Celebrating, front row, from left: Jennifer Seager-Valentine, Jane Bishop, David Wolf and Diane Quinn. Back row, from left: Rasheen Corbin, Jeff Hale, and Joe Kolar.
June 6, 2023 — If you know that Jane Bishop and Diane Quinn, Lead Caseworker and Employment Specialist, respectively, both float among Samaritan Ministry offices located all over the region, and that wherever they are, they each work intensively with individual participants, you might think they would never get a chance to work together. But happily for both them and the people whose lives they help transform, their roles at Samaritan keep them in constant contact.
“It’s never just one. It’s always a collaboration,” says Bishop, referring to how many people it takes to empower a person who comes to Samaritan for help getting their life on track. “It works when it’s a collaboration.”
So while both women arguably do the work of many, it seems fitting that Samaritan gave them a joint Change Agent Award earlier this year.
Drawing on the input of colleagues, Executive Director David Wolf names Change Agents annually from among Samaritan’s leaders, staff and volunteers, citing them for going above and beyond their positions’ requirements and expectations.
This time, in a Change Agent proclamation now posted in the Northwest and Northern Virginia offices, David marvels about how much work they have taken on — and excelled at — during a time of pandemic-related constraints and historic understaffing.
Jane and Diane, he wrote, “each adapted so much as of late, that it has given new and transformative meaning to the term ‘other duties as assigned’ in a way that has not only empowered the Next Step participants whom they serve, but also the staff colleagues they serve with.”
In fact, several people play a role in a typical Samaritan participant’s achievement of his or her goals, starting with the critical support and kindness of a Samaritan Front Office Coordinator, who might take the participant’s first call for help as a returning citizen, homeless, unwell, lacking necessary ID, unemployed, or all of the above.
Likewise, after guiding a participant onto a stable path of successful steps, Jane might call on STRIVE Trainer Antoine Johnson for job-readiness training, or Demetria Savoy for GED prep. And over the course of the participant’s journey, she might tag team repeatedly with Intern Onysha Boak and Program Director Jennifer Seager, managing everything from ordering clothes for a participant’s interview or new job, to providing a credit card for a driver’s license renewal, securing the residential address that can ironically be a prerequisite for housing assistance, to getting approval for an emergency payment to cover a participant’s car repair or apartment deposit. And often, when her participants are ready for job hunting assistance, she refers them to Diane.
“We’re an integrated, wrap-around team,” says Diane, whose work supporting participants also keeps her in continuous contact with the other program staff.
New hires in the pipeline will soon ease their workloads somewhat, but in his description of Jane’s and Diane’s award, David notes that Jane has recently been managing three program offices — not to mention dozens of cases — in Northwest DC, Northern Virginia, and Southeast DC, while assisting with Samaritan’s newest office, in Congress Heights. She had also taken on coordination of Samaritan’s burial assistance for families that have lost a loved one to HIV/AIDS.
Meanwhile in 2022, Diane assisted half of Samaritan’s roughly 300 active participants — who often require considerable coaching to sell their resumes — with their job goals and helped a full 45 land sustainable jobs.
Like Samaritan’s original founders, both women are practicing Episcopalians. They also both came to Samaritan after retiring from full careers elsewhere, and enjoy experiencing concerts and DC’s other special offerings even after long days channeling their exceptional energy, enthusiasm and positive outlooks into their work.
What keeps Diane, who earned an MA in human resources and previously held leadership positions in marketing and human resources for various departments of the District of Columbia and other employers, so engaged in her work is being “able to use and share all of my years of experience in a way that hopefully improves the wellbeing of other people,” she says.
Jane, who has degrees in fine art and architectural history and has worked as a curriculum developer, teacher, and education writer and editor in the Office of Head Start and private enterprise, says her work at Samaritan, “really brings together the threads of my career and life, and also my spiritual journey.”
Samaritan is all about participating in the transformation of others, no matter which side of the desk you sit on. We’re extremely grateful to have Jane and Diane transforming ours. — Sarah Wood