Every month, we’ll be featuring an interview with a different HUB Community Health Worker (CHW). Check out this month’s spotlight with Somerset County native Christy Berzonski, employed by HUB care coordination agency Alleghenies United Cerebral Palsy.
Tell us about yourself.
I am a mother of three with a boy and two girls. I was a young mother at 21. I always wanted to be a mother, but never knew what I wanted to do with my life. I was a nursing assistant for a year and then did retail for over 20 years. I went back to school in my 30’s and got a certificate in coding and billing. My real passion, though, all these years has been helping people. My husband had cancer when he was in his early 20’s, and I learned real fast what a great community I had living in Somerset County. Friends and strangers came together to raise money for my family since my husband couldn’t work. People we didn’t know were sending us gift cards and dropping off food. It was then that I decided Cancer was my main outreach. I wanted to give back to the community that helped me, that was also going through this terrible disease. So I started fundraising. I have helped kids with cancer and adults by organizing bike runs, basket parties, spaghetti dinners, Walmart Heart program, and painting parties. I enjoyed searching for resources and meeting new people and learning their stories. We all have a story or a purpose and I believe mine is to help others. I encourage my daughter, Analeigh, to do the same by taking her for volunteer opportunities with Johnstown Food Truck and Windber Community Kitchen. I also love to scrapbook because I feel they tell your family story and I love capturing memories.
What drew you to the CHW position in the first place?
When I learned of this position, I was drawn to it. They wanted someone from the community for the community. It didn’t require a degree. They wanted someone who has walked similar walks and that could pull experiences and relate to the participant. I am a mother, so what better way to relate! I also had to use a lot of the same resources when I had my first two children and again when my husband got cancer. I am excited to make an impact and empower these women. I loved that we aren’t telling them what to do, but listening to them and putting them in charge of their own life plan. We are just there to give them the tools to accomplish the things they want.
What are some examples of things you’ve accomplished with your clients so far?
So far, I have been able to connect pregnant women to a Primary Care Provider (PCP), arrange reliable transportation, collect baby items, and provide food security resources. I am enjoying meeting the participants and developing a trusting relationship with them. Of course, getting to hold the babies is a plus, too! [A few participants have recently had their babies.]
What is the most challenging part of being a CHW so far?
The hardest part of this job is hitting a roadblock: To find a gap in resources or have a safety concern and not be able to instantly protect them.
What do you feel is the most important quality for a CHW to bring to the table when working with a client?
I think to be a community health worker you have to have empathy, a big heart, and an open ear. You need to be able to see things from their point of view as if it were happening to you. It’s up to you to do your part to improve things and be relatable.