Category Archives: Jim’s Blog

Jim’s blog – February 2021

Black History Month and the Center

“Start where you are, with what you have. Make something of it and never be satisfied.” ― George Washington Carver

 

February 2021 – We are surrounded by reminders that February is Black History Month. It’s a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how communities of color have contributed to our understanding of what it means to be human so that we might maintain justice as a core value.

I begin my reflection with a favorite quote from George Washington Carver. Many know pieces of his inspirational story. I came to appreciate him and be inspired by his legacy through my many years working at Simpson College, which accepted him after his being rejected by other institutions because of the color of his skin. The above quote drives me and informs my understanding of leadership. My interpretation is that we have all received gifts from our maker and we have a responsibility to leave the world a little better than we found it.

On a micro level, what does that mean for the Center?

Our mission is to walk with people through counseling and education to find hope and healing, and to live a fulfilling life.

Note that we meet people where they are and that we walk alongside them through counseling and education as we explore together how one navigates the path to the fullness of life. There is an inherent mutuality in that exploration. It’s not as though our staff have it all together and we are kind enough to deign to help others. That feels like a whacky power dynamic. Instead, we walk together as we seek hope through a healing process that soothes the pain we all share. As our accrediting agency, the Solihten Institute, puts it, we do so as we “Respect, value, and affirm the sacred dignity of each person.”

Lots of big words in the above paragraphs. How does all that work as we commemorate Black History Month?

Looking at our world, nation and city, we recognize that there is much work to be done in order for all people to experience justice, hope, respect, dignity and healing. George Washington Carver understood that and made it his life’s work to go beyond the rhetoric and never be satisfied.

The tragic death of George Floyd in 2020 led to a seismic reaction that shook all levels of our culture. 8 minutes and 46 seconds became a symbol that cried out for us all to reflect on where we are with issues of race, what gifts are at our disposal for change, and to make something of it and never be satisfied.

The response of our staff was to set up a number of goals on how we might use our gifts to face the issues of diversity and inclusion which require our attention as an organization. Among the initiatives that have resulted from our efforts thus far:

  • We received an outstanding training from Kayla Bell-Consolver, LMHC. She helped us to explore the roots and history of racism from a trauma-centered perspective. Her insights inform the work of our therapists as they work with clients from communities of color who may have suffered from such systemic trauma.
  • Through some work with an outside consultant, Nate Harris, LISW, we began a process of exploration on the work we need to do in order to be more hospitable to communities of color at all levels of our organization.
  • An immediate reaction to the training and consultation was to set up a diversity, equity and inclusion committee to keep these issues in front of us well beyond the crisis caused by the death of Georg Floyd and so many others.
  • Billie Wade and Terri Speirs took the lead and set up a book club to help us explore the history of racism and how we might join in anti-racist efforts.
  • Diversity has become one of the central objectives for our strategy as we face the future. What this means on a concrete level is that the people we serve align with the demographics of Central Iowa. There are too few places like us that provide services to as many as we can regardless of their ability to pay. In order to achieve this goal, we also need to diversify our board and staff so that the voices of communities of color are represented at all levels of our organization, particularly when it comes to decision-making. Please refer good candidates who are passionate about mental health as we work to achieve these goals.

Gratefully, this is not just the work of the Center, it is work we all have to do. We’re grateful for partners like NAMI, who advocate for such change in the area of mental health. NAMI provides a number of resources that might be helpful to others should you like to pass them along: https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Identity-and-Cultural-Dimensions/Black-African-American.

We seek partnerships with other mental health organizations in order to achieve our lofty equity and inclusion goals. I am eager to have conversations with anyone who wants to walk with us in these efforts.

Black History Month reminds us that such work is impossible in isolation. It takes a community effort. As so many leaders in the Civil Right Movement remind us, this is also holy work dependent upon redemption that is beyond human effort. As another inspirational favorite of mine, Anne Lamott puts it in Traveling Mercies:

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”

My hope is that this month will remind us that we have much work yet to do as we explore the path to hope and healing together and that grace continues to move us to the place where all will be satisfied. Thank you for all you do to make our work possible!

Blessings,

Jim

more from Jim’s blog: www.dmpcc.org/Jim

Save or Savor?

 

by Jim Hayes, Executive Director

February 2021 — This quote found me as I was working through a gratitude reflection over the Thanksgiving holiday. It continues to nourish my thoughts and I’m wondering why.

One of my strategies for surviving this pandemic has been to try to stay in the moment rather than letting anxious thoughts overwhelm the day. My rational mind reminds my lizard brain that if anxiety drives the bus, I might miss the beauty of a moment or a day. This is especially true in the midst of a pandemic, which has heightened anxiety for most of us. Each day, no matter the external context, is rooted in the everlasting now. I do my best to savor the moment.

Among the moments to savor are the stories of some incredible people who have contributed to the Center over the years. For a variety of reasons, a number of our “wisdom figures” chose to retire over the last few months. They all seem to be enjoying retirement immensely! We have all been nourished by their efforts and ought to take a moment to savor the wonder of how they made us better by offering their many gifts to help us advance our mission.

Susan Ackelson joined us in 1996. She helped so many people as a therapist, but also served as Clinical Director. She did so much to help us appreciate the significance of holistic healing by paying attention to not only the mind, but the spirit and body through her sensory motor work.

Susan Koehler, P.A., came in 2014. Her years of service may not have been as long as some of the others on this list, but the services she provided represented a significant shift in our work. She started as a consultant helping us to better understand how psychiatry might help our patients, but later joined us as a prescriber. Along with Dr. Geoffrey Hills, Susan provided a wonderful resource by having in house prescribers.

Diane McClanahan joined us as the first full time director of Leadership and Spiritual Life in 2013. She established a number of new programs that not only benefitted the Center, but numerous communities of faith around the state. She also served many people as a trusted spiritual director.

Kathy Reardon allowed us to write a significant piece of appreciation in an earlier newsletter. She joined us in 2001. Her contributions are well documented, but my savoring of the Center’s work would be incomplete if I didn’t reflect once again on her contributions in healing touch, spiritual direction, and the establishment of the Prairie Fire spiritual formation program.

Roberta Yoder just retired last month. She joined us in 1996 as a career counselor. She has been a faithful and inspiring leader in what was virtually a one person program. So many people have Roberta to thank for discovering fulfilling careers. I always enjoyed my conversations with her around the topic of vocation. She certainly found a way to use her many gifts in the service of others.

There’s a bit of grief as I write this and reflect on these esteemed and highly valued colleagues. I miss them. Again, they all had a variety of reasons for why retirement made sense at this point in their lives and they left on the best of terms and continue to support the Center in a variety of ways. My savoring relates to the inspiration they continue to provide to so many. On a personal level, they certainly nourished my spirit in unique ways.

I have to provide one final bit of savoring by recognizing that we lost Larry Sonner on November 27th  to COVID-19.  He was retired from a variety of roles as a United Methodist Elder. One of his many contributions of a life lived well was to facilitate the gatherings of the supervisors in our training program for 25 years. We are so grateful for the many quality therapists he helped to shape in that quarter century. He and Sue, his spouse, contributed to the Center in many ways over the years. We offer our sympathy to her and the family, even as we celebrate the wonder of all that Larry did with his many gifts.

My reflections don’t even include other stakeholders and donors we’ve lost in 2020. The list is long and I’m afraid I’d forget someone if I started listing individuals. I’ll save that reflection for another time.

Savor these stories!

But we should also heed White’s advice to improve (or save) the world.

Even in the midst of a pandemic, we need to hold ourselves accountable to stewarding the gifts bestowed on us by creation. When I think of the many contributions over 100 staff and innumerable donors have added over the 49 year history of the Center, I am energized by their memories as I consider our role in advancing our important work. Along with the board and staff, I hope that we find ways to make a difference as we strive to serve the many needs in our community, especially related to holistic and mental health.

The world stands in need of improvement—maybe even a little bit of saving. You’ll be hearing from me in 2021 about strategies we have for writing the next chapter of the history of the Center. It will take all of us, using the many gifts we hold as a community, to affect positive social change. We are grateful for others who have done it before us, but also take seriously our responsibility to respond generously as well.

Thank you for all you’ve done to help us continue to serve in a challenging year. Savor the wonder of it all so that we might all be inspired to do a bit of “saving” in 2021.

Blessings,

To read more of Jim’s blogs, click HERE.

Kathy Reardon made the Center better

(back to the Kathy Reardon tribute home page)

by James E. Hayes, D.Min., executive director and spiritual director at the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

Kathy Reardon has made the Center better in many ways since she joined us in 2001. That’s why it was difficult for me to hear when she asked for some time last month to inform me that she planned to retire from the Center at the end of July 2020. Difficult to hear and yet I’m happy for her as this pandemic has helped her to discern the next chapter of her life and how she can continue to make a difference in the lives of others. She is already missed. Though she is retiring from the Center, she remains energized by her spiritual direction practice. She has found virtual meetings from her home cloister to be fruitful and she looks forward to continuing that practice. We look forward to her staying connected to the Center and being a resource for future inspirational offerings.

In typical Kathy fashion, she didn’t want to make a big deal about her retirement. Those who know her understand that she’s a contemplative at heart—and an introvert. Being the center of attention causes discomfort. Those who know her and how much she’s contributed to the Center also know that she has been a big deal in making a difference. She changed the way we serve by bringing her breadth of skills to the service of our mission. She created new services; changed our vocabulary as she helped us to understand words like “healing touch;” brought the heart of a prophet to our systems so that all might be treated with equal shares of love. I was privileged to experience many of her gifts in our short three years of working together. She helped me to understand this place as she asserted her leadership skills and gave me sound advice on issues that needed tending as I started my time as an executive director. She was a confidant when I needed advice on difficult decisions. She helped me to understand better what holistic healing means in our work. Most importantly, she helped me to grow in my own understanding of ultimate mystery through formal workshops and simple daily comments in the workplace that alerted us all to the depth of each moment in the context of the everlasting now. Thank you Kathy!

As my time with Kathy was not decades in length, I asked colleagues who had such tenure to share some thoughts about Kathy’s contributions.

From Susan Ackelson, former Center counselor who also retired recently:

Kathy brought a focus on the body and spirituality with her holistic nursing, healing touch and spiritual direction along with her training in mental health.  The body aspect was completely new for the Center and her work in helping us integrate this new aspect of holistic treatment was critical.  She helped us expand our knowledge of other therapeutic body practices by inviting practitioners of alternative health modalities to meet the staff.  She then initiated community education forums for our clients and community members to educate on alternative health modalities.  She also developed a holistic assessment tool for therapists to use in evaluating their clients. Kathy led a weekly meditation group for our staff for years. 

From Ellery Duke, licensed psychologist and former executive director:

I recall the breakfast meeting at Village Inn in 2001when Jeff, Eileen and I met with Kathy about the prospect of her joining the Center’s staff, doing spiritual direction and Healing Touch.  We of course wanted her to bring spiritual direction and Healing Touch to the Center’s growing interest in the integration of mind, body, and spirit healing.  Kathy brought her understanding of, and expression of healing based in her nursing and spiritual direction backgrounds.  Through the ideas of Kathy, Jeff Means, Kay Riley, and others, the highly regarded PrairieFire program was launched.  Over 100 have been trained through PrairieFire.  It was through Kathy’s ground-breaking work in spirituality at the Center that Diane McClanahan came on board to further expand the Center’s offerings in spirituality and ministry.  Kathy’s spirit-based, mindful approach to life has certainly shaped how the Center expresses its mission.  Thank you.

As the pandemic precludes any formal gathering, we hope to gather more such thoughts to celebrate Kathy’s contributions to our mission. Feel free to send your recollections and notes of gratitude to her directly. If you send them to the Center, we’ll make sure she gets those. At some point we hope to have an appropriate celebration for any who have retired in this age of pandemic.

If you are interested in honoring Kathy with a donation to the PrairieFire fund,  you may donate here.

With gratitude for the many people touched by Kathy’s work, we ask that she be blessed with abundant life as she begins this next chapter of her life’s story.

Jim

Heartfelt thank you to Kathy Reardon – pioneer and educator

Kathy Reardon, R.N., M.S., Spiritual Director, Holistic Healer

Kathy Reardon retired from the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center in August 2020 after 17 years of innovative leadership and service in holistic healing — integrating mind, body and spirit into the therapeutic process.

As one beloved by many, we are pleased to honor Kathy with reflections from her long-time colleagues, and also by offering a way for you to join in the tributes.

Tributes to Kathy Reardon

How you can thank and honor Kathy Reardon

  • Send Kathy a note or letter via the Center:

Attn: Kathy Reardon

Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

8553 Urbandale Ave.

Urbandale, IA 50322

  • Donate to the PraireFire fund in honor of Kathy Reardon:

DonateNow

 

Kathy Reardon and Kay Riley, co-founders of the Center’s PriaireFire spiritual renewal program were honored in 2016 with a concert by singer/songwriter Sara Thomsen.

Look for the helpers

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July 2019

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,” Mister Rogers said to his television neighbors, “my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

Can you tell I recently caught the documentary about Fred Rogers? It was telling that they offered the quote above toward the end of the film—wanting to make sure that was the message left on the viewer’s mind.

I have been doing a series on generosity and gratitude in my reflections this year and the message to “look for the helpers” certainly fits. When Rogers offered this sentiment, he directed his message to children. From a child’s eye, they ought to look for “grown ups” who might help them when challenged with difficult situations.

The Center is fortunate to have “helpers” on many levels. Certainly the clinicians and staff who work with COOL (Children Overcoming Obstacles of Life) who directly serve kids in need of help. As with all of our counselors, the work is challenging but incredibly rewarding as we support clients on the path to healing and renewed hope.

This month I’d like to highlight a different kind of helping: those who work on our development team. We are celebrating a new hire in that department, Laurie Sloterdyk. Laurie comes to us with a wealth of fundraising experience and is well known in the philanthropic community of Des Moines. As the Director of Development, she’ll be working with Terri Speirs, who has been promoted to Director of Community Relations.  Many others on our team, but especially Allison Peet and Paige Kennedy support these efforts. So much of this work is relational and, dare I say, helpful.

As one who has spent years working in development, I firmly believe that this relational work is all about helping. Certainly, our generous donors are helping our clients by sharing with us the precious resources of time, talent and treasure. Without our donors, we could not live out this important mission. What isn’t noticed or discussed as often is how contributing to the Center also helps those who give. Much of our time in relating to donors is listening to their life stories and considering how they want to make a difference with their gifts. Philanthropy is really about discerning purpose and directing that energy into mutually beneficial efforts. Generosity and gratitude are all about building community and experiencing the fullness of life. Keep this in mind should you receive a call from Terri, Laurie or me.

I am grateful to be surrounded by such a talented staff and supporters who help—and are helped—by sharing in our mission of hope and healing.

Jim

The Wonder of Generosity

Tis the season of March, which invites me and others of Irish heritage to celebrate the memory of St. Patrick. Not the usual distortions of all things green, but literally a heritage. I’ve been known to sing a traditional ballad now and again. I often set aside time in March to read a bit of Irish history or literature. Options abound. This year I’m reading John O’Donohue, whose lively imagination has helped me and many others to pay attention to the little things each day in order to experience the joy of wonder. Here’s a quote that inspired pause:

One of the most exciting and energetic forms of thought is the question. I always think that the question is like a lantern. It illuminates new landscapes and new areas as it moves. Therefore the question always assumes that there are many different dimensions to a thought that you are either blind to or that are not available to you. So a question is really one of the forms in which wonder expresses itself. (p. 6)

John O’Donohue, Walking in Wonder: Eternal Wisdom for a Modern World. 2015.

The power of a question to guide us to wonder.

I experience it on a regular basis when I’m working with the generous people who support our work at the Center. I often begin conversations by asking people how they became connected with the Center in the first place. I’ve reflected on answers to that question in previous posts, but suffice it to say that a relationship was established in which the Center played a role in helping someone to find their way to hope and healing.

A follow up question regularly inspires wonder: Where did you learn to be so generous with your time, or talent, or treasure/resources? The answer often involves modeling. Donors grew up in families that valued generosity. They encountered someone whose generosity benefited them and made a difference in helping that person to find a path to success and fulfillment. They engaged in the work of an organization like the Center and saw the direct connection of supporting a mission in order to help others thrive. Lanterns illumined new landscapes and possibilities.

I encourage the community of stakeholders engaged in our work to keep these questions in mind as you’re out and about in the community. “How did you become involved in mental health issues?” (It’s a great way to fight stigma). All of us are touched in some way by these issues. There are too many tragic tales, but also inspiring narratives of healing. Don’t be afraid of the follow up question of how folks learned to be generous as they engaged an issue like mental health. My guess is you’re going to hear more inspiring answers of how one learns to be generous and engaged so as to live a fulfilled life. It’s the path to leading a life that matters and there is much work to be done.

I stand in wonder each day when I see how our work is made possible through the generosity of so many  who participate in and support our mission.

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A mighty thaw

James E. Hayes, D. Min., M. Div., Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

January 2018 – A reflection by Jim Hayes, Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center.

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Winter 2018 certainly struck with a sudden and wicked fury. It’s cold! We closed the Center and 2017 on the afternoon of 29 December, heading home to celebrate the New Year long holiday weekend and the great work that happened here during the year.

When we returned to the Center after the holiday, we quickly discovered that long weekends, still water and frigid temperatures don’t blend well. Our sewer pipe had frozen over the weekend and the backup into our drains was hardly a delightful way to welcome the New Year. Many on our team quickly transitioned from the mundane to crisis mode.

There must be a lesson in this, I thought to myself.

The thought rose as I was fulfilling that part of a job description that most employees dread: “Other duties as assigned.” It was midnight and I was spending some quality time with a qualified employee from a sewer service. It was hard, cold and unpleasant work—but it needed to be done. Interesting what a simple pleasure it is to hear water flowing again after a few hours of wrestling with an ice dam. I was giddy knowing that we were once again operational and ready for our highly trained staff to help others on their path to understanding, hope and healing.

What did I learn from this? I thought to myself?

Many of the clients we serve are stuck in the mundane and not recognizing blocked emotions or negative thoughts that keep them from “flow,” living a full life. Then it happens, a crisis which renders the status quo untenable. Thankfully, through the advice of loved ones or learned referral services, they find their way to the Center and our qualified staff. Then the hard work begins. It can often lead to exploration of cold and dark places. Sometimes it is so unpleasant, that they are tempted to give up. Then it happens. Through teamwork and shared responsibility in the healing process a trickle of hope leads to a mighty thaw and flowing, lively waters. Call it wellness, well-being, a full life or whatever image or words work for you.

I just know it’s inspiring work and I’m grateful to be a part of this story.

Thank you for all you do to engage in our mission. I hope your connection to this special place regularly provides life lessons for you and yours.

May your 2018 be full of joy and blessings.

Jim

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More blog posts from Jim Hayes here: www.dmpcc.org/Jim

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It’s been a great year

James E. Hayes, D. Min., M. Div., Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

December 2017 – A reflection by Jim Hayes, Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center.

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It’s been a great year.

December 5, 2016 I began my tenure at the executive director of the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center (DMPCC). I had the privilege of two weeks of sitting at the feet of Ellery Duke who served this institution for forty years. He didn’t quite impart all his wisdom in that time, but had a plane ticket, so had to depart for warmer climes on December 23, 2016. The way I see it, my tenure really began once everyone returned from holiday break on January 3, 2017.

It’s been a great year.

How do I capture all that is good about this place? It’s been a whirlwind for me personally and professionally, so putting my thoughts into a tidy box of memories hardly seems fair. One construct that works for me is all that we learned undergoing a strategic planning process ably led by our consultant Sheri Vohs, thanks to a generous grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. During the process, we explored the “Value Proposition” of our work here at the Center. Let me reflect a bit on how I have witnessed one of those values lived out in the day to day lives of the many people connected to our organization.

People. It is clear to me on a daily basis that this place is special because of the people involved in our organization. It starts with our clients. They are courageous. They accept the responsibility of vulnerability in order to face whatever it takes to work on hope and healing in their lives. There are often stigmas to our work. These folks testify to the brokenness that is a part of each of us and that it’s ok to own the limitations and contingency of our lives and that by doing so in the context of a safe environment, we can all live more fully. Wow, that was a long sentence, read it again! One comment that came up during the planning process is that we meet people where they are and not as a problem that needs to be fixed–as a person who just needs someone to walk with them. We respect the people who come through our door and the values they bring with them. We love them rather than manage their issues. That’s a high bar and an important value added to our community.

People in our organization are talented. Clinicians, spiritual directors and all our staff live out our mission to bring understanding hope and healing to others each day. The quality of our staff and the diversity of our services make this place hum with activity. There is a tremendous amount of intellectual curiosity around this place. Folks are always trying to figure out how to get better. Our value of trying to serve as many people as possible regardless of ability to pay requires great sacrifice of time and resources. I am inspired by the commitment of my colleagues and have learned much from them in my first year. I thank them for grace and patience as we all grow as leaders in this field.

The value of people in our organization stretches well beyond the confines of this building. There are many stakeholders that contribute to our success: volunteers, friends, donors, foundations, politicians and anyone who recommends to a friend or family member that we can help. I have enjoyed meeting many of you and look forward to meeting many more. Thank you!

All of you contribute to other values that we had a hard time naming. Words like peaceful, holistic, and spirit came up. When pushed to the limit of words, I often resort to stories. As I head out of this place for a meeting or engagement in the community, I often hold the door for someone entering the Center and say hello. I respect their privacy and don’t make much small talk. There is still a connection, at least for me. I know that regardless of why they are here, for counseling, spiritual direction, scheduling a future appointment, addressing a question about a bill,  a class, a prescription re-fill, or any other number of reasons, I know they will encounter someone who cares. I like to think they will leave this place with a stronger sense of peace; that whatever strategy for healing is necessary, their whole story (body, mind and spirit) will be taken into account; that their spirit will be lifted up as a result of their time with us.

Knowing that I work in a place that does that kind of work brings me great joy, along with a healthy dose of humility and privilege. Thank you, all of you, for all you do to make it possible to carry on this crucial mission.

It’s been a great year.

I can’t wait for an even better 2018.

Jim

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More blog posts from Jim Hayes here: www.dmpcc.org/Jim

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If you are still making end of year philanthropy decisions, please consider helping children, teens and adults who need access to mental health counseling and education.DonateNow

Consider the roots

August 2017 – A reflection by Jim Hayes, Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center. This post originally appeared in the Center’s 2016 annual report.

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Have you ever noticed the symbol of our “brand” for the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center?

I see roots. I am told others see a blossom.

I have experienced the blossom born from these roots in my first days and weeks as the Executive Director of the Center. The clearest manifestation has been the staff—my colleagues. The Center has incredible talent. I have seen many examples of folks working together to get better, to find creative ways to bring hope and healing to the people we serve.

As I think more deeply, I am aware that so much of the good work that we do springs from seeds planted by many people I may never meet or come to know. I think of Ray Martin who worked with others to found the Center in 1972—45 years ago. Also nestled in this fertile soil are the many staff members who gave so much of their time and talent to refine our mission and serve our clients. Ellery Duke and Jeanne Schossow come to mind, who both retired in 2016 after decades of service. I am grateful for the hundreds of board members who wrestled with questions of mission and vision, along with the complex decisions and answers such questions require. I am humbled by the thousands of donors whose resources have made it all possible.

I witnessed such commitment when I recently attended the funeral of Betty Durden, who is highlighted in this issue of the annual report. I only came to know her through the ritual of her passing. I never got a chance to see her leadership on the board or to see her promote our work in the community.  Her heritage, however, continues to sustain us through memorials and planned giving as she remembered us in her estate.

As you read through this annual report, by all means celebrate the inspiring work that happens in this special place each day. But also remember the myriad roots of this fruitful mission.

James E. Hayes, D. Min., M. Div., Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

In gratitude for all who committed to our past to make the present possible,

Jim

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Read more from Jim’s blog: www.dmpcc.org/Jim

Forgetting Ourselves on Purpose

June 2017 – A reflection by Jim Hayes, Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

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Click image to take our volunteer survey.

I have spent a good bit of my life exploring the notion of vocation. Think of this as your answer to the question, “What should I do with my life.” A book that I have found helpful along the way is Brian Mahan’s, Forgetting Ourselves on Purpose: Vocation and the Ethics of Ambition.  Among the author’s many findings in the succinct composition is that giving our time to others enlivens us—draws us closer to the experience of being fully alive.

In other words, volunteering is good for us on many levels.

Many of you involved in the work of the Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center already know this. People offer countless hours to our organization and other worthwhile causes and organizations. I encounter these generous spirits almost daily. Board members who give of their time to make sure we have what we need to fulfill our mission. Staff who offer time to one another to study cases in order to continually improve as clinicians. Donors who attend events or enter into conversations with others to promote the importance of our work. Most recently, witnessing the commitment of the Women Helping Women Committee devote hours of energy to achieve record breaking resources to help us serve our clients most in need. If you could have been a fly on the wall of those committee meetings, you would have seen a group of people fully alive.

Volunteering at the Center is tricky business. We want to respect the privacy of the many clients were serve as we go about our daily work. Thus, we don’t have as many direct service opportunities as, say a food pantry. I have asked others to explore with me how we can imagine possibilities for volunteerism at the Center—for a number of reasons:

  • Volunteering is good for you, and we’re all about hope and healing for all. Thinking of others and giving of our time for others helps to diminish some of our daily concerns.
  • We are a non-profit, so often struggling for the resources necessary for daily operations
  • Some of our corporate partners from whom we seek sponsorships require volunteer opportunities for their employees at the non-profits with whom they partner as those employers also recognize the value of volunteerism and community engagement
  • Volunteers tend to be more deeply committed to the organizations they serve
  • A community of volunteers is just that—a community. Gathering volunteers occasionally will build up our sense of community at the Center.

Conversations about this topic have generated some great ideas on how we might expand appropriate volunteer opportunities at the Center. If this list of examples sparks other ideas for you, please send them my way.

  • A volunteer coordinator to help organize and recognize volunteers at the Center
  • Data entry
  • Volunteer receptionists who can cover for short periods of time in order to free up our excellent administrative staff to do training or other needs that might take them away from their very important “front of house” duties
  • Simple maintenance jobs around the Center
  • Landscape work. As we continue to grow into our building, our landscape plan matures and is often in need of tender loving care. We would love to have some folks “adopt a garden.” We need immediate help in this area. We’re also exploring spring and fall clean up days as events to bring people together to celebrate and support our work
  • Board subcommittees. We have many needs on these committees which require expertise. Examples are finance, human resources, fund development and community engagement
  • Board of Directors

These are just a few examples. We’ll continue to provide such examples and are certainly open to other opportunities or gifts. Send me your ideas, or even better, let me know which of these opportunities are of interest.

Some of these needs can be met through capital campaigns and fund development. We shall continue to work hard on that. I am of the conviction that it is not only the sharing of treasure that makes us stronger, but in the sharing of our time and talents that we find our way to the fullness of life—by forgetting ourselves on purpose.

James E. Hayes, D. Min., M. Div., Executive Director, Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center

We celebrate and are grateful for the many ways people help us to serve others in our mission to bring hope and healing through counseling and education.

Jim

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Read more from Jim’s blog: dmpcc.org/Jim