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Ignite the Light 2010 Speech

Ignite the Light

November 9, 2010


Hello, my name is Deborah Cathers-Seymour.  I am the Executive Director of Chehalem Youth & Family Services.  You aren’t expected to memorize my name.  It’s a doozy!

I am so glad you are here.  A question – what would I say to my Board if you hadn’t shown up?!

I believe you are here because you care about our communities’ children & families and you care about CYFS, an organization of caring people.  Love actually does make the world go round and we would all rather it not go flat.  Right?

Sure, it’s tempting to stop caring some days.  It hurts sometimes and you step back to reassess.  Caring can make you tired – “Compassion fatigue” – so you take a break.  We’ve all been there.  Then we begin again because we would rather be spent on something important, eternal and good, then on something meaningless.  In Jim Elliott’s words, “He is no fool who gives that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” 

So, today we come together not to step back but to step up.  Not to take a breather but to take a deep breath before the plunge.

For CYFS this is the 40th year of service.  40’s are important.  Remember Moses & 40 years in the desert with the Israelites or Noah and 40 days of rain.  Then there are 40 days of testing for Jesus in the wilderness.  More recently we’ve all heard of 40 days of Purpose.  CYFS has had 40 years of purpose.  “Active Duty” with a mission of hope & healing for children and families.  It’s not the National Guard, but it is a war – war against apathy, self-absorption, poverty, violence, ignorance and exploitation.  As we work to relieve many forms of human suffering to create the quality of life we hope for for everyone.

As I was preparing my remarks for this event, I recalled being awestruck by a single drop of dew on a blade of grass, as it burst into sparkling colours in the light.

Then the sun came out from behind a cloud, the light fell on a cherry tree in my front yard and lit it up in a blaze of glory.

Looking across the valley I saw a house with windows catching the light so brightly that it looked like the house was on fire.

Aren’t we like that drop of dew?  That cherry tree?  That house?  Nothing special really until we catch the light and are ignited to shine with a magnificence that’s not our own.

Fortunately, we aren’t rooted permanently in one place like the tree.  We can move and adjust ourselves to catch the light, we can choose our inward posture and position ourselves to reflect and refract.

How?  Listening, believing, seeking, expecting, receiving, and loving. 

All the above.  You know what I mean; then the “miracle” follows

Resentment becomes forgiveness

Fatigue becomes endurance

Fear becomes courage

Anxiety changes into peace

Weakness changes into strength

Despair changes into hope


Striving turns to trusting

Avarice turns to generosity

Defeat turns to victory, and

Smiles of joy & laughter break out


Jesus said, “I am the light of the world, who ever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life”.  (Jn 8:12).  Our choice every day, every hour, every moment, our choice wherever we are, our choice now.  Awesome!  Our own Everyready flashlight for the storms of life.


Here’s some great news out of Children’s First Progress Report on the Status of Children in Oregon:


v  Foster care went down last year from 15,000 to 13,000.

v  Placement stability went up from 57% to 60%.

v  Treatment for parents of kids in foster care who have addictions but couldn’t get it went down from 22% to 11%.

v  The number of children without health insurance went down from 13% to 10.5%.


More great news – I’m not going to keep listing statistics. After all, 5 out of 3 people have trouble with fractions.


Seriously, these are hopeful indicators.  Important differences are being made in poverty, ignorance and crime in cities like Newberg and Dundee and across Oregon.


And here at the battlefront in Newberg, there are a few more numbers worth sharing.  CYFS provided over 4,000 sessions of counseling to over 200 people.  54% were free or at nominal cost on a sliding scale. It cost $77,000 to do this.  Why do it?  There are over 17,000 people in our county without insurance to help them pay for counseling when they need it.  Professional counseling is well researched and the proven way to pull people out of crisis, out of violence and out of poverty.


True story - Someone I know, “Susan” was always depressed, sad, discouraged, miserable, and unkempt; she rarely smiled.  Her children looked the same.  After months of not seeing her, I ran into her and she looked radiant.  I could hardly believe she was the same person.  She was beautiful.  I couldn’t help asking, “what’s happened to you?”!  She smiled broadly and said, “I went to counseling.” Note to self:  invest in counseling not Botox.


With help she made big changes. Most of us have some changes we need to make.  CYFS provides that support and we need your help today to keep these services available.


But, no matter how much support we give, there will be some families whose children need to go into foster care or residential treatment.  When this is required, we want our 4 homes and our school not only to provide the basic state requirements, we want to go well beyond that and ignite the light of hope & healing in each child.  We do this by providing volunteer mentors, outdoor venturing, leadership development, arts & music, pet care training, preparation for independence and the work world.


Finally, in partnership with Job Growers and local businesses, CYFS reaches out to assist youth who have barriers to completing their education and career preparation.  For some it is homelessness, health problems, addiction, pregnancy and poverty.  With incentives, coaching and support, these young people get back on track.  This year CYFS will assist 190 Yamhill youth with credit recovery towards graduation, enrollment into colleges, internships and job readiness skills. 


In closing, our goal today is to make certain youth & families have access to assistance for years to come.  To do so, CYFS needs to be financially strong with sufficient reserves to weather the ups & downs of the economy; to grow with this community and continue to address essential needs.


I am asking you to imagine how bright this vision could be and then to step up to help us to achieve it.


Thank you and God bless!

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by Dr. Radut.