The Gift of Empathy: Laura Steen-Patterson

We often say at Wilkinson Center that, when someone walks through our doors, we meet them wherever they are. For the past 15 years, one highly committed and experienced counselor – Laura Steen-Patterson – has been there with us, volunteering her time to listen, to help clients build hope and to empower them to overcome the challenges they face.

The need for hope

“Going back to school or making a living wage when you’re dealing with an issue like abuse at home or depression can be like struggling up a hill with a hundred-pound weight around your neck,” says Anne Reeder, Executive Director of Wilkinson Center. “Laura has helped lift that weight for literally hundreds of Wilkinson Center clients.”

A certified counselor, Laura gives her time at Wilkinson Center twice a week to provide counseling to students in the Adult Education program. Case Managers at the food pantry also refer clients to her when they see individuals facing emotional or mental health issues.

“Many people who walk through our doors are in a place where they don’t have hope, and they don’t think they can pull themselves out,” says Assistant Case Manager Patsy Driggers. “When someone is in crisis, Laura moves mountains to connect with them right away, sometimes even the same day.”

The power of relationship

Laura credits her longtime commitment to serving Wilkinson Center to two things – the clients themselves and the team at Wilkinson Center.

“Students, when they first sit down with us, feel overwhelmed and are afraid they will fail,” Laura says. “We work through what they think will stop them from finishing the program, and it is gratifying to see them grow. It’s incredibly hard work to change your life like that, and I like what Wilkinson Center does to empower them. It’s a team that really cares and goes the extra mile for people. That’s what drew me in 15 years ago, and it’s what keeps me coming back.”