Each year, KVC Health Systems holds a Story Contest to celebrate the inspiring ways that children and adults are successfully healing from a vast array of serious challenges. Over the years, we’ve greatly appreciated seeing the numerous stories that mention a member or supporter of our nationwide team and how they’re playing a part in providing life-changing services. And this year’s winner, KVC social worker, Andrea Rishel, truly went above and beyond to help her client turn the page.
Last year, KVC strengthened more than 11,400 families by helping parents create safe, loving homes. Through our transformative work, 56,600 people were positively impacted. Our 2022 Story Contest Winner is acutely aware of the hours of work, collaboration and communication that it takes to bring these statistics to life.
Meet one of our 2022 Story Contest winners who truly embodies the KVC mission to make sure every person is safe and connected to a strong family and a healthy community. See how her work changed the lives of those she serves — and see how her story is just one of many that make a difference for people across Kentucky.
Meet Andrea: A 2022 Story Contest Winner
After joining the KVC family as an intern, Andrea Rishel worked in behavioral health services and community support roles before becoming a full-time case manager.
Andrea’s everyday to-do list is a snapshot of KVC’s holistic approach to providing behavioral health and family-strengthening services. She helps families create healthy household routines, address behavior issues and perhaps most importantly, fosters connections to professional and community support.
Andrea facilitates meetings and conversations with numerous people who play an active and important role in the lives of those she serves, including their therapist, family members, school teachers, psychiatrist, health professionals and other members of the community who provide support such as coaches or youth pastors.
By helping the families she works with stay connected to this full web of support, Andrea is able to ensure that children and families can access the full continuum of care by helping families access resources, team up with community partners, and apply for assistance.
“Let’s Get Some Books”
In 2022, both Andrea and her client were parents to two young children, ages one and three. As they began working together, Andrea learned that her client’s oldest son was in need of speech therapy to address a significant speech delay. This story resonated deeply with Andrea, as she was working through the same process with her own son.
After the KVC Kentucky team helped get her client’s child into an early intervention program, Andrea’s client came to her with a straightforward question: “What else can I do to help him?”
“We talked through her experiences, worries and hopes for her son leading up to the evaluation,” Andrea said. “As we brainstormed ways she could use playtime and reading aloud at home to practice speech, I learned the family had no books in the home.
“Let’s get some books,” Andrea replied. Equipping her client with the tools to help her son learn was a natural next step for Andrea because of her own family. “My kids are little bookworms!” she says. “They have their favorite books and some other books memorized, so I really couldn’t picture myself going a day without any books for my kids. Having young children, I knew first-hand the positive impact books have had on my children’s language development.”
First, Andrea got her client set up with a local library card. After opening up this new world of accessible and affordable reading options, Andrea turned to her own community. What started out as a simple ask of a small group of fellow mothers soon grew and grew and grew.
Before long, word spread faster and further than Andrea expected. She began receiving books in the mail and social media messages from complete strangers who wanted to offer support. Local mothers were offering extra books their own children had outgrown, college friends were sending their own favorite childhood books, strangers sent gift cards to online bookstores and a closing preschool donated the entirety of their children’s library.
What started out as a modest goal gathering around 20 books for her client’s two children — soon became a book drive that collected more than 800 books, bookshelves, storage bins and speech therapy tools like blocks and other play items.
It became clear that the community’s generosity had more than met the need of Andrea’s initial client. So through the donations and support, Andrea was able to give books to every single child that she serves.
“It showed me the power of what happens when we connect and ask,” Andrea said. “It doesn’t take a lot. You don’t have to give someone a huge donation or much of your time. When so many different people chip in, one book becomes something so much bigger.”
Moving Forward Together
After five years with KVC, Andrea knows that the tasks of a social worker can feel isolating. It’s all too possible to get bogged down in checking essential items off of your lengthy to-do list each day. She’s choosing to move forward from this experience with the reminder that reaching out to a team — and partnering with other compassionate people — is how communities are able to care for every one of their members.
“This experience highlighted the power of community members joining together to be a part of KVC’s mission,” Andrea reflects. “What a beautiful reminder that small gifts from many can make a big difference in one family’s life.”