I have also seen the impact of this collective effort from each VIPster I’ve worked with over the years. There are too many names to list here, but regardless of whether they spent two years or ten at VIP, I have been amazed each day over the last 15 years to see how driven they are to give their best to our clients and volunteers. At such a small nonprofit, they are asked to wear many different hats and master a sometimes daunting range of legal issues. They are asked to calm clients facing pressing deadlines, to keep calling volunteers until they find a “yes,” and to problem-solve logistical challenges on a tiny budget and a heavy dose of good will. They lean on each other when staffing is tight and caseloads are high, and they celebrate each other’s professional wins and personal achievements. They are, truly, a team of VIPsters.
I cracked open a fortune cookie last week, and as happens often with fortune cookies, it did not claim to tell my future. In place of a fortune was this line:
A leader is a person you will follow to a place you wouldn’t go by yourself.
That, it struck me, is what VIP is about. Sometimes, the leader is the one who manages the big picture and steers the team on its mission. Sometimes, it’s the frontline case manager who speaks with clients and volunteers every day and sees a way to make a part of the process better. Sometimes, it’s the colleague you go to down the hall (or these days, message in Teams) just to share your frustrations but walk away from with a renewed focus and a solution you hadn’t seen. Leaders tend to lurk around every corner at VIP. I hope I have inspired some of my colleagues over the years to follow me to a place they wouldn’t have gone by themselves. It is far too many to count the number of times I have followed them, and I’m grateful and in their debt for their leadership, in whatever form it took, and for making VIP the place that I am honored to call home.
Kelly Gastley is currently the Managing Attorney at Philadelphia VIP. She graduated from William and Mary School of Law in 2005 and has worked as a VIPster since. Learn more about Kelly.