Theresa Cushman, program secretary at Madonna House, has extensive experience in different administrative and financial roles. She previously worked in accounts receivable, accounts payable, sales, inventory control, purchasing, and project accounting. But her life changed when she started working for a local adoption agency. There, she learned how much she enjoyed making a difference in the lives of others. She then joined the team at Madonna House, and she’s been thrilled with her path ever since.
She’s been at Madonna House since October of last year. At first, she was surprised at how different the agency’s trauma-informed approach is. Our staff members really take the time to empathize with our residents and understand their histories. This was all new to her, but she focused on adapting as quickly as possible. Her peers gave her tips and pointers along the way to make her interactions more trauma-informed. “Understanding everyone’s stories a little bit more helps,” Theresa explained. “I try to cheer people up as much as I can,” she added, “and I try to smile as much as I can.”
Now that she has an awareness of the role trauma plays in the lives of our residents, she remains impressed with how resilient they are. “Some of the things I heard when I was first got here were heartbreaking,” she pointed out. “I just can’t believe that so many people are going through traumatic experiences and are still going,” said Theresa.
Kathy Kaiser, program manager of Madonna House, credits Theresa for always helping out in any way she can. One evening a few months ago, Theresa was being her typically-helpful self by filling in for an evening shift. At one point, a resident came up to Theresa saying she was going to leave the program against the advice of her counselors. Theresa then used the skills she picked up in trauma-informed care to help the resident see how much progress she made. Thankfully, the resident decided to stay! The next day, she thanked Theresa for convincing her to continue with her treatment.
It’s moments like those that help Theresa to see she’s helping to change the lives of Madonna House residents. “Making an impact is what keeps me coming back every day,” she said. “I feel like I’m making a difference.”