Notable Women of Austin: Laurie Espe shares love of working with people

Published 8:02 am Monday, February 5, 2018

By Carolyn Bogott

American Association of University Women

Laurie Espe’s  Salvation Army office is filled with evidence of the many phases of her job as case manager. Her desk, itself, is uncluttered and her warm, smiling face is just what you would want to see if your life were in turmoil.

Laurie Espe

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Laurie  gives her mother credit with inspiring her to be the person she is.  “My mother was a saint with a strong faith and a huge, giving heart.”  The best compliment Laurie ever received was when a friend of her mother’s told her that her mother would be proud of her.

When asked what brought her to this work, Laurie shared that she has always loved working with people. While working for Walmart in St. Cloud, her outstanding people skills were recognized as she was promoted to personnel manager. Upon returning home to Austin, she worked at Shopko Optical. While in that job, she was required to work weekends.  That made worshiping at Salvation Army the best fit for her son, and later for her.  She became very involved there in church and volunteer activities.  When Sherry Tabor retired as the Salvation Army case manager in 1998, Laurie was asked to replace her.

Laurie worked for 6 years before she burned out.   She then went to work part-time at Casey’s.  Some of her former clients would see her there and they would ask her to come back to work at the Salvation Army .

During the flood of 2004, she saw the great need for the services that she had formerly been giving, and she realized she had a call from God to go back to case management and, fortuitously, the position became open. Laurie has been back as case manager since 2005. She says she has gained much insight from Salvation Army seminars and webinars. One called ”Critical Stress Incident Management” has given her useful techniques to serve those in crisis, as well as to serve her own needs.

Laurie’s job as case manager involves the following long list of responsibilities. She counsels clients and she supervises distributions of the food shelf clothing, furniture, and the household items. She is also in charge of the school backpack program, as well as emergency, “last resort”, services for prescriptions, gas assistance, rent, utilities, and lodging.  Add to that list the seasonal projects of fall school supplies, Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets. Laurie credits her hardworking receptionist and her faithful volunteers with the success of the programs.  Client needs vary from time to time, but October 2017 was an all time high month for the food shelf when 332 families were served.

A Salvation Army plan for struggling families called “ Pathway of Hope” is one of the things Laurie feels is most effective in helping people. Families commit to meeting with Laurie once a week to form a specific action plan to improve their situations, as well as to evaluate and celebrate their successes.  She says this helps to change the “mindset”  from “Who is going to pay the rent ?” to “How am I going to pay the rent?”

Austin is so lucky to have this dedicated, warm hearted, faith-filled  person helping those of us who are struggling.  Not only would her mother be proud of her, the whole community should be proud of her!
For more information about Austin branch AAUW contact Sue Grove  or Carolyn Bogott