Our “Why”

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. Mahatma Gandhi

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The compulsion to help others is often based on an internal desire.  Each staff member at HRDI has made a commitment to work in the field of mental health for their own personal reasons – most of which have little to do with monetary gain or with a desire for self-gratification.  Many of the staff at HRDI work within the field based on a simple desire to “make a difference.”  As a point of routine, during interviews for new hires, HRDI mental health managers and supervisors often ask potential candidates how and why they came to work in the field of social service and more importantly, why they continue to work in the field.  The management team asks these probing questions because we believe that a person’s internal motivating story is more powerful than any rewards they could gain from salaries and benefits and that in times of  greatest disappointment or stress it is this internal drive that promotes persistence and perseverance.

 I came into the field of social work because I had a desire to follow the path of my parents.  My parents met and fell in love in seminary school and together led of life devoted to the help of others.  As a child I knew I didn’t want to become a pastor and I knew that I had absolutely no desire to become a religious educator like my mother.  However, I knew that my role was somehow within the helping profession.  As a child, I was always the defender of the underdog, even if my defending others created challenges for me.  I remember going to battle in the school yard defending the latest victim of the schoolyard bully or coming to the aid of someone I thought needed my help.  Ironically, I also remember the scolding and punishments I received for my behavior because my way of helping back then involved fisticuffs.  Despite it all, I grew up knowing my path but being uncertain of how to reach it until my sophomore year in college when I was introduced to the field of social work.  It was only then that I realized “my why.”  Twenty years later I continue to fight passionately for those I consider to be the underdogs of society.  I believe that there is no more deserving group of individuals who merit my passion and resolve than those individuals who every day live life with the burden of mental illness.  I believe wholeheartedly that recovery is possible and it is my mission to ensure that everyone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness understands that they are not limited by this disease in any way.  The greatest moments in my career have been those quiet moments of inspiration that I achieved spending time in profound reflection with clients.  I am both in awe and inspired by their courage and it is for this reason that I continue to work in this field.


Carmel Browne, Director of Mental Health Services

If there is one lesson that I have learned during my life as an analyst, it is the lesson that what my patients tell me is likely to be true – that many times when I believed that I was right and my patients were wrong, it turned out, though often only after a prolonged search, that my rightness was superficial, whereas their rightness was profound. –Heinz Kohut

Below, find a few of the reasons why some of the staff in the Division of Mental Health work in the field of social service.

Annette Love II

Dr. Annette B. Love, Assistant Director of Mental Health Services

 I can’t say I have a profound message or deeply insightful story to explain why I choose to serve the people we serve.  I do though share something I believe all of my colleagues share, which is PURPOSE.  Yes I could be in many places doing many things but my passion has always been around my purpose.  I was created to serve and in doing such I find joy.  

I truly believe that behind the scenes we have saved so many lives just being present in a time of need.  Being an ear when no one else would listen.  There is so much more behind giving that I realized my joy comes from seeing others do well, be happy and live LIFE.  For this reason, my why is because I was created for this; to love those that if otherwise, would not be loved at all.  To be a support to others that if otherwise, would have no support. 

Some say our why will never make us rich…that’s only because they’ve yet to grasp what richness of life truly is.    


Dr. Martha Mason, South-side Collaborative Clinical Administrator 

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. Dalai Lama

I became a counselor because I believe in the power of compassion for others; and that everyone deserves compassion regardless of differences. If we all opened our eyes and hearts to each other’s humanness, the world would realize that no one lives in isolation. We are surrounded by countless others every day who could use some kindness and support. I wanted to join the other “helpers” in my field who take the time to see and to listen.

Aisha Sanders

 Aisha Sanders, Care Coordination Clinical Supervisor

When I was 12 years old I was a victim of random gang violence. I was shot less than half an inch away from my spine. The bullet went through the back of my neck, curved and came out the side of my neck. I could have been paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of my life, but the bullet hit tissue instead of my spine. Because of this trauma I was referred to see a therapist. It was this therapist that helped me through the traumatic experience. Because of this experience I decided that I wanted to help other people who have experienced similar traumatic events in life. This is why I became a professional counselor. I believe that what comes from the heart reaches the heart and that if you are still living it’s because God (or whatever or whomever you consider as a Higher power) still has use for you!

As seen on a Sussex Directories Inc site 

Sean Cox, Assertive Community Treatment Clinical Supervisor

I work with mentally ill adults because I have people in my own family – dear ones who share my heartbeat – who struggle with mental illness.  I regularly pray that good people surround them.  When I look into the eyes of a client, I see my own struggling loved ones.  Then I realize that I may be the answer to a mother’s or father’s prayer.

Hans Lonroth

Hans Lonroth, Williams Consent Decree Assertive Community Treatment Clinical Supervisor

There is a quote “the measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members”.  I have always felt that we have failed in this area and I have been drawn to the helping profession in an attempt to change that even if it is in a small way.  Individuals who have either a mental illness; or who suffer with substance abuse or both have fared very poorly.  Between the stigma and the lack of funding to me these are individuals in great need of good quality services that see past their diagnosis, treats them as people and endeavors to make their lives the best they can be.  As a clinician, supervisor and a manager that has been my driving vision.   

Tonyia Calhoun

Tonyia Calhoun, Williams Consent Decree Assertive Community Treatment Williams Quality Administrator 

I choose a career in social work because serving those members of the society who are physically, mentally and socially less advantaged than I am and helping them to feel accepted, loved and cared for gives me a sense of fulfillment so great that materialistic achievements come nowhere near it.

 I am pursuing a Career in Social Work at HRDI because I have grown as a human being; my emotional intelligence has become more focused since I have had the opportunity to work with people who have been subjected to adverse conditions and injustices. When you work in an environment where you get to see the not-so-pleasant aspects of life, you get a reality check and come to appreciate all that you have in your own life. You come to count your blessings when you work in close proximity to the physically, mentally, emotionally and socially disadvantaged.

Veronica Brown

Veronica Brown, Psychiatric Assessment Services Team Leader

I work in the field of Mental Health because there are an abundance of mentally ill individuals in our communities who are either disregarded or underrepresented in our society.  Mental illness does not discriminate. Nearly all people know a neighbor, family member, friend or co-worker who suffers with some type of mental illness however, it often appears as if mental illness may be prominent in minority communities because traditionally individuals are taught seeking treatment categorizes them as being fragile and/or lack of coping skills.

As a professional mental health provider I feel it is my obligation to reverse the stigma of mental illness treatment in the community. Having the opportunity to heighten someone’s coping skills and diminish stress levels in his/her life permits me to accomplish my personal goal of educating society one person at a time. In addition, it’s gratifying to provide empathy, advocacy, and resources to individuals who may lack support from family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers. For me, working with mentally ill individuals provides a sense of contentment that is unmatched in my professional, spiritual and personal life.


LeNedra Wallace Fierte

LeNedra Wallace Fierte, Acute Community Services Clinical Supervisor

I work in the Social Work field, i.e., the “helping profession” because it chose me, I didn’t choose it. I initially chose Accounting as my major for undergraduate study, however after one Very long semester, I realized that (A) It did not hold my attention, (B) The work did not come naturally, and (C) I was not passionate about it. After coincidentally coming across a description of the Social Work program, and talking with a Professor about Social Work, I realized that what “I could do with a Social Work degree,” I had already been doing (it came naturally), and it didn’t really feel like work! An added confidence booster that I was making the right choice was that all of my friends affirmed that “I seem like the Social Work, Counselor type,” and that I had in fact been their confidant and biggest cheerleader. Changing my major to Social Work was the beginning of my endless journey of helping people help themselves!


Yvette Ward

Yvette Ward, Community Support Team Clinical Supervisor

I came to human services because I realize that God has gifted me with the ability to work with others in a way that contributes to their dignity, respect, and sense of well-being.  I have attempted to “fight” this gift by trying to pursue other, more lucrative careers.  However, after I realized that this was indeed a gift, I surrendered to the gift and have attempted to use it to help others and to play my small role in making my family, my block, my community, my city, my state, my country, and our world a little better and brighter each day. 


Nave Sands

 Nave Sands, Community Support Team Clinical Supervisor

Why I work in this field?

  • It’s my passion to help others realize their greatest potentials.

 I believe….

  • Being able to serve others in whatever capacity (clinically, supervisor role, daughter, friend, employee, etc.) is a privilege.

  • Everyone wants to succeed and to feel valued.

  • Work is fun and is a big part of our well-being.

  • You have to give to receive, and you have to learn to receive to be able to continue to give.

  • Every interaction with others and each experienced circumstances is an opportunity to learn and teach one another.


Deborah Hoover

Deborah Hoover, Adult Mental Health Clinical Manager

I have always had a need to make things right.  If someone has an unmet need than I am compelled to assist that person in problem solving as to how that need can be met.  I want to empower everyone to feel the strength that comes with success, autonomy and self- awareness.  When mental health challenges preclude success my social work skills enable me to assist others in managing these challenges.  I believe everyone has the right to feel happiness and to move up on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  This is my motivation for a career in the social work field.

Grady Reynolds

Grady Reynolds II, Recovery & Recreational Center (Drop In Center) Manager

Social Work is a unique profession rich with meaning, action, and the power to make a difference. Social work is devoted to helping people function the best they can in their environment.  I see social problems as social concerns, which gives contemporary social work its unique flavor among the helping professions. As a social worker I should be equipped with the knowledge, skills and ethics necessary to serve individuals, families, organizations and communities to provide direct services that work to promote social and economic justice. My work in Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery have also been extremely important in my own recovery.

Tamara Lewis

Tamara Lewis, Residential Clinical Manager

I chose this field because I am passionate about social justice, and I want to make a difference in the world. I understand the importance of being a voice for many that have been silenced throughout their life.  I understand the importance of needed programs and services and how these programs and services can make a difference in a person’s life. For me, it is an honor and a privilege to be in a position to impact a person’s life for the better and this is why I do what I do.

Carla Fincher

Carla Fincher, Southside Collaborative Program Evaluator

Being the daughter of a public school teacher and a nurse, one would assume that service professions are in my blood- as it is for my six sisters.  However, I am rebellious by nature so my route to going into social services and where I am at now as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker took various turns.  It’s funny, but as a youth I wanted to go into acting and fashion design- to add to my piano and violin playing.  However, circumstances in my relationship with my parents during my very rebellious teenage years really determined my eventual path. That is too long of a story.

My desire to pursue social work really came about when I was attending college.  When I was interning at a foster care agency that set my path towards a career in Child Welfare where I remained for almost 20 years.  In everything I have done- training, supervising, writing policy and procedures at the agency and at the State level, working with families, it has all been because of several core beliefs, knowledge and skills that I have.

I have the gift (or curse depending on how you look at it) of seeing the intrinsic good in people even if they can’t see it for themselves.  I have also learned to channel my rebellion to being able to find ways to get around whatever obstacle/limits in order to advocate for and meet the needs of children and families.

I believe…..

  • It is my job to empower people, to give them the knowledge and skills necessary so that they eventually don’t need me anymore because they can do it on their own. 
  • Our clients can be our best teachers if you allow them to be. 
  • Your word and your follow through is your bond.  Your reputation, professional respect and your ability to achieve positive results for clients is based upon this no matter where you are.
  • I have a responsibility to share what I have with others to pass on whatever knowledge and other gifts I may possess so that it can be paid forward to future social workers or anyone who works in a helping capacity.  I am always striving for the best.


Lovea Smith, South Side Collaborative Mobile Crisis Team Supervisor

It was by happenstance I entered this field because I never knew what I really wanted to do but I knew helping people was in me.  Innately, I am the one who “fixes, feeds, advises, offers, extends, and welcomes” pretty much anyone that I come into contact with. When I got to college, I wanted to go into nursing and even in that field did not know what I wanted to do but I always was drawn to the idea of being a pediatric cardiologist or an obstetrician.  I took a psychology class and was intrigued and continued on this path with always the thought that I would go back into the nursing field somehow.  When I entered into graduate school, my parents were in a very ugly space in their marriage and my mother was beginning the process to file for divorce and at the time I was interning at Cook County with incarcerated women.  These women were sharing stories of how they were in abusive relationships so I developed a domestic violence group.  I educated myself on this topic to help those women but to also deal with it at home and educate my mother.  A consultant I later worked with asked what career would you do if you could start over and I went back to my original one and he said, “Well, you are doing that already, you are fixing the hearts of babies.”  I said to myself wow, I did not think of it that way.  When I was pregnant with my daughter, I realized her father was no longer the person I could be with but for some reason could not step away.  When she turned 5 months old, I mustered the strength to walk away because felt I deserved more, I needed more and I wanted more and my daughter needed me to be strong.  Not knowing that all the while in that relationship, I was depressed, anxious, and full of sadness. It came out in how I dressed, how I looked, and my overall attitude was not pleasant.  It was then I saw what I valued most and that was ME once I walked away!! I had to take care of me so that I could take care of this child who depended on me.  If I did not take care of myself emotionally and mentally, how could I take care of her or the clients I worked with.  I learned that no one can be of any good to anyone, including yourself, if you live in an emotional place of internal turmoil and chaos.  You can get in your own way when you allow life to continue to keep you down.  These experiences made me appreciate the work I do even more.  I continue to do this work because someone has and is dealing with similar struggles in their life.  Someone needs to feel worthy, needs to be encouraged, needs to have someone to listen to them and to help them to find their voice when they don’t know how to use the one God gave them.  To a default, I help people, tend to people, am truly empathetic, and care for others because I have been there.  Knowing what it is like to be in a place of uncertainty is lonely and weighs heavily on you.  Many of us in this field have our own stories overcoming struggles.  I have learned that no matter what challenges you may have, you can overcome them with confidence, courage, and the right supports and in your life.  


Carson Smith, Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services Team Supervisor

It’s not for the money

Or the roar of the crowd

Sure not for an academy award

No wishing about being a star

It’s sure not for fortune

Or nor for the fame

Because as long as I live

My belief will never change

It’s really for the Consumer

For their goal is to reach success

But then for us it’s for the pride

And I don’t mean doing the electric slide

Completing Assessments, treatment plans

And skill building groups

Even when you’re really tired

Then you think about your attitude

When you first got hired

For some of us call it glory

Listening to your clients complaints

And lifetime stories.

We work for the client’s recovery and independence

To prevent relapse and failure

To build their self advocacy and self esteem

So clap, scream, laugh and cheer

Because we will never disappear



2 thoughts on “Our “Why”

  1. These stories are inspiring, and reminds me that if in my life I can reach 1 person, then my life has not been in vain!

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