Meet Jackie Keenan: Gift in Kind Coordinator
“What stands out is probably being brought up in a single parent household. Experiencing poverty impacted my life”.
So starts the story of Jackie, our Gift in Kind Coordinator and the newest member of our team here at HOPE House. Previously, Jackie was a Child and Youth Worker who worked in residential treatment with children and youth with diverse needs and challenges.
After 10 years in the field and having a family of her own, Jackie ended this career due to the very real effects of vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue. “I knew I couldn’t be pulled by both. It’s very draining. Looking back you don’t really realize, you’re just dealing with it nonstop, it was really life changing”. Jackie then went back to school part time, as a mom and with a job, to get her sociology degree in the hopes of expanding her potential and opportunities. Once graduated she stayed home for a number of years and then moved to Guelph becoming a single parent soon after. “I reentered poverty again. It was a different experience, being in poverty as a parent compared to as a child. I felt disconnected being in a new community and didn’t know which services to access or have a community of my own”.
Jackie’s experience, she shares, gives her empathy for the people accessing HOPE House.
“I got back into the workforce and always wanted to give back to children, families, and marginalized populations. But I still struggled. I was working poor but in my own mind, I don’t know, maybe I denied being poor. Accessing some services didn’t feel good, I was given food my children couldn’t or wouldn’t eat. It created anxiety. And there’s always the guilt of, well someone else needs it more”.
While working locally Jackie met Bob, our first Gift in Kind Coordinator.
“Bob talked about HOPE House a lot and I was curious about his job, I thought his job was really cool…independent yet connected to something larger and greater meaning. And even the way he spoke about the people here – “our guests”, “our community members” – it was language I had to wrap my head around. Language is just so powerful!
Now when I’m out, doing this job and representing HOPE House and talking about it, I’m using that language. I have shivers right now! (laughs) When you read the statement “the opposite of poverty is community”, it really IS!”
Jackie’s role as Gift in Kind Coordinator, as she describes it, is primarily about linking what’s available in the larger community back to HOPE House. Building relationships and continuing relationships with other corporations and organizations that have already been established is key.
“Often people and organizations want to give back, but don’t know how, so I get to educate people and spread the word and represent who we are here in the community. I have lots of conversations!”
When asked what using inclusive language does to those she speaks with in Guelph, Jackie replies, “The language that we use here and the inclusivity of the language really helps to open people up to reality here in Guelph and beyond. They begin to understand they don’t just have something to give, but to receive. We’re people helping people. Everyone learns tools to help themselves and then put those tools to use helping others. It’s everyone learning and growing together. It challenges the public because people living in poverty aren’t often seen as part of the community. Inclusive language changes that. It’s not about ‘us’ and ‘them’. It’s just ‘us’.
Many of the companies Jackie works with give frequently. Those who give gifts in kind such as food, clothing and/or hygiene products at least monthly are our ‘Givers of HOPE’.
“The label ‘Givers of HOPE’ helps recognize our gift in kind donors. Sometimes people have difficulty giving money because they don’t trust where the money is going or they don’t have it to give. Giving things can often be much easier because they’re tangible and have a use. It’s a transparent process. And it’s just as valuable as giving money. Items such as food, clothing and hygiene supplies can be and are distributed immediately” explains Jackie.