For five years, Pam Russell has headed the Women and Children’s Center of the Sierra, which helps young women who got off track in high school to get high school equivalencies and jobs and get off public assistance and become independent. Those needing training or wishing to contribute can get information from 3905 Neil Road, Suite 2, 825-7395.
As the Center has become more visible, have other entities been helpful to you?
We have a wonderful group of other organizations that we work with—Kiwanis, Reno Initiative for Shelter and Equality. We work closely with Northern Nevada HOPES clinic to sign up people for Medicaid. Washoe County 4-H is providing camps for our kids. I really should have my list out, because there are a lot of places that do work with us. For example, this holiday, just looking at the people that are helping us do our adopt-a-family program, we’ve got the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and the records keeping office at Truckee Meadows Community College. There’s a foundation called the Fairy Godmother Foundation that’s collecting toys. The mom of a woman using our services is collecting toys. And so, as we continue to do the work that we do and reach out as best we can. Yes, we are seeing more groups that know about us.
I would think this is fairly satisfying work, in that when you are successful, you see those successes happen right away.
This is an absolute dream, working here. Some women are flying through. Other women are coming incrementally. Other women come for a while and then we don’t see them, and then they come back and [complete]. Getting service to women could be everything from giving them resources for where to get food, which is going to help their families, to helping a woman succeed in a job or get a high school equivalency education, and mostly know that she is a capable, smart woman who can move forward. And that’s the biggest story, to see the growth in the belief in when the women start believing, I can do this.
Do they stop by?
Just in the last few months, three women that were very successful coming through dropped by. They all have jobs that they like that have allowed them to either completely break free from safety net programs or move away from safety net programs. That is really a huge goal, as well as moving forward.
What are your staffing levels?
About the same as when I started here. We have the equivalent of three full-time staff … and with that we serve 350 women and children each month. We are growing in ways that we can afford—for example, relying on the school district to send us someone to do the “Mommy and Me” classes. We have someone coming to do Zumba classes, which is a big hit. The food bank sends someone to sign up for food stamps, and then we have HOPES coming up a couple of times a month to sign up women for Medicaid. So we’re bringing in additional services that are taxing the staff, but we haven’t really added staff.