer and doing my best to meet a multitude of deadlines. I was focused and committed to checking things off the list. And then, the notification bell on my computer sounded, and because I have not yet developed my techno sense, it took me a minute to realize I had received a message through Teams. I glanced at the message and saw what always makes me smile – an indication from a two-year-old child in my life who wanted me to participate in a tea party. Focus now shifted, I pushed away my notes and organizer and answered the message. Sure, completely up for a cup of tea. With a press of a key, I was connected, and I saw eyes lit with excitement, the tiniest of giggles, and our tea party began. Given the developmentally appropriate attention span of a child her age, the tea party did not last long. It ended much sooner than I liked, and yet I recognized something very important happened in the few minutes we were together. We had needs, and we connected to get them met.

She had a need to see someone she doesn’t see all the time. She had a need to know she was valued and heard. She had a need to share, and while she could not voice all of these needs, they were evident in the request and her reaction when I said yes. I had a need to remember the importance of the human connection and the reason behind all that has driven my career – the health, safety, and well-being of children, and while I was not thinking about my needs when I connected with her, I was reminded of each one when the party was over.

This year, we celebrate National Safe Place® Week with a focus on “Connecting with Care”. These words are integral to the work of volunteers, staff, sites, and community supporters who ensure the national safety net for youth in crisis is strong and ready to assist each youth who connects with a Safe Place program.

In the midst of a global pandemic – youth and family service agencies have found ways to connect with youth. By changing hours, locations, providing resources via drop boxes, operating life skill classes virtually, and responding to increased crisis calls – agencies embraced the need to connect in new ways and to prioritize of valuing all youth and to make sure they are heard.

Local Safe Place sites, corporate partners, and transit companies have increased their in-kind contributions and donations even in the midst of sometimes staggering financial losses to show their dedication to maintaining a connection on behalf of youth. Even when making a difference seems harder than ever, each entity recognizes the value of helping even just one youth.

Youth have also connected; they are reaching out to share their needs and ideas for solutions to common issues of concern. They use social media. They TXT 4 HELP. They volunteer. They lead, and when asked, youth will acknowledge the importance of connecting with others to create meaningful change.

The “with” of the theme reflects the foundational motto of National Safe Place Network (NSPN), together we can. Together, we can emphasize the value of doing things with (instead of for) others. The safety net exists because of partnerships with local, state, regional, and national entities. One person can solve many problems; however, how does the one person measure the need or the potential impact of the proposed solution? Together, our network identifies needs and responses, and then, we work with each other to support implementation.

Caring is what you do – what we do – every day, yet sometimes caring is draining and frustrating and even scary. When I think about the millions of individuals who have put themselves at risk just in this past year, I am humbled and thankful. When I think of the members of our network who have lost their battle with the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) or struggled to keep the doors of their agencies open while having to lay off staff, I reflect on these losses and on the strength required to keep going.

 “Connecting with Care” is more than three words tied together to celebrate the impact of Safe Place. It is a simple acknowledgment of the work we do and how we will continue to help youth and families together.

The team at NSPN thanks each and every participant of the Safe Place effort. Youth, volunteers, staff, sites, corporations, ambassadors – all of you make a positive difference because you care.

If I could, I would invite you all to a tea party.

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