It Takes a Village: Bethel Haven

“Be there for others, but never leave yourself behind.” – Dodinsky

When asked how Extra Special People manages to operate so efficiently and effectively, I often simply respond, “it takes a village.” Part of what makes working with ESP so special are our community partners. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to offer nearly the range of services to our participants and their families.

A partnership we’re particularly excited about is with local counseling nonprofit, Bethel Haven. What’s most interesting about our partnership with Bethel Haven is that it’s truly a win-win situation. While I lend my expertise in helping Bethel Haven develop new branding materials and a new strategic plan, they provide us with reduced counseling fees for ESP participants and their families.

If I were to ask anyone to list the challenges of raising a child with disabilities, the list of responses would likely be quite long. However, something that might not always make that list is the psychological impact raising a child with disabilities can have on parent caretakers and siblings. Many of our participants and families struggle with feelings of grief, guilt and frustration. Thankfully, Bethel Haven’s staff is well trained to deal with these types of issues, and through our partnership, ESP participants and families can receive counseling on site at ESP, saving them time and an additional drive when their child is already at ESP’s after-school program. Additionally, our partnership allows for the first session to be free of charge, and Bethel Haven’s sliding scale payment method assures financial limitations never get in the way of getting families the help they need.

Celebrating their 10th anniversary of serving the Athens community, Bethel Haven has doubled the number of counselors on their staff and relocated to an office with double the amount of space. In this new capacity, Bethel Haven now offers approximately 200 counseling sessions per month.

ESP families have the same life issues, pressures, struggles and pains as other families, but the presence of one or more family members with developmental disabilities can amplify the stress that comes along with dealing with those challenges. Through our partnership with Bethel Haven, counseling has become an essential ingredient of the family support mission of ESP, and we’re excited to see what the future of this partnership has in store for our community.

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About The Author

Laura Whitaker

Laura Whitaker, M. Ed., began her relationship with Extra Special People, Inc. by working as a counselor and, subsequently, a leadership team member in 2003. With her passion for enhancing the lives of children with developmental disabilities and her specialized education in this field, Laura was selected as the director after the founder, Martha Wyllie’s sudden passing in 2004. She has found her dream job with ESP (or her dream job found her!). As Executive Director, Laura uses her leadership and management strengths to manage staff, oversee multiple year-round programs and raise funds to run programs. Her favorite part of the job is getting to hug the many children who walk through the ESP doors.

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