Maybe we gain legitimacy not from our degrees and jobs, but our life stories. I didn’t choose this job, it chose me. On April 23, 2018, I officially became the Fairbanks Reentry Coalition Coordinator. It’s a job for which I am uniquely suited. I have worked as nurse, pastor, founder of a non-profit and event organizer. Recently, I earned my Master’s degree in Global Urban Leadership. As a wife, mother, foster mom and grandmother my skills are limitless. We have an open door policy in our home with places for guests, adult children, grandchildren, friends and at times strangers. For two and a half years we provided a home for four generations of our family to live in community. It was our privilege to care for my mother during her final days on earth.
I would like to get real with you, without telling someone else’s story. These life experiences have created a passion in me for community change. Here are a couple of the stories that drive me.
· We lost our 33 year old foster son (yes, his forever family from age 14) to suicide in North Pole, Alaska. His losses were many and his unwillingness or inability to navigate adverse childhood experiences set him up for isolation, rejection and anger and eventually losing hope and taking his own life.
· Having a child get the mental health treatment they needed in jail rather than a treatment setting after spending 9 months homeless with acute mental illness that was marked by frequent encounters with peace officers, emergency room visits, hospitalization and death threats (life is dangerous on the streets). That sentence is as long as the nine months felt.
As a result of these experiences and others I come to this job with an agenda for improving mental health care in Fairbanks, Alaska. I have been in Fairbanks since 1982 and I have been a witness to the improvements made and feel confident that if we work together we will be able to make the needed changes. This is my commitment to reentry:
· Create a sense of hope to replace the despair that comes when a community member returns to Fairbanks when he/she is deemed to no longer be a threat to public safety, after having served their court ordered sentence. This will be done by strengthening the options for housing, employment, health care, transportation and cultural connections. I will do this with Reentry Coalition members, work groups and the agencies they represent.
· Exemplify the values of the Coalition in regards to compassion, respect, commitment, inclusion and by being non-judgmental. These values not only impact how I feel about the reentrants but the agencies that are committed to providing needed services. We are better together.
· Write a weekly blog that brings together the stories, best practices and opportunities that we have in Fairbanks to improve our services.
I would like to inspire you to get involved. Start by following us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.