My name is Whitney Emke. I was an Orphan’s Foundation of America/Foster Care to Success recipient from August 2008 to June 2012.
About a year ago, I moved from my hometown of Randolph, New York to Brandon, Vermont to accept a job in Middlebury, Vermont. I found a wonderful, rewarding job as a Behavior Interventionist at the Counseling Service of Addison County, also in Middlebury. At this job, I work 1:1 in a school setting with autistic children and/or children with emotional/behavioral disturbances.
Last month, I began work with a new client at a local elementary school. I take my lunch break in the faculty room along with many of the school’s para-educators and 1:1s. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been slowly getting to know this group of women who call themselves “The Lunch Ladies” and who have invited me to call myself a Lunch Lady, too.
Recently in the faculty room, the topic of college and financial aid came up. I mentioned having been in foster care in New York State for five years and having worked to educate youth in foster care on higher education and financial aid. Then, another woman mentioned that she takes part in a special volunteer project… she told me that she knits red scarves to send to foster care youth in college.
Wow! Talk about coincidences. While at St. Bonaventure, I received countless care packages from FC2S containing these red scarves. For all I know, I may be working alongside the very woman who knit a scarf that eventually ended up around my neck.
I shared this with the woman, along with the other people in the faculty room. I became a little emotional as I shared it, and several of the other women in there said that they were emotional too. Several of us–myself included–got a little misty-eyed as I fumbled an awkward thanks to this woman… after all, her efforts–and the efforts of the countless other OFA/FC2S volunteers–resulted in the care packages that I cherished during college. Receiving one of those care packages was often the highlight of my semesters, which were usually jam-packed with 18-credit hours and 60-hour work weeks, in addition to homework and trying desperately to maintain a social life.
I hope that this woman understood how deeply grateful I am for her kindness and compassion for others, and I hope that this story is a reminder to you of how important the work that you do is.