Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Why I'm Committed to the Mission of Sheffield Place

By The Honorable Courtney Wachal, Past Board President

My name is Courtney Wachal.  I was accepted the Sheffield Place board of directors in February, 2013. 

I became aware of an opening on the Sheffield Place board of directors through the Association for Women Lawyers of Greater Kansas City, where the vacancy left by Judge Margene Burnett, former board member and current member of the council of advisors, was announced.  I was working as a municipal prosecutor for the city of Kansas City, and had previously served as a public defender in the greater Kansas City area. 

Sheffield Place is a shelter for homeless mothers and their children.  As a former public defender and prosecutor, I am aware of some of the struggles that these mothers endure.  They are often victims of domestic v
iolence, suffering from mental illness, struggling with substance abuse – all of which are exacerbated by homelessness and poverty.  One of my greatest frustrations is the lack of resources to help these women deal with these issues.  Treatment programs have long waits to get in, and then only last 28 days.  This is not enough time to get sober, let alone deal with the number of problems an addict becomes aware of once they reach sobriety and stop self-medicating.  Also, these programs do not allow the mothers to stay with their children. 

Sheffield Place offers comprehensive treatment to empower homeless women to become self-sufficient.  A woman who successfully completes their program is not just sober.  They have the tools to maintain their sobriety, mental and physical health, and independence.  They are employed.  They receive services to become better parents.  Sheffield Place takes the time to ensure that the women that complete their program leave with all of the tools to live a quality life – which takes over a year in many cases.  Once the women leave, they have the support of after care services.

I am unaware of any program that addresses the comprehensive needs of homeless mothers and their children, taking as much time as is needed to do it right, like Sheffield Place.  I am committed to their mission. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Leading the job search group at Sheffield Place

Job seeking is a real challenge for almost everyone at some point in their lives. Along with the many supportive services provided to the women at Sheffield Place, groups about the job search process are provided.

In October, I was the class leader on this topic - Ten Action Steps from Job Posting to Job Offer. I am very pleased that I was asked to present this information to such an interested and energetic group.  It was not a formal class presentation.  Every meeting was a lively group discussion with everyone participating, asking questions, sharing experiences, talking about how to answer those difficult interview questions and mentioning job leads.  We did not exactly cover all the action steps in sequence, but through the discussion, we covered all the steps. 

Some of the women already have jobs, but are interested in having a resume and possibly applying for other jobs. Class participants now either have a revised resume, or a new resume which they created during the class. The importance of a cover letter was discussed and they were provided sample formats.  We discussed portfolios because one woman needs a portfolio to apply for jobs in the food/restaurant industry. In fact, we talked about whatever they wanted to talk about so that the class would be relevant to their situations.

They all have so much enthusiasm!!!! I had so much fun getting to know them. They are ready to move ahead. Like many job seekers, the women at Sheffield Place have child care needs and transportation challenges.  That impacts the job offers they can accept due to shifts and locations.  They understand these employment challenges and the need to find jobs that fit their background, skills and lives at this moment. Those who are seeking jobs now are enthusiastically and realistically assessing their job skills and finding jobs that match their backgrounds, as well as looking for a workplace where they can be successful.

Deborah Hays

[Sheffield Place is grateful for Deborah's volunteer assistance with the job search group.  Deborah brings many years of senior-level corporate HR experience and a commitment to facilitating groups for job seekers.  Thank you!]

Thursday, April 14, 2016

James Madison University (Harrisonburg, VA) Spent their 2016 Spring Break at Sheffield Place

For the 17th year, students from JMU made the 21 hour trek to Kansas City to work at Sheffield Place.  These engaged, hard-working students could have been in warm, sunny places like many other students on spring break, but they chose to come to Kansas City and learn about the crisis of family homelessness.

Here are comments on the week provided by students about what they learned:
Our group traveled a long way, yet we felt at home at Sheffield Place.  The families welcomed us into their lives.  They were eager to share their stories.  One mother even made fruit salad for our whole group of nine!  And the staff have been nothing but kind and generous toward us.  Every question we have, they take the time to answer and they’ve gone out of their way to include us in the mission and work being done here at Sheffield Place.  We could not be more grateful to have been given the opportunity meet so many loving and optimistic individuals.  The people who make up the community of Sheffield Place have defied every expectation we had in the best possible way.

When you walk in the door of Sheffield Place, you sense the atmosphere that motivates people to succeed.  You feel as though you will have all the help you need right here.  Every staff member is so devoted to individuals and expresses how much they care.  It surprises us how much they accomplish and how much they give when the staff is so small.  We are amazed at the way they utilize every resource they can appropriately.  Even with us only being here for a short time, we’ve felt as though everything we’ve been asked to do has been purposeful.  Sheffield Place never has any “busy work” and maximizes the time and talents of their staff and volunteers to their full potential.

We were amazed by the impact that Sheffield Place has on the community.  This team of people is working hard to better the lives of many families by fixing up neglected houses and transforming them into safe, permanent homes.  It takes lots of heart to undertake such a task, but it is such a wonderful way to ensure the families that leave Sheffield Place have an environment where they can succeed.  This agency values community and relationship building and expresses it in all they do.  They also keep families connected with the agency and its resources long-term and have created a longstanding friendship with the JMU.  

We cannot describe how inspiring it has been to be surrounded by the caring nature and positive environment at Sheffield Place. 

 A big thank you to these students and JMU for their longstanding partnership!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reflections of a former client on what Sheffield Place has meant to her and her family

I was 18 yrs old and in my 8th month of pregnancy and an organization called the Light House referred me to Sheffield Place.

Sheffield Place provided my daughter and me with shelter, counseling, parenting classes, the opportunity to choose a career path and resources to identify the different programs to help single moms get back on our feet.

Sheffield has made a huge difference in my life and that of my daughter. I found piece of mind knowing that there was an organization that help put me on the right path to improving our life to become more self-sufficient as well as confident about myself.

AnnaLisa Knefel (center in photo below) is a dental assistant and a member of the board of directors at Sheffield Place.

If you have reflections on how you have been involved at Sheffield Place, please share them.  Sheffield Place is publishing remembrances during 2016 - the 25th anniversary of the agency.  Email

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Reflections of Bill Pape on the 25th Anniversary Year of Sheffield Place

As Sheffield Place begins its 25th year of service, it's appropriate to share the reflections of the Rev. Bill Pape who founded the agency, which opened in 1991.  Throughout the anniversary year, other voices - volunteers, clients, community members - will share their experiences as well.  If you would like to contribute your perspectives, please contact

"I would like to thank you all for the opportunity and the many others I had over the years of starting with Sheffield Place years ago.

It definitely was a new way of doing things that we had to reach out to at the time. Many people worked  and helped us to make it an opportunity that  allowed us to be doing many things, that still even today, will continue to go into the future tomorrow!

I know that you at Sheffield Place will continue to do what you have been doing - But, I ALSO KNOW you will also go on helping people in need.  GOD BLESS!"     BILL PAPE

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Coaching Program at Sheffield Place - Two Coaches Share Their Experience and Perspectives

Hi, my name is Donna and I’ve been part of the coaching program at Sheffield Place this fall.  I have enjoyed the opportunity to meet with the women who participate in the program every Saturday morning.  Over coffee and light refreshments, we start by reviewing our topic of the week.  Some examples are time management, job hunting, managing personal finances and getting up to date on technology, such as Microsoft Word or filling out online job applications.

It has become a highlight of my week to share an hour with these women because we have so much in common.  My favorite part is when we all share our experiences.  We talk about some of the obstacles that can arise in pursuit of their goals.  If someone doesn’t have a particular skill, or know how to accomplish a goal, we break it down into the steps that it would take to gain that skill or meet that goal.  Then we follow up the next week and get their feedback on their progress. 

I really appreciate their humility and motivation.  Because I see them trusting me to give them honest and helpful feedback, it motivates me to prepare for these sessions ahead of time and be ready for questions they might have. 

The topics we cover are germaine to us all.  For instance, it has inspired me to take a closer look at how I am managing my time and money.  It is really rewarding to have the chance to talk to people who want to learn and do better, their positive attitude and excitement for their future gives me hope not just for them, but for those who will come after them.  If they can do it, so can someone else!

From Dionne - It is such an amazing opportunity to coach someone who is working toward self-sufficiency.  For eight weeks, I and a team of community volunteers, coached life skills on budgeting, managing time, job searching, parenting, promoting health, etc.   I have to admit, my job was made easy because I had women in my group who came motivated and open to learn.  We created a safe place to bond through shared experiences.  While we discussed and studied the well-prepared curriculum assembled by David Hanzlick, Sheffield’s Director of Program and Development, we also used the sessions to share real-life stories.  Our stories revealed that in many instances, we had the same dreams and fears.  During one of the discussions we confessed our biggest parenting blunders.  Although our stories provided some comic relief, it revealed a common theme that every woman in the room shared -- to do better.  We learned that doing better does not just happen however.  Doing better requires a plan, proper execution, access to the right resources, support, and--oh yeah, humor!  The women expressed that they receive these things and more at Sheffield Place.  I was proud to hear this.

While my role was to coach, I too learned new things that sensitized me and added more to my understanding of the challenges brought on by homelessness.  For example, I learned that grocery shopping can be a very daunting and anxiety-ridden task.  Not necessarily because of the lack of money but because of the lack of knowing what a well-balanced meal looks like.  I realized that not everyone had this modeled or taught to them.  I gained a truer understanding of the fear of grocery shopping by imaging the overwhelming feeling of being thrust into a large and busy grocery store and challenged to create a well-balanced meal -- without the skills to do so.  Now throw in the challenge of creating this meal for your children with limited financial means.  That discussion allowed for us to discuss shopping on the outer rows of grocery stores (not convenience stores) for fresh produce and meats.  Then we discussed processed foods, shelf-life, and convenience meals.  We wrapped up the session with quick meal tips and recipe websites. 

There were a number of moments when I saw the light turn on for these women.  They got it and put their new learned skills to action. I am happy to report that within the eight weeks, the ladies successfully landed new jobs, changed how they managed money, and adopted a new time management system.   Two of the ladies have just moved her families into their first duplex-home!  I am extremely proud of the women of Sheffield Place and I walked away from this experience with an increased commitment to help my fellow sisters in this thing called Life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Movie (Inside Out) and Sheffield Place Families

Have you seen the recent Pixar movie- Inside Out?

We have! Over the month of July, I had the pleasure of taking 9 of our families to see this excellent new movie. Inside Out tells the story of 11 year old Riley who experiences a housing transition with her family.

While Riley experiences moving to a new house, missing a parent who is busy with new job, starting a new school, etc. the story is focused on the journey of Riley's inner emotions (joy, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust) as they struggle to cope with such change.

This was a fantastic film for our families who have experienced significant and ongoing transitions! Many of our children and mothers have made big moves with far less supportive caregivers than Riley did and were able to relate to the reactions of Riley's inner emotions. This movie helped our children to assign words and images to the very abstract concepts of emotions, loss and personality. It provided a great visual understanding for our mothers of emotion development and how parenting can help or hinder healthy emotional development.

For the mothers of Sheffield Place, this movie was empowering because it showed the positive influence their support can have on their children's adjustment during transition- the power they have to help their children even when life's circumstances are out of their control. For our children, the movie
validated and normalized the chaotic emotions they may have experienced as a part of their homelessness.

Finally, perhaps the most important lesson this movie had for our families is that all emotions have a purpose, even sadness, and that it is healthy to let our emotions do their job rather than stuff them down and try to be “happy” all time.

After going to the theater to see the movie- a first time experience for many of our kids, the families processed the movie with their family therapist over pizza and ice cream. Later in the month the families made collages of feeling faces and things that make them feel specific emotions using a book of Inside Out characters. Currently, in Project Hope, we have started using images from the movie to help kids talk about which feelings are “driving” their bodies in times of distress or if maybe their control panel is frozen (as in a scene from the movie) so that
they feel like they are not in control.  

I have to admit, there is little that makes a professional counselor happier than when mainstream media supports mental health and development with psychologically accurate information presented in style that is relevant and accessible to our clients. We have and will continue to use this movie as a tool for healing with the families of Sheffield Place. I hope you’ll see it too!

Stephanie O'Neal, LPC
Sheffield Place Children's and Family Therapist