The Gifford Newsletter

Summer 2022
Building Mental Health Into Your Work

Banner photo courtesy of David’s Refuge

David’s Refuge Has a New Mantra:

Self Care Isn’t Selfish

When imagining the various roles that await us life, we often think about what it means to be a parent, an employee, a romantic partner. All of us will experience some or all of these relationships, and are conditioned from childhood to prepare for them. Yet there is another role that nearly all of us will eventually undertake but that is rarely discussed until it falls into our lap: being a caregiver. Recognizing the strain that such a responsibility entails, David’s Refuge provides support to caregivers of children with special needs or life-threatening medical conditions.

Overcoming Fear of the Unknown

For much of her life, Sheila Austin was deeply afraid of Syracuse’s South Side and the people who live there. So much so, that she would take long, circuitous routes to avoid even driving through the neighborhood. Fast forward to the present, where she happily works within that community six days a week. She knows the streets, the buildings, and is on a first name basis with many residents. “I feel like I’m home,” she says as she puts her blinker on and turns onto South Salina St.

Sheila’s personal evolution has not only transformed her own life, but has revealed important lessons that fundamentally impact the way in which services are delivered at her agency, Road to Emmaus Ministry of Syracuse. By recognizing people’s fear of the unknown, she has created systems that build trust and compassion between staff and participants.

Sheena Solomon is the Executive Director of The Gifford Foundation.

Broadening Perspectives: The Power of Perception

Every public facing organization plays a role in shaping the self-perceptions of those we serve. This impacts not only their mental health, but also our own ability to fulfill our mission successfully. I hope everyone reading this will join me in recognizing the role of perception in their work, and embracing the chance to leverage it for the better.

Youth Spotlight: Nytasia’s Health and Wellness Dance Club

At just 24 years old, Nytasia Survia formed her own dance club to teach girls ages 6 – 18 how to process painful emotions and express themselves creatively. A recent “What If…” Mini Grant has helped her to continue growing the program. “It has gotten way bigger than I thought it was going to be,” says Survia.

Layla’s Got You

Many people will reach a time in their lives when they begin to seek out ways to give back to their community and help others overcome the challenges that they themselves have faced. In the cases of Ashley Homer, Jaiyah Pierce, and Ja’Rhea Dixon – this calling came early. Ranging from 16 to 25 years of age, these three women began working together as ambassadors for the Layla’s Got You initiative with the goal of providing resources, motivation, and support to other young women across the City of Syracuse.

More Strategic Inspiration!

Employee Self-Care

This guide from the Workforce Institute offers 10 recommendations for how employers can reduce stress and burnout among employees.

Developing Empathy

A collection of strategies and activites for emphathizing and communicating better with others, courtesy of

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