Janaye Sims, Program Director at Eleanor Corbett House (ECH), has shown both compassion and commitment to her clients throughout her career in social services. Her journey into the social services field was unexpected. After completing a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, she initially envisioned a different path. However, after open interviews and a chance encounter with Ms. Levels-Hood, VP of Homeless Services, she soon realized that her talents aligned with helping those in need. She soon accepted a position as a case manager at Anna Sample House, where she dedicated several years to guiding and assisting clients, while at the same time completing her Master’s degree. After spending time working with VOADV clients in reentry services at Hope Hall, Ms. Sims returned to homeless services at ECH. She credits this decision as being driven by admiration for her supervisor, Ms. Reddick.
Ms. Sims believes that it’s not about where she is, but the impact she can make helping others, and recognizes that Ms. Reddick’s guidance would be instrumental in her professional growth. As she recalls, “Serving others became something that I was good at and liked doing, so I’ve been here ever since.”
As one of VOADV’s 3 family shelters, Eleanor Corbett House is in the unique position of serving clients of all ages and the need for educational support stands out. Currently, the shelter is home to 23 children, and ECH recognizes the importance of equipping these young minds for academic success. Thanks to the donors to the VOADV Operation Backpack®, which provides the students with backpacks and essential school supplies, this task becomes more achievable. Ms. Sims highlights the importance of this initiative, especially for families with multiple children.
“Being able to provide that many backpacks, along with the required supplies is a huge challenge. Especially when any income the family is receiving is going to other necessities,” she said.
Operation Backpack® relieves stress for parents already grappling with expenses like uniforms and sneakers for the school year, while setting the students up for academic success. Having the right school supplies not only aids in homework completion and class participation, but ultimately can play a vital role in a student’s self-confidence and a brighter future.
At ECH, Ms. Sims’ role goes beyond managing a program; she provides both encouragement and necessary resources as a catalyst for positive change in the lives of those she serves. The day-to-day responsibilities of a Program Director are as diverse as the stories and experiences that make up the facility. From managing the program’s flow and supporting her frontline staff, to answering client’s questions and understanding their needs, she ensures that resources and opportunities are communicated clearly. One of those resources is the CARES program – a grant that ECH received to help prevent Gloucester County residents from becoming homeless. The program offers vital assistance to those struggling with rental, mortgage or utility arrears and is a valuable resource for ECH’s community.
Among the highs of her job, Ms. Sims really enjoys interacting with clients. “We break down the barriers or walls that most people have up and find that some of the residents have really cool stories to share,” she said. Through building these connections, Ms. Sims and the ECH team create a supportive atmosphere, guiding residents toward self-sufficiency.
Reflecting on her work at Eleanor Corbett House, and her experiences with clients of all ages, Ms. Sims emphasizes the lessons she has learned. “You need to know how not to take things personally because someone may be going through something that you know nothing about,” she remarks.