Meet Yvette Wooley!
“Hot or iced?” I held up two Dunkin coffees to Yvette (pictured far right). She pauses for a second.
“Mmm, hot.” Bold choice, I thought, it was about 80 degrees outside. But we were already off to a good start because that’s exactly what I would have chosen.
Up to this point I had only seen Yvette through Zoom calls. She is the lone property manager not located in the Denver Metro, but instead in Fountain, Colorado. So, after familiarizing myself with the rest of the office outside of camera view, I started asking her how she found herself here.
More than a Job
“Well, I’ve only been at Fountain Ridge for about a year and a half now, but I’ve been with Archway for 13 years.”
“Woah!” I said with a surprised look. Yvette chuckled.
“How did you get into this field of property management? I feel like that’s kind of a unique industry to find yourself in unless you’re looking.”
Yvette tells me that at the beginning it was just an available job when she was 18. And while her love for the work kept her in the field, she hadn’t really settled in with an organization.
“Even though all of my experience has been with non-profit organizations, not all organizations were putting people first. At the end of the day, it was just about whether or not we were getting our money. It left me with no ability to prioritize resident needs and I really didn’t like that. I wanted to be both concerned about rents and about how I could improve the lives of those I worked for; how I could restore dignity to people who have had plenty of experience being under-valued or written off.”
“Have you always had a heart for more purpose-filled work,” I asked.
“I think a lot of my motivation comes from the personal experience. I was raised by my grandparents, and they struggled a lot financially in my youth. I got to see a lot of the other side of this desk growing up, you know, being the one in need.”
“My grandfather always told me, ‘when you’re deciding what you want to be when you grow up, decide first what you want to see changed in the world. Then go be that change.’” It doesn’t always go hand-in-hand that those involved in work geared towards helping others have experienced what it’s like to be on the other side of the table. I couldn’t help but think, as I took a sip of my coffee and just listened, how admirable and invaluable Yvette’s perspective and resulting thoughts are.
“So when I did look around and evaluate, I saw that the help offered to us was offered very cold, void of the human touch and connection that makes you feel valuable and accepted. In some cases the resources we needed were also very hard to get. I didn’t like it, the feeling of being in poverty and being received so harshly.”
I could feel the reverberating effect of passion, like Yvette, it filled the room. As she talked about how property management was such a good fit, how it gave her the opportunity to offer help with compassion and in a way that restored a person’s dignity, I couldn’t help but have a sense of security. When someone is pursuing a purpose and they know they’re where they’re supposed to be it releases a sense of steadiness that puts everyone in the room at ease.
Archway Creates the Real Change
“I settled in with Archway because it was so much different than the other organizations I worked for. We have so many supportive services here, so much more to offer than just housing. I’m not just the rent collector, I’m able to actually change lives and help others when they are experiencing crises in their lives.”
It was about more than the services themselves, I could tell. It wasn’t that Archway was different because we have ESL classes or after school programs. It is the heart and the “why” behind providing services at all. It is a way of saying that the whole person is important to us, that our priority and focus is on the needs of people. An organization that has a message of compassion and dignity, to use Yvette’s words, is a beacon of hope in an environment where people are far too accustomed to being missed.
Learning that Yvette has a similar heart to this idea, it made sense she wanted to be a part of the mission. As we got to talking about Yvette’s family, she touched on another way she is able to be an ally for others.
How Family Inspires Yvette
“I have three older kids who are almost all adults and then one toddler. When she was born it was a whole different world of parenting because when she was two she was diagnosed with autism. And autism is something that you hear about but you don’t really know what it’s like until it enters your world. It’s been very fulfilling but challenging at the same time.”
“It’s more so isolating,” Yvette said, “it can feel like no one understands what you go through, no one gets it. That’s why I love being able to now be an ally for families with children who have disabilities because I know exactly what it’s like and maybe can even recommend little known services and resources that I’ve come across for my family.”
I imagine it can be a difficult and maybe even frustrating thing to not see enough accommodation for, knowledge about, or recognition of disabilities, though I’m sure many would agree that it’s important to address. I asked if she felt this way.
It reminds me of a line from one of my favorite authors, “You can’t understand most of the important things at a distance, you have to get close.” And when you get close in conversation with Yvette, you understand a lot more about the hardship but immense joy having a child with a disability is.
“She’s my ball of sunshine, she lights up any room. And that’s what you want people to know or to understand when it comes to disability. Sometimes people will respond with, ‘oh, I’m sorry,’ when I say my daughter has autism. But I’m not, she’s the light of my life, my older kids love her so much, she’s a joy.”
Never Stop Growing
Yvette puts her coffee down as I asked about her dynamic with her older kids, what her relationship is like with them and how it grows. We briefly got on the topic of a very little-known fact about her – that she’s a gamer. I loved to hear it. In a field that’s majority male and teenaged, she’s getting W’s and sweeping teams of opponents off the floor in some of the most respected games!
“It’s a great relationship builder with my son, he loves heckling opponents with the classic, ‘you just lost to my mom,’ one liner.” We laugh, I’m here for it. “It’s a great stress reliever, I’ve loved games since I was a teen, it’s a great hobby.”
As we digressed she shared another, very special way she continues to grow her relationship with her kids. “A couple years ago I decided to pursue higher education and get my bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I found myself talking to my kids about the value of education and the importance of pursuing a degree, but I never had the chance to get my degree as a young mom. I felt like it would be a good example to practice what I preach by getting my degree.” What an answer to a “snarky teen’s” argument of ‘well you didn’t go to college, mom!’
“Plus, I love the field of psychology. I always thought it would be very helpful in my line of work, but also just relating to people in general.”
And she is putting the exclamation point on this venture. Within a year she was invited to be a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the honors sorority of the campus. Because of her membership she was approved for the International Scholar Laureate Program and enjoyed a trip to Australia to learn more about the medical field there.
“I was really nervous at first, being in my thirties and going back to college with all these young, adorable ‘kids,’ to me, around. I thought I was totally out of my element. When I saw the display for Phi Theta Kappa I kind of joked with my husband about being able to achieve that, as if it were out of the question. But one year later I got my invitation!
It’s refreshing to hear of someone still pursuing growth and renewal even when they’re a parent, even when they’ve found their “dream job,”
and even when they think they’re “too old.” While she might think it’s just a great example for her kids, it’s really a great lesson for all of us. Ironically, it was an inspiring moment to capstone a very inspiring conversation in general. But I think the biggest lesson here is don’t mess with Yvette when it comes to the PC games!