2020 has been a difficult year in a number of ways. In particular, the COVID-19
pandemic has caused hardship across the country, and financial distress for millions of Americans. As we head into Thanksgiving, the pandemic has become more serious, with numbers rising in almost every area of the country. The traditional Thanksgiving celebrations will look quite a bit different this year in Westmoreland County and beyond.
And yet there is so much that we are thankful for at Blackburn Center, even in these difficult times.
Our staff and volunteers: Every part of our work has been affected by the pandemic. Normally, most of our services are provided in-person. COVID-19 created an immediate challenge for our team: how do we continue to ensure that our clients and the community get the help that they need while keeping everyone safe? As an essential service, we couldn’t miss a beat.
Our staff rose to the challenge, learning new technology, rearranging work schedules and locations, and working cooperatively to make sure that we did not contribute to community spread:
Our therapists and counselors developed strategies to provide their services remotely, rapidly adapting to this major change in how they work with clients.
Our advocacy team has been available both in-person and remotely, finding creative ways to continue to provide support to clients who are making their way through legal and medical proceedings.
Our education team transformed all of their in-person curricula to video, to have our information available for students regardless of the mode of teaching at their school. They also produced videos that parents and caregivers can share with their kids, bringing our empathy series to life with creative, engaging content. And they have worked with businesses and community groups to find ways to provide training and education programs remotely.
At our emergency shelter, staff quickly developed ways to house and support victims of intimate partner violence and their children in a way that was safe for all.
Our civil legal services staff have continued to represent victims in civil matters, whether remotely or during in-person legal proceedings.
Our volunteer training swiftly morphed into an online format in spring 2020, and continued in that mode this fall. Throughout this challenge, we have welcomed more new volunteers in 2020 than we have in more than 10 years.
Our administrative team has been the glue that holds all of this together, providing support to our adapted work and ensuring that our operations run smoothly whether they are provided from an off-site location or on-site.
We are so thankful for everyone who works at Blackburn Center. You have made sure that we can continue to provide the highest level of service in the most challenging of times.
Our clients: We send gratitude to our clients. They have been amazingly patient and resilient through the adjustments to our service delivery. They have shown remarkable strength and courage in reaching out, seeking help, and working towards healing when there have been so many barriers on that path as a result of the pandemic. We appreciate you, are thankful for your understanding, and are honored to be part of your journey.
Our donors and community partners: We are thankful for everyone who has continued to support our work over the past year. We know that many people in our community are suffering: financially, emotionally, or with concerns about their health and wellbeing. Through it all, you have been there for us: donating financially, buying items for our shelter, signing up to volunteer, and more. We couldn’t do this without you.
As you mark this Thanksgiving season in new and creative ways, know that you have given Blackburn Center so much to be grateful for.
Ann Emmerling, Executive Director
and Blackburn Center’s Board of Directors