My name is Mary Phillips, and I took over the role of Director of Recreation at Hand-in-Hand in August 2017. In this position I plan, staff, and oversee our evening and weekend programs and People with Purpose program; recruit and train volunteers; and collaborate on our special events. I also coordinate billing and scholarships for participants and families. To be completely honest, I was asked months ago to share my thoughts about Hand-in-Hand, but I kept putting it off because I struggle to find words to do this organization justice for all it has been, all it is, and all it will be. So, please bear with me! Here it goes.
My story at Hand-in-Hand officially began in the Summer of 2015. After volunteering in my early high school years in the Summer Enrichment and evening/weekend programs, my brother Jacob and I were both hired as respite caregivers for the summer. From there I had the opportunity to learn work “behind the scenes” as an administrative intern in Summer 2016, and I started full-time in August 2017.
My People with Purpose friends recently pointed out that, “Mary always says, ‘Awww, my heart!’” Come on guys, I only say it once an hour! Truthfully, it is easy to get in a cycle of day to day operations, challenges, and stressors, so their observation made me slow down and prompted me to think about why I say that so frequently. The reality is, I have the privilege of working with a team of extremely talented and creative individuals that not only join me in laughing at my awkwardness but also inspire me in the way they fight for the dignity and value of every human being, in the way they utilize love as a means of instilling compassion and understanding, and in the way they tirelessly advocate for a more inclusive tomorrow.
I have the privilege of witnessing an immense amount of generosity and support from our families and from individuals and groups in the Quad City community and beyond. Hand-in-Hand envisions a world where people of all abilities and unique gifts may participate and engage in an inclusive and meaningful way, and our efforts simply cannot be isolated. The degree of community engagement and collaboration that occurs is powerful. The compassion, strength, patience, and optimism embodied in our families is inspiring. As a result of all of these partnerships, our mission continues to grow.
Finally, I have the absolute privilege of spending time with children and young adults that educate, challenge, motivate, and inspire me on a daily basis. At Hand-in-Hand, our children and young adults form lasting friendships, set and achieve goals, and participate in our community in a valuable way. I am reminded that being “crazy,” “corny,” and “loud” is embraced and encouraged because “that’s just the way God made us,” (as one of our participants frequently reminds us) and, through it all, I have been shown a far greater joy than I could have ever imagined possible. My prayer is that, as they grow, all people will know their value, their abilities, their dignity, and their contributions. I firmly believe that Hand-in-Hand brings our community closer to this reality each and every day.
What originally began as a summer job quickly turned into what I can only dream of being my life’s work. Thank you to Hand-in-Hand, and everyone who comprises it, for allowing me to be a part of your journeys, your families, your stories. You all have surely made a lasting impact on mine. “My heart” is so full.
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