The motto of Family of Woodstock (Family) is: “Any problem under the sun.”
This year, Family celebrated its 45th anniversary in part by returning to Omega Service Week, an initiative that supports fellow nonprofits who come for self-led organizational retreats on Omega’s campus. More than 30 organizations took part in the retreats this year.
“Omega Service Week is a rare and special opportunity to get past the day to day and look at what we are doing, how it is working, and how we support each other,” said Family executive director Michael Berg.
The organization, which is one of the largest providers of human services in Ulster County, New York, began in response to the impact on the town of Woodstock after the famous 1969 festival drew crowds of young people to the hamlet with only two police officers.
The community began to meet to figure out what to do. At one meeting, a woman said, “Call me if there is any problem.” This was the beginning of what is now one of the oldest 24-hour emergency hotlines in the country.
Family responds to more than 200,000 requests each year, providing a vast array of services from suicide prevention and child-care services to domestic violence services and shelters for homeless adults, families, and teens.
Family runs on three principles based on Rogerian philosophy: 1) Don’t tell people what to do. They won’t listen. 2) Don’t burden people with your judgments of their behavior. They’re not going to listen to that, either. 3) Maintain privacy and confidentiality.
And while the organization serves so many, their volunteers and staff don’t always get to interact on a regular basis, or have much time to identify common understanding about important cultural issues within the organization.
Family’s main goal at Service Week this year was to help identify better ways to communicate and collaborate. "We focused on crucial conversations and how to promote dialogue," Berg said. "This is a skill that we all need and all need work on. In order to feel safe to bring up difficult subjects, there must be a significant level of trust. The time at Omega helped us build those relationships and connections.”
This wasn’t Family’s first visit to Omega. They've attended Service Week several times before.
“One of the lasting effects of Service Week has been the growth of our staff. It has been exciting for staff to get out of the normal working environment to connect to people and resources they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. To see their own roles and the role of Family in a broader context supports staff in their development as leaders. Omega has helped us grow,” said Berg.