September 1, 2009

Twenty years! Congrats to Jill Dotson

We celebrated a major milestone at Bread for the City last month: our longest-serving full-time employee, Jill Dotson, celebrated her 20th "Breadiversary." 20 years! We took this opportunity to share some of her stories.

Tell us how you came to work here.

I was in rehab at N Street village. That was when Zacchaeus [the free medical clinic that merged with Bread for the City] was right over there too, on 14th and Vermont. Back then you could get everything you needed in that one little section of town - food, clothing, social services, rehab, medical - anyone could just come to that area for help.

When you are out there, it’s almost like being slapped out of existence. Like you weren’t a part of society. You would see people on the street on their way to work and just think 'it'll never be me there.'

But I got clean, and I worked for Blood Mobiles for a bit, and then someone told me about a reception job opening up at Zacchaeus. I was still at N Street, and the clinic was right there across the street. Only two people applied for the job, and I was the only one of the two who didn't lie on my resume and had good references, so I got the job.

I was like, 'WOW.' Not only did I get out of rehab but then I got a career job. A job which not only helped me win back custody of my kids, but a job that also helped me support my family. To come from where I came, the lowest thing on the totem pole, to all of a sudden feeling like I was a part of life again -- Bread for the City gave me a restart. You can’t beat that with a stick, you really can’t.

What were you doing when you started?

First they had me doing phones and reception. But I also did labs! We had everyone doing everything back then. We were even starting the legal clinic and talking about merging with the food pantry. Back in those days, we were down in a hole. It was this basement, like we were in a box crawling all over each other.

How have things changed since the ‘good’ old days?

We’ve grown. And we are helping a lot more people.

If you could have changed something or done something different in your 20 years, would you?

For real, everything went so perfectly. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. For the kids too. It’s really nice that Bread for the City has always been a place where kids come and hang out with their parents. Whenever my kids misbehaved and got themselves kicked out of school or something, I would say, ‘fine, you are coming to work with mom then’. And we would put them to work. The staff were like aunts and uncles to my kids.

What, if anything, would you want to tell the outside world about BFC?

I’ve worked for plenty of places, and some places out there will give you more money, but I’d rather work at a place where I felt good about what I’m doing – where there is a real need and we are all working to meet that need. This is really the only place I’ve ever worked where I feel totally good about what I do.

What have you learned about people while working here?

If humanity is a living growing thing, we're in our teenage years now. We're smart, but we're thugs. How are we gonna mature? That's what we've gotta figure out. Is it gonna take something horrible to make us grow up, or are we going to hold ourselves responsible? That's where we're at-- and where we gotta get is to a place where people know how to be better to each other.


Ben said...

This is a really great post! I think that it is vital that organizations try to hire those who have used their services. What a inspiring success story!

Ann said...

Congratulations to Ms. Dotson! Her life is a testimonial to focusing on what's possible rather than the barriers. Great work to BFC and NSV for supporting her!