What do you think of when the word hero comes to mind? Many of us think of some sort of mythical character, such as Odysseus or Hercules, bravely putting their life on the line to fight the evil powers that be. For others, images from their youth of Batman or Spiderman may come to mind- those fictitious heroes who epically use their superpowers each day to save the world.
However, what if we asked you to expand your thinking? The reality is, there are true heroes right here in this world, many of which always existed, but until now, humbly did their work in the shadows. But, when crisis hit, those, often-faceless, individuals became front and center. They rose to the occasion when adversity struck the hardest.
According to Wikipedia, the definition of a hero is, “A real person or a main fictional character who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, courage or strength.”
Who does that sound like? Really, it sounds a lot like the essential workers of this pandemic- the grocery clerks, healthcare workers, social workers, government employees, and of course, mental health workers.
Those essential workers are the people who have shamelessly, unapologetically, worked tirelessly on the front lines of this pandemic. People who have put their own well-being on the line, rising from the ashes and blossoming into true heroes amongst, most likely, one the largest crises many of us will face in our lifetimes.
When this pandemic hit, so many of us were afraid- we had fear surrounding our safety, the health of our loved ones, and our ability to get even our most basic needs met. But, while so many stood paralyzed by fear, others stood to the occasion. Many of those who showed their true colors, we are proud to say, are our own. They’re YDI clinicians, mentors, managers, group home counselors, and administrative staff.
When our nation was rocked by the first wave of shutdowns, it was our teams who refused to abandon the families they serve. Across the state, community clinicians quickly adapted to the transition to digital service delivery, many of which doing whatever they could to support the families they worked with. In fact, it was common for teams across the state to put together care packages for the children they served- delivering them to family’s doorsteps, some, upwards of sixty miles away.
But, what of our mentors? Many of them are true unsung heroes. Not wanting to abandon the children they worked with, they pressed on to support their kids. Often times, they used whatever tools they could get their hands on to ensure that the kids they worked with didn’t feel alone, despite physical isolation, during this difficult period.
More so, it was our group home staff that showed us all what heroism is truly about. They worked unfathomably long hours to ensure every shift was covered and that all the children in our care remained safe. Not only did many of them take on the added role of educators, but they also stepped up to the plate as true leaders in our organization.
At one point, we faced a potential group home lockdown over fears surrounding a positive COVID-19 test. While it was a false alarm, without hesitation, a team of counselors and managers quickly volunteered to live full-time on our campus for several weeks; truly sacrificing their own well-being for the kids in our care.
Even our residential leadership team couldn’t stand by and do nothing. Our Clinical Director, Kevin Wyse, and Associate Clinical Director, Jordan Hinshaw, spent most of their waking hours on our Boulder campus to support the kids and staff. And when they weren’t there? Well, they were doing whatever they could to be of use. In fact, while away from work, Jordan spent her time baking lasagnas, as well as other tasty meals, for the kids in our care.
Our local managers across the state also stepped up to the plate to show us what being a hero is all about. Without thinking twice, many of them put their own well-being on the line to do what was needed for their teams. On the community side, many quickly adapted to supporting a partially remote workforce, while also providing services to clients when team members were unable to work. And in residential services, program and home managers led by example, becoming the rock their counselors needed during a tumultuous period.
Still, less recognized but equally important is our administrative team. They were truly, and continue to be, the glue that holds our organization together. They worked tirelessly to make sure our staff had the tools, really, everything they would possibly need to complete their roles during some of the most difficult times of this pandemic.
For instance, our HR team adapted to changes in policy due to COVID so quickly it would give most of us whiplash. Really, the same could be said for our IT Department. When so many people were forced to work remotely and the nature of service delivery changed, so did the requirements of our digital infrastructure. Not only did they adapt to the fluid demands of their department, but also faithfully supported our teams in their roles, many of which were using their own devices.
More so, our finance and central office support teams didn’t skip a beat in making sure our employees were well taken care of. What many people don’t know is the dedication that was actually required to ensure that every payroll check was cut, every bill was paid, all our facilities were maintained, and every central office phone call was attended to. At times, like at so many other organizations right now, both teams operated at partial capacity, yet, still completed the work required to support an organization of nearly 600 people.
Lastly, setting the example for all of us is our Chief Executive Officer, Dennis Sulser, Ed.D. As our leader, he continues to work tirelessly to guide us through an unprecedented storm. Truthfully, no leader expects to have to bare the weight of such a hefty task, but he’s stood to the occasion, leading our teams with humanity and grace.
Even during the most difficult periods of this pandemic, he’s picked up the phone and checked in with our people across the state. Each day, he physically shows up to our Central Office, offering a comforting presence during an unsettling time. Really, his actions over the last four months have shown us all what leadership is really about.
We would like to thank each of our team members for demonstrating the true meaning of #YDIStrong. Each of them has proven to be a small flicker of a flame, that when crisis hit, ignited into an unstoppable force in its mission to serve those suffering most during this pandemic. For those YDI team members who are reading, please know that by any definition, you are a true hero.