November was a busy month! The Women’s Fund had two “Lunch and Learn” informational sessions. We held our second session on Tuesday, November 14th. The Steering Committee of the WAWF had the pleasure of hearing from four organizations, beginning with updates from each of our guests on what they do and where they currently see real-time gaps and opportunities.
Lucy Brink from Community Health Services kicked us off by speaking about the mission of Community Health Services. They “represent excellence in healthcare through the dedicated practice of empowerment, inclusivity and equity.” They do not turn down anyone for care, even if they have no insurance or means of paying for the services provided. Brink is the first full-time nurse practitioner on staff, joining the team 4 months ago, and has made a large impact in expanding the capacity of the clinic. The biggest opportunities this organization sees are 1) general knowledge about Community Health Services within the community and 2) having a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) certified staff member, as they unfortunately see a large need for these examinations. Brink is planning on completing her SANE certification by the end of 2023.
Jen Johnson from Safe Avenues spoke about how the WAWF funding has helped keep their organization operating over the last year, and they are finally able to poke their heads above water after the last 3 years; they are still seeing the effects of Covid and being understaffed. The government has been pulling back funding for organizations similar to Safe Avenues, and a few in the surrounding areas have had to close their doors. Thankfully, Jen has done her due diligence in securing funding from multiple sources so they are diversified enough to continue operating on the chance the government reduces funding for Safe Avenues.
Lutheran Social Services (LSS) representative Angie Mateski spoke to the Women’s Fund about dreams for the future. LSS currently has a small office and is not a great space for building relationships with children and teens. They also have supplies such as clothing and toiletries for those in need, but they do not have the space to store items in their office. They are grateful for the use of a storage unit but must go off-site to store and obtain those items. Someday, LSS would love to open a “Resource Center” for students to have somewhere to go and hang out, take a nap in a safe place, room for volunteers to come and build relationships, and hold resources such as food and clothing for youth.
Our last speaker was Kim Madsen from Woodland Centers. She told stories about the Kids Connection Experience that the Women’s Fund sponsored. We have a separate article titled “Building Connections, Growing Together” about this multi-week event. You can read about it here.
The Lunch and Learn proved to make some great connections between the 4 organizations and the Women’s Fund. We concluded with a similar message given by all four organizations. There has been a lot of progress over the last year, and there are still some large gaps, specifically within the trauma response realm. Complex trauma was a term used consistently throughout the session. Many of the individuals these organizations serve have more than one trauma event in their lives, which makes each case more intricate and unique. It is critical we have the correct resources in place to best serve our community.