With every change in life, comes reason for celebration! We are thrilled to welcome Sr. Meaghan Patterson, SSJ MSW as the new Executive Director of Dawn's Place. We sat down to talk with her about her background, her plans for Dawn's Place, and what inspires her to continue striving toward healing and recovery for residents. Below, you can find a glimpse of what we learned and the wonderful things to come at Dawn's Place!
Sr. Meaghan is a Sister of St. Joseph and joins Dawn's Place from a rich background in the field of education. She has served as a teacher, an assistant principal and most recently, a principal at a Catholic school in North Philadelphia. Her twenty years in education, serving as both a teacher and an administrator have prepared her well for the time, energy, and attention required to run a complex organization like Dawn's Place.
A native of Philadelphia, Sr. Meaghan grew up in Northeast Philadelphia, attended Presentation BVM for grade school, and went to Cardinal Dougherty for high school. She is a graduate of Chestnut Hill College, with degrees from Eastern University and Fordham University. She currently lives in Chestnut Hill, PA.
When we asked Sr. Meaghan why she was interested in taking on this role, she shared that, while she loved her job in education, she had started to hit a point where she was asking herself to think more deeply about what she loved most about her role. In doing so, she realized that what she really loved was working with the families. As her school shifted to virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sr. Meaghan got a lot of hands-on experience in helping families to access much-needed resources. Serving her community was what she really loved.
Thus, she decided to pursue a Master's degree in social work, and just graduated with her MSW in December of 2021. Ready to put her new degree to use, she was intrigued by Dawn's Place's mission. Indeed, she had volunteered at Dawn's Place when it first opened. She remembered that, when she first walked in, she "just fell in love with the atmosphere and the culture". She saw so many possibilities for building long-lasting relationships, providing love and care to residents, and being the support system that so many women need to heal from the trauma of trafficking.
Now that she is the Executive Director, she is learning as much as she can about its history, its present, and possibilities for an even more promising future. She is particularly interested in understanding how to cultivate strong feelings of safety at Dawn's Place, such that anyone - no matter what their religion - might feel welcomed and supported.
To do so, Sr. Meaghan is asking a lot of questions and doing a lot of listening. She is spending time talking with staff about what they love about working at Dawn's Place and what they want to make sure to preserve in the culture moving forward. She's also asking about what staff would like to see improved. So far, staff and residents both agree that Dawn's Place has been - and will continue - doing great and wonderful work. In other words, Dawn's Place "walks the walk" of creating a healing environment for survivors. Yet, the world is trying to figure out how to go back to normal after COVID-19 - and Dawn's Place will need to do so as well. Sr. Meaghan is looking to the future by thinking about how to re-incorporate volunteers into Dawn's Place, and how to bring people back together safely to continue delivering on our mission.
On a personal note, Sr. Meaghan has 5 nieces and spending time with them is one of her favorite things. Specifically, she loves baking with them the most! On the weekends, she tries to spend time with them, and with her family in general. She is also an avid reader and has a great social life. She loves to connect with friends from high school or college, especially trying new restaurants. She is full of enthusiasm for life - and she brings that energy to Dawn's Place!
Overall, Sr. Meaghan wants to emphasize that she recognizes and honors the great work that has been done at Dawn's Place already. Her goal is to carry on the legacy of the original founders of Dawn's Place, and the many religious congregations that have contributed to our success thus far. Summing up these sentiments, she stated, "I want to bridge the past of where we have been, the present, and the future of where we need to go."
We are so thrilled to be on this journey with her!