"It's all about hope. And hope is what carried slaves through the worst discrimination… So hold on to hope because tomorrow shall come." -Lorez Bailey
SERIES: Role of the Non-Profit Sector + Equity
What makes leadership harder than it already is? It's when you're caught between being a leader that everybody needs and someone that your self need. Today, Jennifer interviews Lorez Bailey, the Executive Officer of Chop's Teen Club, a non-profit that provides a safe space for teens. Lorez gives us a glimpse of this unique mission and how it impacts recovery. Jennifer and Lorez also discuss remarkable points about connecting families to resources, staying true to your mission without a mission drift, the need for leaders to care for themselves, a secret path to conquer fear, weaving the fun and the laughter in your assignment, and the secret to being authentic and vulnerable without losing your credibility as a trusted leader. Also, learn some common mistakes to avoid if you are to extend help to disaster-affected families. As an African-American, Lorez also shares what leadership looks like amidst equity issues. Tune in and discover the power of hope in giving light during the darkest of times.
- 02:14: Teen Responders
- 10:14: Teens Do Need
- 16:54: Listen to the Kids
- 20:25: Don'ts to Avoid
- 27:29: Overcoming Challenges
- 36:41: Improve Virtual Community Connection
- 41:43: Leadership During a Disaster
- 46:47: Self-Care How To's
- 57:16: How to Face Your Fear
- 01:04:27: Stay Out of Despair
10:34: "People make jokes about, 'my teenagers never need me.' But they need you a lot. Sometimes we forget that they need a navigator too." -Jennifer Thompson
13:51: "The kids always thought about their parents and their families. If parents aren't handling it well, kids had more struggles." -Lorez Bailey
14:49: "Kids are a lot more resilient when we give them credit for." -Lorez Bailey
30:33: "If you're going to be a person who shares resources and gives resources, do some work on vetting your resources." -Lorez Bailey
39:56: "Stay very true to your mission. You can do a lot of things to serve people, but not do a lot of mission drift. -Lorez Bailey
41:05: "Some people love being the heroes so much that they forget to be heroic." -Jennifer Thompson
42:03: Leadership in good times is easier. When times are hard, that's when you start to see what people around you are made of and you yourself are made of because it is an extreme stressor." -Lorez Bailey
43:53: "People underestimate the value of doing small things that have a huge impact." -Jennifer Thompson
45:16: "You're supposed to give a lot but you're not supposed to give it all as a leader in the community." -Jennifer Thompson
51:55: "You need time to rest and relaxation because if you don't, you're not going to be able to come back and do as good of a job." -Jennifer Thompson
56:07: "All leaders get scared." -Jennifer Thompson
57:16: "Part of leadership is walking into the fear." -Lorez Bailey
01:04:16: "The hardest thing about this pandemic is the uncertainty. And that is a hard place for a lot of people to be in." -Lorez Bailey
01:08:21: "It's all about hope. And hope is what carried slaves through the worst discrimination… So hold on to hope because tomorrow shall come." -Lorez Bailey
Lorez Bailey is an Executive Officer at Chop's Teen Club. Her charm is in being charismatic, analytical, problem-solver, and effective communicator that has a successful 10-year track record of effectively leading organizations and teams, and a history of developing and operationalized strategies that have taken organizations to the next stage of growth, while building a culture of high expectations, inclusivity, collaboration, and a little fun never hurts.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Hi, welcome to How To Disaster, a playbook to recover, rebuild and reimagine. My name is Jennifer Gray Thompson, and I'm here with my friend and colleague, Laura's Bailey. How To Disaster as a podcast meant for people who have just experienced disaster, or in the space of recovery, or for communities and leaders who are thinking, we are vulnerable to disaster, and what can I learn in advance that might help you. Having said that, until you experience a disaster, it's an incredibly hard thing to teach. So our hope with this podcast is that you're able to pick it up in bits and pieces for what works for you at that time. Whereas Bailey comes to us as Executive Director of Chop's Teen Club. Chop's Teen Club provided this really important service during our 2017, October wildfires. And I've asked Lorez here today to talk, not only about that experience, but her experience over the last three years of serving this high need, really critically important community during the age of subsequent fires, and also the age of COVID. So welcome to the program, Lorez.
Lorez Bailey: I am so honored to be here. Thank you for having me Jennifer.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Can you give us a little bit about your background, and then talk to us about what Chop's Teen Club does?
Lorez Bailey: Sure. I think in the last several years, a lot of my work has really been about serving youth disenfranchised, at risk youth and just teenagers in general. And some could say, all teenagers are in risk, at risk because we know there's all kinds of factors that go into being a teenager and make that time difficult. And I just knew that going forward, I really wanted to work with kids in a more intentional way. And I was just honored and blessed enough to become the Director of Chop's Teen Club, but which in itself is a very unique model and not seen in very many places around this country.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, talk to us about how it is unique? we'll start there, and then we'll go into the fires. How is it unique? And why is it a particular importance? And why does it have such a positive impact?
Lorez Bailey: One of the reasons why I think, in specific, Chop's Teen Club is unique is because it really serves teens. You hear a lot about family centers, youth centers. But Chop's is very unique because it serves teenagers from middle school and high school. And as we all know, that was probably the best time of your life. If you could go back and do middle school again, I'm sure we all would. But we all I think have a story and experience of how difficult and challenging that time is. So we're in this amazing 20,000 square plus facility that has technology and gaming, we have a college and career hub, a gym, art space, with every genre medium art you can imagine, music and instruments, and ability to learn to play instruments. We have a cafe and culinary program. So that in itself makes us unique, but also is a free choice. Teenagers get to move around this space and decide what area they want to be, and it's really their space. We're here to really provide mentorship and show that there can be a place for caring adults and look at mentorship differently. And I just say that because often, people say, oh, well, can I come make an appointment and be a regular mentor? And we're like, No. It's just those daily interactions, those check in of, how was school today? How did that math test go? How are things at home? That's how our mentorship happens. But this beautiful building is just the catalyst to build those relationships.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I love that so much. I personally would never have gone back into middle school again. But I'm glad there are some people in the world who feel differently. Can you talk to us then, take us back to October 8 as a normal day, that's a Saturday. I can say, you would have been closed, right?
Lorez Bailey: We would close it in the evening. I really feel like it's Sunday, right? It was that Sunday. That Monday, really that Monday morning really, kind of woke up at 3:00 in the morning, which we felt like Sunday night, it was really Monday morning to smelling smoke in the air, and it just was different. I don't know, you know? I just remember sitting up, the same and my husband, that's different. Like something's burning, but it's not like a home. You could smell that there were trees, and like just something more than a structure. And to, you know, running, we said, let's go get gas, let's get some things, let's get prepared with no idea what was really happening and what our community was facing that following week.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Did you pick up social media or hide, because I know that I picked my phone up at 12:30 at night and looked because I could smell the same thing. And it was really social media that alerted me to the scope and scale of what was going on.
Lorez Bailey: It was fabulous, also the radio. Going back to the old school radio. We, in our area, do not have a local television station or a local media outlet other than the radio and the newspaper. So to be able to get like real time, minute by minute was really going to our local radio that knew our people, knew who all the people were in the community, kept bringing all the right people onto the radio constantly so we can hear what was going on. So for me, it was really just plugging in the radio and really going back to the old school way, or probably radio people wouldn't love me saying that. But that for us where we live was the way we were going to get it. Because as I said, we don't have a major television media outlet. Here's how community based work.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Okay, so set the scene for us. You have gotten yours, you're listening to the radio, you have that for together, you're getting your family situated, you're listening to the radio, shout out to [inaudible] and her team, by the way, they really did a fantastic job. But then your mind has to turn to all of the kids that you serve and your staff. What happened then?
Lorez Bailey: Our staff immediately, in some way, I look back and I go, we should get back with everyone else. But when everyone was leaving, we came into town. We said: "Okay, our kids, what is going on with the kids in our community?" And just immediately, well, that was a little early. That's in the very beginning phases. So really, it was just all of us coming together and going, what are we going to do? How are we going to respond? How are we going to take care of our families? How are we going to take care of our kids? So early on, it was too early to be making phone calls. But within a couple of days, we started going through our list and going, okay, we're lucky we have addresses, we have zip codes. We already know areas that are impacted. Let's start reaching out to our families that we know. Hit those zip codes of those neighborhoods, of those areas and just check in to say, are you okay? Do you need anything? What kind of resources do you need to be connected to. So that was just our initial thing.
And we even found out that we were such an important resource because even the schools, a lot of schools didn't have access or weren't ready to make that outreach. So we started talking to our neighborhood schools or our local school saying, Okay, this is what we know about this family. This is what we've found out about this young person. This family is safe, this family's evacuated. So it just started out with just finding people and seeing if they needed anything, and then turning to what could we do. So first of all, we just said, we're gonna open our doors because we had a lot of kids who at that time, it's so funny how, when you hear about something like that, you feel like it takes over your whole entire neighborhood, your whole county. But there were a whole ton of kids who were not evacuating, who were fortunate enough that their homes were not in any threatening, but they needed somewhere to go, they needed a place to go. So we just opened our doors, and we even kind of had some of our rules. Usually, a certain age, too young can't be in there. We just had to bring your kids, you need a safe place. You're staying in an emergency shelter, have your kids here. The kids can be here, they can have a meal, they can have WiFi. And in fact, as a parent, come on in because you might need WiFi access. So we just opened our doors and just said nothing else.
For the kids who are not impacted, we're going to be there. And the families that are impacted, we're going to be there. We told parents, drop off your kids first thing in the morning and you're going to know they're going to be safe and they're going to be fed. And as long as I can make sure that you know your kids are safe and they're fed, take care of what you need to take care of, because they're going to be okay. And we're going to take your little ones that we don't normally take, and we're going to put them in a movie room. We're going to take care of everybody. We call ourselves a team second responders. That we were there for the teams. Because what often happens in these types of non learning, I didn't know this now, but the kids get forgotten about a little bit. They worry about the little kids. Of course, the younger kids. But our demographic, those teams are the ones that everyone kind of thinks that they're okay. They can stay home alone. They're independent. We knew that they needed us like no one else. So that was another thing of getting up that message of, don't forget about the kids that are not evacuated. Don't forget about the kids that are here, worried, scared, don't know what that means,. We understand a fire is contained. So just making sure that we were there to be a safe space.
"People make jokes about, 'my teenagers never need me.' But they need you a lot. Sometimes we forget that they need a navigator too." -Jennifer Thompson
Jennifer Gray Thompson: So if I can talk about that a little bit, because I think you and I really share this understanding that a lot of people look at teenagers and they see them as miniature adults. But I see them as kids that are big kids physically, but they're still like little kids a lot of the time how they're navigating the world. And just the time when people make jokes about, my teenagers never need me. But actually, they really need you a lot. And that's how I come to think sometimes that we forget that they need a navigator too. And so to be there for them in the midst of this really horrific, grand scale disaster that happened here, if you've never heard this podcast before, let me tell you that in just one night, one in one county, it was 5000 homes, this fire traveled 20 miles in five hours. By the time we were finished, 23 days later, over 9,000 structures were gone. And so whether or not your own house was impacted, there wasn't a person in this community that wasn't living with fear and sort of the aftermath of a great disaster. So can you talk about that?
"People underestimate the value of doing small things that have a huge impact." -Jennifer Thompson
Lorez Bailey: Yeah. There's things like poor air quality. I had kids that lined up, waiting to come in the doors with no masks on, they rode their bikes there, they boarded there, and we were like, no, this is like serious. You can't be out there. So also just explain to them how to self care. And self protect for themselves is another big thing. I think that teenagers are, in a lot of ways, people underestimate them. There's one side, they underestimate how much they care about things and the subjects that they're passionate about, the things that they're so, we think that young people now are a little more apathetic, and all they're just on their phones, it just looks different. And they care. But not only that they needed each other. They didn't just need us, but they needed each other. I can say when this first started, a lot of what we're hearing even around granting was, okay, you've got to have fire related support. You got to have some type of fire art therapy, or you got to have groups. And what we learned about young people is they felt like they had these pressures coming from everywhere, and they wanted a place just to be. They wanted a place where they actually didn't talk about fire. They wanted a place that they didn't have to talk about what this means. They wanted a place just to be kids. And we had to learn that after we tried to bring all these different resources. And they're kind of like, yeah, so we just want Panda Express. We want a game, and we want a movie, we want puzzles. So we said, okay, let's bring our stress balls. We had to bring that way to find things, but we had to meet them where they want it to be versus what adults think they want it. So that's another thing is really listening and giving them the space to talk about it.
"The kids always thought about their parents and their families. If parents aren't handling it well, kids had more struggles." -Lorez Bailey
And then also as adults, not putting that on them, they come in the door not looking at them like, are you okay? Is everything all right? That does not help? It's more like, I am so glad you're here. I'm glad that you thought to come here, be here. So, good. Okay, now me tell me what's going on, and then being just listening, hearing what they have to say, being there. And then another thing that we learned is, so I have had people say to me: "Are these kids going to be okay. This is some kind of trauma that may be here for years, and years, and years. How is it going to impact them?" I see two sides of it. I saw a lot of kids who were more upset because their parents were upset. They didn't care about their bikes. They didn't care about their game systems or their clothes. It never came up. We tried to say, well, what can we buy you? What can we give you? And the kids always thought about their parents and their families. And if your parents aren't handling it, well, we found kids had more struggles if parents found ways to cope stronger, or at least not expose the kids. Because, I mean, it's a lot. You're trying to get your insurance taken care of, and you don't have a place to stay. I mean, you're trying to think of food, like there's a lot to be upset and worried about. But as much as you can, sometimes buffer that a little bit. Because what we found kids, things like, I'm okay, but my dad was restoring his dad's car and he lost it. My mom lost her mother's jewelry, her grandmother jewelry and she can't get that back. But I never hadn't gotten teary. I never had kids worried about their stuff. They worried about each other, and they worried about their families.
"Kids are a lot more resilient when we give them credit for." -Lorez Bailey
So I think that's another thing that people also think that they can't handle it. There's also a lot of lot of like, Oh, my gosh, kids are going to be traumatized forever. And I want to say too, I think kids are a lot more resilient when we give them credit for. And a lot of times, what I'm seeing is kids don't even remember the fire happened in 2017. They have almost pushed it away out. And we're still like, oh, this, that. And they're onto the next thing, I'm to the next game, the next TV show, the friendships. Also getting them more credit to have the capacity to be resilient.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: So let's expand on that because I really do love this approach. On one hand, I think that something like Chop's Teen Club is really necessary because it gives the kids a structure and a place to be and doesn't leave them on their own. And my kids, I mean, obviously, we're talking middle and high school students still, and it I love that you would let their siblings in, you gave it a safe place with vetted staff, that parents be able to drop their kids. On the other hand, it's a continual conversation, especially now in the age of COVID of oh, my God, how are they ever going to make it through? And I look at this generation, I'm like, well, they're going to be super resilient, they're going to show us the way about how to recover and move on. And so I love so much you articulating or have to find that balance in there. So when I see you get teary eyed, that makes me know that you've actually hit the truth of what it is to serve this very important, very particular population. So I welcome it, and I commend you for having that understanding of the nuances in between. It's a sweet spot, and it's totally worth finding your way to it as long as you don't assume that you know what they need. So the importance of listening, always important in a disaster, super important at that time. Do you have any particular stories, or without violating anyone's privacy so that people can give an eye, can you give people an idea of what kind of issues you were listening to, and then something that you learned from listening to a kid that helped your own understanding of navigating a disaster?
Lorez Bailey: I just think about one, back to that resiliency of like, the kids were more equipped. Sometimes I think that we anticipated. But I just think about what sticks to me this day is we opened our doors, like I said, we started calling families. And as a staff, we stood at the door and we greeted those families. And I remember thinking about wanting to fix it. How do you fix it? How do you fix it? And I remember learning from all that we've been going through is, sometimes we can even fix it. Sometimes, it's just to be that space in that place. And that's also true for those teams. It was not trying to fix it and be a space. I just think about, first of all, the generosity of the community. That's one thing that really stands out for me. Because once they knew that we were open, I mean, just the amount of things that came our way. Like, we didn't have math. The community came forward with math. We wanted to feed kids, people were generously feeding 150 kids all day long. Also, it makes me think about how much the kids stayed and kept coming. It just kept coming every day, every day, every day. And I just think about, as those who we do this work, and thinking about these kids. These kids that were in shelters, I had homeless kids and everything. And I just think about how much, I don't know, just all in the pain of it. The scariness and the uncertainty of it. But how being together, that's just what sticks to me. Just the joy of being outside. Like, I don't have one story, but I just think about the outside. What was going on? Everything we're hearing about, we all have the radio and then walk in there, and then we'll just see just happiness and joy, and then doing things together.
And one of the things that we say about Chop's is Chop's could be anywhere. It could be in a warehouse, it could be in a room. Because it's not about the things, it's about the people in the environment. And I think that's transferable, no matter where you live, no matter what that disaster comes. How do we serve these young people? And it's gonna be unique for each community. But I also want to encourage people, do not forget about this group, this particular group. They're not your stuffed animal in a warm, no blanket. Some are, some are though, you know, they're not that. No matter what community they are, how do we support them through these difficult times and beyond. That's going to be unique to a community. But I just want to say, it could be as easy as basketballs, it could be as easy as creating a space in a park,. it could be as easy as just kind of empty space. But what we don't want to do is leave this particular group behind and then go. You guys got it, you're good enough. You're strong and you're 16, you had a license. Like, come on. Like, realizing that we just need to put energy into that. And part of my work has been going on being their voice. Like, hey, I need to be at the table. You've got seniors covered, you've got young children covered, you've got evacuees covered, you've got all these things, but no one thinks about this population. So part of it is just going out and advocating for them and their needs, and thinking about them. Because there's no one else out there to do it.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Can you talk about a mistake that you made when you were figuring out how to set up a system of care for this particular population during the disaster and right after so you could share what you think that other people need to avoid?
Lorez Bailey: I think I opened too soon. I know it sounds like it's so hard to go back now, but when the second fire happened, or if it's the third fire, the four fires? We've had so many fires, but when we've had this past year, not the one, this one we were already closed. We had our most recent, this crazy how we're like lifting fires, right? Not this most recent fire because we were already closed, but before. When it gets real, something different.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: They said, no, you're perfect. So really what you're talking about is about the Kincade fire that happened about two years ago, and it was also a devastating huge,. It was actually the largest fire in the history of Sonoma County, not as destructive because of the advances in mutual aid, firefighting technology. And the geniuses figuring out that side of it, but we still had a lot of need. So you're talking now about October 2019?
Lorez Bailey: Yes. So what I said to our team this time is, okay, I actually put us in some arms a little bit, why is it all coming, being there and breathing that air. But I didn't know, right? The hindsight is 2020. I didn't know about how this particulate and all that stuff that in the air. So I looked at it now and I said, next time, I wouldn't have opened as fast while the fire was happening. And while people were vacuuming would have stayed close, because children stay home. And I would have waited, in which I waited longer. I think that we came in too fast, had kids out in the community because we're like, we need to be here. And I think hindsight 2020 is like, no, they should stay at home. Shouldn't have been out in that air as much as I loved, all of it. And then also for my staff, I think that was also, my leadership said, okay, we're gonna get in, we're going to do, and that's what they wanted to do too. But this last time I said: "I actually need you to stay home, take care of your families, get everything settled, and then let's come back a week from now when we return and open up." So I just think, as much as I loved being there, open on Monday morning while people were running, I think we should have waited a little longer so that we could have been sure that we were also safe, that my staff was safe. And even though I had, my own husband's like, are you kidding me? The fire is burning, and you're heading towards it rather than against it. And maybe thinking about that a little bit more, but I'm really proud of what we did. And I think also what I would say is create your networks and your communities early.
So when things like this happen, I had so many phones I could pick up, I had people that said to me: "Oh, don't do clothing collection. That's going to be too much for you. It's going to be burdensome. Don't click close." Okay, okay, good. Well, I learned the rules early. Like, I don't need to be a closed delivery site, right? So I think that I'm really proud of how we did it.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Wait, Lorez, don't blow past that. Because this is something, no matter what podcast we're doing, no matter who's the guest, do not donate clothes that have not been asked for ever. Because most of them go into finance, and managing those donations becomes a secondary disaster. And it's just a really important thing to drive home. Oh, but it's not been asked for other than money, don't donate it. Sorry, go ahead.
Lorez Bailey: Yeah. And what I've also learned in many years of working in nonprofits that serve homeless adults, youth and different things, everybody has a different idea of what's appropriate to give to others. I mean, how real do you want me to get, I mean, I've had people donate bottles of shampoo that are half empty, just a quarter hair around the top of it, like obviously used. But the mentality like, of course, people are homeless, or they're desperate, or right now they're not in their home. So of course, they're gonna want a third of a used bottle of this shampoo, a box with all your old things that you took out of the under your bathroom sink because you're like, desperate people are desperate so let's give them things. And I'm always like, I learned from long ago, you treat people with dignity, right? Treat her with dignity.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Donate used underwear. I'm going to be very frank on this podcast at all times, underwear is not something that they want.
Lorez Bailey: People do not want old ratty clothes. And I will say for teenagers in particular, they have so much pride, first of all, so they don't, I want to say it in a way that doesn't make them seem ungrateful, right, I don't want to say in a way that makes them seem ungrateful. But they don't necessarily, it's even how we are at the holidays, we're like, give them a gift card, we can't pick their own clothes. 16 year old, I have three daughters, I can't pick a pair of shoes or anything that they like. But yes, thinking about that, but yes, not becoming a clothing thing. I think also, I would say is, as a nonprofit, stay within your mission. There's a way to be in your mission and not mission drift and serve your community. So in the mornings, we have a huge computer lab with computers just sitting there. So in the mornings, our Starbucks partners brought coffee and we opened up a computer lab for the parents in the morning before kids get there. So if you need to file any of your famous stuff, you want WiFi just to use your phone, you want a cup of coffee without anyone moving around, you just fill out paperwork. But that stayed very much in a place that wasn't our mission, but it was comfortable. I wasn't trying to become a savior to everyone, I was staying in a place that was very comfortable, was within reason for what we could do but still served our family. So that's another thing. I've worked with a lot of different organizations, and the nonprofit's become everything, kind of become everything. And I just said, stay with my mission. I'm going to be a teen second responder. Anything to do with teenagers or their families, we're going to consider ourselves the number one source and resources, we're going to gather resources for our families.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: So a lot of what you're talking about is how you did a service delivery model in the age pre COVID. And now here we are, we are in month, feels like 482. But really, it's like my 10 COVID. And that's necessarily had to change your service delivery model. Can you talk about the challenges of that, the struggle, the difficulty. And we won't always be in COVID, so those things that you are sharing, those lessons are still really valuable. But what do you do in the age of COVID when your basic service delivery model depends on in person together?
Lorez Bailey: Well, I think being through multiple disasters and crisis almost kind of prepared us for this. That we could come together immediately and use the same methodology we had done around fire, we did around COVID. We came together as a team immediately and said, Okay, how do we make the shift? And how are we going to serve our team? So that was the first thing, just coming together. So what we have shifted to is a virtual model of virtual Chop's Teen Club and still having paid parties, and culinary classes, and cooking classes, and mentorship, and then academic tutoring. So we really are doing a lot at the same things. It is difficult because I'm right that here's a lot of kids I'm not reaching, but then there are a lot of kids I am getting access to because of the Zoom model. I've had kids leave the area because of fire and they're still Chop's members. So I think it's been difficult. But I think that the nice thing is that everybody's doing it. We're not just doing it, everyone's doing it. Schools doing it, or jobs are doing it. And what we're finding is that the teens want to be connected.
We talk about how sometimes they even come on, they don't even have their screens on, they're just in the space. They just want to hear voices, they want to hear voices of their friends or other young people. Sometimes, they don't even engage. So we've had to shift a little bit from like this, like you've kept engaged, and we've got to see you, and we want to know what's going on to being like, it's okay. It's a safe space. And if that's just enough that you want to be in that safe space and know that there's people there. So we're just doing our programming and really trying to be intentional about, once again, still taking care of our families. We still call our families, we still send out messaging, we're still staying in touch in the newsletter, and keeping them, I think one of our real most important values is connecting families to resources. And that can look like a whole lot of mental health academics.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: So what are some of those resources that you're ensuring that families have access to, just like top three.
"If you're going to be a person who shares resources and gives resources, do some work on vetting your resources." -Lorez Bailey
Lorez Bailey: I think mental health. Anything around supporting youth and mental health, because those services are very often not for that population. They're very younger kids, once again, families, but something specifically for that teen population. So doing that, then anything around like food security and helping them with home insecurity. There always have been hungry families, but we see more of a greater need. So connecting to that. And then I think for us in particular, it's around school, academics, how to connect with the school, how to talk to teachers, how to know what's going on in their classes, speaking the language. We like to be that old, very often that bridge. We'll speak to your school counselor then will speak to the parent, will bring everyone together. So I think those are our top three. And then for me in particular, what I would say to anyone is, if you're going to be a person who shares resources and gives resources, do some work on vetting your resources. Don't just go, well, okay, this one says I deal with teen pregnancy. Okay, so I'll put that in my binder. And this one says they deal with teen youth drug abuse. Okay, so I'll put that in my binder. When a parent calls, and nothing is worse than a pair comes back and goes, Well, they don't accept my insurance, they're only medical. Or [inaudible] and they only accept private insurance. Or someone is saying that they wanted some support around reproductive health, and maybe that place, I'm gonna say, just isn't the most youth friendly place when you need to go somewhere. So I say, there's a lot of pre work we can always do before these times happen.
So for us is finding the resources, finding out ahead of time with camp families and kids need, vetting them, talking to them, making sure they're the appropriate resource. I don't want to refer someone to a place that supports sex trafficking, and then find out they're not a supportive plays. Like, oh, I thought they were so great. But they say so good in their brochure, and I don't have anywhere local like that so I'm not calling out any friends. But what I'm saying is, a lot of times, people are really good at putting out that PR machine about what they do. And sometimes, those insiders have, yeah, that's not a place. Nope, that's not the best place to go for that. So doing the good work of vetting those resources, talking to them, building the relationships. So when things happen, I can pick up the phone and say, Jennifer, I've got a family here, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and I'm gonna send them your way. And they're like, alright, I already know who you are. I know how you work. You're in the same vein of serving people as we are, and appreciate that referral. So I think that that's a lot of good work that can happen.
So when these times happen, you have already built your community. There's not a lot of people who do what we do so I have to work with other youth serving organizations that have different models. But if I didn't have that ahead of time, I couldn't say to the Children's Museum of Sonoma County, okay. Children's Museum, you have a younger group. So why don't we do something together for families and say, younger kids come here? Older kids come here? We're looking at that cradle to career, how do we serve kids from the very young to the oldest and partner together. So I think building those relationships ahead of time is really, really critical also in serving.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: And when you do that, you're actually building resiliency into your community. So resiliency isn't just about hardening your landscape. It's not just about fuel mitigation up in your hills, it's also about creating and maintaining really strong networking relationships. You're a pretty prominent leader in our community. So how has the 2017 disaster and then COVID informed your leadership skills, your style? And how did you have to adjust to move that to a virtual model?
Lorez Bailey: Yeah. I think that being community connected served as well. Because I could pick up a phone and go, this is happening, this is happening on the street. So I think that's important in the virtual world. It's been difficult if I hadn't had so many of these relationships prior to shelter-in-place and COVID, I don't know where I'd quite be. Because it's really been hard to get into the community connected. And then because our particular specific community, because not only do we have the cover, but we have fires, we have people going through a lot, they're just going through a lot personally. And so the capacity to, I don't know how to say it in a tactful way, but they just don't have the capacity for a whole lot more trauma. It's like, just one more thing is just kind of an undercurrent in our community. So I say the work ahead of time. I think also being involved in a woman's executive director, leadership group that was based in, after the 2017 fires to the Community Foundation and Hewlett Foundation has been really, really powerful. Because whenever I'm in any type of group and they say, okay, here's some buckets. We need to be looking at who wants to talk about disaster preparedness, and awareness. And that's like, always the very lowest thing anyone's interested in. But that was so powerful, because when COVID came, I was with that group. I said, on Saturday, I'm going to be canceling my major event. Today's Thursday, Saturday, I'm going to be canceling my number one major fundraiser. 300 people. Oh, my gosh. But so much of that disaster work and preparedness ahead of time came in on Monday. We came as a team, we're like, okay, who's the communications person? Okay, how are we going to handle families? Okay, how are we going to handle our facility? Blah, blah, blah. So who do we need to call? Okay, we have someone from the police department on our board, we're going to need our facility to be looked at a little bit different, how can we, all these things. But that was growth from 2017.
"Stay very true to your mission. You can do a lot of things to serve people, but not do a lot of mission drift. -Lorez Bailey
If I had not been to those fires in 2017, 2019 and beyond, when COVID and shelter-in-place happened, I felt so much more prepared. I didn't know what it was, it's the unknown. You don't know what's going to end when a fire something like that happens. It comes and it leaves, it has a beginning and has end. We didn't really know when it began, and we still don't know when it's gonna end. But all of that being prepared for all the other stressors that could happen to my organization and to the kid just led me right into being prepared for shelter-in-place and COVID. So I was ready. I was like, okay, on Monday, we're going virtual. This is it. We're gonna switch our club virtual, we're gonna start thinking about our programming, we're going to start thinking about how we're going to get to our families. I don't even know how the Zoom stuff works, but we're going to just start there, and we're going to go and we're just going to find our way. We just been slowly, but surely finding our way, knowing it's okay to make mistakes. Knowing that we don't have the answers, but just knowing, and then I just want to keep coming back to mission. Staying very true to your mission. You can do a lot of things to serve people, but not do a lot of mission drift. Because also, what happens too is you start trying to chase those dollars.
"Some people love being the heroes so much that they forget to be heroic." -Jennifer Thompson
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I would like to talk about that a little bit. I know that part of the topic of this podcast is about how to stir that 12 to 18 year old group, and part of a leadership in disaster. Because I think that some of the things that you've mentioned over the past 30, 35 minutes is you have to be able to be flexible, and you have to be able to pivot. And you have to sort of have a trust in your instincts of what is correct and right, and moral, and have integrity. And then when you run into the part where you're looking at your funding running out, but you also know that you don't want to mission drift to the point where you're chasing those dollars, because then, you're actually going to lose what your original mission was. One of the things that I think you and I both see, and I think anybody who's been in a leadership position through disaster has definitely encountered is that some people get really, they love being the heroes so much that they forget to be heroic. And the heroic side is you're actually serving the community where they're at, where they live and what they need in your lane. And the hero part is, I'm going to try to do everything, I'm going to beat you out over here and disregard you over here, and be cranky with you over there because I want to gobble up the dollars in the spotlight. And it's not that that's rampant, it's just usually a selective enough group of people to make it a little bit more difficult to navigate. So can you talk about that at all? Don't name names.
Leadership in good times is easier. When times are hard, that's when you start to see what people around you are made of and you yourself are made of because it is an extreme stressor." -Lorez Bailey
Lorez Bailey: Yeah. I think one, if you also are clear, it gives people who are trying to in your community bring people to different resources. If you're very clear, then also that's very helpful for the people who want to give certain people your way. If it's very clear what you do that's also helpful. I think that what we find is that leadership in good times is easier. It's easy. But when times are hard, that's when you start to see what people around you are made of. And you yourself are made of because it is an extreme stressor. And I think back to that self care, there is that kind of like, and I felt that sometimes, I'd hear the words like, God, they're doing so much. Oh, my gosh, they're so amazing. How are they doing? And then I thought, are they doing like too many things, and too much? And are you not getting any self care? Are you taking care of your own family? Because that stuff is really important to take care of your family. But I think that you will see those people who kind of have that, oh, yeah, I'm here to save the day. I'm doing everything. And that's great, that works.
But I think that sometimes, you can find your niche, whoever that is. Whatever that is, it could be knit socks. I don't know, you give blankets, you help serve food. But if you can find a niche, especially if you can find an under serve niche. And the reason why I say that is because a lot of times, food comes for sustenance, comes through faith based organizations, very often they help feed our souls. But sometimes, they've forgotten things like pets. Animals, or young people, or there are things about, how do we make sure kids still have school? How do we make sure that they still have enrichment? They're losing their extracurricular activities. So maybe you're that person that just finds a way for kids to play. How do we give kids an opportunity to play? I think also, sometimes it's okay--
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Sorry. I think that sometimes in times of challenge, I mean, this can happen anyway, is people underestimate the value of doing small things that seem small, really well that have a huge impact. Because they think, oh, that's not big enough, or sexy enough, or it needs to be like shh, you have this huge impact. But that's not actually true. If you are the best sock knitter on the planet, and if you can put out 50,000 pairs of socks for PE, I mean, that's a good thing as long as people have asked for them. So I was using your sock analogy, but I think that that's just a really critically important thing that you're actually stronger when you do things together collaboratively and partnership coordinated.
Lorez Bailey: You reword everything I say so well, thank you. Thank you.
"You're supposed to give a lot but you're not supposed to give it all as a leader in the community." -Jennifer Thompson
Jennifer Gray Thompson: That's all I'm doing is hearing back from you, I'm just trying to summarize it. One of the things I want to make sure that we touch on before we finish out today is the theme of self care that you mentioned. Because I'm going to label this as both leadership and how to serve your demographic. Can you talk a little bit about self care? Because I know that both you and I know people who have not done self care through these disasters, really wonderful people too who have not been able to sustain. So that when the new disaster came, they couldn't hit it, they couldn't adapt because they had given it all. I always say, you're supposed to give a lot. You're not supposed to give it all as a leader in the community.
Lorez Bailey: Right. And then we've also dealt with the people who do that, they kind of have the martyr complex. Like, I did this, and I did that, and I don't get enough appreciation. I don't get enough acknowledgement. It's like, why did you do it? Because if you do it for the right reason, it comes from the right place. No one even has to ever say thank you, and you will be, okay. Oh, we talk a lot about self care leadership.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I want to push back on this a little bit. Because one of the things that happens is when you need me, or you need people to pay attention to something or an issue, if you completely step out of the, I know that the phrase is great, you can get anything done as long as you don't take any credit for it. But if you are not standing in that space, then people are not aware. And therefore, when they go to donate, they don't even know that you filled a need that never arose because you're not advocated. So like, I know what Chop's is, and I've known what it is for years. But I was not aware of what you had before we became friends, what you had done during 2017, and how critically important you are during a disaster. So I just want to say that one of the goals of what we're doing here is that I'm hoping that people see through this medium how important your work is, and that they think about that work when it's coming time to actually direct their dollars. So that's my pushback to that.
Lorez Bailey: Yeah. Sharing your story is different than kind of the martyr story. Sharing your story is a different thing. And I think that is really important to share your story. It's important. For one, like you say, your stakeholders know, it's important for the community to know so that the next time something happens or another thing, they can think about, what do we need to have in our community? Like, oh, they did that great stuff for teens, have we thought about kids? Have we thought about what we're gonna do for kids this time, because I know this happened last time, and that happened last time. So there's an advocacy point in that too. Just not a story, but an advocacy. Because if you can really get out there and show what you did and what a difference it made, it can make it better, better for the next time, the next time, the next time. So yes, I'm not definitely talking about that. And then also, when I'm talking about mission drift, I want to come back to, this really speaks to love once again, those of us who go after grants. When the fire happened in 2017. every grant had a fire related component. We've done art for years, but now they wanted fire art therapy. Do I switch what I've been doing so great for so long and add a fire component when it doesn't actually needed? Because the truth is, I'm there, I'm serving kids, I am their fire therapy. I am, but how do I share that story without having to create a fire therapy art class? How do I show her that that's what we do all day, every day anyway. And then back to self care, That's something that we talk about leaders all the time. Self care, make your self care, self care. But what does that really look like, and it's different for different people.
For me in particular, I have boundaries. Certain times should be family time, weekend time. I have to know sometimes to shut it off. Like, it can wait another day. Make sure I get out and take a walk to our Sonoma County Parks. This time we go somewhere, we're trying to go to a different Park, and get outdoors. Self care sometimes is just making a decision. I'm a very collaborative leader, like let's all come together, let's talk about it later. Sometimes I'm like, when you're in crisis, you have to be like, I'm going to make the decision. I can't have a whole collaboration. I can't have a meeting about it, it's a decision and I'm gonna have to stand by what it is. So also having strength is self care too. Like having some direction about what you're doing and how you're going about it, for me, sometimes that's the version of self care. Just being decisive, making decisions. So it's different per person, per people. Some people work, work, work, work, work. But I just think, constantly, we have to come back and reevaluate that. COVID happened, I felt like one of the things I said, like I've been to crisis after crisis, after crisis, after crisis, after crisis, I just need some time off. And I needed a good amount of time off. Because a few days or a week wasn't going to do it. Because it takes me at least three or four days to unwind, and to start to like, I don't have to answer that email. I don't have to.
So sometimes, it's also setting it up so that you can get the time that you need, and building a staff, some of this is pre work. Can't wait for that moment. Some of that pre-work is building a staff that has some autonomy, some feels that they can make some decisions, feel like they can be there when you're not they're. And if you can build that capacity building in them, when you want to take time, no one's gonna lose their mind, or freak, or you got to go, well, everything's me. If I'm not here, nothing will be here. I've got to be here. How do I scaffold and create, so when I need those moments in time, I have people around me who go, that's okay. We Got it. Got a plan. It's okay. So that's self care. So self care looks different. Self Care is sometimes just going, Jennifer, I just need to purge, I need to talk, I need a safe space, a safe person. Let me know if I'm crazy. Okay, you are a little crazy, and you're a little bit not crazy. Okay, take that and run, and create those safe spaces. So it can look different for different people. But it's really, really important because it's so tiring. And when you have the care of people that you care about, and you carry that responsibility seriously, and you take it seriously, it's gonna be burdensome. And if you care about it, it should be heavy sometimes, but that doesn't mean that you take away from everything else because of that.
"You need time to rest and relaxation because if you don't, you're not going to be able to come back and do as good of a job." -Jennifer Thompson
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I totally agree. I think that I've certainly struggled with it. I remember going to the gym in year two and thinking, Oh, god, I'm at the gym. People are gonna think I'm slacking off. Like, I'm not. Like, okay, what I'll do is I'll answer emails at the gym the whole time. And it took me another year before I realize how deeply stupid that was. Because first of all, nobody cares. And second of all, I didn't need to prove it to other people to Jim, who I did not know, maybe I just heard it, but whatever. Instead, they would be happy to see me taking care of myself, or making sure that you do take weekends off. There's a reason why when people go to war, and not that we've been in war, but like the stressor though, the weight of responsibility, when you do this kind of work means that you have to do [inaudible], you actually need time to do rest and relaxation. Because if you don't, you're not gonna be able to come back and do as good of a job. Or you're going to be a little snippy, or you're going to miss something, you're always operating at like a 40 to 60 level, 40%, 60% level which you could be operating at have you just taken that time.
And I think that your body will take that time, regardless of whether or not you choose to. And those are hard lessons. It's just a hard thing to navigate, hard to learn. Because I know that we've seen people, I've seen some issues myself last year, I gained like 20 pounds. I was so tired and bleary eyed. And then I realized that, as I watched other people, other leaders in our community really fall off and not be able to continue to do that. That I looked at them like, Oh, well, why didn't you just relax a little bit? And I thought, why don't you relax a little bit sister. I just want to say that I'm glad that you built into your answer to have trust and confidence in your professional and your personal world, that you can call just to have a moment that they're not gonna call, or you know what I mean? They're gonna tell you what they really think, and that actually helps build sanity and compassion into your life. So I'm glad that you mentioned that.
Lorez Bailey: Yeah. I think, for me, what I've learned is investing in some of those relationships when times are good, times are easy. Just having those calls, checking on calls, just checking on someone having those coffees when you're not stressed and times are good serves you well. So when these moments happen, you do have those people who you can support one another. Because when these things happen, we all need support. It's not just a one way thing, it's reciprocal. And people want to know, especially when they feel vulnerable, that they have someone they can trust. Because we're in these times, we do feel very vulnerable. They're outside of, you don't learn that in the class a lot of times, you don't learn how to be in crisis. So when you have those people, vice versa, that you can trust to go. I'm having a moment where I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Like I literally just don't know what I'm supposed to do. It's good to have people that can say, it's okay. And as a person who always tends to be the mentor not the mentee, I have to really work on making sure I find people that I could feel like I don't always have the answer. You have to find people in your space for that. You can say, I don't know this, I don't have the answer. Because very often, when you're a leader, people come to you for all the answers. You always feel like you're supposed to be in this position of having the answer. And then when you don't have it, it's got to be vulnerable to go and call someone and go, I'm a little freaked out. I don't know what to do. Hey, I actually know what I want to do, or this is what I'm thinking, and then they go like, use your time wisely. And you're like, Oh, thank you, Jennifer, you're right. I probably can. Wait a minute, before I do that, just breathe, like just having a conversation a brief. Those are valuable conversations to have, and we need to find people who we can feel those vulnerable with. Because if you only have people around you who always do what you tell him to do, agree with you, that really--
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, I think it's extremely--
Lorez Bailey: Yeah, the best way to be.
"All leaders get scared." -Jennifer Thompson
Jennifer Gray Thompson: So I do think that one of them, there's a couple of things when you're in a position of leadership that are actually hugely empowering to say, but really uncomfortable. One of them is one phrase, I don't know. So I'm really glad that you brought that up, because I don't know. I know that he's been really helpful, powerful three words for me, because then, I make sure I have a network of people that I can call and say, can you help me navigate this. And I've also found that people actually really like those calls, because you're allowing them to actually help you navigate something. But it can actually be in that space if I don't know, it can be the next part which is, all leaders get scared. All of us get scared. We're faced with this sort of uncertainty, and we're not sure how to go through the next chapter or the next moment. And when people are in a position where people come to you because they want your advice, or you're trying to lead the way through something difficult, then to admit that something is scary, it's scary. So there's a very prominent leader in this town, and I'm not gonna mention his name, but we were talking one day, and he said: "People always ask me, how do you do so much stuff? Or how do you take such chances? Don't you ever get scared?" And he's like, I am scared. Every day I wake up in the middle of the night, and I'm scared. And I think that people would be surprised to learn that, but I've actually carried that through me for the past three years with me in my leadership. Because when I get scared, is usually when I'm going to have a breakthrough to something better. And knowing that there are other people who are in positions of leadership who are also scared sometimes it's really made me more self compassionate. So self compassion.
"Part of leadership is walking into the fear." -Lorez Bailey
Lorez Bailey: Yeah. Part of leadership is, can you walk into the fear? Can you face the fear? Very often it's like, I just want to, like some of you want to give up. It's easiest to be like, give up and then, okay, I'm gonna take one step. Sometimes, it's bits and pieces to enough bits and pieces. But yeah, I think that people often assume like, oh, the rise of Goddess, she's got together. And I'm like, No, I'm at 3:00 o'clock in the morning doubting myself like everybody else,.I just put my lipstick on and just keep plugging along. But it's the ability to kind of push through it. Push, push through it each day, each moment, each meeting, each thing. Pushing through it and standing through it bravely. And then like, one of the things that I know I do is, I also kind of admit where I am. I'll say, I'm a processor so I'm not going to give you an answer right now, I'm gonna have to take it home and I'm going to process it. If you don't hear from me by the end of the day, I don't mind a gentle reminder in the morning. That lets someone know that I can just leave the room, I didn't just leave the room, not that I don't have a decision, I didn't think about it, I just want to understand my process a little bit. So that they understand my leadership of like, Oh, maybe I need to go talk to somebody first. Maybe I need to think about this. I need them all about it. So a lot of times, I'll say, I'm gonna let you know, this is how my process is. I'm going to take this, I'm going to chew on it, I'm going to process it, and I'm going to give you an answer. So I'm also showing a little vulnerability that I don't know, I don't have an answer for you right now. I'm not going to try to give you an answer when I don't feel comfortable giving you an answer, but I've also explained my process.
So to me, it's also like, how do you bring people along in your process of how you do things? Because where there is no communication or you don't, people will fill the gaps. So like you're saying, someone will say, Oh, she always seems like she's got together. She is always just, how does she make decisions so easy? Just seems like she can make decisions like, yeah, no, no, that's not me. I gotta process that, I gotta chew on it, I got to think about it. Taking a shower, thinking about a little while, but bringing them into my process helps them go, okay, so I understand now. She's a thinker. She's got a process. So how do we also show some vulnerability about how we work, but in a way that you don't want to say, well, things like, I always have typos in my papers. That's why I didn't get that paper to you because I always have typos embedded in it. The person is going to be looking for those typos. So there's got to be a way that you share your vulnerabilities and your process, but also in a way that I always tell my daughters who are starting to be professionals, but you don't also give people all the negatives. How do you be vulnerable, but then don't plant the seeds of doubt about yourself. So it's also a balance of being human, and accessible, and feeling like you're attainable. But then also a point where you don't talk yourself down so much that people start to see you in a different way. So I try to kind of have an openness about how my process, or how I do things, or how I think about things to bring people into that so they don't fill that gap. But also, feeling there's some confidence that comes from that too if you can share people about those gaps. And that also shows a little bit of confidence. I know that I'm not perfect. I mean, my husband, I tell him, I'm perfect. But to everyone else I know, I'm not perfect.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, and I think that if you can do that with employees or with your colleagues, if you can do it in a way that says, I know that I've made this error, I've made this mistake, but I'm not going to make it all day long for the rest of my life. So I'm really going to try to move to the next step. Of course, it's not that I'm never going to not be scared. Sometimes, that's totally going to happen. But if there is like, I need to know something, to do something, I've had to learn to be less, I'm more electronic, less verbose, especially in emails because I had to learn it. As an executive, people don't want my 500 word emails. But thanks anyway for the programmers. They'd like some bullet points, and then they want to get on with their lives. And then, I'm actually going to get a much better response. So when I was given that feedback, I'm like, oh, and then you do it. And then in a perfect world, then you train the people who you are supervising that process. Oh, that's embarrassing. I am such a dork or like to embrace it, and you improve upon it, then I feel like you turn your vulnerability into a teaching moment, Ideally.
Lorez Bailey: Yeah. And another thing about me, I'm all about fun. I just feel like there can be humor and laughter. And even in the hardest times, even when you're trying to learn something difficult, if you can bring some fun, or enjoyment, or a way to not make things as heavy, that's also me. So with me also, there's about the people not thinking, Oh, she's making jokes. Oh, she's taking it to light. Like, oh, was that brilliant appropriate joke for right now? And it's not an inappropriate joke, but not everybody has that same philosophy. And I'm kind of like, something happens. I'm like, whoa, at least I still have my shoes on, kind of person. Well, hey, at least I've got this optimistic perspective of it. And sometimes, that can be taken as not having enough levity, or not taking things serious enough. And that's my personality, style too. But I think sometimes, we need that in a space, in a room. And that's what keeps me going. Even I'm going to tell you that some days on my worst days, I will put on like, pandora comedy. I'll be working and I'll be listening to comedy through the day because I'm like, I need to laugh. Like, if I don't find a way to get some lightness in my day, and some love, and some laughter, so that's what a lot of what I've been doing through, COVID in particular, because not with my kids, and those were my joy. I don't get the fight about our red vines, licorice or not, which was a true official debate at our place. Which I felt they were licorice, but apparently theory says red vines are not licorice in [inaudible] theory.
"The hardest thing about this pandemic is the uncertainty. And that is a hard place for a lot of people to be in." -Lorez Bailey
But if I didn't have that laughter and that joy every day, I'm even finding myself like in the morning, on a work morning watching a comedy before the morning starts where I'd normally watching the news, starting to watch a little comedy and funny things that bring some lightness because there's a lot of heavy stuff. And I have to say, and I say this again, we have some people in our community who are professional, strong people who are really having some difficult times right now. After you evacuated three or four times and you deal with a pandemic, that brings a ton of uncertainty. It's really hard. And I think that's one of the hardest things about this pandemic is the uncertainty. We just don't know what it's gonna look like, you don't know what's gonna end, you don't know that. And that is a hard place for a lot of people to be in.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I totally agree. It's been a whole different level of how to bounce out information. How to remain an effective leader, but also not succumb to the gravity of the situation, like it's very there are days that it's just too fast. Do you know where it's too incompetent, and it's so rough, and I know that I've certainly used to come to the anger, upset and frustration. And what I've tried to stay away from at all times is despair. Because despair says, I can't get upward and onward. And I think that one of the things that is going to save us all through this is onward. Like, okay, yep, that happened. It's very much the skills that come in disaster, which is you can stop, you can cry, you can laugh, you can watch Bravo, you can watch, you know, that's what I do. You can listen to comedy, you can choose to turn down the volume on your TV news. But because you have to get up and do it again the next day, and in a way that is sustainable and not dragging down your heart all the time, it's hard.
Lorez Bailey: Another thing you mentioned about being a leader and being in the community, well, I think that was also one of the things very hard about this pandemic. Being a leader, being the community, I kind of had a picture before a lot of people had a picture. And I used to keep saying to my family, I flipped the COVID wet blanket. I feel like I'm getting all this knowledge. And I realized being in these meetings, and being in things, and really having to know what's going on. Let me be at a communication information level that a lot of people weren't at, or even if they did, they didn't receive it the same way, because I have to be thinking about planning around an organization. And so also to be connected and have information, and to have knowledge, and to be able to go. So yeah, like we're not having, a few months ago, six months ago, yeah, we're not having a person to person barbecue in November for the leadership organization I'm involved in, and no one is getting it. Like, Oh, no, by November, me feeling like, I have some insider knowledge or something. But having to also be the deliverer of that, and not everyone receives it, but no, you standing in your truth because you have access. So sometimes, there's also the burden of knowledge, the burden of access, the burden of being a leader because you kind of can't put your little rose colored glasses on in blinders because you know what you know. So there is that part of it too.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: There are times when it's very hard for people sometimes to accept things that are true. And some people, I don't think anyone's escaped entirely, but it's easy to become super enraged in a way that's non functional. And in a way that's like, Oh, good target, I have a target. And I'm so excited to have that target because I am so heartbroken, sad and angry. And I have so much anxiety that I could vomit it up on another person. And it's hard to have self awareness during this time where you say, actually, it's not really about that person. That person may be terrible. Don't get me wrong. But most people are good. There's just enough terrible people in the world to make it a little difficult. But the vast majority of people are good, are trying or doing the right thing. But sometimes, we, as leaders can become targets for that anxiety, distrust and suspicion. I mean, it's hard to navigate.
"It's all about hope. And hope is what carried slaves through the worst discrimination… So hold on to hope because tomorrow shall come." -Lorez Bailey
Lorez Bailey: Both are so true. Especially now when you're dealing with your own stuff. But I want to go back to that talk about despair. I think in particular, as an African American woman, I could get into, I think the African American experience. People often say, well, God, how can black people be through so much. And it's all about hope. And hope is what carried slaves through, and people through civil rights movement, through the worst discrimination and things that are still happening in our community. With police brutality and different things, and people, how? And it's like, African American people have had to hold on to hope, faith, which is religious based. Their faith, and hope. So I think that that makes me a unique perspective as a leader in this community, in particular, because we don't have in this community of very large African American community at all. But I've been through things. My DNA has been through things. It's built all through my muscle tissue, skin and cells to move onward, and to have faith and hope. And when the day seemed the bleakest and the darkest, so hold on hope because for tomorrow shall come. So I think that that's also a unique thing you can bring as a leader is hope for people, and just to say, I can't solve it. But this day too shall pass and the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and each day, it'll get a little better. And you're gonna have a setback, you're gonna have a hard day, but we have to keep some hope and faith. And like you say, in a lot of emails with onward. Like, I'm gonna complain in this email, I'm gonna bitch and I'm gonna get a whole lot of stuff off my chest, and then I'm gonna end it onward. I said, all that, but that means that we have to keep fighting the fight.
So I think that having hope and faith in humanity, which has been, I know challenging these last few months is what has to keep us going. At least, that's what keeps me going. So I think that's another strong thing that can bring sometimes in a space is, it is what it is today. It is what it is today. I mean, like it is what it is. But that doesn't mean it has to always be like that. And it doesn't mean that we can't have some peace in changing it, or making it better, or making it better for one person, one pet, one child. Sometimes, you can't hit hundreds, thousands. You can't exponentially grow it. Sometimes, if you can just make it a little better for three people, five people, or the people who have to go out and help the people that we care about in our communities. If we can give them the hope to go on one more day through what they're seeing and experiencing, it's difficult, right? We come back together as people who direct service providers, and we have some difficult stories, sad stories and stories that bring you to tears in kids that I can't stop thinking about to this day. But I have to keep hope and help the next kid. So that kid can be there to help the next adult, and next person and bring compassion and empathy. So I think that's really important too, to say that we can be a place of hope, and positivity, and support for people. We can't do anything else if I can't give you money.,I can't necessarily go and be there. But what I can do is put out a message of hope and positivity in the darkest, for people who seem to have the most darkest times of their life.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, I cannot think of [inaudible] honestly though. I just adore you. It's been one of the new tools of this time to become friends with you, and I can't think of a better place to end than right there. Because so much of what we do is hope. I appreciate everything you just said. Thank you.