By BARBARA BAPTISTE
United Way of St. Lucie County is working to advance the common good by focusing on education, income, and health. These are the building blocks for a good life — a quality education that leads to a stable job, enough income to support a family through retirement, and good health. Our goal is to create long-lasting changes that prevent problems from happening in the first place.
Cris Adams, Vice President of Community Impact, United Way of St. Lucie County is—a wealth of information—with whom I was very fortunate to have had an in-depth meeting. She possesses a Master’s degree in Social Work, and has been affiliated with the United Way group since the early 1990s.
United Way was a first choice for an interview as I had worked with this well-known organization—and Thomas Toronto, CEO—in Bergen County, New Jersey’s multi-level, well-staffed offices. There, I witnessed, first hand, how effectively UW assistance and professionalism benefited a large community with varying needs—from wealthy to poor.
Walking into the modest PSL location—4800 S. U.S. Highway One, Fort Pierce, Florida—may have been a different setting than the affluent Northeast’s United Way; however the work and effectiveness is nonetheless impressive. Example: 2011-2012 Community Investment equaled $1,005,050.00 used to help Port St. Lucie people in need. The wealth of knowledge I received from Cris Adams—regarding human service organizations and workers in Port St. Lucie County—show-cased a productive, well-oiled entity. Ms. Adams and the highly effective United Way operation brought all that I have, thus far, learned—Introduction to Human Service—to life!
What is a Human Service Worker? The field of Human Services, itself, is broadly defined as meeting the needs of people, while focusing on prevention as well as mediation of problems—improving the overall quality of peoples’ lives. As does Ms. Adams, a human service professional may have exemplary academic documentation; i.e. Doctorate, Master’s Degree, Bachelor’s Degree, or Associate Degree. However, due to today’s expanding world and growing local community problems and needs, a Human Service worker is typically an entry-level person who does not have traditional professional academic credentials, but who, through experience, training, or education, provides helping services.
Cris Adams, along with appropriating direct services, epitomizes a human service worker, defined by seeking to improve accessibility, accountability, and coordination among professionals and agencies in service delivery. United Way, rather a nonprofit umbrella agency , is at the helm a brokerage, and Cris Adams exemplifies a combination Social Health Generalist and Patient Advocate—helping, directing, and following through with the specific needs of Port St. Lucie county residents to one of the many and varied, appropriate agencies (most all of which, before the interview, I had never known existed.) I very much appreciate United Way’s Chris Adams’ help.
As a Social Health Generalist, Ms. Adams’ role includes a broader knowledge base of a variety of community resources, case management strategies, social policy, and political influences—with knowledge, utilizing and directing to the specific agency to
meet the person’s individualized needs. With many instances, there may well be a need for multiple agencies per client; i.e., mental/physical health, financial, housing, education, substance abuse, the youth and the elderly, etc.
Also, as a passionate Advocate, Ms. Adams pleads and fights for services, policies, rules, regulations, and laws for the client’s benefit. The advocate can generally exert more influence on the powers that be than disadvantaged groups or individuals. A Broker helps people get to existing services and helps the service relate more easily to clients. In this capacity, Ms. Adams could readily identify and speak of numerous people and resources; specifically: “Volunteer St. Lucie,” connecting the community through volunteers; “School Supplies for Students,” a project of United Way of St. Lucie County; “Hands Primary Care Clinic,” expanding health care in St. Lucie County; “Hands Pediatric Dental Program” of St. Lucie County; and A Progress Report on the State of the Social Health, and Public Safety Services in St. Lucie County for 2012, SRA Research Group Inc. Very impressive.
In Cris Adams’ own words, “We get people to where they can get their own help.” Not solving problems, per se, but helping people help themselves.
The human service field is not for everyone, but if one has a calling……
Ignoring your passion is like dying a slow death…Passion whispers to you through your feelings, beckoning you toward your highest good. Pay attention to what makes you feel energized, connected, stimulated—what gives you your juice. Do what you love, give it back in the form of service, and you will do more than succeed. You will triumph. Oprah Winfrey