Welcome to our our Team Member Spotlights! Our team has been changing and growing this past year, which is why we wanted to re-introduce our team members to you, and give you a closer look at who's behind the wheel here at YFFR. We hope you enjoy this monthly blog series.
Title: Chief Training Officer, Outreach and Communication Director
As Chief Training Officer, I am responsible for reaching out to departments and/or responding to departments who inquire about hosting a YFFR Instructor School.
I work with them to get dates that work with the department and our team, get contracts signed and then basically make sure the training happens by opening registration, arranging travel for our team, making sure all the supplies we need get to the training location, and making sure everyone is where they're supposed to be when they're supposed to be there (sometimes known as herding cats).
As Outreach and Communications Director, I answer all the emails that come in through our website (firstname.lastname@example.org). I get tons of questions about different aspects of YFFR and I make sure everyone gets a personalized reply from a real person.
I grew up in Lee's Summit, MO and went to Mizzou where I earned a Bachelors degree in Fisheries and Wildlife. I ended up moving to KS where it was really hard to get a job in my degree field. I kept being told I needed law enforcement experience (I was a police dispatcher at the time) so I applied to work for patrol for the KU Public Safety Office.
It didn't take long for me to realize I loved being a police officer
(and I still got to handle a few wildlife calls). After a few years, I was hired by the Lawrence KS Police Department where I really got to spread my wings. In my time at LKPD, I taught Standardized Field Sobriety testing, was a Field Training Officer (FTO), was on peer support and helped pilot the Mental Health Team.
I also earned a Masters degree in Organizational Leadership from Fort Hays State University. I ended up having to take a medical retirement due to an off duty car accident so now I'm a stay at home dog mom and work with YFFR.
My human sidekick is Eric. He is a firefighter with a local agency and attended YFFR training in Pflugerville, TX last year. My furry sidekicks are Yogi Mills, Mickey, Zoey, Raven, and Armstrong. They're all rescues and they're all seniors. We have a soft spot for senior dogs. We took in our first senior in 2018 after our dog, Zephyr, passed away and I found a rescue that takes in senior dogs from kill shelters where they would normally be considered unadoptable due to their age. I'm also a sucker for hospice dogs and we've had a few of those.
Do you consider yourself a "Yogi"?
Well, I have been practicing yoga regularly since around 2004. I had a pretty steady practice, including attending yoga teacher training, until my accident in February of 2019. Now my practice looks different, but I still consider myself a yogi. I don't do as much asana practice because of my injuries but there's a lot more to yoga than just the postures. I'm still figuring it all out!
I started my journey with YFFR because I wanted to be able to give my brothers and sisters in blue a way to be proactive about dealing with the stress from the job.
While my department had given us some different tools, they were all reactive--used after something happened--and mainly consisted of debriefs and talk therapy, which LEOs aren't real hip to, or they only pointed out the problem without offering a viable solution.
I attended the Des Moines teacher training in October 2017 and did the first 3 days (full training is 6 days), because I wasn't sure the department would be on board quite yet and I was funding my participation myself. When I returned, I learned that a Captain was interested in putting the program in place and I was teaching by November.
I returned to the Chicago training in 2018 to complete the last 3 days of Instructor School. I also participated as a squad leader. I realized that by being more involved with YFFR, being a squad leader and eventually a teacher, I could make a real difference. We call it a ripple effect, that extends way out from just my department. Since I've had to retire, I see YFFR as a way to continue to be of service to my community.
I have enjoyed the 20-minute daily practice, because I can do all of it without much modification due to my injuries. I'm also digging the 10-minute hip opener that came out recently, too.
Something Unique About Me:
Could be a love of Halloween that includes my house being decorated with skulls and skeletons all year long. Could be a love of haunted places that helps fuel vacation adventures. Could be my love of metal yard art...including the giant metal spider that lives in my front yard. Oh, and I have a clown alter-ego named Mister Tickles. Hard to pick one!
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor:
We don't normally keep ice cream in the house so when there's a craving, it's almost always for a Reese's peanut butter cup Blast from Sonic.
I don't watch a whole lot of TV but if I have the TV on and Big Bang Theory is on, I'm probably watching it...if Ghost Hunters isn't on that is.
We hope you enjoyed getting to know Sara. Stay tuned for our next Team Member Spotlight in September.
- The YFFR Team