Latoya Bingham

There’s a simple reason why Latoya Bingham has worked here for five years: she fell in love with Mercy Home.

Latoya joined the Mercy Home family as a MercyWorker in 2014, after hearing about the program at a job fair at her school. She fell in love with the MercyWorks program, too.

“I immediately fell in love with this idea of community, working for an agency that really focused on youth that really needed people to support them, especially in the Chicagoland area, and I really didn’t know what I wanted to do after undergrad so I felt like it was a great starting point,” she said.

Latoya worked as a care manager in the AfterCare department during her year of service and knew that she wanted to pursue a career in social work.

“I felt like I grew so much professionally during that year,” she said. “I learned a lot of what it looks like [to work] in the social work field and it solidified my passion more.”

The year with MercyWorks not only solidified Latoya’s passion for social work, it also allowed her to explore each of MercyWorks’ core values, particularly spirituality. She and the other MercyWorkers visited churches around the city and met with Manager of Spiritual Development Marc Velasquez to grow spiritually.

“I learned how to live with other cultures, people from different walks of life, I was challenged, and those challenges truly did help me understand how beautifully unique the world is,” she said.

“And that year changed my life because I was able to truly discover who I was as a person and where I stood at the time … and that solidified where my passion was and how I wanted to go about obtaining that.”

She also knew she wanted to stay at Mercy Home long-term, so she took a job as a youth care worker in Seton Home for three years. That time was full of learning experiences, including how to work as a team and use different ideas to support the kids here. During this time, she also enrolled in college to receive her master’s degree in social work.

“I learned how to live with other cultures, people from different walks of life, I was challenged, and those challenges truly did help me understand how beautifully unique the world is.”

As she grew closer to completing her degree, Latoya began contemplating her time in AfterCare and knew she wanted to return to that department.

“I realized that AfterCare was one of the main reasons as to why I truly felt that work in the community was so important [and] I always had a notion [that] I wanted to come back to AfterCare,” she said. “There’s something about this place that’s magical.”

Three months before graduating, a position in AfterCare opened up—a care manager, the same position she was in years ago as a MercyWorker.

“I applied for it and I got the job, it was like a full circle,” she said. “I came back to the position that I started in, it’s pretty cool.”

As a care manager, Latoya works mainly with AfterCare members who are scholars and attending school. She checks in with them weekly, seeing if they need support with classwork, school materials, asking about their mental health, and making sure they are doing okay financially.

“Most of them are not close to family, they’re pretty far [away], so having that support system while they’re away is really helpful,” she explained. “Some of them are shy so they don’t really talk to anybody on campus, so to have somebody to check in with them about their week or their day really does make a big difference for them.”

Because Latoya has worked in both program and AfterCare, she has a unique perspective that allows her to support former residents more effectively.

“One unique thing about being a part of AfterCare is that the team all shares a mutual understanding of the importance of making sure that one, we can’t function as a program unless we all are in it and committed to what our mission is.”

“I’ve seen 180s happen right in front of my eyes,” she said.

“It does a lot for the relationships … here. It helps individuals not have to retell their story … because I already have, the majority of the time, the context of who they are and what they’ve been through.”

Latoya’s favorite part of working at Mercy Home is her coworkers, particularly those in the AfterCare department.

“One unique thing about being a part of AfterCare is that the team all shares a mutual understanding of the importance of making sure that one, we can’t function as a program unless we all are in it and committed to what our mission is,” she said. “So we all have different valuable strengths that we bring to the table, we embrace individuality, we challenge each other lovingly, and it’s not ill will. … I feel like the support in AfterCare is so contagious that you can feel it as soon as you walk through the door. We really embrace just being compassionate and just allowing people to feel wanted.”

She also added that Mercy Home is a wonderfully unique workplace because its coworkers are not seen just as workers, but as people.

“They honor your birthday, they honor unique traits that you possess, and they actually help you build off that,” she said. “The fact that we have [resources like the] strengths finder and Kolbe is just amazing because it goes to show that you are important to this agency and we want use you not only just for work purposes but for your talents because we understand that without acknowledging and recognizing these things, what is good is the work that we’re doing?”

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