A Small Town Girl Crushing The Stigma About Kids In Foster Care: Meet Danielle Abbey
They say your college days end up being some of the best years of your life. I've heard both good and bad experiences from people. But no matter what those experiences may be, hopefully they have shaped you into becoming a better version of yourself. Stronger, wiser, and ready to conquer the world. I was pretty quiet the first few semesters of college. Once I joined a sorority, Delta Zeta, my world as I knew it changed for the better. It was slightly overwhelming, but being a member taught me so much. Particularly, I learned valuable social skills, how to organize my time, to be more grateful and happier, and I learned the importance of giving back. Above all, I earned some amazing friendships. As I was thinking of who to feature for my next exclusive interview, I kept coming back to a dear old friend.
Meet Danielle Abbey, a sister, an amazing friend, and someone who devotes so much of her time giving back to her local community. This lady is a go-getter! She is ultimately the creative genius I've always aspired to be (and still do to this day). Her warm smile lights up every room she walks into. Her laugh has the power to uplift. She is an articulate individual and so sure of herself, yet she remains humble. I remember approaching her before college started, and we instantly connected. We became the best of friends before we ever set foot on campus! Then time went by and we ended up joining the same sorority and becoming lifelong sisters. From fun nights out in Orlando to spontaneous therapy sessions at our favorite pet shop (Danielle as my witness, I may have walked out with a puppy....) She obviously has a good influence on me; our little furry secret :) With all that said, our history is worth something to me. I think you will gain so much from getting to know Danielle Abbey, or as we all like to call her "D." Take a moment to read about her occupation as Community Impact Manager at Community Based Care of Central Florida. Get ready to love her as much as I do. Here's the story.
(Above: Danielle Abbey and I on our Initiation day seven years ago).
It's Danielle Marie (IDM): Give us the day in the life of your role as Community Impact Manager.
Danielle Abbey (DA): Every day in my position is so different, and that’s why I love it! As Community Impact Manager, I oversee all public relations and communications for the foster care and adoption system in Central Florida. My mornings always begin with coffee in hand monitoring the activity on our social media channels for the past 24 hours and catching up on major news. After that, I could be doing anything from curating content for our social media and blog; fielding inquiries for our children looking for a forever family; visiting our media partners to participate in an in-studio interview of my own, coordinating our next press pitch, or representing my organization at a chamber of commerce event. It keeps me on my toes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
IDM: Personally, what has been the most rewarding thing about your job? What are you most proud of?
DA: I love helping to remove the stigma and stereotype about kids in foster care. So many people think our kids are trouble and have done something to get kicked out of their homes. In reality, they’ve had absolutely terrible things done to them by people they probably love and trust. I’m most proud of helping to give a voice to kids that, for so long, have been scared into silence. I provide another outlet to express themselves by writing guest features on our blog. For years they’ve heard case workers, foster parents, and more talk about them – but it gives them the opportunity to take charge of their story and tell it for themselves.
IDM: Professionally, can you walk us through how you climbed the ladder to success, leading you to your current position with Community Based Care of Central Florida.
DA: After graduating Rollins, I joined the AmeriCorps program Public Allies of Central Florida. I completed my year of service at Christian Help, an organization that helps people on the brink of homelessness find employment and navigate the job market. The purpose of my position was to develop a mentor program and form community partnerships to supplement our services. Based on my drive and work ethic, my greatly responsibilities increased. I became in charge of community relations, representing the program at job/resource fairs, and leading its expansion into Orange County. After my term of service ended, my Public Allies Site Director had spoken about me to a Vice President in my current organization. The VP took me to lunch, and asked me to apply to be her Executive Assistant. Once I was hired, I took initiative to go beyond my stated job duties and began to take a more active role in several of her projects. Because of my promise and the work I had been doing, when she left our organization, they transformed her position into a Manager role and offered it to me. I’ve been managing our public relations and communications ever since!
IDM: What are some simple ways people can give back to the community?
DA: Find a cause your passionate about, find an organization who works with it, and ask them how you can get involved!
IDM: What does empowerment mean to you and what are some ways you live your daily life empowering yourself and others?
DA: Empowerment is simply confidence. I don’t think people take enough time to learn about themselves. Focusing on self-love and knowing what you have to offer the world around you is so freeing. It quiets that little voice in your head that sometimes makes you feel that you are not good enough, or you’re not qualified. By acknowledging what my flaws are, I can focus on my strengths.I find empowering others is as easy as showering them with compliments and praise. It takes almost no effort on your part, and it’s an instant way to brighten someone’s day. If I need to provide constructive criticism, I’ll talk about the things I think were done wonderfully before discussing areas of growth and opportunity.
IDM: Tell us about a success story that changed your perspective and made you love your job that much more.
DA: I work on a TV segment with Forever Family and WFTV to showcase some of our amazing kids looking for an adoptive family. There was one sweet 17 year-old girl who had given up on ever finding a family. A couple saw her segment on TV, and knew immediately that she belonged with their family. Just days before her 18th birthday, she was officially adopted and I was invited to attend the ceremony! When she saw me I got the biggest hug and we both cried! A lot of people don’t really consider communications and public relations to be important. For that child, and others that have come after her, I was able to see how my efforts have completely changed their lives. There are no words for how humbling that is.
IDM: What are three things in your life that keep you motivated and happy?
DA: My family, Summit Church and the amazing people I’ve met there, and my dog! I’m happiest when eating Mexican food, so I’ll throw that in there too.
IDM: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
DA: Seven years ago I was in school to be an aquatic veterinarian, four years ago I was graduating with hopes of working in immigration, and now I work with kids in foster care. Suffice to say; I have absolutely no idea, but I’m excited for the journey to get there.
IDM: Perfectly said. Let's wrap your interview with a favorite quote.
DA: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17