On the Job: Dorothy Smith at Maryville Academy
Dorothy Smith is a member of AFSCME Local 55.
Tell us about your job as a Recovery Coach Technician at Maryville Academy.
I work directly with moms who have addiction issues and their children. The moms have been placed in our substance abuse recovery program after detox so that they can participate while living with their kids or as they wait to be reunited with them. We assist the moms with looking for housing and applying for jobs and teach them parenting skills.
Some of the moms struggle with taking care of their kids because they haven’t had a lot of experience with them and they are going through a lot. They’ve been given the chance to have them back in their lives, but at the same time they are dealing with their addiction. We try to direct and guide them on how to show their children that they care.
What’s your inspiration to go to work every day?
It makes me happy that I’m able to make a difference in people’s lives, especially when it comes to the children. I dedicate my all to what I do every day. I’m determined to have a positive impact with care and words of encouragement.
I also have a great rapport with my co-workers. We’re a team. There are good people here.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
I love the toddlers. I love knowing that I can help them with their development.
And I love just putting a smile on people’s faces, making them happy. When I see someone looking down, I go over and say ‘Hey, how are you today? You don’t look like yourself.’ Sometimes it’s just those few words that show you care, and they open up.
I also love finding creative ways to keep the moms positive through different activities. For Black History Month this year I created Black History Jeopardy—a game just like the show. I can’t tell you how thrilled the moms and the staff were. Everyone was getting educated but in such a fun way. Everyone was a winner, everyone got a prize.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
When we aren’t on the same page as management, it can be difficult. I try to make sure we’re informed of things we should be aware of within the program.
It can be hard some days working with people who are struggling. But our team takes the bumps in stride. We know what we’re up against and we know that this is what we’re here to do.
How does your job provide a valuable public service?
We all provide a service for those who are less fortunate, who can’t do for themselves and need assistance. It’s happening throughout the community and the state—people are helping others, helping them reconnect with their community and giving them the resources they need to survive.
Public service workers like us are part of a bigger network, all helping people who need it.
What have you learned from your public service career?
Before I started at Maryville, I was doing administrative work. I got laid off and I took a job at Maryville Academy doing totally different work. I never thought I would be here long. But when I saw what these girls were going through, I felt I had to do something.
I’ve been here ever since. We’ve made a lot of difference. And I’ve been challenged in so many ways. We are helping so many. I’m not going anywhere.
How does your union improve your work?
With AFSCME, there’s been a tremendous change in the environment for employees. Before we won a union, we had not had a raise in three or four years. When we formed a union, we were finally able to get an increase in pay. And now our employer must recognize that we have a voice in decisions that are made and treat us fairly.
The most important thing in our work is that we’re professional with the people we serve. We need them to know that we’re here for them no matter what. We want to make them feel like they are the most important thing. And we do a much better job at that if we’re being treated fairly.
How has your union job impacted your life?
My parents didn’t have a union behind them for support at their job. Having AFSCME as part of my job has helped me in so many ways. Financially I’ve benefited, and I feel more secure in my position here. I also know that I have a voice to be heard.
I’ve had the union represent me in meetings with management and as vice president I’ve had the chance to help other employees in the same way. That has been amazing.