Sherry Beal gets to work at 7 a.m. on most days.
She looks after her organization’s finances, writes proposals for new programs to help out families in need and ensures that reporting is on target with what is expected by the board of directors and by the ministries who provide them with funding.
Beal is the executive director at North Coast Community Services (NCCS) and has worked in the social services field since 1992.
NCCS provides services to families and expecting families who are struggling with day-to-day life. They also provide services to children who are victims of violence and for children with special needs.
“We could have someone walk off the street going, “I’m struggling with my kids, I don’t know what to do” and we would just step in and give them a hand to make sure they were successful,” Beal said.
Beal began her journey in a social service worker programme and from there earned a master’s degree in business administration.
Twenty-six years ago Beal began at NCCS as a family support worker doing a variety of things for families in need depending on the circumstance. Sometimes they were struggling with ways to discipline their children and at other times, it was household management.
“It was a real broad spectrum of support systems we put in place. Sometimes it was ‘how do I keep this house clean with all these children running around or how do I juggle making healthy meals but staying within my budget?’” Beal said.
Beal said the highlight of her time as a family support worker was in the simple things.
“Seeing an individual move past their challenges and move forward in their lives and be successful. Whether it’s getting a job, or whether it’s getting an education, or whether it’s just being the best parent they can be,” she said.
Eventually she moved on from NCCS, only to decide to come back once more, this time as the executive director.
“We have an amazing staff who works diligently every day to support their clients. So it’s kind of close to the heart,” Beal said.
Beal added that the secret to surviving in a field which could be emotionally draining is the support network from coworkers and using one another as a sounding board to debrief and troubleshoot problems when things go wrong.
“There can be heartbreak and not everything’s roses. Being able to have that opportunity to be able to access that support when you need it is very important. And looking at the good side when you can and having a sense of humour,” she said.
Support is something Beal understand both as an employee of NCCS and as someone who once used their services.
Beal and her husband are now happy grandparents of four and she is mom to a 29 year old who works as a nurse.
“It’s a lot of fun. And it’s very different being a grandparent compared to a parent,” she said.
Before she could get to that point in her life, she had to learn how to raise a child on her own as a single mother, which was not easy.
She took the parenting program out of the NCCS building called “Nobody’s Perfect” which Beal said grounded her in what she needed to do to make sure she was a good parent.
“I found that very valuable. It may sound simple to some people, but when you’re on your own, it can be a challenge. It just taught me that it’s okay not to be perfect. But just try your best and get up and try again the next day. It was a challenge at times when you look at the finances and everything else. The parenting program that I took, it melded everything together to make it easier to understand so it was really a grounding force.”
Beal said she had her sister to lean on, then and now, who acted as a second mother to her daughter.
“You don’t have to do it by yourself, if you can find someone to be a support person, lean on that person you need to because you don’t have to do it by yourself,” Beal said.
Beal keeps learning that lesson over again, whether it is in her role as a parent or as a worker in social services. Over the past few years she has gotten to know a client that she said was really struggling and very angry at the thought of receiving services from NCCS.
“He didn’t want to be involved at all, and now he walks by my door almost every day and waves at me. And you can see how it’s changed the way he’s working with his children. It’s made a big difference for him. And it just reminds me of why we’re here. It makes me work harder. It makes me want to provide more and to get the funding to provide more services for the community because I can see the wealth and what we do.”
Beal said there’s always someone to support struggling parents, and if a person can’t find someone in their life there’s always the NCCS family centre where parents can meet new people who are also imperfect, but who can help them get through the day.
Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
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