In this issue: A young girl overcomes shyness and staff honored as “Most Inspirational Worker.”

Building Bracelets and Confidence

What do you do when you’ve become so painfully shy that just speaking to another person is difficult? For 11-year-old Brinley Lenz, you make a plan, then bracelets, then a donation to Youth In Need!

First, let’s rewind to 2020. Brinley’s mom, Melissa, noticed that Brinley had gotten very quiet as the pandemic progressed. But she didn’t know how much Brinley was struggling with her shyness until they ran into a friend while out shopping. Brinley couldn’t make herself speak to the other adult. When they were back in the car, Melissa admonished Brinley for being rude, and that’s when Brinley admitted she was afraid she would say something wrong.

It got so bad that Brinley recalls having her 5-year-old cousin order water for her because she was too shy to do it herself.

“That’s when my mom knew I needed some help,” Brinley said. “So we worked through it. She put me in situations where I had to talk to people, meet new people and in general be less shy. And it worked.”

Last summer, the family was vacationing in Colorado. Brinley had been making colorful bracelets for fun. Brinley’s dad and brother were gone for the day biking in the mountains. When Melissa asked Brinley what she wanted to do, Brinley shocked her.

“I decided I was going to go door-to-door, business-to-business, asking if they wanted to buy my bracelets.” All of the shop owners were supportive, and one agreed to carry Brinley’s bracelets in stores in Vail and Beaver Creek.

Brinley just finished fifth grade, where she gave a speech at graduation. And last week, Brinlely stood in the lobby at Youth In Need, confidently sharing her story before presenting a donation of more than $500 from her bracelet sales and donations!

“I decided I was going to donate 10 percent of my sales to a charity,” Brinley said. “I chose Youth In Need because I know that some kids don’t have parents to support them and help them through situations like what happened to me.”

Foster Care Worker Recognized as “Most Inspirational”

Congratulations to Qwannie Atkins, Foster Care and Adoption Case Manager, on being named “Most Inspirational Worker” by her team at the program’s annual “Light the Way” event.

Driven by a passion for working with her youth and families, Qwannie thrived during a time when barriers to service delivery were at an all-time high. Rather than being discouraged by video calls and lack of peer interaction, Qwannie used it as a chance to check in with her youth even more.

Her team’s nomination read, “Qwannie’s number one focus is building rapport with her youth so that they trust her and are comfortable reaching out to her and telling it all.”

Qwannie had a few youth on run recently and had been checking in with them via video call almost daily. One teen girl in particular was considering selling herself for money, but because she had someone she trusted like Qwannie to talk to, Qwannie was able to intervene at a critical time. A few weeks after this call, the youth is re-enrolling in school and getting a job. Qwannie’s team said, “The care that this youth felt from Qwannie and the foster parents welcoming her back in care with open arms brought her to tears, and I’m sure it’s one moment she will never forget.”

When Qwannie isn’t focusing on her clients and answering calls directly after hours, she’s caring for her coworkers. From planning parties to decorating cubicles for employees’ birthdays, Qwannie is a huge advocate for employee appreciation and constantly works to be a support to others. It’s Qwannie’s friendly personality and outstanding quality of work that makes community members, judges, deputy juvenile officers, guardian ad litems and placement providers alike give her high accolades.

One coworker summed up Qwannie best when she said, “My favorite thing about Qwannie is how proud she is of being a social worker and her belief in the utmost importance of what we do every day. Qwannie sets a great example and inspires others to have the same passion. We are lucky to have her on our team!”

Qwannie is part of Youth In Need’s Foster Care case management team, which is part of the Children’s Permanency Partnership (CPP) consortium with Epworth and Family Forward. CPP’s annual Light the Way event recognizes the significant accomplishments of the program as well as individual and team performance.