When Aunt Martha’s original Drop-In Center opened in 1972, it was staffed by 12 volunteers and had a budget of $2,500. After only nine months, those volunteers had responded to nearly 1,000 requests for help, handling problems related to family disturbances, runaways and drugs.
It was clear – even then – that Aunt Martha’s was more than a youth service center. The challenges that presented themselves often went far beyond the struggles of adolescence, and could not be explained away by any generation gap. Family issues were exposed. Community issues were brought to light. These were struggles of the human condition – of education, employment, poverty, family and social support, and personal and community safety.
Then, as now, there were parents who struggled to afford health care for their children, let alone themselves. Then, as now, there were children whose only reality was one of abuse and neglect. Then, as now, there were young people who felt unprepared to cope with the responsibilities of adulthood. Then, as now, there were adults who realized that they could only move forward by going back to school. Then, as now, there was Aunt Martha’s.
Ultimately, it is not the breadth of our services, the size of our budget or the number of communities we serve that makes Aunt Martha’s unique; but our willingness and eagerness to do more – to not just listen, but understand; to not just support, but strengthen; to not just enlighten, but to lead; and to not just connect, but coordinate.