Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy Birthday Promise House

Promise House began its 25th year of existence this month.

In 1984 I was in Commerce, TX working on my doctorate in family therapy at what is now Texas A&M Commerce. I had a 4 year-old daughter who got dragged to classes, group therapy, parties, and radical feminist lectures--it was hard to find babysitters in that town. Feminist family therapy had just come into its own, and I was a true believer. Marianne Walters, Gloria Steinem, Olga Silverstein, and Betty Carter were my "sheroes". Journey, Don Henley, the Eagles, Brian Adams, Abba, and Bob Dylan were staples of every party. The Kerrville Folk Festival was a "must attend" every May. My daughter, Kat, was a "mini-hippy", singing along with all the folk music. Peter, Paul, and Mary were the headliners that year. Steel Magnolias was the heart-breaker movie of the year. Definitely some of the most exciting years of my life. Learning, teaching, practicing, philosophising, "blazing frontiers".

I had no idea what "youth services" was, and would not have wanted to know, anyway. I was laser focused on becoming a famous feminist family therapist, joining the ranks of my sheroes.

Meanwhile, a small group of people from Lovers Lane United Methodist Church in Dallas decided they needed a mission. They wanted to focus on an underserved population in an underserved area of Dallas. They picked runaway teens in Oak Cliff, found an old blue house and bought it, figured out how to write a federal grant (a miracle), and birthed Promise House, a 16-bed emergency shelter for runaway teens.

Over the last 25 years, Promise House has served almost 60,000 teens and family members. It has grown from that small shelter to a multi-service agency providing 10 large programs for runaway, homeless, and at-risk teens. In 1997, on a wing and a prayer, a brand new building was complete, and the original "house" became Wesley Inn, our group home for homeless pregnant and parenting teens.

My hat is perpetually off to Betty and George Hyde, founding members of the board, who are still very involved in the agency. Their vision has sustained us over these many years. Lynn Stallings, another early disciple, should get the "Quiet Superman" award for his unwavering support and his building and "fix-it" expertise.

So, between 1984 and now, what was I doing? Well, finishing my doctorate, moving to Dallas, setting up private practice, getting married, having a baby, teaching and supervising therapists, getting divorced. How did I get to Promise House? Who knows, really--fate, circumstances, life, destiny.

I've now been at PH for 11 years--this month. I've been President for eight of those years. I will be forever grateful and imprinted upon Greg Hesse and Patty O'Neil for their support and guidance during those first tough years.

So what happened to me becoming a famous family therapist? I fell in love with teenagers, especially the ones noone likes. As we say at PH alot, "They get under your skin". For years, when things were difficult in the job, I would keep private practice on the back burner as my "out". But I can't leave these kids, this incredible staff, board of directors, and supporters. The cause is worthy, the battle necessary. And you know how I love a good fight.

So, happy birthday PH. You should have 60,000 candles on your cake.

1 comment:

  1. Great closing line - I have a vision of the world's largest birthday cake in my head - glowing for all to see!