“Why I am Thankful for Huck House” by Jessica Barwell

On April 20, I participated in the first annual “Sleep Out Columbus” in which 70 people slept outside to raise money for and awareness about youth homelessness in central Ohio. All of these people were doing this for one night. I cannot imagine doing this every night. I especially cannot imagine being a child or a teenager doing this every night. As I prepare to begin my fundraising for the 2019 Sleep Out and educating my family and friends about youth homelessness, I have been reflecting on my gratitude for Huck House.

I am thankful for Huck House being there for our at-risk youth, for providing a safe place to sleep, for providing the tools, resources, and services that a family and a community should provide.

I am thankful for Huck House staff who meet with at-risk youth daily who have lost so much in their life, including their self-esteem.  Many who come to Huck House have been experiencing loss, violence, abuse, neglect, and other forms of trauma. I am thankful that Huck House staff is there to acknowledge their struggle, respond holistically, and find ways to highlight their resilience and survival.  I am thankful that Huck House is consistent in meeting their needs and proving that Huck House is worthy of their trust. I am grateful that the Huck House Crisis Program makes family reunification a priority whenever possible while providing alternatives when that cannot be an option.

I am thankful for the Huck House Transitional Living Program, for providing safe homes for homeless transition-age youth, ages 18-22, and their children and at the same time teaching life skills from conflict resolution, to effective communication, from anger management, to coping. Huck House creates the space for these individuals to feel accepted and helps support them so that they can stay healthy and hopeful to learn how to make better decisions.

I am thankful for the Huck House counselor’s hard work helping teens and families develop skills they can use to tackle their issues. The counselors then connect them with community resources for housing, employment, education, and government assistance.

I am thankful for the Huck House Youth Outreach Program. The staff at YOP go to our at-risk youth who won’t come to Huck House on their own.  They meet kids on their own turf, and provide a safe place for them to go to obtain services and resources.

This is the time of year many start to think about donating to certain causes and want to help those in our community who are less fortunate.  I find myself often wondering “What would it be like to be grateful for the kindness of others every single day in order to survive?”  Being on the Board of Huckleberry House since 2015, I have come to understand the true meaning of gratitude.  I am grateful to be a part of an organization that is making lasting change in the lives of young people.


-Jessica Barwell, Huckleberry House Board Member


Gratitude – Sonya Thesing

Most people think that my job at Huck House, as development director, is about asking. Asking for money, asking for things, asking for support, asking for volunteers.

I look at my role differently.

Sonya's family created a gratitude scrapbook in November 2011 when her sons were 10 and 11 years old.

Sonya’s family created a gratitude scrapbook in November 2011 when her sons were 10 and 11 years old.

I see it as inviting. I invite people to participate in the great work of Huck House. I invite them to be a part of solving youth homelessness. I invite them to help families find their strengths to fix what is wrong. I invite them to support young people who are working to create better lives for themselves.

The best part of my week is when I pause to say thank you to those of you who have supported Huck House. Development directors write letters, send emails, and make phone calls to let donors know how much their contributions mean to the mission of an organization.

Saying “thank you” is obviously an outward expression. For me, though, saying “thank you” inspires deep gratitude. I am struck by an awareness of incredible kindness, hope for our future, and goodness in our community. When I say “Thank you for your gift of money,” there is a deeper meaning. It would be more accurate to say “Thank you for not giving up on our youth. Your donation represents hope and compassion. The youth of our community are blessed to have people like you rooting for them.”

I have a co-worker who comes to my office regularly to say “I love my job” or “I woke up so happy to come to work today.” I feel the same way. I am thankful every day that I get to see the kindness of our supporters and the difference their compassion makes for the youth we serve.

When my sons were in fourth and fifth grade, our family created a thankfulness scrapbook during the month of November. I remember great conversations while we thought about what we were thankful for.

If you and I were to share a cup of tea this month and talk about what makes us grateful, at some point, you would hear me say I am thankful for the generosity —-of treasure and spirit —- that I get to experience every day.


Written by: Sonya Thesing, Development Director