By Tammi Pitzen, Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center
There are people that you meet along this journey called life and you know immediately that they are someone that will have an impact. On your life. On the lives of others. You may not know why they are important. You may not know how long you will have their influence. But you just know they are important. You recognize it in their eyes. You know you will never view the world in exactly the same way. And every time after that initial meeting this impact is confirmed.
For me Toni Richmond is one of these people.
Without ever hearing her speak, you know that she is someone that you can trust. A calming force. I cannot know what it must feel like to walk into Toni’s office looking for healing and empowerment. Looking for safety after abuse. I can imagine what it is like. I can see the young children and teens that parade in and out of that office. I can see their smiling faces. I can hear their laughter and sometimes their tears. I can see that they are stronger because of their time with Toni and Jack. I see the results of her dedication, compassion and empathy every time I am in the therapy reception area. I see it in the sweet little faces of the clients coming out of her office.
My very first week at the CAC I had an experience with Toni that set the tone for my entire leadership with this team. I started November 12, 2013 as the Executive Director. It was uneventful. However, my second day was November 13, 2013.
This would be the day that someone chose to bomb the DA’s office.
At around 7:30 in the morning, I received a phone call from Toni asking me if I had the news on. I did not. I was trying to get myself and my son together to leave and start our day. I remember thinking, “Why is she calling me?” And then the next thing she said was she couldn’t get to work because there was crime scene tape on the street near our center and there had been a bombing.
She paused and heard complete silence on my end. I heard, “Tammi, are you there?” I responded, “Yes.” What she said was, “Well, you need to make a decision about what we are going to do today.” What I heard was, “You are ready for this. 1. 2. 3. Here we go!!!!” I look back at this and she was so calm and so matter of fact about making plans to move forward. I appreciated that. It gave me time to take a breath. It reminded me that this is what we do every day. Just with explosives — that we cannot see the effects of immediately.
This calming, graceful, stylish way in which Toni responded is something I have since learned is just her usual way of dealing with whatever task is sitting in front of her.
As much as I would like to say that it is not happening, Toni is retiring. She will be around from time to time, but it will never be in quite the same way. I am going to miss her. I am going to miss going by her office to visit with her and with Jack. I am going to miss the very calm, very reassuring way she deals with everything that is put in front of her. I am going to miss sharing our fur-baby stories.
If you have not already, please make sure that you let Toni know what her time here at the CAC has meant to you.