I am Suzanne Wilson and I currently work as the Director of HALO Jefferson City. Making a difference in the life of a child. This has been my passion throughout my career in education. I’ve learned that everyone has a unique story. It is not uncommon for some of these stories to unravel because of unexpected circumstances and traumas in a person's life. I use my skills and knowledge I’ve gained over a lifetime of working with students, adults and families in our community, to make connections and bring additional resources to HALO, allowing the youth involved in our program to strengthen their self-perceptions and receive the support they need to build strong relationships with people who care, so they can re-write their own story, in a safe and peaceful environment. I am a part of such an outstanding team of individuals at HALO, who are working to make our community, and our world, a better place for children of all ages, by reaching out and offering a hand of hope and love to those who need it most.
HALO JC is the foundation of a family for teens who don’t have one. Founded by Rebecca Welch, a Jefferson City resident, HALO is a long-term home for homeless teenage girls in and around our community from the ages of 16-21 years old. These teens do not have a stable, safe place to call home. They move from house to house, couch to couch, night after night until finally, they are no longer welcome at any of these homes. They sleep in shelters, tents, and cars. Some of these girls are pregnant, some are not, some are already mothers with young children, but all of them come to us needing a safe place to live, and lots of love and support. HALO believes every child should have a home, There are so many teens who never had the support structure needed to become happy and healthy adults. Our goal is to help these young women gain the skills needed to live independently and successfully. This dedicated work is completed by a small staff and a large number of volunteers, all with big hearts!
Homeless hurts. Art Heals. Art has a purpose. HALO provides opportunities for these teens to heal through art. All forms of art, including dance, poetry, painting and sewing. Creating art helps to release the heartache, allowing the mind and body to focus on education, finances, health and wellbeing. Sometimes what you can’t put into words, you can still put behind you.
HALO’s mission, is to help one less child, spend one less night alone. I’ve witnessed the incredible changes in the lives of these girls when they come into the HALO program. That is the reason I love working here.
How long have you lived in Jefferson City?
I have lived in Jefferson City all my life. I graduated from Jefferson City High School, attended MIZZOU for a degree in Art Education, attended Lincoln University for my Masters in Administration, and Saint Louis University for my doctorate in Education. I taught in the Jefferson City Public Schools, then became an Elementary Principal, and retired from that position a year ago. HALO contacted me not long after that about the Director position. I have two grown children, and I have been married to Don Wilson for 33 years.
In your opinion, what’s the biggest benefit of being a nonprofit?
In Jefferson City, the biggest benefit of being a nonprofit is watching people give back in such a selfless manner. Volunteers like Mary Deimler, Emily Verslues, Jennifer Hudson, Jane Gratz, Kelli Jones, Emily Roberts, Betty Sundermeyer, just to mention a few. We have a community that values giving their time and talents to help others, and it is impressive to witness. Jefferson City has business partners helping HALO and providing all types of support and services, as well as grants and donations. Working together we all make a difference in the lives of these teens.
What is one thing you wish people knew about the organization?
HALO is a private, not-for-profit organization, funded exclusively by the generous donations of supporters. The monies donated specifically to the Jefferson City HALO home, are used for the Jefferson City HALO Home. A person can designate their monetary donation to be used internationally, for the Jefferson City Home, or just for the area of greatest need. We couldn’t do the work we do without the support of all our area volunteers and donors.
How long has this organization existed?
HALO has existed for almost 15 years. It was started by Rebecca Welch, a Jefferson City native, who was a volunteering in Honduras, and her experiences with the children there motivated her to begin helping children internationally who needed clean water, food and a safe place to sleep and call home. Rebecca then noticed there were teens in our own community who also needed a safe place to call home. That was the beginning of HALO. Last year HALO JC opened as a long-term home for homeless teenage girls.
What does your organization currently need?
We are always in need of monetary donations to keep the foundation moving forward. Every donation is appreciated no matter how big or small. We are always looking to increase our number of volunteers at HALO JC. It is simple to sign-up for volunteer training or to donate through our website.
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