Thoughts from Youth Outlook Executive Director Nancy Mullen as we remember our longtime volunteer and friend Lorrie Lane Brenneman:
Changing lives is one of those things Youth Outlook staff get to do on a regular basis. Now let me tell you about someone who is exceptionally good it.
Lorrie Brenneman came to volunteer at Youth Outlook in 2005. She was recovering from chemotherapy and was wearing a colorful scarf on her head the night we interviewed. She told me she was nervous, wondering if the kids would react negatively to her scarf. I told her that as accepting and friendly as our youth tend to be, she could probably lose the scarf and show up at group and just be bald. And the kids would be fine.
From that moment, Lorrie has gone on to be one of the key people in educating our youth and our colleagues on healthy relationships, the very foundation of safe space. At first she volunteered. Then we developed more formal programming with the YWCA to share Lorrie. We got her 2 nights per month as part of her regular job in a program we named Y-Link.
When funding for Y-Link was no longer available, Lorrie continued to run groups twice a month, again as a volunteer, telling me, “Nancy, you can’t make me go away.”
It hasn’t mattered where we’ve needed her. “Lorrie, we’ve got a kid in Geneva who needs a 1:1 with you.” And off she went. “Lorrie, we need to some education for the whole group in DeKalb.”
And off she went.
“Lorrie, I need to send a speaker to Mutual Ground to talk about advocating for transgender individuals who are sexually assaulted.”
And off she went.
There has yet to be a project I can’t call upon Lorrie to take on or a county I can’t ask her to visit. But where you would see Lorrie’s impact the most, in a way that makes it just crystal clear who she is within Youth Outlook, is at Tuesday night group when she has been away for a few weeks. At that time, you would see numerous kids in the room come to attention and immediately launch themselves at her to hug her and welcome her back, because they know as we all know, she brings a light to our space and it’s just not the same without Lorrie.”
Her impact was profound and her legacy of compassion and kindness has created a ripple effect that continues today in our drop in centers. We remember Lorrie today, two years after we lost her, with a smile and a tear and a grateful heart for all she brought to Youth Outlook.