Cleveland JenkinsBy setting an excellent example, my colleagues here at ACH help other people feel good about themselves. And that work is more than a paycheck--it's about the mission of protecting children and preserving families. They lead with honesty, integrity and with a certain uncanny ability to do whatever it takes to help kids achieve their goals.

For many of the children in ACH's care, outbursts are normal behaviors, and chaos is the status quo. So when they witness first-hand a daily schedule that provides regular nourishing meals and a safe bed to sleep in absent of turmoil, they often rebel because it doesn't conform to their experiences.

Cleveland Jenkins has served ACH's youth emergency shelter (and formerly the Bridge) for more than 25 years. Last week, the agency celebrated this work anniversary during an afternoon reception in his honor. I wasn't able to attend the celebration but imagined a party filled with his pictures through the decades depicting his fashion and haircuts, along with stories and more stories of his antics, including heartfelt thanks for his dedication, service and presence in the lives of kids in our community. Each year, many former residents drop by to check in with Mr. Jenkins because he's served as a lifeline to their past and because he inspired their future.

Cleveland has the ability to clearly state his expectations in a way that youth have no misunderstandings. He is fair and has a talent for getting the needed results from the kids in his care. As big as his voice is--and it is big--he has the respect and loyalty from others because they trust that he has their best interests at heart.

Working day in and day out for 25 years with homeless, runaway and trafficked youth, ages 10 to 17, is a vocation, and thanks to this role model and others like him on the shelter team, kids in hard places get emergency housing and care while ACH works to connect them with the appropriate social services and reunite them with their families or find safe, supportive long-term living arrangements. 

"We care about the job we do and the services we provide," says Cleveland. "And we try to meet our youth's and their families' needs where they are during crisis."

 Anyone can provide shelter, but it takes a champion to cultivate hope. That's the hallmark of the ACH team. 

-Barbara Shelton, CFRE, Chief Development Officer