Twenty-five years ago, Rainbows offered a part-time job to an inexperienced physical therapist for a new position in Butler County. That inexperienced PT was me and I actually suggested that I wasn’t the best fit for the job, but Betty Graham in Human Resources and Debbie Mai in Programs and Services took a chance on me anyway. Yes, I gave a terrible interview and boy, am I glad they did take that chance! I was wrong, and I have been blessed beyond measure with wonderful co-workers, fascinating families and beautiful drives down county roads. I would not change the past but things have sure changed over time.
When Bright Beginnings started out, we didn’t even have an office. We had half of a storage room in Mid-Cap, a housing and social services agency for Butler County. Most of my on-the-job training on all things Rainbows was from our teacher, Paula, and the occasional interaction with “borrowed” occupational therapist and speech language pathologist support. We were so new and spread thin, that I didn’t meet Susan Harsh, Coordinator for Butler County Infant/Toddler Services, for a couple of months. I actually began to wonder if she was real! Now Bright Beginnings has the honor to support Rainbows’ newest and, in my opinion, even more rural county, Sumner. Don’t tell, but once I turned right instead of left and ended up in Oklahoma when trying to get out of Caldwell in Sumner. My phone had no service so I was winging it a bit. Anyway, Kristen Shideler, occupational therapist, and I get to be the “borrowed” motor support for Sumner and I can’t help but smile when I think about that!
Of course, we have seen many other changes as well. When we first drove around Butler County we had paper maps. Parts of Andover were growing so fast that entire neighborhoods weren’t even on them and even Map Quest was years off. One time, Susan led our caravan of cars around an empty cul-de-sac in Andover trying to find the last evaluation of the day. We rolled down our windows and waved as we passed each other circling around. Now we each have our smart phones to guide us, but we still on occasion find ourselves on “unmaintained” farm roads that eat cars for lunch. My three point turns are so much better than they were 25 years ago!
Naturally, service delivery models and paperwork have changed as well. For instance, I remember when the Individual Family Services Plan was only 3 pages. I have fond memories of how quickly they went.
We all put a lot of windshield time in and I have always loved watching the seasons change. The greens of spring, winter sunrises and summer harvests. The group texts of “I just saw 4 deer crossing the road” and other updates such as “Rose Hill is flooded” or “the wild fire is crossing 254” are just one way we as a team share the ever changing corner of Kansas we serve.
We as a team have also gone through seasons of change. We have seen each other through pregnancies, our children growing up, and now I have noticed “old people” problems popping up for some of us. The floor seems to be a bit farther down there than it used to be and I think it is obvious that some of us have graying hair (certain team members hide it, but they shall remain nameless).
The families we serve continue to grow and change as well. We have, on occasion, provided services to a second generation of a family. This seems impossible, but it’s true! It always warms our team’s hearts when we hear of a past child graduating from high school or see a past family out in the community and get an informal update. We all love it when a current or past family stops by our office on Main Street. Susan and Jill Morrow, our administrative assistant, are both pros at playing and entertaining the children if the parent has questions or news to share. I always thank a family for letting me be a part of the journey they are on with their child when they graduate from services. Sometimes these early years are a difficult season for our families but they are also so full of firsts, of simple joys, innocent laughter and quiet cuddles. I know I speak for all of us when I say what a blessing those moments are.
I could go on and on but I think I’ll end on this: From all of us out in Butler County, Happy 50th Birthday, Rainbows. Keep on growing and changing as our communities and the families we serve continue to do the same!
By Angela Pulaski, Physical Therapist