In 2010 I had the privilege of meeting Janet Olsen, Founder and Executive Director of Arizonans for the Protection of Exploited Children and Adults (APECA). It’s an organization that mobilizes people and resources in the fight against sexual exploitation and abuse. Together we created her first Best Year Yet® plan for APECA, and she continued to use Best Year Yet® for a second year on her own with the support of her Board of Directors. The results have been amazing and many lives have been changed for the better in the process. Here is how Janet's dream becaome reality.
Janet started the non-profit organization in 2003. Her dream was three-fold:
To heighten community awareness through training, workshops, and promoting awareness of sexual exploitation, abuse, and self-injury.
To support activities for teens who are at risk or recovering from self-injury and abuse.
To provide a safe haven called Natalie’s House for teenage girls under the age of 18 recovering from sexual trauma.
Janet purchased the land for the construction of Natalie’s House in 2006. Her vision for the land was to create a place to foster therapeutic living for teens that were recovering from sexual exploitation. She spent three years securing grants, in-kind donations, approval from the zoning board, and securing an architect to draw the plans. Getting her dream off the ground took over 30 volunteers with various areas of expertise. When she broke ground in 2009, it was the beginning of making her dream come true.
Natalie’s House is an 8-bedroom home that provides shelter, food, clothing, safety, recovery services, and life skill development and educational strategies to assist girls in making the transition to a normal, healthy life. Her Best Year Yet® plan included goals to cultivate social media marketing, progress the building of Natalie’s House, and develop fundraising programs. She had been a one-woman operation and was ready to build and develop a Board of Directors and secure her 501C3 status as a non-profit organization.
The next phase of growth for the organization seemed daunting, but their team paradigm helped them get through one step, one goal, and one month at a time:
We have the courage to succeed!
She successfully created an audio program for teens that describes sexual exploitation and educates them about prevention. The tape was distributed to schools, churches, and corporations; it received local news coverage two times during the year.
Janet secured a website and became active on Twitter and Facebook sharing information about APECA’s teen DVD “Staying Safe for Teens.” She also met with state representatives to secure support for pro-victim legislation and funding.
She raised $50,000 from fundraising events by the end of 2011 to progress the building of Natalie’s House and received in kind donations of labor from the Boy Scouts along with materials from Lowes and local nurseries.
Part of the home design is the therapeutic gardens where each teen will be responsible for her own plot of land. The program is designed to grow produce for the home and educate the girls about how things work, in preparation for future employment with flower shops, Lowe's, or the Forest Service. She also obtained $100,000 in grant funding by the end of 2011.
The Board of Directors grew as a result of their Best Year Yet® plan and is now a board of eight. Janet has used the monthly PRO agenda tools to embed the plan into the Board of Director meetings. APECA now has a fundraising arm called Merry-Go-Round a thrift sale that takes place four to six times a year at different locations around the Phoenix area.
Janet has said that the biggest impact Best Year Yet® has had on her organization is that it “helped them have faith in what they were doing during the course of the year.” As a result they were able to chart the course and complete their projects with community collaboration.
Natalie’s House opened at the end of 2012. The project has involved teens who have described the structure as “homey, nice, and being a safe comforting place to stay”.
It has been an honor to witness a paradigm come to life and a dream come true. The use of Best Year Yet® and the determination of leadership have made a dynamic impact on the community. By creating Natalie’s House, APECA has provided information and shelter to a population that many of us know little to nothing about.
APECA serves our community not only through education but also through prevention so that one day these teens might have their own dream, and it will come true as a result of the success of this organization.
About the Author
Diana Baysinger, co-owner of Arizona Partners, has been in business for over 29 years. She serves non-profits, leaders, individuals, students and teams throughout the United States and Europe. She is the Best Year Yet® Online coaching certification trainer and has trained over 45 individuals around the world to use Best Year Yet® in their business. You can contact Diana at arizonapartners.net or [email protected]