When Greenwich-born Shari Shapiro joined the then-2-year-old Kids In Crisis agency in 1980, she was working the overnight shift at the teen hotline with six other full-time employees. Since then, she's become the executive director of an agency that in 2009 helped 9,200 families.
"I've always worked in children from working with probation with juveniles," said Shapiro. "I found Kids in Crisis, and it's been true love since then. It's an organization that does whatever it takes to make sure kids get the services they need. And it's a place that once you get involved, it's hard to leave."
In 29 years, Shapiro has seen the Cos Cob-based agency evolve to include not only crisis counseling, but also an emergency shelter that provides educational programs for children and families dealing with such crises as domestic violence and economic difficulties.
"While my job has the administrative side of it, I'm physically located in the facility where the kids are," she said. "It enables you to never lose sight of what goes on and never lose sight of the fact that these are kids that are in crisis or traumatized. You can touch it and feel it and breathe it when you're here."
In a tough economic climate, the agency has been forced to make cuts. This year, Shapiro said she hopes to return Kids In Crisis to its 2008 status. However, there is one major program Shapiro said she'd like to spread to all schools in Greenwich a privately funded trained counselor every day at Western Middle School.
"When you talk about street outreach, what you really want to do is find a place to do our outreach where the kids are. What better place than the eight hours a day they're in school?" she said. "To have somebody there for them."
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