An integral part of the mission and vision at Adult & Child Health is to “strive for equitable, caring communities.” Often, that means that our staff have their boots on the ground in clinics and in communities, actively working with clients and the public to cultivate healthy, meaningful lives.
At other times, our staff have the pleasure of empowering others to be changemakers, standing beside them as they, too, carry out our mission. This fall, Adult & Child staff had the opportunity to work with local youth as they made a difference in their community through the PULSE program at Valle Vista.
PULSE stands for Patients United to Listen, Speak, and Encourage. It functions similarly to a student council for the Valle Vista residential treatment center (RTC), which is made up of youth from 12 to 18 years of age. There are typically between 20 to 24 individuals in the RTC program at any given time.
PULSE, led by Holly Smith, A&C Staff Therapist at Valle Vista, welcomes a new cohort of participants roughly every quarter. Residents who are interested in participating can submit an application, then interview with staff for the opportunity to be one of three or four PULSE members. Once selected, each PULSE cohort is responsible for completing a group project, which they typically collaborate on with the rest of the Valle residents. Cohort members discuss areas of need with the residents in order to determine a current pain point that could be resolved.
“It could be as simple as ‘we want a digital clock,’ creating a hygiene drive, or any other type of student council things,” explained Sarah Shields, A&C Team Leader in Valle Vista RTC. Instead of opting to benefit their own program; however, this particular group decided that they wanted to give back to the community.
After reaching a consensus, their project idea was taken to the Valle Vista staff. Holly connected with Stephanie Hunter, A&C Staff Therapist at Wheeler Mission. Stephanie indicated that the Christmas Shop at the shelter—which provides no-cost Christmas gifts to the individuals they serve— is usually not adequately stocked with items for teens, since donors tend to favor gifts for babies and smaller children. This led to an intuitive match for PULSE.
“It was perfect for our youth because they’re teenagers and they know what teenagers like,” Sarah said.
To raise money for the Christmas Shop, the PULSE team decided to organize an arts and crafts sale. In the weeks leading up to the sale, they created art projects, canvases, garden gnomes, bracelets, bath scrubs, and other items to sell to the Valle Vista staff and community. They were also responsible for creating flyers and promoting their event. In just one day of sales, they earned $400.
Creating the artwork provided a good outlet for the team, and “to see people pick out and buy the artwork they made was super cool for them,” said Sarah.
Using the proceeds from the sale, the PULSE teens carefully selected items to stock the Wheeler Mission Christmas Shop for their peers.
“I was very honored to be able to help people wake up with Christmas presents this year. It was also very fun making the stuff to sell so we could get the money to buy the Wheeler Mission Christmas presents!” said one PULSE participant.
Another PULSE team member shared that this project was a perfect match for their passions, noting that “doing art and helping people and providing for others are my favorite things.”
Stephanie, along with A&C’s Vice President of Community and Specialty Services, Jennifer Disbro, visited Valle Vista in late October to collect the Christmas Shop donations. While there, they were able to hear from the residents the impact this project had on them. Some even noted that they had experienced homelessness or been in a shelter before.
“I can relate to being in the situation that some individuals are in [at the Wheeler Mission] and I feel bad. I wanted to be able to help out others because I’m grateful for having a family that loves and cares about me and I have a home,” said a PULSE participant. “I should be grateful for those things, and I just really wanted to help the community and encourage people that are struggling.”
To learn more about A&C’s services and our work in the community, please visit adultandchild.org/services.