Cheryl: "The Intimidator"

Emily Fischer Profile
Article by Emily Fischer
Communications Administrative Assistant

"The kids think I’m this big, intimidating person and now I just ruined my reputation!" Cheryl Bartnick said through tears as she shared during the opening program of the Auction. Her comment earned her a round of applause from the audience. During her 13 years as a placement officer, Cheryl had placed 50 teenagers at Gateway Woods because she saw the impact our staff was making through the love and care of our family model. Now, she was sharing with the very people that have helped Gateway continue in its work for over 40 years and she was full of emotional gratitude standing before them.

The kids think I’m this big, intimidating person and now I just ruined my reputation!

"While the kids are here, they have a love-hate relationship: they hate the rules, they don’t like going to church. But they like the love that they’re getting — they’re being welcomed and embraced. They don’t get that at home. The kids that come to Gateway want to come back to visit because they don’t realize how good they had it while they were here — they want to reconnect with the staff that poured into them and reached back out even after they left. My kids never go back to any of the other places they’ve been. Gateway is unique. We need Gateway. I can’t imagine a world without it."

Little did Cheryl know that standing in the crowd was a young lady whom she didn’t recognize nor expect to see. This young lady wasn’t thrilled to hear the Gateway Woods choir sing about an "Almighty, Infinite God" but was moved to tears by Cheryl’s speech and was quick to find her and give her a big hug afterwards. Why? She was one of "the kids" Cheryl had mentioned — she was on her probation caseload decades prior! She was never placed at Gateway, but Cheryl had been her probation officer. Along with the hug, she thanked Cheryl for investing in her life, her heart somehow softer now.

We had invited Cheryl to share about the impact she sees the mission of Gateway Woods making, but seeing how much Cheryl has impacted kids herself speaks volumes to the level of care she poured into them.

Thank you, Cheryl, for being a bright light to so many kids and to us here at Gateway. We can’t imagine a world without you.

Emily is currently the Communications Administrative Assistant for Gateway Woods. She has also worked as the Office Secretary.