It was supposed to be a temporary job – just filling in for a couple of weeks at what was then Council for Children. But that two-week temp job turned into a decades long career for the Council’s Director of Administration, Carolyn Brown.
What happened? “I fell in love with what they did,” says Brown, who retired at the end of June after 30 years continuous service with Council for Children’s Rights. “I listened to them talk about their cases with such passion, treating every kid as different and unique. I just loved watching these people in action,” she says with a big grin. “What kept me wanting to be a part of it is that the torch that every single person carried seemed to have the same flame and was lit with the human spirit of kindness.”
What can you say about someone who spends 30 years at a “temporary” job serving the children of our community? A person who greets everybody she meets with a smile and a hug? A professional who makes everything work the way it should so social workers, lawyers, researchers, policy analysts, volunteers, and advocates can restore individual childhoods and reform the systems serving children?
“Thank you” is a great place to start. To celebrate Carolyn’s retirement and to thank her for her dedicated service to the Council, over 120 friends, staff, volunteers, and former colleagues gathered at the Children & Family Services Center for a farewell reception on June (View photos here).
Former board member Barbara Spradling, who has known Carolyn since her earliest days at the Council, spoke of the effect Carolyn has had on so many over the years. “..The one word [that] describes Carolyn best for me is ‘bright.’ Yes, she is really smart but mostly she is the ‘sun kind’ of bright that is warm and makes you happy…..She gives me, and gives us all, the incredible gift of herself.”
When announcing Carolyn’s decision to retire, executive director Bob Simmons remarked, “Former President Barack Obama once said “A change is brought about because ordinary people do extraordinary things.” I’m not sure I would call Carolyn Brown “ordinary” but in her quiet, determined way she has done extraordinary things for this agency and for the children we serve for nearly 30 years.”
Which made her decision to leave difficult for all, he continued. “Difficult for her because she has poured her heart and soul into this work and knows that there is still much work to be done. Difficult for us because it is hard to imagine the Council without Carolyn steering us all behind the scenes.”
That behind the scenes steering is what Carolyn herself describes as “what I do best; taking care of those who are out there doing the work, taking care of the details and making sure things were running smoothly. They had so many other pressures,” she adds, “I could take that burden off their shoulders.”
Looking back, she says without hesitation that the best part of this job has been “the people. The absolute best people in Charlotte came through these doors,” she adds. “I loved the camaraderie. The hallway debates. These people would do anything for the children.”
What will retirement hold? More time for travel with her husband Stan, more time to concentrate and help with their real estate business, and, best and most important of all, more time to devote to being Grandma to Abby, her first grandchild born last year. She promises she won’t ever be far away and will visit often and stay connected.
As she enters into this new adventure, we wish her all the very best. It seems more than fitting that we should offer her the last word as she parts. On her final day at the Council, Carolyn shared her thoughts with the staff, concluding with these words of encouragement and challenge and shared here with her permission:
“As I embark on this new life-style that everyone tells me is going to be wonderful; I want to believe that you all will fan the flames in the hearts of your co-workers and keep everyone compassionate. I want to believe that you all will remain genuine and will hold your peers accountable for the outcomes facing the children. I want to believe that you won’t stop until you have fixed everything and we are no longer needed. I want to believe that you will be inspired by the little changes you make. I want to believe that you will never throw in the towel before making a huge different in kids’ lives. I want to believe that I am certainly a better person because I worked with people who cannot and will not give up the fight because change is possible.” — Carolyn Brown