Jodi Turner, our family shelter case manager of ten years, is taking a leave of absence to depart on a year-long bike trip across Western Europe with her husband. We are sad to see her go, but we are inspired by the impact she has had on the lives of guests and coworkers.
Jodi’s path to the Haven was anything but predictable. After graduating from art school in Holland, she returned to the states to complete her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Oregon. After marrying and having her first child, she moved from Oregon to Vermont with her family. For as long as she can remember she has been interested in the arts and working with children. While her children were young she designed, made and licensed a children’s toy which became wildly successful throughout the U.S. and even in Europe! Once the toy was licensed, she pursued a job opportunity with Health Care and Rehabilitation Services (HCRS) of Southeastern Vermont. There, she began by helping to stabilize people after the de-institutionalization of the State Mental Health Hospital. This job soon turned into a case manager position, and she stayed at HCRS in that capacity for 15 years.
While working with her clients at HCRS, Jodi became acquainted with the Upper Valley Haven and the services it offers. When a shelter advocate position became available she interviewed for the job, and landed the role of case manager at the Byrne House family shelter which included aftercare management for those who moved out of the shelter.
Jodi notes that she has learned much from her experiences at the Haven. When she arrived, she was already very experienced in working with people suffering from the stressors of mental illness and rehabilitation. Her growth as a professional at the Haven has been in adjusting to the tough situations addressed by case managers and learning how to best serve those struggling with poverty and homelessness. Jodi has found that to be an effective case manager, she has had to accept the pace at which change happens. Progress might seem slow at times; but she has learned to accept the rhythm of change and keep her eye on future outcomes. Each moment cannot be measured as success or failure; rather it is more productive to look at change in small but discernible increments. Jodi notes that we cannot demand perfection in every outcome, but rather make sure we do the best we can with what we are given and ensure that it is helping people move toward long-term goals. She also recognizes the importance of staying emotionally balanced and productive when serving people who face very scary and uncertain situations in their lives. It is important to mediate one’s emotional response to situations, to react appropriately even in crises, and to strive to move forward each day even when things feel chaotic.
Beyond learning how to best serve guests, Jodi has also had a lot of time to reflect on what organizations like the Haven represent and offer in peoples’ lives. In her many years as a case manager, she has addressed both generational and situational poverty, and has found that places like the Haven are just a stepping stone in peoples’ life paths; they have done a lot of hard work before coming to the Haven and will continue to do much more after they leave. By offering a route out of poverty, we offer a wealth of opportunities for those who are trying to move onto the next stepping stone. Working as a case manager has affirmed her belief that people will work hard for what they want. The Haven connects people to the tools, independence, and opportunities that will help them take the next step.
Jodi’s work has also affirmed her belief that people are good. She has come to understand that people tend to focus on differences between individuals, but we should pay closer attention to resemblances. We need to acknowledge that we all have common capabilities for emotion; though we may not experience the same situations, we experience the same emotions. Jodi believes that compassion is a defining capability of every person. We may lose sight of it, but we can always find it again. Compassion is a common thread that can connect us all.
Jodi has a lot to look forward to on the road, but what she’s most excited about is the simplicity of living she will enjoy in the coming year. She is looking forward to not worrying about anything except food, supplies, and getting from point A to point B. She loves the basic quality of life on a bike. She’s excited to be doing something new, and looks forward to the refreshing experiences of meeting new people and seeing new places. She feels that she has integrated much of what she’s learned at the Haven into her life, and will carry what she’s learned about working with people on the road. When asked about what she will miss most, it’s the little things, such as the good feeling she gets when she comes into work every day to a place where people work happily for a common purpose. She will miss “…witnessing the little miracles that happen every day just because it is the Haven. I will witness little miracles on the road too, I know that, but they will be different.”
We wish Jodi safe and happy travels next year. We will miss her dearly, but even in her absence we will continue to be moved and energized by the amazing work she has done at the Haven and look forward to having her back at the Haven this time next year.
The Haven Through 40 Years
The Haven will commemorate its four decades of service to the region by releasing 40 stories of people, events, ideas, and services fundamental to our mission. We will be releasing these stories weekly, so check back often.