Strategic Engagement Manager
When Bree Hester was moving from Washington, D.C. to Birmingham, Alabama, she was looking for an opportunity to use her Capitol Hill skills toward her passion for mental health, human services and social policy. Formerly an executive assistant to a U.S. Congressman and a government relations manager for a national constituency, Bree now serves as Gateway’s Strategic Engagement Manager. She is also completing her Masters of Social Work through Columbia University, serving Gateway youth aging out of foster care as her field placement.
From keeping foster parents, donors, staff, new hires and constituents in the loop on all things Gateway and human services to equipping teens in foster care with needed safety information, food and supplies through COVID-19, Bree is a game changer for children and families.
Find out more about Bree’s service at Gateway and her #CareThroughCOVID in the interview below.
How long have you worked in foster care or child and family services?
I have been with Gateway for a little over two years now and it has been my home since joining the family services field. As long as I can remember, I've always had a passion for mental health and helping others. My path to child welfare looks a little different as I started my career working for Congress. While I initially thought the hub for change was within the U.S. Capitol, I quickly realized that truly positive change doesn't come from 535 individuals, but from one.
After leaving the political realm, I decided to follow my passion of joining the human services field. In looking for the right place to launch a career in social work, Gateway was the perfect fit marrying my passions of mental health and serving others. It has been a work home like no other and I am truly grateful for the opportunities Gateway has given me.
What has it been like serving children and families at Gateway through COVID-19?
Gateway has survived the Great Depression, two world wars, 9/11 and economic downturns. Each of these events happened well before my time with the agency, but Gateway has provided a glimpse of what makes her not only survive, but thrive despite unprecedented times. Service is in Gateway’s DNA and COVID-19 has only underscored the agency’s, and those who carry out its mission, ability to rise and meet evolving needs of the community. I have seen this agency lead in a way that finds solutions to not only keep staff and clients safe, but avoid disruption in life changing services.
Why do you work at Gateway, and what is your job?
I have worked in a variety of fields, but Gateway is truly one of the only organizations I’ve had the honor to work for that places emphasis on creating a culture of safety. Everything Gateway does from staff meetings to client visits is conducted from a service first approach collaborating together to reach a common goal. Gateway is one of the most supportive agencies that truly invests in their team members.
As the Strategic Engagement Manager, I have the privilege of being Gateway’s biggest cheerleader. In my role, I am afforded the opportunity to work with staff in every corner of the agency, community partners, and our amazing group of foster parents.
I have also had the pleasure of gaining direct practice experience through my field placement with our Independent Living Program. It has been invaluable and bolstered the work I can do as a part of the administrative team being able to learn the needs of those we serve first hand. The foster youth I have had the privilege to work with have allowed me to truly know the meaning of, “I learn more from them than they do from me.”
Whether it is being in the field or tabling a community event to share the game changing services Gateway provides for our foster youth and families, I wake up each day knowing I have a small part in an organization that makes an immeasurable impact.
What is a piece of advice you would share with someone thinking about working in this field?
If you have a heart for it, you can be in it. As someone who entered the social services arena with limited knowledge of the industry and little more than a drive to serve I can attest that if you have a calling for it there is a place for you in this field.
Join us in celebrating Bree and her service to Alabama children and families!
Thank you to Bree for the positive difference she makes in the lives of foster children and families. Thanks to her work, we continue to recruit great foster parents, connect with community partners, onboard amazing staff, support youth aging out of foster care and more.
Please join us in honoring Bree for her service and providing #CareThroughCOVID.