It is hard to believe that in just a couple of weeks it will have been twenty years since I walked into the Dove Domestic Violence Program office in Shelbyville for the first time. Interviews and the actual hiring had been done from the Dove offices in Decatur, so a few days before I was to start my job, I had to go on a driving tour of Shelbyville to find the office. If you are familiar with our town you are no doubt laughing by now….it is by no means a large city. The office is located very well for privacy for our clients, however, on the outskirts of town. I walked in that morning alone; one of my coworkers from another county would arrive soon to begin to show me the ropes. I was excited, nervous, had little clue what I was going to be doing and I wasn’t 100% sure I knew how to do whatever that turned out to be. The permanent office had been in existence for about four months, but my position had been vacant for about half of that time, so I knew I was starting almost from scratch. My then-supervisor had worked part-time in the county for a couple of years so some of the community was aware of what our services were. Being a female, with no set agenda right at that moment, I began to rearrange the furniture a bit to make it more my style. I was soon armed with a list of things I could bring from home to make it a more comfortable setting for my clients. If you must pour your heart out to a stranger, you might as well feel at home while you do it.
One of the very first things I learned is that Dove is an incredible organization to work for and with. Although I work in this county alone, I never feel that I am alone. I know that support and answers are always only a phone call or an email away. If I am perplexed about something, there is always someone in the organization who has an answer for me. My coworkers have become a second family over the years. There have been births and deaths and other major life experiences, and always the support has been there from everybody. There have been major upheavals as an organization over the years, but we have always pulled together to make things work despite the curves that were thrown at us. Our mission statement says that Dove strives for justice, equality and understanding among all people; that sentiment begins at home. Dove employees are treated in that manner always.
Once I began to figure out just what the job might be, our growth began quickly. The fact that I am a native of Shelby County was helpful, as was the support of the law enforcement and court communities and other local agencies. I also received a lot of training from other employees and from the many training opportunities offered over the years. Dove employees are very well trained in their areas of expertise.
Looking back, twenty years seems like a long time, but it seems like yesterday when I walked in this room for the first time. There have been so many people, so many stories, so much heartbreak and so much happiness that has happened in all those years. Clients who were successful, clients who came back when things got scary again and clients who were happy enough with our services to refer other friends and family. There have been staff members who became friends and moved on and staff members who have remained who are still almost like family. I have changed for the better from doing this work and my life has been enriched by it. Some things, though, have not changed. I am still excited to walk through that door every morning, and I still never know exactly what I will be doing on any given day. That is part of the charm of the job for me. I do know, however, that I can handle whatever walks through the door, either on my own or with the help of one of those phone calls or emails to someone else. I am grateful for Dove, for all my coworkers, and for the chance to make a positive difference in someone’s life every day……………. even if it is just mine.
Susie Kensil, Shelby County Domestic Violence Coordinator