Ripple of Hope Awards
In 2005, The Network established the Ripple of Hope Awards to recognize the most outstanding among us—employees and Mentors whose passion, energy and skill have created a positive impact in the lives of others. Whether they work in direct care, operations or supporting business roles, these outstanding employees and caregivers create a “ripple of hope,” and a legacy of compassion and caring for others to follow.
A Home for Every Child
Touching lives. Serving all. Graduates of the University of Alabama School of Social Work know this motto well. DeAnna Hand lives it.
Since receiving her Masters in Social Work there, DeAnna has dedicated her life to expanding opportunities for children in the Heart of Dixie. She has been a caseworker…recruiter…and a supervisor in state, county and private agencies. Today, she is the Program Manager for Alabama MENTOR’s Auburn and Attalla programs. In each position, she has brought a passion and sense of purpose that inspire everyone around her.
“I wish I could clone her 10 times,” gushed Donna Anderson, DeAnna’s Regional Supervisor. “This isn’t DeAnna’s career. It’s her mission.”
It is a mission very much rooted in generational responsibility. DeAnna takes her inspiration from her grandmother, who was a child welfare worker. DeAnna grew up on stories of transforming people’s lives. Her grandmother met fear and fragility with optimism and strength, with a tireless hands-on commitment.
And so does DeAnna. She operates under the assumption that there is a home for every child. Even a pregnant young girl. Especially a pregnant young girl—in desperate need of a loving environment in which to give birth…begin life as a new mother…and work on her own challenges.
Picture DeAnna driving south from Birmingham to Auburn with this frightened young girl. No parents or family available for support. DeAnna chose to listen rather than talk too much. The fears and questions she heard were familiar. DeAnna had recently given birth herself–to her third son.
Arriving in Auburn, DeAnna immediately introduced the girl to her new Mentor family, but for the next several weeks, she conducted her own version of parenting education, offering advice, support and straight talk. DeAnna also located community resources for maternity clothes and essentials for the baby. She and the Auburn staff organized a baby shower. And when the big day came, DeAnna was there, pacing in the hospital waiting room on a Sunday.
It’s easy to forget that DeAnna is not a Mentor in the professional sense. She hires and inspires Mentors. The details I just mentioned are in addition to her full-time job and full-time family.
You see, DeAnna doesn’t draw distinctions. The children she serves are her children too. She takes them to the movies…arranges roller skating outings…and suggests dates for the prom. She analyzes their cases with the eye of a private investigator to ensure that she finds the perfect Mentor match.
This approach is the secret to her success—and her program’s success. In the past year, the number of children served by the Auburn program has increased fifty percent. The number of Mentor homes has more than doubled in two years. Thanks to DeAnna, the Attalla program is on a similar growth trajectory.
DeAnna applies her boundless enthusiasm to choosing Mentors and staff too. “She’s put together a phenomenal team with the most incredible enthusiasm, energy and dedication,” says Donna. “I think it’s because she models it herself-it seems the more you give her, the more energy she has.”
If a child doesn’t fit with a current Mentor, she’ll coach and groom one who will. “Foster parents are like angels on Earth,” she likes to say. Her philosophy is one of partnership-partnership in making a difference for children–partnership in the notion that every child deserves a home. Like her grandmother before her, DeAnna well understands the meaning of Ghandi’s words:
“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their own mission can alter history.”
DeAnna Hand was awarded The MENTOR Network’s Ripple of Hope Award in 2012. Click here to watch a video of DeAnna accepting her award.