By Tammi Pitzen, Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County
It is one of my favorite times of the year. I love fall. I love all that it represents. I think about fall being the time to go into our cocoon and come out in spring transformed. For me, it is also a time to be reflective of the blessings I have in my life.
I have just celebrated my three year anniversary at the CAC. Together we have done so much in those three years.
In this work, the average “life span” of an Executive Director in a CAC is about three years. At that point, people either move on to other work or they decide they will stay. I think that is because in the first year, you are learning the territory. You are learning your community. You are learning the nuances of the way the CAC operates in this community, with this team. While I have done this work for a really long time, it is never the same in any two communities.
In year two, you know what impact you want to make but are still trying to figure out a way to assimilate what you would like to do into a functioning team of professionals.
In year three you begin to execute your vision. Or you become so overwhelmed by the mountains of work required to keep all the cogs moving that you decide to move on instead of moving mountains.
I want to move mountains!
When I turned 21 and began this work, I had no idea that it would become my passion. When I say passion, I mean PASSION! It is hard to explain. Many people think about the children who are abused in our community and think…that is horrible. I, and those I work with, think about those same abused children and our reaction is to work to change their world.
I am not alone in my passion. I see it every Wednesday afternoon when I attend our Multi-disciplinary team meeting.
I look at the faces of the professionals assembled in that room and know that I am with “my people”. I spend very little, if any time with these people outside of the small room upstairs in the Children’s Advocacy Center. I know most by name.
But here today, in this moment, during this time of thankfulness I count that team as one of the top ten things I am most thankful for.
In the spirit of naming my blessings here are the things I am most thankful for this year:
1) I am so thankful for my family. The one I was born into, the one I married into and the one I have created along the way since my childhood. My husband is so supportive and has joined me in my concern for children who are abused, unwanted, or otherwise uncared for. We are teaching our son to take care of those more vulnerable.
2) I am thankful for the mentors who have guided and helped me learn the skills I need to work in this wonderful movement (the CAC movement) and in the field of child abuse. There have been many along the way. Some are no longer living. Most are separated from me by miles.
3) I am thankful for the search committee who saw something in me that led them to believe that I could be the leader of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County.
4) I am thankful for the multi-disciplinary team members that I get to work with every day. These people are fantastic. Literally, every day, quietly they are saving lives and changing the world. I am so lucky to be able to see these things happening. Most people take it for granted.
5) I am thankful for the staff and contract professionals that I have the honor of working with every day. They are absolutely some of the best people in this field and I cannot imagine taking this journey without them on my team. They are brilliant and compassionate. They make me look good every day! Who wouldn’t want that in their life?
6) I am thankful for the most impressive Board of Directors that I have ever had the privilege of working with and for. This community is so lucky to have them.
7) I am thankful for the generosity of this community and the support they have always given the Children’s Advocacy Center.
8) I am thankful for the network of Executive Directors that I get to work with and learn from. This would be so hard without all of you!!! It is so fun to be able to share with you, collaborate with you, and make Jackson County an incredible place to live.
9) I am thankful for the opportunity to witness strength, courage, and bravery that the young victims we serve at the CAC show every single day. It is an amazing thing.
10) I am thankful for a couple of women who many years ago allowed me to work outside of the box and empowered me to step into a leadership position in a CAC. They taught me a lot about grants, a lot about running programs, a lot about facilitating a team, working with Boards, and a bunch of other nonprofit “stuff”. My first Executive Director, Janet Buss and my second Executive Director, Teresa Huizar, taught me everything I know about CAC’s and nonprofit management. I am uncertain what you both saw in me that made you want to invest in me but I am so thankful you did.
I challenge each of you to come up with your own list of thankfulness!
My wish for each of you is that you will know your value, know your strengths, and find peace and serenity that will carry you through.