– written by Michelle Eastman, Vice President of Marketing and Communications
“When you are part of Rainbows and you uplift the world, you can’t help be uplifted by that experience. Every time I give of my strength, it forever changes the shape of who I am.”
– Linda Weir Enegren, Founder, Rainbows United, Inc.
Each year, Rainbows sets aside one day each year to gather staff members to celebrate success and recognize achievements, set the tone for the upcoming year, and hear from a Rainbows’ family. I look forward to the day, helping shape the content, seeing the staff gather as family, listening to the firsthand account from a Rainbows’ family and this year, a special treat, as we celebrated Rainbows’ 45th Birthday, Founder Linda Weir Enegren shared the story of Rainbows’ humble beginnings in 1972.
As Linda captivated the audience with her wit and grace, she remembered a quote from a blind date she once went on in her early years, “When you find yourself lost, near a cliff, lie down and look up and you will find something to hold on to.” She used that strategy for Rainbows in real time, looking for something to hold on to when Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church lent their basement and gave their blessing with these words, “We don’t know how to do it, but if it can be done, you are the one to do it.” She reached out, grabbed on and took those first children and their families, who had inspired her with their desire to keep their children with special needs at home and not in an institution, with her on the journey.
Rainbows started with 5 children between the ages of 5 and 11 who had never been in the public school system, and a budget of $1,800. They served 15 children in the first year who all made progress, were able to stay with their families in the community, and grow in their skills. By the 6th year, Rainbows was serving 60 children and had 2 vans for transportation. I was struck with her courage and tenacity as in her own words she, “gave to Rainbows in a way I would never be able to give again.”
Among the inspiring words she shares: “When you are part of Rainbows and you uplift the world, you can’t help be uplifted by that experience. Every time I give of my strength, it forever changes the shape of who I am.”
As if that wasn’t enough to give staff the fuel for another 45 years, President Deb Voth took the podium and cast the Rainbows’ vision for the future. A future that includes leadership in our industry as well as making continued use of new technology. She applauded Rainbows’ Board of Directors for their support, guidance and engaging the agency in a strategic planning process to continuously improve in every aspect of our business. She shared legislative progress and led the team in honoring staff for milestones of service. Her strength, conviction, and transparency giving confidence to all in attendance.
When Josh Mahon came to the microphone with his mom Lucy, the crowd listened intently. Josh, age 14, looked over the crowd and wished all a Happy Birthday. His mom had no trouble sharing what Rainbows’ means to her as she talked about how much her son loves Rainbows, the singing, dancing and how he has become the young man he is today because of the strong support they have both received through Rainbows. Lucy was quick to applaud the many opportunities Josh has had to try new things, the staff who have helped get them connected to resources and those who have been their “saving grace” in challenging times.
As I scanned the crowd that day, among the party favors and the delicious cupcakes, I saw amazing co-workers whose every day service gives testimony to Linda’s passion and Deb’s vision for Rainbows. I saw a room of dedicated professionals whose lives have been shaped by the children, like Josh, in one way or another. What a privilege to celebrate, to tell the stories, to share with the community this legacy, and a promising strong future.