This past Friday First Glance turned 18! Honestly, my life wouldn’t be the same without First Glance! Although I typically talk about what I’ve learned or crazy memories from the years, this year I want to talk about one of the main reasons First Glance is where it is today. A lot of people give me credit since I’m the director, but the real reason I am the Director is because of this one individual, Karen Freeman.
I met Karen when I was all of 19 years old, before First Glance was even a thought in my mind. She was old enough to be my mom, but we don’t really talk about that, mainly because she never treated me like I was a kid. She was the first person to back me when I said I wanted to host a program outside the walls of the church. Together we had a desire to do this because people who don’t go to church, don’t go to church.
It was Karen that suggested we host First Glance in Kenmore. After a few meetings with each other and a couple visits to the local community center, we were a team. Little did we know what all we would experience together over the years. On September 14th, 2000 Karen and I opened the community center doors with 4 leaders, 2 sheet pizzas and some inflatable couches. Little did we know, that night we had just founded First Glance.
From the moment we decided to start First Glance until now, I have been shocked and amazed how much Karen would teach, lead, support, and encourage me. Karen was the first volunteer who’s number I had memorized because I called her most every day. Seriously, every day. I ran most ideas, problems, and questions by her. Over time she encouraged me in my leadership skills and ownership of First Glance, while she eventually started the Teen Moms program. Although in separate roles she remained my largest support and often coached me along the way.
People often give me credit for what happened 18 years ago, but the person behind me was Karen the whole time! And so this years list of 18 goes to Karen, although there is no way to encompass all that we have experienced together over these years.
Lessons I learned from her along the way:
- To dream big. Lunches together usually ended in new, big ideas.
- To speak and communicate the vision. Karen did this well, clearly articulating how an individual fit into this major master plan of God’s.
- How to navigate upset volunteers, community members, or parents.
- How to ask bold questions to the students.
- Sadly, how to host a funeral dinner. We did more than we would like to admit.
- That bribing is a great tool to use.
- To find the joy where you can and laugh as much as possible.
- To pray when it’s hard. Because sometimes it’s the only thing we can do.
- How to keep a straight face when the task or conversation before you makes your jaw want to drop open.
- That God will give us joy and help us through the sorrow, as she battled cancer and I lost Enoch.
The fun we had:
- Post FG hot tub nights for the first two years of FG.
- A crazy night at FG that we just labeled “thong night.”
- Road trips staying up way too late with students.
- And random road trips where Karen loses the toll ticket.
- Breaking up fights, which isn’t typically fun, but there were some funny stories.
- Creating giant leaf and popcorn pits, never quite learning our lesson on how much work it was to clean up.
- Getting the bat out of Teen Moms.
- Putting our offices directly across from each other on purpose.
Through it all, so much joy, encouragement and a lifelong freindship was created.
Last year Karen stepped down as the director of Teen Moms at First Glance. The minute she told me, tears streamed down my face, and I wouldn’t let the FG staff even mention it for a solid four weeks. It’s been almost a year since God moved Karen to a different ministry (who we partner with and still is in Kenmore). It’s taken me this long to finally be able to write this post. There really are no words for all that Karen has done for me and ultimately for First Glance! So when you want to give me credit for all that has happened, know that Karen Freeman was really the catalyst of it all. And she, of course, would say that it was ALL God.
We really have had and continue to have a front row seat at what God does. I’m glad that Karen was sitting right beside me the whole time!
Noelle and a student the first year we started FG
Karen and a student right when we first started FG
Karen’s support as I won the Glass Half Full Award from the GAR Foundation
When Karen was on the front page and the girls said, “Miss Karen is on the front page and she didn’t even kill anybody”
The big Teen Moms reunion night before Karen stepped down