She knows what it’s like to think outside of the box to get families moving in the right direction
Bethlehem, Pa. – When YAP Northampton/Lehigh Counties Family Support Specialist Cheryl Hopkins learned about Zeneida Torres and her family, she knew what she had to do. For the past 25 years, Hopkins has helped families facing complex challenges by being creative and resourceful.
Torres, a mother of four, recently adopted her three nephews after her sister died of COVID-19 last year. She moved from New Jersey to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and then was connected to YAP. Hopkins immediately kicked into high gear to help Torres who is unable to work because she has no childcare for her young nephews who all have special needs.
“What (Zeneida) has taken on is amazing,” Hopkins said. “She made a promise to her sister and she is going to see it through no matter what. We have a very strong connection with Northampton Family Children and Youth. They know they can send their hard cases to us and we will do our very best to figure out a way to get families moving in the right direction.”
Torres is thankful to Hopkins who came up with the idea to create a Go Fund Me page to help the family obtain a larger vehicle to accommodate the large family. The page has raised almost $20,000 in donations.
“(Cheryl) has been a really big help in directing me in the right direction,” Torres said. “She’s a really sweet lady and I can call her whenever and she is always available.”
Hopkins said sometimes they hear of tragic stories and is in awe of how resilient families are in overcoming situations that almost seem impossible. Joining the YAP staff in 1996, Hopkins was first in as a part-time therapeutic staff support role before becoming a specialist and then director in June 2007. The 70 year-old stepped down as director in April 2021 and became a part-time family support specialist.
“I wasn’t ready to just stop and retire completely,” Hopkins said. “I am back doing what I love the most. The responsibilities of administration is so time consuming and my love is working out in the community with the families.”
YAP came together to help the Torres family, Hopkins said, adding that Jessica Stadt, Chief of Philanthropic Engagement at YAP, was instrumental in trying to find the Torres family a car, and the family was also featured in The Morning Call.
“At YAP, we all work together and well,” Hopkins said. “Not everybody is ready to move forward. It’s not like we succeed with every family that we work with, but it’s not for lack of trying. One of the things that makes (YAP) so effective is the fact that we meet with the families where they are at and try to find out from them what do they need and what’s important.”
Hopkins, who is originally from Montana, served in the Army for four years where she met her husband. The couple have lived in Pennsylvania for 40 years. Prior to working for YAP, Hopkins taught physical education in Catholic schools before returning to college to earn a master’s degree in education with a certificate in secondary school counseling.
“I plan to do this for a couple of years, as long as I am effective,” Hopkins said. “It’s a case like this that keeps people working to help families move in a better direction.”