Robin Ritter says her first life journey was getting married, starting her own family and the blessings of motherhood.
The second was her relationship with God.
Her third significant journey is with Uniquely Yours Stability Support where she currently works as Chief Executive Officer.
For her vision and community work, Ritter has been named one of the Tribune's 20 Pathfinders.
Uniquely Yours Stability Support (UYSS) began in 2007 to focus on the dynamics of homeless prevention and moving out of homelessness. They provide services that include community collaboration, and intelligent, planned giving to ensure long-term housing stability.
“It began many, many years ago when I found myself a divorced mom, three beautiful children, in need, and falling through service gaps -- I was compelled to ask why,” she said. “Why are there gaps? What is happening to those other families?”
Ritter prayed and reflected on these questions and experiences.
“There is no doubt in my heart, mind and soul that God not only answered my prayer, but provided me with a clear plan on what to do about it,” she said.
The concept and creation of UYSS was set, but remained in her head for many more years. “There were times I’d think about it, feeling guilty that I hadn’t done something with this gift,” she said. “I believe it was divine intervention.”
After dealing with serious spinal problems that resulted in six surgeries she longed to be productive again.
“I had worked in Omaha as a Program Specialist, allowing me to work with “at risk” adults and youths. I connected with our local Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation and used my federal ticket to work, to see if I could get reconnected to the world again,” she said.
Through this experience she was connected with Care Corps Homeless Services for a volunteer opportunity.
“Care Corps will forever have my heart and gratitude,” she said. “I believe it was in God’s plan to connect me with such an outstanding agency. Care Corps took a chance on having me and their willingness to work with my physical limitations and desire to contribute to our community.”
Ritter said Care Corps played such an important role in where she and UYSS is today.
“I started with Care Corps when they were located in the old motel, with a staff of three or four programs,” she said. “Our partnership was strong. They created a position for me. My heart was with them and I was honored to be a part of their journey.”
Ritter said the former staff, Tammy Evans as Executive Director, and Jessica Jones, Case Manager of Care Corps contributed greatly to UYSS becoming a reality.
“I was invited to write my name over a beam during the construction of their new building during the Beam Signing Event,” she said. “They were there for me during another spine surgery.”
This experience reminded Ritter once again about the gift she was given.
“I witnessed on a daily basis the need for an agency like UYSS with the philosophy of addressing service gaps identified by agencies working within the dynamics of homelessness,” she said. “Cindy Wagner, my friend, and confidant, encouraged me to put my vision of UYSS into action, where area agencies could sit around the same table, discussing how UYSS could address gaps in services within our community.”
Ritter began by reaching out to an accountant regarding the cost to start the 501-c3 nonprofit status.
“Since there was no funding available to pay the estimated $2,000, I was determined to complete and submit the application myself. In 2007 UYSS was awarded their 501-c3 status and received their first donation of $300. Due to the unique collaborative structure of the organization we were able to help many families and individuals with this donation.”
And the rest is history.
Doors opened May 1, 2014 and Ritter said they did not anticipate the magnitude of families and individuals coming through them. Because their mission didn’t allow self-referrals they quickly faced the fact that they were creating a gap in services.
“It is difficult for families to come through an agency door, share their story, and be referred to a partnering agency, only to be referred back, if needed. It was clear they were not going to the referred agencies,” she said. “UYSS’s Board of Directors quickly agreed to change our mission statement to allow both agency and self-referrals.”
From then on, anyone could walk through the doors, meet with a Community Resource Navigator, get connected with other agencies and services and/or utilize any of their services. “We rose to the demand and need for a Community Center, an inviting place where anyone was welcome,” she said.
Ritter added that although she was excited walking through the front door for the first time, she sensed that something was different.
“This time I was setting up my office and planting my roots,” she said. “I was living out my mission through UYSS. I was not alone. It wasn’t just me meeting families in random locations or agencies, trying to figure how to raise funds to help our community. I was a part of a team, all as passionate about our mission as I was.”
Although the corners they are trying to turn are wide and long, Ritter remains determined, passionate and capable of working hard for Fremont.
“UYSS belongs to this remarkable city. Fremont is strong and proud,” she said. “We have gone through growing pains and look at us now.”