Abby’s pathway towards a career at NHCO started back in college. While studying education in Ohio, she volunteered one day a week to help feed Pittsburgh’s homeless. During this time she discovered social service was her calling, and teaching was not.
“I’ve always been drawn to non-profits and the idea of helping people. When I was a kid I knew I wanted to help people. I went to school to be a teacher, but realized that was not my calling. Things were way too structured.”
She still earned her teaching degree. But rather than going to the classroom she spent a year with Change a Heart, an organization that assists Pittsburgh based nonprofits.
“Basically, I was a professional volunteer. I worked downtown at Bethlehem Haven, which is a women’s shelter. That’s how I got my feet wet in the social service field. I loved that. It was so fulfilling and life giving.”
Abby, who is from Findlay, Ohio, also fell in love with Pittsburgh. When her year of service was ending she started looking for a job with a non-profit. That’s when she found an opening at NHCO.
“I realized I could get paid for helping people. I saw the mission of “people helping people” and thought that’s literally what I want to do. That’s what I love, so that’s what hooked me.”
For the past two and a half years Abby has guided clients through NHCO’s Pathways Program. This service helps individuals and families achieve stability and self-reliance over time, rather than during an immediate crisis.
And her teaching degree is being put to good use.
“The job I have now involves a lot of teaching. It’s just not the traditional classroom setting. I’m teaching people about budgeting, credit scores, life skills, and all these things you have to know.”
Q&A with Abby
Before working at NHCO, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?
I waitressed for a long time. It’s hard work, but I liked it. I’m a people person so I always like talking with people and hearing different stories.
What do you like most about NHCO?
We have a lot of services that are all encompassing to help the entire person. Whatever people need we try to have a service for them.
What advice do you have for new NHCO employees?
Lean into it. It can be awkward, uncomfortable and hard. Lean into people’s struggles and try to be there and experience it with them. The more you can try to put yourself into their (the client’s) shoes, the better you’ll be able to help them.
What do you find the most challenging at NHCO?
We’re not 911. We’re not first responders. And sometimes that’s very difficult because we want to solve all their (the client’s) problems. When people call we want to be able to give them everything they need, but that’s not what we’re called to do.
What is your proudest moment at NHCO?
It’s hard to remember your proudest moments. I always remember the cases where I wasn’t able to help people. Those people I wish I could’ve helped more. I am proud of the work I do, but I always think of the cases where I wish I could have done more. People’s stories stick with you. You want the best for people and to give them everything that you possibly can. But my role is limited. The resources are limited. So I’m not always able to do everything that I want to.
Do you have any pets?
I have a Sheltie, a dog, named Bailey and a cat named Dinah. They’re my babies. I love them.
If you could be any animal, what would it be?
Definitely a cat, because they do whatever they want. They’re just totally independent.
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
The ability to always have a clean house. I’m a total clean freak, but I hate cleaning.
Where’s your favorite vacation spot?
The beach. I’m all about warm weather, sand, pretty drinks.
Besides a being a Service Coordinator, what is your dream job?
When I was little my dream job was to either be a dog walker or a farmer. Right now what would I be? A professional volunteer. It would be similar to what I’m doing now, but without all the paper work.
To learn more about out Pathways Program please visit NHCO.org/Services/Pathways-Program