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Kay Moshier-McDivitt (C 76) is a social worker who knows how to push the right buttons to make the system work. She speaks with the confidence of somone who won't take "no" for an answer when her client needs a "yes." For most of her working career of 30 years, she has served some of society's most vulnerable citizenspregnant teens, single moms, homeless familiesat their points of greatest need.
"I'm not a big picture person. I didn't get into this field because I wanted to be an agent of change. What keeps me going is to see a person whose life is messed up, walk through that door and ask for help. It's a very humbling thing for them to do. That's where the turnaround begins. We tell them, If you can't make it through Tabor, this is your last place for hope, your last safety net.' They have to believe something can change. And we connect them with their ability to do it," says Kay.
Located in the city of Lancaster, Pa., the mission of Tabor Community Services is "to rebuild communities by helping families find housing and financial solutions." Kay oversees several programs, does a lot of grantwriting, and stays connected with other agencies in the surrounding service area.
"No agency works in a vacuum. We need to know the full community of resources out there. What we have are time, skills and knowledge. It's our job to connect people with the help that they need." Services under Tabor's umbrella include consumer credit counseling, budget classes, home pre-purchase counseling and transitional housing for homeless mothers with children.
"We are not magicians. We don't give money or handouts. We offer hope. When people come to us, we help them identify, This is where you are. This is where you need to be.' And together we map out what they need to do to get where they want to be," says Kay.
She describes herself as a "directionless seventeen-year-old" in high school, "not knowing what I wanted to do." On a lark, she enrolled at Eastern Mennonite (then) College in the fall of 1971, taking easy classes and not knowing how to study. Things finally clicked when she landed in sociology and social work classes. Married and pregnant, she stayed out a year and almost didn't come back. But she can still remember the conversation, telling her young baby in the car, "I want to finish up my degree." She returned to EMU, plowed into her coursework with renewed determination and completed an internship working with abused and neglected children and youth.
For the first fifteen years of her career Kay worked mostly with children, youth and families, as director of a homeless shelter for women, and before that with an agency serving pregnant teens. She draws on her previous social work experience in her present administrative work at Tabor.
"When middle-aged homeless moms come to us, there's a good chance they were once probably teenage single moms who didn't get the help they needed. Something inside them is still stuck at 15. Given the right kind of support and with the right kind of changes, they don't have to live a life of instability."
Change does not always happen as quickly as her staff would like to see. "This kind of work is like doing a puzzle. People work on puzzles at their own pace. Some work rapidly, others work gradually. I remind our workers that just because some pieces of the puzzle are still missing, doesn't mean we're not doing our job. Ultimately, it's not what we believe is right for our clients, it's what they believe. The people we are here to serve, they are the real agents of change in their own lives."