When The Guidance Center was founded in 1946, it was led by a small, handful of volunteers – local school teachers and counselors. Today, The Guidance Center is a major community mental health provider that employs more than 170 mental health professionals, support staff and administrators, all of whom dedicate their careers to helping our communities most vulnerable population – children.

As we prepare to celebrate our 75th anniversary at our annual Sunset Sip gala, we asked several of our passionate, dedicated and hard-working staff to reflect and share their thoughts on why they chose to commit their careers to The Guidance Center’s mission, as well as any memorable moments that resonate with them. Here are their thoughts:

When I was a receptionist six years ago, a young adult client would sign in for her sessions and barely say hello back but as the weeks went by I started noticing her becoming more conversational. Close to the end of her treatment she stopped hiding her face with her hair and I was able to see her pretty face. I complimented her and her face lit up with happiness. She thanked me for always greeting her because it made her feel welcomed and safe in the building. I’ve committed myself all these years to The Guidance Center because I am proud of being part of an amazing agency that helps children and families towards having a better life.”

– Evelyn Z. (6 years)

“I have experienced many personal and professional milestones while working at The Guidance Center and there has been so much encouragement and support from my supervisors and colleagues. I think what stands out to me are the moments where there has been space made for my voice to be heard and having a manager and CEO that allow my ideas to influence change. On a more personal note I will always remember the feeling of family and connection as so many of the staff honored Enri at his funeral. And lastly, I have been honored to sit along so many clients and families. I will never forget interacting with a little boy who was just curious and his mother who was feeling a little overwhelmed while trying to complete intake paperwork. In what I thought was a simple moment of letting her know it was ok for him to be curious about what was behind the door and asking permission to walk him down the hall and back, it was an important  moment for him. They went on to complete steps with the intake team and later meet his therapist. But he drew me a detailed picture with a lovely comment and left it for me at the end of his appointment. I will never forget this little boy and the value of every interaction we have.”

– Angelina Palma-Williams, LCSW (13 years)

“As a clinician several years ago, I had a family get matched in the Adopt a Family program. These were two sisters that had bounced around the foster system (being separated and reunited several times). They went in to the system because their mother struggled with opioid addiction. They were subjected to physical and sexual abuse due to their mother not being able to protect them when they were very young.  Finally, as teenagers, they landed with a great aunt who agreed to take them both in, and while they were happy to be reunited they had bitter arguments that easily turned physical. These two girls had so much promise but their lives up to that point had taught them that the world was a dangerous place that would severely hurt them and that they had to fight to protect themselves or get what they want.  But that worldview was turned on its head when a donor family wrote them personalized cards and made their gift dreams come true in the Adopt a Family program. They asked me to sit with them while they opened the gifts and were so touched that a stranger had the kindness and care to do this for them. They referenced that moment often later in therapy as a turning point in which they realized that some people were good and that they did not need to fight everyone but rather needed to find the good people they could rely on. I sometimes go back to this memory to remember that it is the small things that can alter a child’s trajectory forever.”

-Tiffany Dawson, PsyD (10 years)

“I just celebrated 18 years of service this month with The Guidance Center, in the Administration Department. I can recall several incidents that let me know early on that I was in the right place; for this much needed service. However, there is one incident that still stands out to me; our Outpatient Program was having a carnival in the parking lot of the building for their clients and families. I was observing a small boy trying to put a ring around a coke bottle with a fishing pole; while being coached by one of the psychiatrists. The young boy was laughing and having a good time, when all of a sudden an adult female (his caregiver) came over screaming at him and I watched as he dropped the pole and started shaking.  Then out of nowhere, the Program Manager swooped in and lovingly defused the situation in a matter of seconds. I was quite impressed with her and the doctor on how lovingly they both handled the situation. And that was over 15 years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday.”

– Toia Hicks (18 years)

Over the decades, our staff have carried us through- in difficult times and through many great challenges, especially most recently during the pandemic. They carry compassion and strength even in the darkest of times and always moving our mission forward with care and kindness.

Join us at our annual Sunset Sip gala on April 23rd as we celebrate The Guidance Center’s 75 years of service to the community and lift our voices in support of vital mental health services for children and families.

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