In Service of Others

March is National Social Worker Month, and we couldn’t let it pass without celebrating the amazing women who dedicate their mental and emotional energy to serving our most vulnerable neighbors every day—our elderly, the ill, those with substance abuse or mental health conditions, the developmentally challenged, the homeless, runaways, the abused and forgotten.

If you marvel that anyone could open their hearts and bear the burden of caring for people in their worst moments, we do, too. And that’s why we had to know how three social workers came to their callings.  

Dyelicia Vasquez, LMSW, is the Project Director of NFusion Metro System of Care and has 12 years of service. She defines social work as “advocating for people who are not yet strong enough to advocate for themselves and teaching them to use self-determination and a resilient mentality to overcome hard times and traumatic experiences.” She is inspired by the potential of social work “to break generational cycles holding our communities back from being successful” and dedicates a lot of her energies to help raise up future social workers as well as her clients. 

Dyelicia tells us that her mother was her first example of the core of social work: “Watching my mother volunteer  in the community, feeding the hungry, teaching neighbors to access resources they needed to eat or get assistance with physical and behavioral issues, and providing a safe place for neighborhood kids to play–she was my introduction into this service profession.”

She shares that she also tries to inspire other women to practice self-care. “Self-care is not something to be done just you have a bad day or for a quick pick-me-up, “she says. “It’s a lifestyle. I ask, ‘What do you do daily that is for you?’ because we cannot care for others while sacrificing ourselves—that leads to physical and mental health issues. Every day I do my best to inspire other women not to allow the cost of caring to cause physical and emotional pain. Pouring from an empty vessel is not good.”

Jamesia Wilson Cox, LMSW, CMHT, is the Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) Team Lead Supervisor and a mental health advocate with Hinds Behavioral Health Services.

In the field since 2007, to Jamesia, social work is about “creating positive change that will benefit the community. It’s not just a job; it has to be a passion for people, giving countless hours of your time to make sure that person is okay and comforted. Social work is about loving unconditionally regardless of that person’s situation, past, mistakes, or pain; it requires peeling those ‘layers of an onion’ a person has in their lives off to get to the core of the problem to create change and improvements.”

Jamesia emphasizes connection and true healing in her work with women: “I teach every female client that they are not alone and that it’s important to heal the hurt and not put a temporary bandage on it where the trauma will resurface in a few years,” she says. “We talk about that fact that it’s okay to not be okay, but we have to acknowledge the feelings and that we have been through something that was uncomfortable, sad, disturbing, painful, emotional, draining, or hard to deal with. But we can recover if we believe in ourselves first.”

And why does she do it?  She says, “I love to see clients progress after months and hours of struggling to get their lives back in order; it’s a beautiful sight to see! And it always makes me smile!”

Rachel Alcorn, LCSW, is Director of Children’s Services with Communicare. Also in the field for 12 years, she says she “was raised in a family of helpers who really inspired me to work hard to help wherever it’s needed and however I can.”

Rachel tells us that her why is also to inspire change in people’s lives: “The services we provide, that our clients may not otherwise have access to, change their whole trajectory!” It’s the big things, of course, like gaining access to resources and receiving treatment, but, Rachel says not to discount the little things like giving others time and attention: “There is something powerful in even small gestures that let people know they are valued.”

She says she’s surrounded by passionate people and a growth mindset who help her change lives: “Everyone is here because they have passion for the betterment of people; they’re servant leaders who are very invested in our agency and the people we serve, so we all work very hard and care about each other and care about the clients that we serve–and even those we don’t serve yet. Communicare is always looking at ways to improve and help people differently.”

Rachel counsels her clients, “Don’t make decisions based in emotion; sometimes you have to sleep on it and come back to the situation.” And she counsels herself and other social workers that “this work can be draining. If you’re overworked, stressed and sick, you aren’t really helpful to anyone, so schedule self-care like it’s a meeting with your boss.”

Each of these amazing women has shared inspiration we can all take to heart. Which is just one more reason we should be grateful for them.

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