Our union is only as strong as our relationships with the people in our communities. That’s why every three years at our convention, our union recognizes a member who has done an outstanding job being an advocate for his or her local community. This year, the A. Philip Randolph-Hubert H. Humphrey Award is presented to Cassandra Butler, who exemplifies the volunteer spirit both in and outside work.
Besides balancing her assignment as a full-time Social Security Administration employee and her many union duties, everywhere she goes, Cassandra is always looking for ways to help those in need in her community. And those in need are often young, homeless people who do not have any type of support system to help them deal with difficult situations like drug addiction, pregnancies, mental illness, and domestic violence.
When Cassandra began working as a claims representative in the SSA Spokane field office in 2006, she worked for 10 years with pregnant and parenting homeless young women at Alexandria’s House through the Volunteers of America. On top of her full-time job, she spent 40 hours a week helping these young mothers learn the basic skills needed to be a good parent, get through school, and get employed.
When she moved to Seattle in August 2015 with a promotion to Quality Review Analyst at the Office of Quality Review, it didn’t take long for her to locate new volunteer opportunities. In January 2016, she began working with homeless young adults at a group-home style transitional community residence called Friends of Youth in Kirkland, Washington. Her volunteer work involved working one-on-one with these young people to prepare them to live on their own. To get to the residence, Cassandra had to commute more than two hours each way on top of a full-time work schedule that included overnight shifts. Her level of commitment and caring is inspiring.
At the end of 2016, Cassandra made a change to another Friends of Youth facility called The Landing, an emergency shelter for young people in need. A year later, the Landing recognized her dedication and skills by offering her a paid position as program coordinator.
Cassandra found that helping people in her community helps make her a better federal employee. Both organizations she has been involved in are very connected to SSA because many young homeless people receive Supplemental Security Income because of their poverty and disability, including mental illness.
“It really kind of helps me to see the full scope of who we help and how early on SSA has an impact in young people’s lives and how important it is for the SSA system to stay right here and be available for these young people,” she said.
Asked what inspired her to help these young people, Cassandra said she herself became a mom at a young age and so she understands their struggles. Besides, her parents and brother in-law are social workers.
“I paid very close attention to the community that my children were growing up in and paid very close attention to what resources were available and what things were lacking for families and decided I was going to start to help to make that better. And moving to Seattle, the homeless crisis over here is even worse,” she explained.
Cassandra joined our union 12 years ago when she first started working at SSA after talking to a union rep who was really excited about the work of our union. She got more involved over the years and is currently serving as the executive vice president for Local 3937 and a regional vice president for Council 224.
Congratulations Cassandra for winning this well-deserved award! You are an inspiration to us all!