By Mike Wade
NRVCS Community Relations Specialist

She may no longer be accepting tips, but Hope Roberts still works as if she does.

Three years into her job as a member of the NRVCS support team, Roberts says her approach to customer service is the same as it was when she was waiting tables – something she has done for most of her adult life.

“I love it,” declares Roberts, “I’ve always taken a lot of pride in giving good service. I truly believe it’s what I was meant to do – to be nice and to help take care of people.”

Roberts spent 14 years as a waitress at Western Sizzlin’ and after a bit of a break, she worked another 12 years at Ryan’s. Customers at both restaurants developed such an appreciation for Roberts’ friendly and attentive service that regulars would specifically ask to sit at one of the tables she was working. While that obviously helped generate good tips, Roberts points out that there were even greater rewards to her work.

“To me, it’s about relationships and the connections you make with people,” explains Roberts. “I really care about people – I wasn’t just there to get the money.”

One of the relationships Roberts established through waitressing was with Vicky Fisher, NRVCS’ facilities manager. When a support staff position became available, Fisher recommended that Roberts apply.

“Vicky and her husband had been customers of mine for years, so we had gotten to become friends along the way,” says Roberts. “I had done some part-time work in an orthodontist’s office, and I really liked that environment, so when Vicky suggested this job, I thought I would give it a try.”

While the customer service aspect of her job at NRVCS came naturally for Roberts, she says the work of the agency and more importantly, the scope of needs in the community, has truly been eye-opening.

“I had no idea about the prevalence of mental health and substance use disorders,” Roberts notes. “I didn’t know so many people in our area struggle with these issues…especially around addiction. I just never realized the impact or damage that drugs can have on someone.”

“I’ve always had empathy,” adds Roberts, a native of Pulaski County, “but I kind of feel like I was living in a bit of a bubble before I came to work here.”

Upon arriving at NRVCS, Roberts quickly established herself as a valued member of the team – providing co-workers and clients with not only a friendly face to welcome them, but an eager and reliable source of assistance.

“I think I’ve fit in well here,” Roberts says. “I like to help people – that’s what makes me feel good.
“I’m there to support you and give you whatever you need,” continues Roberts. “If I can’t do it, I’ll find someone who will.”

Roberts likely calls upon her experience in the food industry when things at the front desk of NRVCS’ Montgomery Center get hectic. Just like the rush of a lunch or dinner crowd at a restaurant, there are times when Roberts and her support staff counterparts are inundated with tasks. However, unlike the world of food service, behavioral healthcare is rarely predictable.

“The amount of what can be taking place within an instant can be overwhelming at times,” Roberts continues. “Working the front desk is more than just answering phones or checking in clients for their appointments.”

“Probably the hardest part of my job is just trying to retain all of the information that often comes in all at once,” she adds. “That can definitely be challenging.”

Roberts is quick to point out that assisting with the admissions process is the best part of her job.

“I love doing admissions,” she says. “A lot of times, clients come in scared and apprehensive because they’re here for the first time and they really aren’t sure of what to expect.”

“It makes my day to be able to sit with them and help make them comfortable…to let them know that everything’s going to be okay,” adds Roberts. “I get a real sense of gratification when I get to see them walk out the door knowing that they’re in a better place than they were when they arrived.”