Meet some of Canopy’s Social Worker Heroes and Hear their “Why”

Marissa Johnson, LMSW, Therapist, Canopy Behavioral Health Clinic Gulfport

Most Rewarding Part of Being a Social Worker is being able to see children overcome obstacles and become more confident in themselves.

Mission Moment  “I was working with Kelsey, a 12 year old, who suffered from many challenges. She had many fears including making new friends and being in public. When I first started seeing Kelsey, she had a fear of everything and would tell me she didn’t deserve to be happy. After a year of therapy, she had made huge progress and was no longer self-harming. She joined the cheer team and she was spending the night at friends’ houses. As we came to the end of our time working together, she was always smiling, had gained friendships and her grades were improving. I had the opportunity to watch Kelsey become a kid again and that was the most rewarding feeling ever.”

Shaquita Mallett, LCSW, CCSS, Central District Manager

Most Rewarding Part of Being a Social Worker is having the opportunity to make a difference and help others.

Mission Moment: Shaquita shared an experience from when she first became a social worker, before she came to Canopy. This experience helped Shaquita remember her “way as she works” with children and families today.

“There are so many memories that remind me why I became a social worker, but one that stands out is about Earl. I worked with Earl at a previous job before coming to Canopy. At that time, I was a new case manager for a men’s unit. An older, blind gentleman, Earl was experiencing weight loss because he refused to eat. By reviewing his chart, I noticed that he loved oatmeal. I asked if we could add oatmeal to his meal plan. I received push back since oatmeal wasn’t served daily. Also, when oatmeal was served he would not eat it. I noticed Earl was never asked what he wanted to eat or told what he had on his plate. They just simply tried to feed him. I decided I would begin feeding him. I would give him the options of what he had on his plate or oatmeal. He always chose oatmeal. I prepared the oatmeal like my grandfather would have liked it – a little butter, a little sugar and little milk. He still refused to eat it. I began putting the spoon to his lips so that he could taste it and like magic his mouth opened and he began eating. It was very rewarding to see that he was actually eating – he hadn’t eaten solid food for a long time. For the next few days, I fed him breakfast and lunch…of course oatmeal. I was confident that we needed to have oatmeal added to his meal plan. After conferring with his nurse and nutritionist, Earl began having oatmeal for all meals along with nutritional shakes, if needed. He began to gain weight. Earl reminded me of why I became a social worker. As a social worker, I have to advocate for my clients to help them reach important, life changing milestones. When they do, I know I made a difference.”

Christy Ainsworth, LCSW, Clinical Director, CARES Center

Most Rewarding Part of Being a Social Worker is to be a small part of someone’s journey. To be able to share joys, triumphs and to be there during the challenges. You get to see the most beautiful parts of people during the challenges.

Mission Moment:  “Julie started every group session saying she wasn’t sharing…she didn’t want to share and nobody was going to make her. We continued to give Julie opportunities to share while also giving her love and support. Eventually she opened up, and when she did the flood gates opened. Julie had been through unspeakable trauma. Once we were able to develop trust with her, she began sharing her feelings and was able to begin to heal from the trauma. Julie began to advocate for herself. She set goals and achieved them by the time she left. This is what we hope for all our children. It is the beauty of treatment at CARES Center – watching the journey of healing for our children when they open up and share the pain while someone listens and supports them. It is a privilege to help our children along their journey.”

Monique Johnson, LMSW, South District Manager

Most Rewarding Part of Being a Social Worker – This is truly a job of service and a calling, to get up every day and be intentional about the actions we take, knowing they will have a significant impact on those we interact with. I feel that the work we do is so fulfilling and rewarding; there is nothing else I would rather be doing.

Mission Moment:  “Kylie suffered from severe anxiety and depression. Her severe panic attacks made it difficult to attend school and build relationships. When I began getting to know her, Kylie had little hope. After several months of therapy, I was able to identify her triggers and began teaching her skills she could use to gain control of her anxiety and depression. She began to reinvest in life and was motivated to overcome difficult days and had hope for better ones. When Kylie was leaving our services, she said to me, “I don’t think I could have made it this far without you.” I graciously reminded her that she did the work and refused to give up no matter how many difficult days she had.  Kylie, now strong and independent, has finished cosmetology school and has a full-time job and her own apartment. She loves to tell others about her experience and how Canopy helped her succeed.”

Amanda Schmidt, MSW, LSW, in-CIRCLE Case Manager

Most Rewarding Part of Being a Social Worker is empowering my clients to do better for themselves and assisting them with needed resources.

Mission Moment:  “My position as a case manager Canopy’s in-CIRCLE is very rewarding. My first case I had at Canopy showed me how rewarding it is to be a social worker. Tameka, was a single mother of two. She had recently lost her mom and boyfriend. Tameka worked hard to support her two sons, but fell behind on rent and wanted to move to a new location. She had always wanted to live in this specific subdivision, and I fought hard for her to make that happen. When the complex manager informed me there would be several homes opening up in the near future, I did not stop contacting him about Tameka’s needs. I will never forget the day Tameka excitedly called me and informed me she had gotten a house in the subdivision. She asked me to come look at the new place with her the next day. My heart was filled with joy seeing her and her two babies move to her dream home.”

Ramona Lockett, LMSW, South Central District Manager

Most Rewarding Part of Being a Social Worker is instilling hope in others

Mission Moment:  “A mission moment that still stands out for me involves one of Canopy’s Therapeutic Foster Care resource families who currently has a sibling group of four brothers. The resource family first began fostering the two younger brothers, but when they learned the boys had two older brothers they advocated to have them placed in their home as well. With the help of Canopy and child protection services, the family was able to reunify four brothers. The brothers have adjusted to their new home. Recently, the family coordinated with the resource family who is fostering the brothers’ two sisters to take the siblings on vacation to Disney World. The siblings had an amazing time! The resource families also encourage the relationship among all the siblings and their birth parent. Being able to watch this family’s progress, reminds me of why I became a social worker and continue to practice as one.”

Cassidy Redding, BSW, Multidisciplinary Team Coordinator, SMCAC

Most Rewarding Part of being a Social Worker – To me, it’s seeing the change in people’s lives. Social work really taught me it’s about how we can help change a life moving forward. I love being a part of that change, giving them the tools and resources they need to meet their needs. Early in my career someone told me to look at my clients, get to know them, and get to know what’s lacking in their lives. It really stuck with me and drives me every day.

Mission Moment:  “The memory that sticks with me was when I was a new social worker at a shelter for victims of domestic violence. One day, Nancy and her two children came into my office and I could see, from the time she sat down, how broken she was. Nancy was crying and unsure of what the future held for her and her kids. I watched her attend group and individual sessions, become employed and save money. She learned skills that made her a better parent and worked hard to ensure that her family could quickly move out of the shelter. Almost 4 years later, I ran into Nancy and she thanked me for what I did to help her family. I found myself telling her how much she changed me. I watched her change from a broken spirited woman to a beautiful butterfly of a woman who spread her wings and transformed her entire life for the safety of herself and her children. I will never forget how she taught me about resilience, the importance of relationships, and that nothing is impossible!”

Daniel Wilson, LCSW, Program Director, Warren County Children’s Shelter

Most Rewarding Part of being a Social Worker: When I first chose social work I did so because I felt both a passion and calling towards counseling, teaching, and ministry.  Social work seemed like the career path that allowed me to pursue all three callings…and in hindsight it truly was!  The most rewarding part of my career is the moments that I get to see the growth in someone during a time of difficulty or crisis.

Mission Moment:  “My team and I,  at Canopy’s Warren County Children’s Shelter, were recently able to provide services for a teenage mom, Lily.  Prior to coming to the WCCS,  those treating Lily believed she needed a higher level of care, but that proved to be inaccurate.  As we got to know Lily, we saw none of the behavioral issues that we had been warned about – instead we saw a teenage girl who displayed kindness, leadership, respect, and a desire to be a loving mother of her son. Because of her positive progress, we recommended new evaluations and that she live with her godmother. I participated in a court session to determine permanency for both Lily and her son. Initially, it was recommended to the court to ignore our recommendations and send her to a higher level of care and give custody of her son to the birth father.  Recognizing a need to advocate for Lily, I asked for a chance to address the court. I informed the court about Lily’s progress and how she was misdiagnosed in the beginning.  The court and CPS changed their initial decision.  Now, Lily is living with her godmother and has joint custody of her son. She communicates with us regularly about her progress.  Lily is currently on track towards graduating high school. This has been one of the Lord’s many reminders in my life lately of why I became a social worker and joined  Canopy in the first place!”

Shea Hutchins, LCSW, Chief Solutions Officer

Most Rewarding Part of Being a Social Worker is the versatility it brings with it. Social workers are really trained to work at any level be it on the individual level or administrative level. I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every job I have had in my 26 years from case management to therapist and now as an administrator. Each job has brought me joy in serving and helping others achieve their goals.

Mission Moment: “There are so many mission moments but one in particular was when I was a therapist Canopy’s CARES Center. One of my clients was Liz, a young lady who had been at CARES at least 3 separate times. I was a new therapist and had Liz on her third admission. To say she was a challenge is an understatement. As a brittle diabetic, Liz used her medical condition as a way to self-harm and required constant medical care. She enjoyed giving staff a run for their money! Liz was in foster care and successfully discharged from CARES after a 7 month stay. Three years later, Liz had been emancipated from foster care and came back to CARES and asked to see me. She was employed, had a job, and was in good health. The look of pride on Liz’s face filled my heart. She wanted to come back to CARES to let everyone know that she was doing well. We often don’t know the influence we have on a life. The relationships Liz had with the staff (and it took ALL of us) at CARES influenced her and guided her to an independent life that she could be proud of. Those are the moments that make coming to work and being a social worker the most rewarding of all.”