Second Step Case Manager Donates $10k to Help Save Program

§ February 24th, 2012 § Filed under Donors, Success Stories § 2 Comments

Valerie Norris

When Second Step Housing case manager Valerie Norris learned that the free parenting program at Second Step was going to lose its county funding she knew she had to do something.

“I get tons of feedback from my clients about how much this class has helped them,” she says.

In order to keep the successful program she decided to match every dollar donated to Second Step until the end of January up to $10,000, which would both pay to keep the program and give Second Step a much needed infusion for other programs.

“My husband and I usually give money to lots of different places, but since this was going to be canceled we thought we’d give $10,000 to keep that program,” Norris says.

It’s a gift from a woman who has already given much to the community of Vancouver by helping to reunite hundreds of families in her nearly 10-year career as a Second Step case manager. And when you learn about Norris’ journey through life you won’t be surprised by her generosity.

“She’s probably the first person in here every morning,” says Second Step Executive Director Debby Dover. “There’s nothing she can’t or won’t do to get things done.”

As a Second Step case manager for our transitional housing program, it’s Norris’ job to connect with women, often mothers, who through job loss, abuse, drug addition, or mental illness, have become homeless. They’re also often at risk of losing their families.

She points these women to community and government programs and classes that can help them overcome their circumstances and in many cases regain custody of their children and find safe, affordable housing. It’s a job that requires coaching skills as well.

“A lot of women have said to me, ’she was hard on me at first but she really helped me,’” says Dover. “But she also takes the approach that if you are honest and trustworthy she will help you.”

“I’m crazy about my clients and really enjoy them a lot,” says Norris. “When you are helping people who are at the bottom of a crisis it’s wonderful to help them get back on their feet.”

What’s amazing about Norris’ story is that she has lived what many of these families endure, but as a child. Her parents had her when they were just 15 years old. By the time they reached 20 years old they had four children. They were forced to live in poverty and some of Norris’ early memories include listening to her parents argue with landlords over late rent checks. There were several times during her childhood when her family was homeless.

“I have a distinct memory when I was in 4th grade of having to leave in the middle of the night before the sheriff was going to kick us out the next morning,” she said. “We were really poor.”

Her parents overcame the adversity of having such a young family. Strong will and work ethic changed their lives. Her father became a psychiatrist and her mother a speech pathologist.

Those same characteristics helped drive Norris through school and led her to medical school. In 1987 she opened her own practice as a naturopathic physician.

Yet, soon after her daughter was born she decided to give up the practice and focus on her own family. When her daughter reached kindergarten, she started volunteering with the YWCA Clark Country’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program. Her job was to represent children abused or neglected children in court. She was eventually hired by the YWCA to coordinate volunteers and did that for seven years.

After years of working with children, Norris decided that she wanted to help both the children and their parents. She began working with YW Housing, which eventually became Second Step Housing. Her experiences as a sometimes homeless child, a physician, an advocate for children, and a mentor to struggling parents, gives her a unique and highly qualified perspective on representing families in the community.

“I want these parents to get their kids back and I want things to work out,” she said.

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2 Responses to “Second Step Case Manager Donates $10k to Help Save Program”

  • Chris says:

    You have my pledge of $500.00. Let’s go for it! Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Debby Dover says:

      Dear Chris, Thank you so much for your pledge. Please give me a call, I would love to talk with you. Debby Dover, Executive Director 360 993.5301 x 124. I look forward to chatting with you and again Thank You!!!!

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