If it hasn’t been made evident by now, we love people here at AAT! We love hearing about their stories and passions for our community, but we also love hearing about what our fellow locals do and why they do it! For example, we have some wonderful neighbors who own/manager some fantastic local businesses and serve our town tremendously by doing so! This fact is why AAT has partnered up with our good friends at B3 Glass, to bring you all “Small Business Fridays!” Each week, we’ll feature a different, local small business and talk with its owner and hear about their journey, their business in general, as well as their heart for their customers and our city!
“Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, he’ll feed himself for the rest of his life.” Perhaps, you’ve heard that adage before? Well, when applying it to their work in the community, today’s guest and her organization’s staff would take that wise illustration and add on to it. “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, he’ll not only feed himself but teach others how to fish as well.”
Today, we’re joined by Judy Andréson, the director of the Family Resource Centers of Northeastern Nevada. August 2019 will mark seven years Judy has led her team in enhancing the quality of life for Northeastern Nevada residents through education, programs, and community connections. Before we learn more about how the non-profit organization carries out this mission, let’s first learn a little bit about Judy, herself!
“My husband and I have been married for twenty-four years; we came to Elko from California twenty years ago. We had lived in Palm Springs and Monterey, California, before moving here. We made the move because it was one of those situations where we knew if we didn’t leave California, we would probably never have anything; even twenty years ago, the costs of living and finding jobs in California were crazy.”
“Before we found Elko, after leaving California, I was working as a travel writer, and my husband is a professional photographer. We decided to travel around for a bit while we tried to find a place to land because traveling already fit in with our jobs. We journeyed throughout the United States, parts of Europe, and different locations we thought we might want to stay. We narrowed our search down to the West; we wanted to live in a smaller-sized town that was safe, beautiful and had a sunny climate. I would put all those keycodes on a map, and it would bring up Northeastern Nevada. I went to my travel files and pulled out a visitor’s guide for Elko County; I saw a picture of Lamoille Canyon. I thought it was great! I woke my husband up at five-o-clock in the morning and told him we were going to move to Nevada!”
“We came to Elko, met with the publisher of the newspaper, and he gave my husband a freelance job, that night. Twenty years ago, there was not a lot for professional women to do, here. I started working freelance for the newspaper, writing the visitors’ guide. After a couple of years of being on staff there, I decided I wanted to do something to make a difference in our community. I started working for non-profits on grant work. I worked for Vitality Center and The Boys and Girls Club before seeing a blind ad for what ended up being the director position at the Family Resource Center. I sent in my resume; I did the interview, and they offered me the job! It’s been a journey!”
Fantastic! Thank you for sharing your story with us, Judy! Now, can you please give us a little bit of the background on the Family Resource Center?
“Family resources in Nevada were started as an initiative on the State level to be a repository of developing services in communities from state funds or federal passed through dollars. We’re positioned to address emerging needs in communities. If we don’t have a program or service that fulfills a need, then we’ll know who else in the city can help.”
What is your organization’s specific approach for helping people, Judy? Have you been able to use this approach to help many people?
“Last fiscal year we helped twenty-two thousand, forty-six people in our community, which about two-thirds of our population! We see our job as helping people live their best lives possible; that means something different for every single individual. Someone might come in who is living in crisis because of their needs for food, shelter, or finances, but we can’t help people live their best lives while they’re in crisis. Sometimes life throws us these curve balls which become barriers that we don’t know how to get past. So, we help by identifying what a person’s life actually looks like through sitting down with them, doing assessments, and helping them out of a crisis. After that, it becomes an educational process; we help them identify what their next steps are for living their best lives.”
“We’re not going to judge people. We’re not going to make people feel less than someone else. Everyone needs help in life; nobody makes it through this life alone. If possible, we also want to teach people how to pay these lessons forward; it’s easy to take and take, but we want to train people to do what we do for others! Because we (Family Resource Center staff) are not therapists or social workers; we’re just human beings who care about people. If everyone who comes to us develops that servant leader mentality and becomes a person who wants to help somebody else, that’s how our community becomes a better place to live. Ideally, we should be working to put ourselves out of business because everybody in the town should be working together, on their own, so they don’t need a place like a Family Resource Center. Yes, this approach to helping people takes time and patience, but that’s all right because relationships are built in time.”
What brings you the most joy when it comes to your work, Judy? What makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning?
“The biggest thing is when you see the movement in people’s lives. I’ll give you an example. There was a woman whom we helped that was homeless, and she had been for about ten years. She had mental health issues. She used to sit out on the sidewalk in front of our building; in the Summer we would give her bottles of water, and in the Winter, we would give her cups of coffee. It took a year of trying to gain her trust, engage in a conversation with her and get her inside the building. It took, literally, hundreds of interviews with her to try and piece together her story. We called around town to find out more about her; many people told us we would never be able to help her. Hearing that made me all the more determined! I believe you can’t give up on people; every single person is worth helping, regardless of their situation! It was amazing; we were able to get this woman into housing, mental health care, social security, and clothing. Her entire life turned around. That’s the model we work off here, and that’s what gets me up in the morning. I love being able to help everyone who is associated with our agency (clients and staff) live the best life they can.”
What would you say is the key for a non-profit organization, such as yours, to find success in a town such as ours?
“We live in a small town, so we must know what the other agencies and non-profits are doing to strengthen an individual’s lives. We sit down at the table with others, or bring them in, to find out how we work together to help each other. That’s the key to success in a small town for a government-funded, non-profit because you never want to duplicate the same services as another organization. Funders from a State level will wonder why they’re giving money to two people to do the same thing. So, we need to work together, not try to compete, and realize we’re all trying to help the same people! Ideally, we should be working to put ourselves out of business because everybody in the town should be working together, on their own, so they need a place like a Family Resource Center.”
Finally, Judy, as someone who has traveled to many places in her life, what makes our community so special to you? What do you want to say about it, and what do you want its people to know about you and the Family Resource Center?
“One of the things that makes Elko so special is the people; the people are very generous. I’ve been in a position, both personally and professionally, where I’ve had to ask people for help; it is rare when somebody says, no. It’s almost as if people know, because of geographical location, that we have to help each other. My husband and I always refer to it as the high desert island!”
“I think the most important thing about myself is that people can count on me to do the right thing. I’m a person of integrity, and that works throughout all levels of our agency. We are entirely transparent as an organization and have worked very diligently to meet national standards for charitable accountability. We depend on the generosity of the community to continue to do what we do, so people can always rely on us to do the right thing.”
You can stay caught up on everything going on around here at AAT by checking out our “Stay Connected” page! Make sure you never miss a feature!
See you around, Elko!