Seeing PRC through Pam's eyes
After a 30-year career with People’s Resource Center, first as a volunteer and then as Literacy Coordinator, Pam Knight retired in June. She shared reflections about her work and her gratitude for the PRC community.
“PRC has given me an awareness of people’s struggles and their beauty and goodness,” she said in her soft-spoken voice. “It also gave me the opportunity to do what I’ve been meant to do. I can’t imagine what I would have done without PRC.”
When Pam started her PRC journey, she volunteered in the food pantry and clothes closet at Indiana Avenue in Wheaton. “In those days, you didn’t have as much client contact,” she recalled. “You just handed food out the window.”
That’s why PRC developed the “client choice” model for its food pantry as the organization grew. Now, the pantry is set up like a small grocery store. Clients use grocery carts and can choose the items from the shelves that are best for their families. PRC also developed its Social Services and Empowerment programs to address struggles clients were facing related to housing, education and jobs.
“Now, with all the connections and services at PRC, you can help the whole person,” Pam explains. “This is due to our empowerment programs and a lot of good communication between the programs. That’s been really nice. [Before working at PRC] I was a school teacher and as a teacher, you can be limited in how much you can help somebody. Here we can supply everything they need.”
As Literacy Coordinator, she trained volunteer tutors and set up tutorials for clients in English, GED, Adult Basic Education and Citizenship. But her job encompassed more than that. With an open heart and sincere respect for her students, she has witnessed many students’ lives transformed with help and support from People’s Resource Center.
Juanita’s* story is a great example. Juanita met Pam when she enrolled in an English as a Second Language class, and later Pam matched her with a tutor. Juanita’s dream was to open up her own salon. Tutoring from PRC helped her pass her cosmetology exam, giving her the opportunity to open a salon and day spa. Today, in addition to working at her salon, Juanita teaches Spanish classes at PRC. “And she still cuts my hair,” said Pam.
Pam’s first student, Alma*, came to PRC as a refugee and had only one year of formal education in her entire life.
“In addition to caring for her large family and holding down a job to make ends meet, she paired up with a volunteer tutor,” Pam recalled. “Written letters and numbers were unfamiliar to her, but she worked hard to learn how to read and write and then to pass her citizenship test.” Today, Alma is studying to earn a high school diploma (GED).
Pam has loved the opportunity to build lasting relationships with students and volunteers. “You make friendships and watch babies grow up. Juanita’s son was 3 and now he is in college. I even taught one of my students how to drive!”
We will miss you, Pam. You are a much-loved part of PRC and we wish you a retirement filled with new experiences, happiness and laughter.
*Names have been changed.