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Lutheran Family Services of Virginia is now enCircle!

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by Ariana Estes

In June of 2020, enCircle re-committed to making the world a more just and loving place. After diversifying the Board of Directors, introducing a new Guiding Principle of Social Justice, and holding internal Town Hall discussions on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Executive Leadership team recognized the most effective way to achieve this goal was to find a designated leader for change. After taking the time to carefully consider different options, leadership found that its perfect fit for the new Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion was already part of the enCircle team: Maurice Gallimore.

Maurice started at enCircle 18 years ago, working closely with families in the Treatment Foster Care program. A Connecticut native, the role gave him an opportunity to travel to different parts of Virginia and learn more about the areas and the people who live there. Over the years, he gained experience through different positions where he worked with a wide range of families and people with disabilities — also, training foster parents and staff, and supervising a small team. He’s stood by youth in care and foster families during triumphs, heartbreaks, traumas, and many changes. Former foster youth who have long since aged-out of the program continue to keep in touch with him.

Maurice feels the strong foundation he’s built through the years is one that will be invaluable to him in this new role. When asked what he plans to do first, Maurice’s answer was simple—he plans to listen.

“It’s really about understanding what has already occurred, what are the issues, and figuring out the steps to address those issues. Right now, it’s learning about the agency and the issues it faces currently,” says Maurice.

He feels one challenge for enCircle is the broad range of experiences staff have had within their own lives that come from the wide area across Virginia and West Virginia in which they live and work. The sensitivity of conversations surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion may discourage some from sharing these experiences, but he hopes to create a safe space where people feel comfortable opening up without fear of judgment.

“Cancel culture is real. One incident can label you going forward. Let’s look at the bigger picture of who this person is instead of looking at the front of the book— let’s read the book and try to understand a little bit more.”

Maurice says that it’s important to be open-minded, get to know someone, and understand that it takes time to make people feel comfortable in order to bring about change. He believes that open, honest dialogue is key to moving forward.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion is not limited to challenges faced by Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color (BIPOC)— the disability community, LGBTQ community, women’s movement, and others are also top of mind for him. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is recognizing the marginalized individuals in each community. He hopes through conversations with staff and leadership, enCircle can identify and take actionable steps to continue moving toward an even more diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture.

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion encompasses so much more than what we think. This role will hopefully get people to open up and talk about how we can make the agency better from different lenses. How are we helping each person feel comfortable with who they are and how are we helping them celebrate that? That’s what I hope to achieve in this role. It’s making people feel good, making people feel welcome, and making people feel a sense of fairness.”