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VOA Today: Meet Jayne Harbin-Pettit

Jayne Harbin-Pettit
Administrative & Children's Coordinator,
Unity House 

Our core values are compassion, commitment, diversity, integrity and justice. Which one speaks to you most and why?

They are all extremely important to me. If I had to choose one, it would be compassion, because it is the first core value used when a family comes through our doors. Without a doubt, all have been through trauma and sadness before getting to the point of entering our shelter. I think it’s a necessity that we, as staff, realize that and go above and beyond to make families feel comfortable, safe, welcome and give them hope that they will receive the help they deserve. This compassionate approach must continue throughout their stay.

Tell us about your most inspiring moment with a client?

I’ve worked for the agency for 26 years, so there have been countless wonderful moments with families. One that will always come to mind is that of Chuck B. Chuck was a 7 year-old child in our shelter in 1994. His mother struggled with addiction and did not come back to shelter one evening, leaving Chuck and his 2 older brothers alone. Because their mother could not be located, the boys ended up at the Home of the Innocents, then foster care. During this time I reached out to all boys and offered support, but Chuck was the only brother who wanted contact. For years I picked Chuck up at his foster home, and then thankfully his Grandmother’s, and we would go do what he wanted to do. Movies, out to eat…and we would talk. As Chuck got older and more independent, he didn’t need me as much and we lost contact when he was starting Middle School. Years later I was in my office and received a phone call. It was a deep voice I didn’t recognize. He identified himself as Chuck and told me that he was in the Navy, and calling me from his ship. He told me he had been laying in his bunk thinking about his life, and thought of me and how our outings made all the difference to that little boy. He thanked me, and told me he was doing well. We have remained in contact since then. Chuck is now a father and works for the Postal Service in Louisville.

Your work is challenging – what motivates you to keep doing this rewarding yet sometimes difficult work?

That is simple -- I respect Volunteers of America. I work for the best TEAM (we ARE a team;) we support each other, and work together during those inevitable difficult days. The children here are so special, the families are inspiring, and they are so deserving of our program’s assistance with stabilizing and returning to permanent housing.

If you could tell a friend one reason that working for Volunteers of America is rewarding and worthwhile, what would it be?

Look at our Core Values, they say it all.

What is your favorite hobby?

Maybe it’s more of a passion than a “hobby”, but I have been involved with Animal Rescue and Trap Neuter Release for 27 years.