Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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Bonnie Deabler retires after 19 years of service to young parents through CAPA program
the Inland Register
(From the Oct. 2, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
Bonnie Deabler retired last month after nearly two decades with Catholic Charities’ Childbirth and Parenting Alone program. (IR photo courtesy of Catholic Charities)
On Sept. 16, after the 12th annual Caring for Kids luncheon, Bonnie Deabler retired as head of Catholic Charities’ Childbirth and Parenting Alone (CAPA) program.
Since 1989, Deabler has been a strong and nurturing presence at Catholic Charities. She began as a counselor with CAPA, running educational workshops, providing counseling for young single parents, and helping with the clothing bank. In 1993 Deabler was chosen to be the director of the program. At one point she was also the director of St. Anne Children and Family Center, meaning she was running the childcare as well as overseeing CAPA. Those were two very big hats for one person to wear, but Deabler handled it ably.
Also in 1993, Deabler started the Doula Project, which matches volunteers from the community as mentors for single mothers. She has been selflessly dedicated to making CAPA more visible in the community so that single parents will have a support network.
“There are a lot of women out there who need assistance,” Deabler said, “and people need to know that they’re trying their very best amid the changes in their lives. I want people to know how hard the CAPA moms are working to make things better.” To that end, Deabler has gone to events to tout the program and written grants to help fund it. At the same time she supervised employees and took care of administrative duties.
“She’s a true servant-leader,” says Sandy Maher, who has worked with Deabler for 14 years. “She’s very empowering.”
CAPA counselor Libby Hein adds, “She gives us space to do our jobs, and at the same time she’s there as a resource and a support. She respects our capabilities.”
Deabler is equally supportive of the program’s clients. “I love the moms and babies,” she said. “They’re the best part of the job!” What these young mothers need most is support – “not necessarily things, but the gift of friendship and nonjudgmental support,” she said.
The giving of those gifts, Deabler declares, is what she has found so satisfying about working for Catholic Charities.
“I love the way Catholic Charities lives up to their values and mission,” she said. “The four core values – respect, collaboration, compassion, and justice – they’re not just something you stick up on the wall. They really are what drive the agency.”
She says that she appreciates the way Catholic Charities is so open to providing help without judging. “We get a lot of appropriate support from within the agency and from the parishes, who love what we do and help in whatever way they can,” said Deabler.
The very best thing, though, is when “a woman comes back after a few years and says, ‘You have no idea the impact you made on me. I’m such a better person in terms of my parenting skills and the goals I’ve reached in life because of what you gave us as a family,’” she said. Another thrill that comes with the job is simply being able to provide a nurturing atmosphere. “I love it when a young mom comes and sits in the office, not really wanting anything except to be there, sitting on the sofa, and absorbing the feeling of safety and love that she maybe doesn’t get anywhere else. That’s really rewarding.”
Hein says that one of Deabler’s greatest gifts is her understanding. It is clear that that gift has conveyed a message of unconditional love to a great many uncertain young mothers over the last 19 years. Deabler has also conveyed her values and priorities through living them. “She has always had the staff put family first,” Hein said, “and that’s great role-modeling for our clients and volunteers.”
Bonnie Deabler will be sorely missed.