formerly Ripple community services coordinator
I grew up poor in Lancaster, where from a young age, I was taught the importance of giving back. Because my family didn’t have the financial resources to help out others, we dedicated our time to help. Being taught as a kid that serving others is about giving up time and connecting with people led me to pursue a service life. I moved to Allentown to attend Cedar Crest College. It is there where I received my master’s degree in social work.
During my time in college, I went through a low point in my life and experienced my own traumas. Going to therapy, along with working with the community at Ripple Community Inc. has helped me work to overcome these previous traumas. Because of this, I feel connected to the people I see every day at the college.
Six years ago, I was hired by Ripple with its first grant. I started when it was just a team of three and only worked Saturdays. Now we have expanded to seven staff members and I work 30 hours a week. Ripple is a center for Allentown residents who have been traditionally marginalized and need a place to engage in meaningful relationships and find support from our team and other members. It is an open-door policy which means we rarely deny anyone from coming inside and getting food, drink, or just using our quiet space to rest.
I work to provide support to around 70 Allentown locals daily. I never ask how we can help. I ask how we can support because help implies that I can fix or change something. What makes Ripple so special is how we treat everyone as equals. We are not in a position of power and I cannot make things change overnight, however, we can create a relationship that is more meaningful than giving handouts.
The relationships I have made at Ripple with the community members are a special bond. I prefer to call everyone by their first names and love the conversations I have with the members. Every day I learn something new and feel a deep connection to the community and its members because of the trauma I have lived through. I feel like I can connect on a more empathic level because of the shared experiences I have had with some members. The Ripple center has helped me just as much as it has helped the members of the Allentown community.
Interviewed by Noah Pietila ‘25, photo by Tom Amico