Positive Outreach
By Katie Allen Berlandi

What Does Outreach Mean to You?

Driving my kids to their activities the other day, I tossed out a question to the three of them: “When you hear the word outreach, what do you think of?” One of my daughters called out the name of the gentleman who chairs our church’s outreach program. My youngest, my four-year-old son, said, “A surprise.” And my other daughter said, “Doing something.”

Their responses (even my four-year-old’s!) reminded me that outreach means different things to different people. Yet we all seem to understand that at its heart, outreach involves extending ourselves, our talents, our resources, in some way.

Take the afternoon I was in the supermarket parking lot unloading a cart full of groceries, trying to find space for everything in the back of my car amid the sports equipment and other items. A stranger walked up to me. “Need help with those groceries?” he asked.

Somehow we crammed all the bags in the car. Then he took my cart back to the store. He wasn’t a supermarket employee. He was just out running errands and took a moment to engage with me, to offer help... an outreach. To this day, I remember that man and the unexpected kindness and care he showed a stranger. My four-year-old was spot on—this outreach was indeed “a surprise” and a very, very helpful and welcome one at that!

As a clinical social worker in a pediatric hospital, my role was to offer professional outreach to patients and their families before the children had surgery, as they recovered from it, as they adjusted to a diagnosis or faced new realities after an accident. With my training and professional experience, I had the clinical tools to work with these families.

What I didn’t have was what Guideposts Outreach now provides in its Comfort Kit – a blue and yellow box filled with items specially chosen to bring a hospitalized child what he or she needs as much as clinical treatment: comfort, reassurance, joy. There’s a journal, a CD of peaceful music, art materials, a stress ball, a prayer card, a stuffed toy star named Sparkle. Presenting a Comfort Kit to a child allows for a connection to be made, comfort to be given, hope to be received.

What a wonderful example of “doing something,” as my daughter put it, reaching children when they need it most. Actor and philanthropist Paul Newman once said, “A need is an opportunity to make a difference.” I can promise you that Comfort Kits make a difference in the lives of hundreds of sick and injured children every single day—a perfect kind of outreach!

Learn more about Comfort Kits and how you can be a part of this Guideposts Outreach program.

Katheryn (Katie) Allen Berlandi is the seventh of Guideposts cofounders Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Ruth Stafford Peale’s eight grandchildren. She is a clinical social worker with a private practice focusing on children, adolescents and families, and a consultant for Guideposts and the Guideposts Foundation. Katie lives in a small town in Connecticut with her husband, two daughters and son.