Our SpoTlight FEATURE shines on the staff and volunteers who Work At York County Shelter Programs.
August 2019 Diane Gerry, Chief Operations Officer
Diane Gerry came to work at York County Shelter Programs eight years ago because she wanted to help people suffering from the effects of poverty.
She had been working as the General Assistance Director at the former Sanford Town Hall (now known as City Hall), where she helped people in need. As part of her job, she occasionally worked collaboratively with YCSP Clinical Director Jen Ouellette. When Jen offered her a position, Diane says, “I didn’t take long to decide that the shelter would allow me to make a much bigger impact on decreasing the effects of poverty in our community.”
Diane started out leading a grant-funded program called “Stable Lives,” and then took the position of assistant clinical director. After two years, she became the Director of Quality Assurance, and for the last 5.5 years she has been the Chief Operations Officer.
As COO, Diane ensures that the day-to-day operations are running smoothly. She oversees the YCSP leadership team, and handles compliance, payroll and benefits. She is also responsible for a critical element of this non-profit – funding. Diane writes the grants that, along with donations, keep YCSP running. It’s a huge responsibility – and one she admits can be “challenging.”
Diane also considers it her job to let communities know about the shelter – its work, its needs – which is why she joined the Sanford-Springvale Rotary Club in 2015. This July she became the organization’s president.
For Diane, YCSP is about extending a hand to someone and hoping that it will be the start of lasting change. “Every day when I drive up the hill and I am encased by the canopy of trees, I feel blessed to know the people we serve and the staff I work with,” she says. “Knowing that today someone will find employment, a home, stay in recovery, decide to be in recovery, have their health needs taken care of. To see staff grow and help others…it is a special place and I am grateful to be here.”
June, 2019 Kelly Smith, Family Housing Navigator
When families arrive at our family shelter in Sanford, they are greeted by a very welcoming young woman.
Kelly Smith, York County Shelter Programs’ Family Housing Navigator, helps families settle into their new home. Our family shelter has room for 16 people.
On average, families stay at the house for three to six months. During this time, Kelly is working with families to set goals to secure housing. “The idea is to create goals that can be accomplished in 90 days, so that people can feel success,” Kelly says.
During this time she links people to numerous resources. They include housing programs – but they also include connections to other community resources for needs such as transportation, food stamps, child care, employment, mental health and medical help. “You need a holistic approach,” Kelly says about the process of helping people find stable housing. She also follows up with people after they move out.
Kelly has been with us for a year now.
Because this is the only family shelter in York County, at times there is a waiting list. Kelly finds that to be a difficult aspect of her job – telling people they must wait. It is also hard to say goodbye to the families she has helped. She especially enjoys that part of her job – getting to know people. As she sees it, much of her job is about building relationships – with other agencies, with landlords, with residents.
Kelly says she appreciates the support she feels from other agencies and from the city. As she says, “It (Sanford) really does have a great community.”
YCSP’s Chief Operating Officer Diane Gerry says that looking at a family’s whole picture is key to helping them find housing and achieve stability. “Our navigator – Kelly – works so hard at connecting our residents to the things they need to find an affordable living space. Kelly is very dedicated. She makes people feel welcome and supported.”
Scott Davis, Food Services Director
Scott Davis, Director of Food Services Spotlight#2. May, 2019
Scott Davis takes his position as YCSP’s Director of Food Services to heart. He works hard every day to ensure that every meal served from the kitchen at Henry Hall is nutritious, delicious, and of the highest quality possible. “You’ll never see a meal served without some true heart in it,” Scott says.
Scott’s entire work life, (starting when he was 12!) has been in the food industry. Over the years he has owned several local restaurants and catering businesses.
Four years ago Scott decided to close his restaurant and to look for a food service position. He heard from a friend that there was an opening at the Shaker Hill Bakery in Alfred, which is owned by YCSP. “I’d heard a lot of good things about the agency,” Scott says, and so he applied. Much to his delight, after an initial interview for the baking position, he was asked back to a second interview and was offered the job of kitchen manager, instead. He was happy to accept it. Seven months later, he was promoted to the position of Director of Food Services.
The job is multifaceted: Scott oversees a staff of 11, and he is responsible for a kitchen that feeds, at a minimum, 80 people, three meals a day, every day. The meals are made for shelter residents, residents of Layman Way, Emery House, and for the Brothers of Christian Instruction. The numbers increase when the nearby Notre Dame Spiritual Center is hosting retreats and events – so there are days when the kitchen is preparing as many as 130 meals at one time.
Scott also oversees the food pantry on Swetts Bridge Road in Alfred, the seasonal bakery (open August through November), the public “Mama Mia” suppers held Friday nights through the summer, plus occasional YCSP catering jobs, both on-site and off. (One of Scott’s goals is to generate more catering clients for the agency. FMI, firstname.lastname@example.org )
Scott’s previous experience as both a business owner and a chef made him a natural fit for his job. Because YCSP is a non-profit , he has to keep an eye on costs when he is creating or approving menus. He knows how to “shop” for the right ingredients, depending on the times of the year. As a chef, he also leads his team to understand the importance of presentation and, most especially, as he describes it , to understand his “palate.” Scott and his crew members often do tastings of dishes together, to determine whether they have hit the mark. When you are serving food for 80+ people, it is important that foods are “just right.” Over time, he says, his crew has learned where those places are – the nuances of salt, sweet, spicy, heat, acidity, richness – it is an art that comes naturally to Scott.
Scott is a hands-on guy who enjoys working beside staff in the kitchen. He is also apt to lend a hand to other people in the agency, as needed. Ultimately, it is that feeling of being of service that gives him the most gratification from his job. “You feel good at the end of the day,” Scott says. “You leave with such a positive feeling, because you are helping the homeless.”
“York County Shelter Programs is so fortunate to have Scott as part of our team, “ says Diane Gerry, YCSP’s Chief Operating Officer. “Working with the clinical team, he also helps teach daily living skills to clients and residents who are working in the kitchen and dining room. Scott treats everyone who comes to YCSP with the utmost dignity and respect.”
Jennifer Ouellette, Clinical Services Director. March, 2019
Jennifer Ouellette has been with YCSP for 28 years; for the past 21 years she has served as our Clinical Services Director. The Clinical Department includes a staff, on average, of about 45 to 50 people – all people who are helping our residents who are struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues. (For a complete overview of those services and programs , visit the Programs section of our website.)
Jen has a fierce commitment to helping others – people who may never have had anyone extending a helping hand until they arrived at the shelter. She says she has known since was a middle-schooler that she wanted to work in the helping professions.
Jen started here in 1991 as a weekend overnight residential tech. This led to other jobs within the agency, including working as a receptionist. In 1992 she worked as the supervisor of a grant-funded program for women with children. By then Jen had developed an interest in addiction work, and was pursuing a Master’s degree in Clinical Counseling from the University of Southern Maine. When the grant-funded program ended, she worked at the shelter as a case manager; by 1996 she had earned her alcohol and drug counselor license, and she became a counselor at the shelter. In 1998 she ran the family emergency shelter for a short time, and then became the Clinical Director. She has four licenses – an LCPC, LADC,CCS and MHRTc.
With Jen’s guidance and development of programs, YCSP has increased its mental health and addiction treatment services. They include a community outreach program to assist people who need care while attempting to live independently; medication management and medication-assisted treatment programs; targeted case management; and Layman Way, a unique residential treatment center that works in partnership with the county’s district attorney.
An important part of Jen’s work is attempting to get services for people who have no money to pay for care or services. “To me, everything I have been taught revolves around helping, in any way you can, no matter what,” she says. “Having to tell someone you cannot help because they cannot pay goes against my core belief about what human services work really is. Those with no money really, truly, need the help.”
Jen notes that for people trapped in poverty, moving forward can feel impossible. She lists examples.
“How do you secure a job when you have no car, or when you need substantial dental work? How do you return to school when you live 30 miles away and have two children? How do you job search when you have no internet?” she says. “How do you work when you have three kids, one with special needs, when there is no affordable child care? How can you manage to secure an apartment when asked for first, last, and security deposits? How do you get up and move forward when you struggle with debilitating symptoms of an untreated mental health issue that you cannot obtain psychiatric care or medications for because you have no money? How do you make yourself and your children feel safe when you are victims of domestic violence and have to flee?”
Jen gets up every day hoping for positive outcomes. “The work is challenging in many ways,” she says. “We see a lot of suffering. But, we also see incredible miracles, testament to the human spirit, alive in all of us, if someone has hope. We offer hope, in big and small ways. To be a part of someone’s recovery (recovery to me is not only about chemical dependency, but recovery from trauma, from homelessness, from mental health issues) and to be trusted with the deepest parts of themselves is an honor.”
Jen gives everything she has to help our clients and residents. We are grateful to have her here.