In honor of March as Women’s History Month, here is the first of three posts this month on the Women of Saint Jude Retreats. Women make history each and every day in large and small ways as they pioneer new directions, care for their families and communities, and keep the world spinning.

We have chosen just three of the many dedicated Saint Jude Retreats employees who have worked the longest for the company and show compassion and strength every day. Choosing just three employees was difficult as any one of our employees brings such unique and essential qualities to their position and to the organization as a whole. Here is one of the Women of Saint Jude Retreats to get to know:

Cheryl, tell us about what you do at Saint Jude Retreats.

I have held numerous positions within the company, including being a Program Presenter, a Director of Education, Interim Director of the Retreat Houses, Senior Director of Operations, and Continuing Education Director (to name a few). Currently, I am the Senior Director of Curriculum Development and Implementation. This position includes training of all staff on the Saint Jude Program text, assisting the Chairman of the Board with writing assignments, and ensuring quality assurance at the retreats. I have greatly enjoyed the variety of positions as it has allowed me to becoming knowledgeable in several areas of the company.

How did you begin working for Saint Jude Retreats? Do you remember any of your first impressions from your interview, the company, or the people?

After being a stay-at-home mom for twelve years, I decided it was time to go back to work. I was looking at a local newspaper on a Saturday evening, and noticed a position in the Help Wanted section of the paper for a NYS Certified Teacher with a phone number. I called the number and someone actually answered, giving me an interview time for the following Tuesday. I went to the interview, mostly for sharpening my interview skills.

When I arrived, Rit Santelli answered the door. (Rit is currently the Focus Electives Director for Saint Jude Retreats.) My husband was part of the hiring process for Rit when he became our community’s high school principal. Rit had a very good reputation, so I began to take the possibility of working here more seriously. In fact, Rit talked me into taking the job! My initial plan was to stay for one year, and then find a position within a school district. That was eleven years ago, and I’ve never looked back!

What does being an employee of Saint Jude Retreats mean to you?

I have met incredible people while being employed here, and I absolutely know that the Saint Jude Program is changing people’s lives every day and our success rate proves it. To be a part of that is an amazing privilege and one that has made me look forward to arriving at work each day.

Why did you start working for the company in the first place?

I had never had any experience with substance use. But then I realized that the guests weren’t here to learn from somebody who was in their past realm, but rather someone who had what they wanted: happiness. And I could do that!

What or who has been your greatest influence in the company over the years and why?

Positively the guests. I have met incredible people who have become lifelong friends, and others that I will never forget.

Tell us about a situation or person that you encountered through your work that you will always remember:

It’s very hard to pick just one. There are so many that have left footprints on my heart and that I think of fondly very often!

What is one thing that you have learned through your work for Saint Jude Retreats that has served you well over the years?

I have learned that each and every person is responsible for their own happiness; no one can make someone happy or take away one’s happiness. It has helped me to “let go” of my children as they became adults, and to be selfless in doing so. And most importantly, I have learned that other people’s happiness bring me great joy.

What do you do for fun and relaxation?

I love to cook, especially for my family and friends. I love to read and to be outdoors, I especially love when I can combine the two! I love my pets very much; they effortlessly bring me joy every day. I have recently taken up going to the gym, which I enjoy very much. But above all, I cherish being with my family.

We hope you will enjoy getting to know a little more about some of our employees in this series and learn why they feel Saint Jude Retreats gives back to them as much or more than they give. We are fortunate to have such gifted, caring, and dedicated employees who give so much to the guests and the Saint Jude Retreats Program on a daily basis. Watch for our next post on Women of Saint Jude Retreats when we will feature another exceptional employee with a unique story to tell.