Our Employee of the Month here at the Gateway Center is the remarkable Sophie Beal. Last month, I sat down with her to find out more about her and her job at the Gateway Center. Check out what she had to say during our interview …
Tell me a little about your job and your day to day at the Gateway Center:
I craft the Gateway Center image and message so the rest of the world can understand the amazing work our staff does and our clients accomplish. Generally speaking, I am a story teller. My day-to-day looks like writing blogs, sharing stories of our clients and how Gateway changes lives. I communicate our stories on our website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
What keeps your fire burning at the Gateway Center?
You never know who is going to walk through the door. Every day I learn something. It’s a great exercise in staying open … keeping your palms up. Everyone has wisdom to share. There is a story if you are listening.
What is the most difficult thing about your work?
First, you can always help someone, but you can’t fix everything. Sometimes, changing lives or ending homelessness doesn’t look like this big grand thing… it may just look like giving someone a pair of socks for the day, or being kind, or on the most fundamental level, just showing up. Being present. Being a familiar face. Sometimes people who come to the Gateway Center haven’t had anyone show up for them. The Gateway Center staff show up. We are present. It’s the most important thing, and the most difficult thing we do, because we can’t fix everything.
Second thing, I had no idea what working at a nonprofit would look like. There are limits to what we can do. It’s not simple. We have rules. Offering showers to the public most of the time means that we are going to have to shut them down to clean or for repairs. Not everyone is as understanding when we can’t meet their needs immediately. Sending someone to the Gateway Center, won’t fix everything. It’s complicated, but it is a step in the right direction.
What advice to college students interested in helping professions or nonprofit work?
You can help. You are not here to be someone’s savior. It’s not about you. It’s more about what you can learn from people others, than what you can do for them.
How did you get to Gateway?
I was about to graduate from college; I didn’t have a plan or an idea. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. But I knew what I wanted to learn. I did know what I cared about. Homelessness was where I wanted to start.
I had to understand the issue and get over my prejudices. I humbled myself, and said ‘What Can I Learn?’ Prejudices against homeless people are still the most prevalent and dehumanizing stereotypes in our society. It’s so pervasive among everyone, liberals and conservatives.
So I embarked on getting to know others.
I started as an intern at Gateway: getting razors, socks, sneezed on in the face, and getting yelled at… talk about humbling. Then I got hired on full time with communications, and thankfully, I’m not bad at it.
[Sophie actualizes “amazing” at Gateway when crafting our stories online]
What was your major in school?
Religion with a focus on Journalism, Media, and Public Discourse. Religion and media intersect in the way we talk about things and share stories. Since I was little, it frustrated me so much how religion was portrayed in America, specifically, the simplistic depictions. In America, we have such limited viewpoints. We don’t receive education about religion and that informs our limited stories. As a story teller, I hoped to see deeper stories on religion, which crosses over into my passion about homelessness.
Tell me briefly about your background.
I was born in Atlanta, lived in Florida, grew up in Cleveland, and went to school in Massachusetts. My mom is a minister, my dad is a religion professor, and my brother is a rising junior in college. I have friends and my partner, John. My roommate also has pit bulls that I pretend are mine.
What do weekends look like in your life?
I’m into Netflix. I love TV series. Some of my current favorites shows include: Veep, Broad City, Mad Men, Orange is the New Black, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (my all-time favorite!)
What’s your favorite Social Media app?
Instagram. I love finding the picture that tells the story. There’s a very particular way that happens in our culture. It’s a favorite mode of communication for me.
What else is cool about your job?
I get to read a lot of articles about homelessness and social justice issues.
What is your favorite quote?
“I wish I were a girl again, half-savage and hardy and free…” from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. There’s something I love about that. Little girls are so scrappy. I remember how that felt.
Where would you love to visit?
I’d love to visit Istanbul for a week. I think it’s amazing and I’d love to go there.
That’s the amazing Sophie Beal. Now you know a little bit more about her!