Gatekeeper of the Kingdom
Interview with Tyria Easterwood, by Laura Beckman
Whether you are a volunteer, client, sponsor, or new employee, chances are that Tyria Easterwood will be the first person you come into contact with here at Kingdom House. We’ve all heard the old adage that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so we’re lucky to have someone as welcoming and talented as Tyria (Ty, for short), greeting you when you walk in the door.
In the two days I spent shadowing Ty to learn the responsibilities at the front desk, I began to understand what a delicate and chaotic job she has. Don’t be fooled into thinking that all she does is greet clients as they sign in. If you want to keep up with Ty, you have to be able to juggle as many as four urgent phone calls at once, negotiate client requests with Kingdom House policies, attack a mountain of paperwork, remember every new visitor’s name, and, all the while, use your peripheral vision to see who’s standing by the side window waiting to be let in. And don’t for a moment forget to maintain a calm, pleasant, demeanor! “One thing that people always compliment me on is my smile, and my ability to remove myself personally from the situation and think about what others are going through,” says Ty. She has a unique aptitude for making people feel at ease as they tackle uncomfortable situations and begin to initiate difficult but meaningful changes in their lives.
Ty has close connections to Kingdom House that span several generations. “I first came here in 1970-1971 as a child, when I was one or two years old.” As an adult she started off working as a substitute teacher in infant care (ages 13 to 24 months old), before moving to the front desk. Her daughter went through Kingdom House childcare services as well. Now her youngest son, Jacob-Tyler, enjoys the combination of learning, play, friendship and creativity that can be found in our accredited preschool daycare (also known as the Blue Room).
In our interview, Ty emphasized the role that Kingdom House played in providing her a secure, happy childhood. Thanks to hard work and a little help from Kingdom House, Ty’s mother was always able to put on a happy face for her 3 daughters, so that they never knew how she struggled. Growing up, she never once thought of her family as “poor”. “I wasn’t even aware of poverty,” she says, “because my mom was a single parent and she gave us everything that she could while working and trying to further her education...she always made it possible to give us the best of everything...to me it just looked like we were a little happy family.” Now Ty helps other parents to achieve the same sense of comfort and stability in their households as she enjoyed growing up.
Ty understands that it can be difficult for a client to walk through our doors and ask for help the very first time. When asked what advice she would give to a new client at Kingdom house, she offered words of motivation: “Don’t let this be a stopping point or a stumbling block. Take advantage of the services that we offer here so that you can become better at what you do. A lot of clients that come here can get stuck, so I try to encourage them to use the services to their benefit.” She understands that Kingdom House is not a final destination, but rather a stepping stone to other opportunities, allowing thousands of locals to achieve self-sufficiency and work towards their personal goals every year. Self-sufficiency comes about through a combination of resilience, trust, and openness to new situations: ““I love our motto, ‘Change Begins Within’. Their situations can get better, if that’s what they want -- if they’re serious about it,” says Ty.
To those who may be contemplating volunteering or applying for a job at Kingdom House, Ty offers some words of encouragement: “Whatever skills they may have, we’ll find a way to utilize them here. If they’re just entering high school, there’s always a need -- whether its just helping to maintain the landscape outside, working with the children, or helping out at our pantry, we’ll always have a job for you.” The most valuable volunteers are the ones who, like our clients, commit to making long-term changes. Every small task is equally vital to keeping this machine running.
Meanwhile, Ty continues on the path to accomplishing a few of her personal ambitions. She recently completed her Master’s Degree in Human Resources Development and Training at Webster University. While her current work has allowed her to utilize her networking skills, she would eventually like to work in Development and Training to help people improve their job skills, find their first job, or advance their career paths. She has been an incredible asset at the front desk over the years, and we can only imagine how valuable she will be in the future to those seeking personal career guidance.