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Gerald Davis Jr. Gerald Davis Jr. excels at giving back. Not only does the BSW/MSW alumnus have a full-time position working in foster care and adoptions with The Bair Foundation, he also currently serves as Director of Hannah House and as a BSW field instructor and MSW site preceptor. Davis puts his social work degrees to work every day in a variety of capacities, and his enthusiasm shows no signs of flagging.

Before stepping in as Director, Davis served on the Board of Advisors for Hannah House. Despite being a volunteer role, the Director position is no small task. Hannah House is a program of Christ Central Ministries Inc. that serves women and children in Columbia. More than a shelter, Hannah House offers assistance with job placement, child care, and housing, as well as workshops on topics like professional development and personal finance.

Hannah House isn’t just about solving homelessness—it’s “a second chance at life,” explains Davis. Hannah House staff “give the ladies empowerment and life skills to have a new start.” CoSW students contribute to this mission by aligning the women’s needs with local resources. When Davis works with MSW students, he ensures that they have a strong foundation in case management in addition to a working knowledge of available resources. “We don’t want students to just know about Hannah House, but about other organizations as well,” he notes. Davis works to “get interns to see other resources in the community” in order to better meet the clients’ needs. Student interns might find themselves connecting with a wide array of other programs as they work with women on issues related to drug abuse, housing, intimate partner violence, and more.

When asked where he finds the time to hold such an important position in addition to a full-time job, Davis asserts, “my passion in life is community engagement.” Davis loves ministry and giving back to his community. “I wanted to get into a Christian-based organization; I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives,” he states, and he believes his work at Hannah House allows him to do that in a way that reaches many lives. He recounts the story of how Hannah House and partner organizations were able to help a woman and her boyfriend overcome drug addiction simultaneously—now they are happily married. Another client, a single mother, was able to achieve stability and regained guardianship of her daughter and they now live in a two-bedroom apartment. His role at Hannah House is a volunteer one, but “my paycheck comes from the success stories,” he says.

Davis reflects that the opportunities for group work set him up to succeed in his leadership role at Hannah House. Davis knew he wanted to take on some kind of administrative role one day, and his coursework taught him about operations and budgeting while still building on his ability to work with individuals. In one MSW class, “we did a grant proposal, and we were able to look at our community and how we could attain a grant to help that community or a program,” he recalls. Not only was that particular group project incredibly practical and applicable to his current role, but “the group work is the best because you learn not only from your skill set but from others as well.” Davis values his time in the CoSW that taught him to learn from others and to see his own strengths and weaknesses.

He translates what he learned in group assignments to his work at Hannah House. “Everybody is different,” says Davis, “so you have to approach every situation differently.” Each woman at Hannah House must be treated as an individual, and “you have to get on their level and find out their needs—the client is the expert, you’re not the expert on their situation.” Taking off the “expert hat,” as Davis terms it, is difficult because “as a social worker you want to solve everything.” But he insists that the client must be allowed to lead. At Hannah House, “we try to get them to be self-sufficient, and they can’t be self-sufficient if you’re always being the expert,” he says. The goal is not to problem-solve but to facilitate.

Davis gained knowledge and skills in his BSW and MSW programs that he brings to his work every day. His most valuable lesson, though, is this: “Social work comes from the heart.”

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