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Meet Amy Werner of Rimland Services NFP in Evanston

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amy Werner.

Amy, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I started at Rimland in February 2015. I graduated college in May 2014, enjoyed one last summer as an overnight camp counselor and then, began my job search. I had a very hard time finding a job that would both pay the bills and provide meaning, and spent month after month looking for something that could do both. I finally found what I thought was a little non-profit where they needed some administrative help and I could get a little experience under my belt. I didnt realize at the time how impactful the job would be or the skills I would learn from it. I began at Rimland as their Administrative Assistant and quickly learned how much work there was to be done and that what I thought was a small nonprofit was actually a large organization that quite literally never sleeps.

After three months, I was promoted to Administrative Coordinator and began learning the ins and outs of a nonprofit that never closes. Over time, I picked up more skills which lead to me taking on more responsibilities. As the youngest member of the team, I brought a different perspective to each situation while also learning so much from my mentors in the process. This gave me the foundation necessary to become the Operations Director. Each day at Rimland is so different that it can be hard to realize how much you’ve experienced until you take a step back to reflect. I never thought that my first job out of college would lead to such unique experiences and opportunities, but that goes to show that your life is what you make of it.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has definitely not been a smooth road, but I feel so much wiser for it. Working with adults with severe autism really puts everything into perspective in both your professional and personal life. At first, it was hard for me to understand the scope of my work and just how much it could affect others. It can be hard for anyone to wrap their head around being responsible for those who need intensive support, but it is particularly challenging when it is your first job out of college and suddenly the decisions you make have real-life consequences for someone else.

One of the biggest lessons I learned was how to determine what really matters. Do the things that frustrate you in your personal life affect how well you do your job? Will the decisions you make at work matter in a week, a year or five years from now? Figuring out what the right decision is in a tough situation and how your actions will set a precedent down the line is a challenging task with long-lasting effects. Learning how to pick and choose your battles is a big part of the decision-making process and it can be especially hard to pick yourself up after a failure when you thought you made the right decision but the outcome wasn’t successful. For me, one of the biggest struggles was learning how to make a well thought out decision without having the decades of experience that my coworkers had. Trying to be wise without previous experience felt like an impossible challenge, but the practice of challenging myself to see other perspectives and truly listening to everyone else’s experiences gave me the insight I needed when faced with judgment calls.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Rimland Services NFP – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Rimland provides collaborative care for adults with severe autism through three customizable programs: Developmental Training, Residential Living, and Health & Wellness. Our Developmental Training Center is a conscientiously redesigned industrial building that is always adapting to fulfill the unique needs of the individuals we support. In addition to classrooms, a café, a fitness room, and a movie theater, it is the site of our administrative offices. This space was specifically designed with autism in mind in order to create a safe environment for our residents to come to every day to work on their academic knowledge, pre-vocational skills, behavior control, and long-term goals. Our Residential Living program consists of 19 gender-specific community living options. These locations are where the majority of our residents call home, and where they work to build self- sufficiency and daily living skills.

Lastly, our Health & Wellness program addresses the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of our clients using a reactionary and preventative care approach. This program is staffed by medical professionals with the experience and intelligence needed to handle the unique health issues that accompany adults with autism. My role has been to handle behind the scenes operations and support the leadership team so that the organization functions as efficiently as possible. What I am most proud of Rimland for is the pure dedication to providing opportunities for our residents to live their lives with dignity and choice. The leadership team uses this commitment as a guide in every decision made. For Rimland, it is not enough to simply provide housing, we provide homes that are safe spaces to thrive in. I think this is a core part of Rimland that sets us apart from other organizations in similar fields; we always have the individual in mind and all decisions are geared towards what is best for them.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We are always looking for opportunities to expand in a scalable way that prioritizes quality over quantity. Expanding our residential living options is always a priority, as the need for residential placements continues to grow. Finding houses that we can turn into homes, and then renovating them to fit our standards, is a long process. One project I am looking forward to expanding upon is our social media presence. It is just one of those things that you need to have in order to be truly successful in today’s world. However, figuring out how to promote Rimland while also respecting the privacy of our residents means getting creative. At the core, we want our brand to reflect who we are, but that is hard to do without posting pictures of what we look like. I’ve really enjoyed researching how other nonprofits balance this and seeing the potential that comes from online interactions.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Tina Jones

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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