This may sound a little cliche, but I was asked what’s important to me. Without hesitation, I can truly say, “My son is important to me.” Knowing that my son is counting on me encourages me to knock down the day-to-day challenges whether it is in my professional or personal life. My son has made me become more responsible by helping me realize that I now have this little person relying on me. He is depending on me. He is trusting in me. Being a first-time mother is scary and it may seem like hard work, but when you truly enjoy doing something and see the value in it, it doesn’t feel like work; it doesn’t seem so hard. Which leads me to say, as the days pass, we are saddled with deadlines and benchmarks and work goals that we have to meet. We are really good at the “how,” but it’s easy to lose sight of the “why” for our work. My fellow LIFESPAN Ambassadors, we are providing support for the individuals we serve so that they can engage the skills necessary to fulfill their life; to reach their full potential; to experience joy in life! I love what I do and when I see the individuals we support flourishing and experiencing joy in their lives, it gives me joy. And I realize that all the effort; all the deadlines, and goals and benchmarks are worth it. The individuals we serve hold me accountable, just like my son does. They remind me why I do what I do. And knowing the “why” makes me want to do everything possible to make sure the programs we offer for this individuals thrive and grow and continue. So, my challenge to you, my fellow LIFESPAN Ambassadors, is to find the “joy” in our work. Experience the “why” in our work. And…take some time in our work day to experience the “joy.” I challenge all of us to display that “joy” and share it with others. And in the event, you’re having a little trouble finding the joy, think about a great moment when you really connected with an individual; think about that moment when your individual learned a new skill; think about how you helped a family member or friend or co-Ambassador. I promise, if you just give it a little effort, you will find the “joy” and reconnect with the “why.” And then, when you find the joy, do me a favor. Get up and do a dance. Seriously, stand up, put on some music and dance. Know the “why” and experiencing the “joy” is reason enough to dance! -Chelsea Freeman, Qualified Professional for LifeWorks. LifeWorks is a community based program designed for adults with developmental disabilities to help them achieve financial independence and personal acceptance.
After what, I felt, was a productive meeting with a Managed Care Organization in Uptown Charlotte, Christopher invited me to swing by LIFESPAN’s Creative Campus Center City. Never having visited 601 North Graham Street, I was curious as to what type of edifice in uptown could house a Creative Campus. I was pleasantly surprised as we turned the corner and eased our way into the parking lot. Creative Campus Center City is a beautiful building on a beautiful piece of property located just inside the Brookshire perimeter in Uptown Charlotte. The facility is aesthetically pleasing and it is the kind of facility, I believe, all of the individuals we support need and deserve. Panchita Hutchinson-Jackson, Creative Campus Center City Director, greeted us at the door with her very famous and infectious smile. For those of you who have met “Pan,” you know I’m telling the truth. Her smile is a gift. Pan is a transplant from New Jersey, and has worked with LIFESPAN for 25 years. Yes, you read that correctly. Pan celebrated her silver anniversary with LIFESPAN in October 2018. I asked “Pan” why she does what she does. She replied, “Because it’s all I know I how to do. I tried other professions, but I always came back to caring for these individuals. It’s what I know how to do. I have to do it!” Panchita and her staff do it well. The facility is well appointed, but like most facilities, there are areas that need sprucing up. I encouraged “Pan” to always be specific about what she wants and needs for her program. That does not mean that LIFESPAN will always be able to accommodate, but it does mean, we’ll know exactly what you want and we will work hard to make it happen. I met some of the most joyous and loving and courageous individuals and their caregivers. Our LIFESPAN ambassadors at Creative Campus Center City are: Martha and Ruby, Michael and Yokechia, Ronald and Miracle, Mecca and Katrice, Rachelle and Tanara, Linda and Lakendra. By the way, Lakendra and I were in pre-service training together and I’m certain she aced all the tests! I am so proud of our LIFESPAN Ambassadors. The work you do is challenging and most days, I am certain, it seems to be a thankless job. Please allow me to say, “Thank you!” Thank you for caring; thank you for being faithful; thank you for going the extra mile. It is you who make the difference in peoples’ lives every single day; it is you who are transforming the world one person at a time and it is you who make LIFESPAN what it is. When I returned to my office after visiting the Creative Campus Center City, I was so moved by what I witnessed that I experienced one of those moments when heaven and earth intersect. The Celtics, in their spirituality, call that intersection a “thin place.” I call those intersections “God-moments.” Call them what you will because they do happen! In that moment, I was even more grateful to be part of such an amazing organization as LIFESPAN. I sat down in the break room to eat a late lunch and Amy Shepherd from the Compliance Department came in to prepare herself a cup of coffee. As we chatted, Amy shared with me that she and her husband like to pick up discarded furniture and refurbish it. Sometimes they find it on the side of the road; sometimes they find it at a second-hand store. But in each case, someone else has decided the piece of furniture is of no value to them any longer. Amy and her husband see value in things that other people have thrown away. They look past the gruff exterior and see the beauty waiting to be exposed. As Amy and I talked about her hobby, it dawned on me! LIFESPAN is in the “bringing-out-the-beauty” business. LIFESPAN takes those things (people) that society has deemed “throw away” or “of no value” and we re-value them. We look past the gruff exterior and see the beauty inside; we see value in every human being and pour out of ourselves into their lives and in a way, we help refurbish them. Of course, the truth of the matter is, they refurbish us, as well. Dear Ambassadors, the work you do will never receive the attention that a well-executed pass from Cam Newton to Greg Olsen receives. But you are changing the world more deeply and more effectively than any inconsequential football game. You matter. Your work is important and necessary. LIFESPAN is working to create an organization that will allow you to flourish and be the best version of yourself as you care for the individuals we support and help them be the best version of themselves. I am thrilled to be on this journey with you. – Ken Fuquay, Chief Ambassador of Empowerment