A Foundation for the Future
By Carlette S. Mack, Executive Director
Mildred Mack is a loving, compassionate, and resilient woman. She puts the needs of others before her own, and works tirelessly to advocate on behalf of those in her care. She is a dedicated mother and case manager who has faced and overcome her own challenges without ever letting them hinder her ability to take care of others. She can be kind and warm and soft and gentle, but none of that is what earned Mildred the nickname bestowed upon her at Covenant House Alaska…”Miss Military (*1)”.
You see, over the course of 13 years, my mother Mildred (or, as I call her, MammaMack) earned a reputation for being a bit of a no-nonsense case manager. Her confidence, discipline, and sense of structure became her hallmark when working with our youth. She saw the potential in everyone who walked through those doors in Anchorage, and she refused to allow our young people to settle for anything less than their best. Covenant House youth knew that Mildred had expectations for them, and that wasn’t something they’d always been used to.
When many of our youth first arrive at Covenant House, they’re coming from environments that don’t always expect their best foot forward. They’re not often used to the MIldreds of the world driving them to push a little harder or progress a little further. Often times, our youth have spent too much energy overcoming obstacles and have too little left to focus on getting an education, exploring career paths, or analyzing choices. Creating structure helps our youth meet their own goals and realize their own dreams.
A young person wants to complete their education? We are here.
A talented artist wants to use her gift to become a graphic designer? We are here.
A young man hopes to leave behind the bad decisions of his teenage years and break a familial cycle of violence and drug use? We are here.
Whatever journey our youth find themselves on, Covenant House is here to walk alongside them, providing the support, consistency, and structure to meet and exceed their own expectations for their lives. Like Mildred, all of our staff and volunteers work to provide youth with opportunities to make healthy choices and do the difficult work of moving beyond their present trauma. And, like Mildred, we all work to teach our youth that every choice, good or bad, requires accountability and consequences.
On more than one occasion, a youth will get frustrated or tired and walk out the door, but a defining characteristic of structure is consistency, and our doors remain consistently open. We are here to welcome young people back to the safety and reliability of the structure found within these walls. We cannot build a future FOR our young people, but we can certainly build one WITH them. And every good builder knows that in order for something to stand the test of time, it’s got to have a solid structure.
I have always thought it was a beautiful blessing to follow in my mother’s footsteps through my career at Covenant House. She introduced me to this amazing work and taught me unconditional love and support, which is the hallmark of Covenant House's mission and work with youth. Her commitment to this mission has motivated me and the many youth she worked with throughout her career. Not only did she provide structure, but she amplified unconditional love for those who needed it most. To her and all the amazing mothers and women who are are champions, mentors, friends, and teachers: thank you and Happy Mother’s Day!
1. Ryan, Kevin & Kelley, Tina. (2012). Almost Home: Helping Kids Move from Homelessness to Hope. Hoboken, NJ. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.