At Square One's King Street location, children and families are front and center -- every day and in every way. While waiting for an early morning meeting to begin, Kim Lee, Square One's Vice President of Advancement had the opportunity to watch and listen to the morning greetings that welcome every parent and child to the center. The mission moment below, details her experience.
While my reflections of a recent morning are of one particular day, I know with certainty that the routine is consistent no matter what day or time a person stops in to King Sreet. With the sound of every door buzz and security bolt released from the buzzer under Anna Rodriguez's desk at the top of the entrance stairs, another family, another child arrives at the doorstep of King Street. Buzz, clunk, “Good morning Alyajha” says Tommie, “I love that dress.” Buzz, clunk, “Good morning mom, good job! All three up, dressed and to school on time.” Buzz, clunk “Good morning, looks like daddy had drop off duty this morning.” Tommie greets every child, parent, foster caregiver and those just along for the morning drop off with a robust smile and a heartfelt “Good morning.” Her greeting is sincere, genuine and successful in personally acknowledging the arrival of each and every child, all 200 of them!
And as the morning commute and the resulting front door traffic wanes, Tommie notifies Anna that should anyone need her, she will be in her office. Having served Square One more than well for the past 30 years, Tommie's notifying Anna is more than just a professional courtesy, it is an acknowledgement of what she knows, and that is that before the end of a long day, someone, more than one, will indeed need her assistance.
Her forecast is grounded in the daily experiences and exchanges that occur in a center where the needs of families are just as plentiful as the children attending. For example, the mom who every day picks up her three year old just a little after lunchtime and asks if there is any food left over and could she take a plate home. It's a question Tommie has anticipated as she quickly retreats to her office and returns with an already made plate of food. Then, there is the dad, a man who in his young years already bears the facial characteristics of someone twice his age. His life has not been an easy one and his story all too familiar to the one hundreds of other young men share in a city where poverty's casualties are left without hope and a head full of unrealized dreams. Recently released from prison, this time, he confesses to Tommie, who is always eager to listen and never meek with her opinion, things will be different. He wants to be a good dad. He wants to prevent his son from experiencing the hardships he has endured. His decision to enroll his little one at Square One is an indication that this time, he means it. It’s a promise he has made to himself and one Tommie will help him keep.
King Street, like every Square One center, is a bustling place filled with the comings and goings, aspirations, failures and successes of families -- families that come in many different sizes, shapes, colors and configurations. Square One’s philosophy is to serve the highest risk and to respond to the greatest need for the child as well the adults in that child's life. Moving the needle for children means moving the whole family forward. This is a concept that is practiced every day through the words and actions of staff, who like Tommie, make it a point to let folks know they are here when -- not if they are needed.