By Lindsay Bear, Online Engagement Coordinator
Earlier this year, I got the chance to meet with Dean Soenen, Director of Street Services at Wood’s Homes. Check out the below Q&A to hear what Dean had to say about his experience at Wood’s!
Q: How long have you been with Wood’s Homes?
I began working with Wood’s Homes in 1987 as a youth and childcare student. From there, I stayed until 2005 (18 years), left for six years and returned in 2011. All in all, I think I have about 23 years’ experience. During my time at Wood’s Homes I completed my Master’s Degree, got married and had kids – I really grew up here.
Q: What keeps you here?
Well, all kinds of reasons. It has a lot to do with the values of the organization and the meaningful work we do. And it’s a special place to work, which has to do with the people. I’ve known lots of people here for the better part of my life.
Q: Can you walk me through a “typical” day for you at Wood’s Homes?
Q: What do you think the organization does well?
I think we provide people in the community with a service. One of our board members always says, “We’re in the business of saving lives” – and I truly believe that. It’s about helping kids get off the streets and into stable housing.
Q: What do you think we could be doing better?
We’re an agency that always strives to do better. We’re always looking over our shoulder, asking ourselves, “Are we doing enough?” We also make sure to ask our clients what could be done better. Personally, I always worry and ask, “Are our services accessible enough?”
Q: Are there any issues around children and youth you’d like to see us pursue?
That’s a tough one. I think we could always do more work around stigma – making sure services are accessible and that we’re reducing barriers, especially with youth who are marginalized.
Q: Can you talk about a key memory or success story that stands out for you from your time at Wood’s?
I was at a community meeting – a partnership celebration with New Horizon – and they asked a former Wood’s Homes client to speak. When he got up to speak, I realized I recognized his name, because he was someone I worked with years ago. He was a young man who had been in trouble with the law many times, having gone to jail for a number of years, and he spoke at the event about how his life had changed. I went up to talk with him after he spoke and he said his time at Wood’s Homes was the highlight of his childhood.
Q: How much influence does the culture/ethics of the organization play into your position here?
It’s huge. The culture at Wood’s Homes really becomes part of who you are. You live and breathe it, and model it. You talk about mistakes as learning lessons with those around you.
Q: What is your biggest wish for Wood’s? Or, in other words, what would you like to see for Wood’s Homes’ future?
As an agency, I think our recognition and visibility in the community has grown significantly; however, I would like to see that recognition/visibility at a national level as an institution for children’s mental health.
A certain kind of person dedicates themselves to the children and youth who come through our doors. It takes a special mixture of compassion and tenacity grounded in a belief for a better future. To learn more about the passionate people who define our organization, check out our 2015-2016 Annual Report.
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, family and community – let’s work together!