Behind the Scenes: Walnut Avenue Family and Women’s Center

I’m a Santa Cruz resident since 2010, but originally from Pittsburgh, PA. I’m the Executive Director of Walnut Avenue Family & Women’s Center, and also a licensed clinical psychologist. I enjoy baking, reading, yoga, all things outdoor, and finding new ways to entertain and educate my twin 2 1/2 year old identical twin boys.
 
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When did you begin working with WAFWC and what drew you to this organization?
I was hired at Walnut Avenue in August of 2015. I had been working in the nonprofit world since 2008 but commuting to San Mateo from Santa Cruz those last 2 years. I was thrilled when the job posting came out while I was on maternity leave and I was committed to working closer to my babies. Walnut Avenue offered everything I was looking for in a job- the opportunity to become more a part of the Santa Cruz Community, working with a gifted group of passionate helping professionals, and supporting women and families to overcome life challenges and achieve their goals. I was able to use both my passion for nonprofit management and my clinical expertise in one setting!  And the ten minute commute is just the icing on the cake!
 
Aside from the yearly monetary donation, what are you most excited about the connection between She.is.beautiful’s connection to WAFWC?
There is nothing quite like the energy of the SIB race day! Sara and Melissa are amazing and inspirational and they help create a spirit of resilience, empowerment and love of self that I have not experienced in any other event. It is one day, but it changes your outlook on your entire life (and forces you to get out there and train!!). I am most excited about creating a similar spirit of joy for life and feminine empowerment attitude throughout Walnut Avenue. In the day-to-day grind of making a nonprofit run, it is important to remember why we do it- so that women and families have opportunities to not just live, but to thrive! And sometimes we need a little help reviving that spark back into the work. For myself- just to be running with that massive group of like-minded yet tremendously diverse women, reading the inspirational signs and contributing to the love and energy of the day is a reminder of why I do the work. Women are naturally such care givers and healers, but they need events like this in their lives so they take back a little love and strength for themselves and by being that little bit selfish, they become even more strong and capable and available to be there for others.
 
Julie in front of sign
You are a mom of twins- AMAZING! Did you run, walk, or jog, before or during your pregnancy?
I have always prioritized exercise in my life and before I got pregnant, I had been jogging three times a week for many years in parallel with a yoga practice. My husband and I tried for many years to be pregnant and I am an older mama, so when we finally got the good news, and I was declared a “high risk pregnancy”, (both because of age and because we were expecting twins), I was extremely careful and chose to stop jogging throughout my pregnancy. Then when Asher and Sawyer came along, I was simply too exhausted and overwhelmed to find time for myself (every available moment alone was a time to catch up on sleep)! This year’s SIB race is special because it marks the year I finally figured out how to carve that me-time back into my life (after 3 years of being primarily a mommy). 
 
We look forward to having you participate in the race this year and we love that you have started to train for the event. How do you believe running again, after having twins, what do you feel this movement will bring to your life?
It is wonderful to be running again. I am reminded of the beauty of the Santa Cruz neighborhood where I live. I get to run to the Lighthouse and greet the ocean. I get to be reminded that I am not just Julie-ED of Walnut Avenue, and Julie-mom of twins, but that also I am a woman with my own needs and my own goals and dreams. I am reminded that in order to be the best mom, partner, and ED I can be, I must fill my own cup up with love and joy and not burn myself out. This movement reminds me that I am not alone, that I am a part of a tribe of amazing women doing amazing work, but remembering to nurture themselves along the way.
 
What is one professional and one personal goal you have for yourself in 2018?

Professionally, for the past 2.5 years, I have been really focused inwardly on the organization. Over the next year I intend to spend more time focused outwardly; seeing how Walnut Avenue can be an active force in the community, not just helping one individual or family at a time, but also helping to shape the laws and culture as it applies to much needed social services for families. Personally, I want to keep up the jogging routine and get to the point where I feel strong enough to push the boys along with me (that’s an extra 60 lbs.!!). And of course I want to be the best mom I can be without burning the candle from both ends! I feel great privilege and obligation to raise boys who will respect and honor themselves and their bodies and likewise the selves and bodies of all others.

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