Grateful to finally be home

March 2023 · Forward in Hope

A few months ago, I arrived at Saint Francis from “Corporate America,” having worked in the private sector in everything from small local companies to a Fortune 1000 company. Often, it was like living in a Dilbert cartoon, right down to the pointy-haired boss and the evil HR cat – only not funny. It had never occurred to me that I would work in the non-profit world, let alone with children and families.

My wife has spent her entire career as a mediator practicing family law. A significant portion of her career was focused on CINC cases and juvenile permanency. In fact, she was the first approved juvenile permanency mediator in the State of Kansas. For our entire marriage, I have proudly watched her forge paths in this work, focusing on the needs of children and families. I have watched as she served on a domestic violence coalition, volunteered in safe houses, and worked on  sometimes controversial projects that led to significant positive changes impacting families suffering from domestic violence.

That was always her world, and I lived in mine. Eventually, I began to become exhausted by the corporate grind with the constant focus on quarterly earnings reports, sales, and driving leads. On occasion, I felt I had to hang my ethics cloak up at the door when I came into the office and pick it up again on my way out. I can assure you that is not a good feeling.

I officially left the corporate world in 2020 when I went to work for a small private college. It wasn’t my idea – it was suggested by a friend who also happened to be a recruiter. When I asked him what I would do for an institution of higher education he said, “Don’t worry Denny, it’s the same thing you have always done, just more ethical.” I liked the sound of that! So, I gave it a whirl. He was right. It was more ethical, but—it was the same thing I had always done – driving leads to a sales team (admissions counselors). And then there were leadership changes, layoffs, programs canceled – more of the same.

I began to regret my decision and decided that I still hadn’t found my home. Then I came across the open position at Saint Francis. Remember, my wife had lived in this world her entire career, so I knew what SFM was about. A quick Google search and I found some controversy in the not-so-distant past. I am no stranger to that (remember, I worked for a publicly traded company with a pointy-haired boss). It was easy to quickly figure out that a couple of bad actors do not represent an entire agency and that those folks were gone.

I talked to my wife about it, and she was almost giddy with excitement. She always believed that I could offer a lot to the non-profit world, but never thought it would be on my radar. However, she was also worried. I have watched her struggle with vicarious trauma and even primary trauma, so I knew it was a challenge for those in the industry. I’ve never really thought it would impact me the same, but she knew to some degree it is inescapable no matter what the role. In my mind, this role would be well removed from the reality that our front-line staff deals with every day – I would be insulated.

What I’ve learned is that none of us in this line of work are removed from the reality of what children and families suffer through every day. The difference between what we encounter in the Marketing and Communications department and what our frontline staff encounter is almost immeasurable. Yet, the onion has been peeled back enough that I have a newfound appreciation for what so many of our colleagues do every day.

You see, I always knew it must be immensely rewarding work often strangled by trauma, and grief, but I really had no idea. I hear the stories and read the reports, and I respond to media inquiries. My heart breaks for the children and families we serve and for every colleague who works with them. But, I also know the good we are doing at Saint Francis Ministries is immeasurable.  I’m finding that this is the most amazing group of people I have ever had the pleasure of working alongside. People whose hearts are filled with compassion and hope … and I have never been prouder of what I do.

I think our CEO, Bill Clark, said it best at the recent open house for our new residential treatment center in Lubbock, Texas:  “I love Saint Francis, I love everything about Saint Francis. I love the people of Saint Francis. We have some incredible people here. I love our mission, providing healing and hope to children and families. I love our vision of transforming lives and systems. It’s about partnering as a community and working together to take care of people.”

I’m home. I’m grateful to be a part of this amazing family.

Denny Marlin is the Executive Director of Marketing and Communications for Saint Francis Ministries.