Peel back the curtain and peek inside, there you will see the true essence of a person. We all are empowered with a bright light. For some that light shines brighter, but for only one reason…instead of keeping it locked inside, they give it permission to glow.
Behind every great cause and every great person exists that light. If you want to change the world, than you have no choice but to let your light shine.
Your shine is your story.
Everybody has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is Storytelling for Nonprofits.
Storytelling for Nonprofits: I’ve Been There
“I treat people the way they want to be treated, with respect. You never know when you might be sitting on the other side.”
– V. Jackson
Vernetia Jackson has been there. She’s worked through her challenges and come out on the other side. Because of her experiences, her story is a powerful one to share with those who come through the doors of Health Care Access Maryland. Once you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes, you can feel the footprints and the sometimes painful steps.
Deep empathy comes from shared experience.
For fifteen years Vernetia says she experienced and battled the demons of drug addiction. Despite being, as she describes, “a functioning addict”, it affected everything in her life, including participation in her happy place, the church.
“Toward the end of my drug use I was starting to black out,” says Vernetia. “I was raised in the church, but the drug life kept me in and out. Life was a revolving door. The drug use affected everything I did. Finally, I got tired, I got scared and realized I wasn’t ready to lose my life. I asked God for help and he took it away from me. I promised I would never do it again. My faith and strength in Christ saved me. It was gone in an instant.”
That instant was more than 13 years ago.
A few years later, clean, sober and back in the swing of life, Vernetia found her way to Heath Care Access Maryland. HCAM is a nonprofit agency that connects residents to public health care coverage and helps them navigate services effectively. The programs are designed to bridge gaps in services to pregnant and postpartum women, immigrants, people experiencing homelessness, youth in foster care, people with substance use disorders, individuals recently released from jail, and others. Each year the nonprofit also connects more than 145,000 uninsured and under-insured clients to health insurance, health care, and vital community resources. (http://www.healthcareaccessmaryland.org/)
Vernetia says she serves front and center in the Eligibility Division. “I’m basically on the front lines,” says Vernetia. “But in a positive way. I help consumers fill out applications, verify documentation for proof of income and identity and make sure they are applicable for the program. I love helping people. I love that we can take the edge off for people who are trying to get their medical needs met. I’ll say it again, I just love helping people.”
“A lot of my clients open up to me, not sure if it’s me or my aura. Sometimes they not only ask for help, they ask for prayer. I look at my clients as if I was in their shoes. I look at them with dignity, respect and professionalism. I know it’s already hard to make the decision to come here. They are anxious, many have lost insurance and worried about their children and their future. It makes me feel good to take care of their needs and get the situation resolved as soon as possible. They leave me relieved of their burden and know they’ve had it taken care of from a friendly person.”
Friendliness, love and compassion are not only what Vernetia says she gives to her clients, but she says it’s also at the heart of those who work for HCAM.
“I love, love, love my co-workers,” says Vernetia. “We are a family and they show me that every day. Back in November I had a mini-stroke while I was at work. I didn’t notice it, but my team members noticed the difference in me and showed me their love and concern. They got me to the hospital in time, someone even went in the ambulance with me and then waited for my family members to arrive at the hospital.”
When Vernetia lost her mom a few months ago her HCAM “family” was there as well to support her every step of the way. She says it is always a welcoming atmosphere and a good place to be employed. (http://www.healthcareaccessmaryland.org/working-at-hcam/)
“Every person seems to enjoy working here as much as I do,” says Vernetia. “It’s not as strenuous a job as most people think. They give you space to do your work, which helps you to get your daily duties completed. They don’t hover over you, which gives you pleasure doing what you do. It’s a great company to work for with great benefits. If you do what you are supposed to do, then everybody gets along. There is no micro-management and that helps a whole lot.”
That spirit of helping and serving is what Vernetia tries to impart to all she meets.
“There is a case that sticks with me,” says Vernetia. “I had a young lady come in with her son and she was just so distraught. The lady had lost a high-paying job. It was the first time she had to seek outside assistance for funding, while at the same time her son was trying to overcome a drug addiction. I was able to relax her mind and let her know she was actually eligible for the program. I explained everything and her son and I talked as well. He opened up to me and I shared my own story of addiction and how I was able to overcome. His mom said she felt better knowing she could get healthcare, but was still wondering what she was going to do with her life. They came back to me later on and told me they were doing well. She was not in a good place at all when she came to HCAM, but I truly believe it was God who brought them to me to assist them. She is now in a happy place.”
Happiness is what Vernetia wants for herself, her family and her work. You get what you give. Vernetia is focused on bringing the good into other people’s lives, despite the obstacles. “No matter the difficulty or adversity that comes into your life you can overcome,” says Vernetia. You can get to that happy place in your life, become more productive and become more successful. Some things just take time, but you must keep pushing and believing in yourself and in your higher being.
And what about the future for Vernetia? “I’ll be 53 this year,” she says. “My future goal is I plan to retire from HCAM. Right now I’m happy where I am, but I plan to eventually move up the ladder. I love it here. I’m not going anywhere. This is where I’m going to be.”
And why not, Vernetia has already experienced life on the other side. She’s been there and knows that here is a happier place to be.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Want a career with HCAM? http://www.healthcareaccessmaryland.org/working-at-hcam/career-opportunties-at-hcam/
To make a donation, visit: https://healthcareaccessmaryland.mypaysimple.com/s/donate-now