As part of Family Connection, Bibb Community Partnership believes in the power of connection, bringing partners together to craft local solutions based on local decisions to improve the health and well-being of families. And when Vanderhoek came into her role in 2018, she began working on ways to incorporate trauma-informed training into all the work Community Partnership was doing.
“I noticed that the Georgia State University Child Welfare Collaborative was offering Trauma 101 training, and I realized this is the work underneath all the other work we are doing. I wanted to figure out how to incorporate that trauma-informed lens into our work through the Connections Matter trauma-informed training.”
At the same time, Dr. Andrea Meyer Stinson, a friend of Vanderhoek, was involved in Resilient Georgia through her work at Mercer University. Resilient Georgia was founded to increase education about resilience, adversity, and trauma and build partnerships to create champions of trauma-informed care. It only made sense that the two women would combine forces and form Resilient Middle Georgia to ensure that those who needed trauma-informed care most in their area are able to receive it. And that’s when the ingredients for a winning community partnership started coming together.
Meyer Stinson knew the Pittuloch Foundation was looking to fund a project in the Macon-Bibb area and saw an opportunity to receive some funding for the work she and Vanderhoek believed in so passionately. And The Community Foundation of Central Georgia’s On the Table initiative proved to be the perfect conduit for providing just the right people at the right time to make something positive happen and advance trauma-informed care in the area.
“To have a day of talking and connecting and seeing what people are up to and understanding how we can all play a part, that’s the foundation of On the Table,” explained Vanderhoek. “It was through On the Table that we connected with Kathryn Dennis at CFCG to be the fiscal agent of this initiative.”
With CFCG on board, funding was secured through the Pittuloch Foundation grant and additional connections were made. Dennis was able to connect Vanderhoek to the staff at Middle Georgia Regional Library, since she knew from previous conversations that the director of the library, Jennifer Lautzenheiser, understood how trauma plays a key role in quality of life. And Lautzenheiser was indeed interested in helping facilitate bringing trauma-informed trainings to Macon.
With the right resources and people in place, Connections Matter trauma-informed trainings were held for all library staff in October 2021. That led to 80 staff members being trained to use best practices in trauma-informed responses with their patrons.
Lautzenheiser sees the enormous benefits not only to the patrons of the library system but to everyone on staff as well.
“I think the most immediate benefit of the training was the development of a common vocabulary and language for staff members,” Lautzenheiser expanded. “We serve many different and diverse communities. After the training our staff members have an inclusive common language around resilience, adversity and trauma that helps them help each other and our patrons. While the intention of the training was to help us better serve our patrons, it has also assisted us in better caring for one another as well.”
The staff with the library want other library systems to understand the benefit of these trainings. And, in fact, staff member Katelyn Morgan presented the report “How Trauma-Informed Training Guided our Understanding of Patron Behavior” at the most recent Georgia Library Conference to encourage other library systems throughout the state to take advantage of these life-changing trainings as well.
“I think that successful communities work together,” continued Lautzenheiser. “In the same way shared purpose and language is important for our library system, it is important for our community organizations. Being aware of and contributing to trauma-informed training is one more way that we can meaningfully contribute to people improving their lives.”
Some of the best things happen when people from a variety of backgrounds are able to come together for a common purpose. Connections Matter trauma-informed trainings happened because people at Resilient Middle Georgia and Community Partnership were able to connect with CFCG and partner with the Pittulloch Foundation to ensure that the community only continues to grow healthier and stronger.
“It’s exciting to see the momentum these trainings and information are creating,” stated Vanderhoek. “We want to move from awareness into policies. We have to lay the educational groundwork about what it means to be trauma-informed, but we also hope people can take the information and embed it into the work they are doing.”
It’s a recipe for positively impacting middle Georgians for generations to come.