A new home at My Father's House
Six years ago Andrea Pickett felt lost.
She was running her own business, and while it was successful, she felt like it wasn't the right place for her to be. Pickett described it as a stirring, a desire for something more in life.
"Historically I have not loved change, but I knew God was preparing me for something — something on the horizon," Pickett said.
Whatever the future held remained just out of sight. Another rejection letter from a prospective employer saying she was allegedly overqualified for the position, left her feeling defeated once again.
"I had been failing miserably," Pickett said.
Meanwhile Cathe Wiese, the incredible force behind Gresham's My Father's House, as founder and executive director, was seeking a successor. Her board had been gently nudging her to start training a protegee to lead the nonprofit shelter into the future.
With both women seeking new paths, the pair met for lunch. They had been fast friends ever since connecting during a Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce gathering, and Pickett had been a hosting a table at a My Father's House benefit dinner for several years.
"I love Cathe's energy, warmth and passion," Pickett said.
When Wiese asked how the job search was going, Pickett began to cry. She felt like no one wanted her. That is when Wiese suggested an interview, and like so many others across the community, Pickett found her home at My Father's House.
"I called my husband and said, 'I know this is a huge leap of faith, but I think this is what I am supposed to do,'" Pickett said, referring to her acceptance of a position with the nonprofit shelter in January 2017. "I've never worked for an organization like My Father's House — they actually do what they say they will do."
Learning the ropes
When she first joined My Father's House, Pickett worried about her ability to relate to residents, many of whom have faced addiction and homelessness.
But it was a conversation with her cousin during her first weeks at the shelter that made her realize all the tools she brought to the table.
"Working at a place like My Father's House you learn to connect with people on an emotional level," Pickett said. "I know what it is like to be ashamed, afraid — those feelings are universal no matter what caused them."
And despite being brought in as a future successor for the top spot in the organization, Pickett worked her way up through the ranks. She began as the intake manager, handling incoming calls for people seeking to participate in the program. Later she became a case manager — a role she described as difficult because you have to be able to hold adults accountable and engage in hard conversations.
In the summer of 2019 she became the assistant director, and began training in earnest for her final promotion in the beginning of March.
"I love watching people change their lives," Pickett said. "You can see that best in the kids — they often come in and are timid and shy and withdrawn. But then when they feel the stability, they open up and flourish."
Pickett isn't afraid to roll up her sleeves. In her time at My Father's House, she has cleaned out "disgusting" rooms left in disarray by departing residents; unclogged toilets and swept floors; and sat with parents as their children were taken away by the state.
"I have a deep appreciation for all our staff and volunteers," Pickett said. "I will never ask them to do anything I wouldn't do myself."
My Father's House is about more than providing a roof over families' heads. The organization offers guidance in life skills, job training and aid in building "soft skills" for interviewing and good job performance. It also offers families high-quality child care so the adults can gain training and look for work.
That is what drew Pickett to the organization. She likes that the shelter doesn't rob residents of their dignity. All the residents at My Father's House are families, and stay in the shelter for six months. Participants commit to finding a job in the first 45 days, and take classes every Tuesday night on parenting, budgeting, communicating and more.
While living at the shelter, participants must save 30% of all revenue streams for a "Family Housing Fund" to be used for rent and utilities after they leave the shelter.
"We just had a single father of three move out, and he was able to save $7,200 while he lived here," Pickett said. "That is a significant amount of money that he used to secure a two bedroom apartment."
My Father's House also offers the Stepping Stone Apartments as a secondary program upon completing time at the shelter, and are nearing groundbreaking on "The Journey" — a $1.7 million, 17,375-square-foot, two-story building with classrooms, a thrift store, drive-thru donation center and café. Soon residents will be able to gain real-world experience while staying in the shelter.
And "The Journey" is allowing Wiese to continue on with My Father's House. Instead of leaving the organization, she will focus on her new role as program director of that training facility.
"I'm really excited to do programs and work with families again — that is where my heart is," Wiese said.
People keep telling Pickett the same thing — "You've got big shoes to fill."
But the secret to her success is not trying to replace Wiese.
"If I try to fill her shoes I would fail miserably," Pickett said with a laugh. "God has a different role for me to fill. I am going to build on what she started."
Pickett has always had roots in East Multnomah County. She was born and raised here, attended Corbett High School and then Mt. Hood Community College, and lives in Boring with her husband.
"This is where I have always been," Pickett said. "When things are hard, this community always rallies together."
That is the mindset she is bringing to My Father's House — compassion for people facing struggles. She loves that every day is different and brings new challenges. She also enjoys tapping into her marketing background when it comes to connecting with community members and seeking donations and volunteers for the organization.
"If you love people and want to see their lives changed, My Father's House is the place to go," Pickett said.
And the new executive director has no plans on leaving anytime soon — she made a 10-year commitment when she accepted the position.
"I can't imagine going anywhere else," Pickett said.
Support the shelter
My Father's House is a local nonprofit family shelter that helps empower people to take back control of their lives.
They are also always looking for dedicated volunteers and donations. Learn more at familyshelter.org
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