In honor of Social Work Month, we’re getting to know some of Westhab’s incredible social workers. Katie Green celebrated 20 years with Westhab on March 8, 2021. We sat down with her to learn more about how she came to be a social worker. Her story is an inspiring one—and it’s one of the reasons that Ms. Green is such an incredible asset to our clients and staff. She calls herself a helper; there’s no doubt that she is exactly that and so much more.
When Katie Green was first introduced to Westhab in 2000, she was a single mom of six emerging from a tough divorce and in need of a helping hand. The social workers at Westhab’s family center in Elmsford were a beacon of light for her and her children. By October of that year, she was volunteering in the family center, serving meals, and helping out in childcare. Only four months later, she was hired by Westhab to work in childcare. The social workers around her, both those helping her personally and those that became close colleagues, continued to inspire her.
When Ms. Green decided to go to college in 2007, still with six children at home and working full-time for Westhab, it was a no-brainer that she would major in social work. “The idea of going to college was scary,” said Ms. Green. “But, I’ve always been in the helping field. I was always serving. It was always what I’d done. Back then I was just so busy trying to get through life. I didn’t realize this was my purpose, my passion, or would be my journey.” After graduating from the College of New Rochelle, she headed straight to Fordham University where she earned her Masters in Social Work (MSW) in 2010. “It was hard, but it was worth it. It was so worth it,” said Ms. Green.
In speaking with Ms. Green, it’s very clear that social work is more than a job to her. Through tears, she said, “Social work to me is a passion. You wonder, ‘What am I on this Earth to be?’ My purpose is to serve others—seeing them succeed, even if it’s small. Some of our clients go through so much and they have nothing. When I meet with a client and they have absolutely no one to turn to, no one to call, it breaks my heart.” This is where Ms. Green comes in, “That’s when we have to step it up to more than 100 percent. We’re working with human beings, people who have feelings, people who have ideas, people who have thoughts and dreams. It’s our job to help them navigate all of it.” Recalling her own introduction to social work, she says, “That’s what social workers did for me. They helped me navigate through life, beat down after beat down. If you come from an unhealthy environment, sometimes you don’t even want to get out of bed. I’ve been there and I know what that feels like. I want to see the spark in my client’s eye and know that I was a part of igniting that spark.”
Ms. Green has worn a lot of hats at Westhab, from childcare and employment services to her current role as assessment coordinator at the Coachman Family Center where she’s been since 2016. As an assessment coordinator, Ms. Green is one of the first faces clients see when they enter the shelter. She’s there to listen to their stories and connect them to the right resources. “Some of the stories will literally break your heart,” said Ms. Green. Her own lived experiences have become an asset, allowing her to relate to the traumas faced by so many of our clients and quickly build trust to better help them on their journey.
When asked about what Westhab means to her, Ms. Green said, “Westhab has the best mission statement because they absolutely change lives. Westhab is powerful. The staff is more powerful than they realize.” Ms. Green described a day that she and two other staff members at the Coachman spent hours trying to put a stroller together for a client. “No task too big and no task too small,” she said enthusiastically. That’s what sets Westhab apart. Westhab is filled with helpers like Katie Green. Her undeniable impact on every Westhab client that walks through her door is truly life-changing. And she’ll do anything, big or small, to be the beacon of light that she once needed.