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A Letter from Our CEO, Sue Schroeder

Sue Schroeder, LCSW, CEO  

My goodness where do I start--2020 right? As I sat down to write this year's letter, there was only one decision to be made: Should I focus on the virus or not? As I began, my fingers seemed to already have the answer and almost automatically, they led the way. After all, even though we have all overcome so many difficult challenges this year, the pandemic still persists. We've all seen the jokes about what 2020 has been like and all of us here are as eager as you are to say goodbye to this unprecedented year. But, before we bid a final adieu to 2020, I am asking you to do one thing that you can feel good about before you close out the year. I'll return to that request in a moment.

First, I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to everyone for supported our mission during this year's virus outbreak. It made me so proud to be a part of Stepping Stones as we received kind words of appreciation for our hard work throughout our most challenging time. Whether you sent in a contribution, made or donated masks, followed visiting or elated protocols, comforted or otherwise helped someone in our services, expressed words of support or appreciation to our staff, prayed for us or simply took the time to think about the care we were providing to our residents and what they were going through this year; I thank you so very much and want you to know the support we received meant the world to us.

Obviously we are not alone in facing the challenges this year brought and I would like to return my sentiments to you, your family and friends for all the sacrifices you've made and the losses you have 'experienced. Despite all we've been through already, we both know this pandemic is not over. And while I still don't know how this will all turn out, I believe the pandemic has forever changed us in fundamental ways. I know I look at my family, my life and the work we do here a lot differently than I did at the start of 2020 and suspect you have come to realize what is truly important to you as well. Let's call that one of the worthwhile outcomes of the pandemic.

There are six primary emotions we all experience: anger, disgust, fear, sadness, surprise and happiness. While helping the individuals we serve understand their emotions is a critical aspect of what we do here, I mention them in this context as I have experienced all of these emotions while learning about, planning for and responded to the pandemic this year. Yes, I'll admit its been an emotional roller coaster ride for me since the vims arrived and I suspect you have gone through a similar experience too.

Earlier I mentioned how proud I am of all the support we received from thoughtful people like you as we responded to the virus. There are two other groups I am also very proud of: our employees and clients. Because of the care we provide, our employees considered "essential workers" and essential they have been. Necessary services continue to be provided, at a distance or virtually, and many staff members have gone from being mental heath professionals to donning full PPE and assisting our clients during isolations. By its nature, this pandemic creates such chaos and that is why I am so pmud of how well our staff have stepped up and worked together to meet the needs of our clients throughout this outbreak.

I can't say enough about how well our clients have handled the pandemic. Let's face it, the virus has been difficult for all of us to understand and live with. Imagine dealing with it while living with a serous mental illness and having your routine, treatment schedule, family and community contacts and life completely altered. While I know we are far from done with the virus, the way our residents have handled it so far is a reminder of how fortunate we are to be the caregivers of such diverse and truly unique individuals. There is an anthropological theory that says severe illnesses like schizophrenia exist to help our society be a more compassionate one. I know that idea is hard to accept for those with mental illness and their families but as a caregiver it has merit to me. I have gained such respect for the individuals in our program. It takes a lot of courage to live with mental illness and it took a good amount of grit for our clients to trust our staff to guide them through all the safety protocols required by the virus.

Even though the pandemic slowed down and complicated some of our plans this year, I would like to tell you what else we've been working on. We have continued our focus on providing trauma-informed care. And while we have wait times and limited openings in our supervised and supported housing programs, we have further expanded our outpatient services to those in need of help who have secure housing. We have pursued available facilities to expand supervised housing capacity and in response to a strong interest from the court system, are exploring funding options that would allow us to meet their need for additional capacity.

And despite all that 2020 has thrown at us, we enter the season of our most American holiday-Thanksgiving, with so many reasons to be thankful and so much to remain hopeful about. As you stop to count your blessings and recognize what truly matters in our community, I hope you will include Stepping Stones on that list and take the time to show your support of our organization by visiting https://steppingstonesrockford.org to make an online donation or by mailing a check to Stepping Stones of Rockford, 706 N. Main Street, Rockford IL 61103. Your financial support will let us know how much you value Stepping Stones being here to provide housing and mental health services each person participating in our program needs to live successfully and independently as possible.

As you can see, throughout the pandemic we have been here to serve our clients and further expand services to meet the increased needs of our community. Together, with your financial support, we will continue to reach even adults in need of housing and mental health services and eventually put the virus behind us. We count on receiving your support at this time of the year and I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, I wish you and your family, a safe and meaningful Thanksgiving, whether you spend it together or at a distance.

With continued gratitude,

Susan Schroeder, LCSW, CEO

P.S. Your gift will show how much you value Stepping Stones in our community and will renew our hope for a better 2021.

To make a donation, please click on the agency's website DONATE button -or- send a check to Stepping Stones of Rockford, 706 N. Main St., Rockford IL 61103. If you have questions, please call 815-963-0683 and ask for Randy. Thank you!

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