Hi everyone! My name is Eleanor Eaton and I am an Amate House fellow, currently living in the McKinley Park house. Thank you for being here this evening to support our program.
As I reflect on the past 9 months, it’s hard to believe that it was only a year ago that I discovered Amate House and filled out the application. At the time, I was preparing to graduate from Clark University with my Master’s in Community Development and Planning and was looking out into a world that was full of possibilities. I had no idea what my next step might be, but I knew that the right opportunity would come along; one that was unique and challenging and would push me outside of my comfort zone. I’m very grateful to have found that in Amate House, the McKinley Park community, and my service site, One On One.
At my service site, I serve as a Program Associate, working primarily with our employment program, but also providing support to our community partners. As I describe my work and this year to family and friends, I have frequently said “my job is to help people get jobs” but my work goes well beyond creating resumes and finding job leads.
My clients, like many others in the city of Chicago, face many systemic barriers to attaining stable employment, including technology challenges, lack of reliable transportation, unstable housing, childcare issues, low wages, and discrimination of all kinds. Job searching is already a difficult process, but it is even more challenging for those who face these barriers.
For these reasons, my role in my client’s job search is as much about providing support and consistency as it is finding resources and submitting applications. We all need someone in our corner, who we can call when faced with a difficult challenge or exciting news. I am continually amazed that I get to be that person for my clients, in both tough times and moments of celebration.
I reflected on this a couple weeks ago, when I conducted interviews with some of my clients who had gotten jobs, so we could record their stories and learn more about their experience with our organization. One of my clients that I spoke with had gotten a job making almost 3 times her previous salary, and was working much better hours in a much more supportive environment. You can imagine how proud I am of her.
When I asked her “what was the most helpful part of working with One On One?” I expected to hear something about getting a new resume made, or how I helped her fill out paperwork for her new position. Instead, she said “The most helpful part was that you were there anytime that I needed you. When I called or texted you were immediately willing to help me, even sometimes when I didn’t have an appointment. When I needed you, you were there, and I’m really happy and grateful that you were there and able to help me.”
One of the many lessons I’ve learned this year is that these are some of the most important gifts that any of us have to give. Each day, we can show up with care, consistency, and love. We can listen to those around us, and trust that they are doing their best, just as we are.
As I’ve learned these lessons and grown into my role at my service site this year, I am so grateful to have had the support of my community. The same things that my client said about me in a professional setting, I can say about my housemates. Whether they know it or not, they have all challenged me to be a better friend, a stronger leader, a more effective communicator, and a more reflective person. Throughout the year, we have supported each other at the ends of our longest days, when life has been toughest and has thrown its worst. But despite our busy schedules and the challenges of this year, we still have found time to construct elaborate inside jokes, finish countless puzzles, complete reality TV marathons, cook lovely meals, toss a few water balloons, and always share our highs, lows, and buffalos. For those not familiar, your daily buffalo is the weirdest part of your day; something out of the ordinary or strange. Sharing each of our highs, lows, and buffalos at dinner each night has been a very consistent part of our year, and has been the source of a lot of laughter and love.
As we prepare to move forward from Amate House, I know that I am taking with me the skills and strengths that I have developed at my service site and in community this year. I am very excited to have accepted a permanent position with One On One as our Referral Coordinator. I will be responsible for overseeing all referrals to supportive and wraparound services for our clients, in order to more specifically target some of the barriers that our clients face. I would not have guessed a year ago that this is the work I would be doing, but I am very happy that Amate House put me down this path.
I will always be grateful for my time at Amate House, so thank you to everyone who has supported this program and made this year possible.