Interview with Susan Mertz, OFP 2020 Intern

Susan Mertz, DU International Disaster Psychology Intern

What was the most beneficial experience for you at OFP?

I think my most beneficial experience has been working with Maggie and Heather. A lot of times, people see problems and do nothing about them. The fact that OFP started in order to address a gap in services is amazing and a great learning experience. It’s actually really inspiring!

What surprised you about the recovery of home fire survivors?

What surprised me most was how few resources there really are for people recovering from house fires. Initially, I thought the Red Cross did a lot more to help out, but their assistance only last so long.

What are your next steps after graduation?

Hopefully, a job in Program Evaluation! I want to help design and monitor international programs that focus on mental health initiatives.

What was it like working at OFP?

I really enjoyed it! I like how welcoming everyone was and even though I was only there for a short time, I felt incredibly supported by everyone.

How has OFP helped you grow as a clinician? 

It has definitely exposed me to new populations. I had a lot of training and classroom knowledge about people surviving disasters, but I had never directly worked with the populations. Also, any experience interacting with and helping others is something that helps you grow as a clinician. Having a wide range of diverse clients really helps expand your knowledge as a clinician.

What was your biggest take away from this internship?

I think my biggest takeaway has been the importance of social work. Don’t get me wrong, I always thought it was important, but people in the field of psychology have a tendency to look down a bit on it. Why? Probably because they are jealous 😉  After working with amazing social workers, I can see that the skills social work brings to a situation are so incredibly important. I also got to learn a few of those skills, which will be great for my clients and own personal development for years to come!

What did you learn most from the clients at OFP?

From the clients at OFP, I learned a lot about resilience. Most of them suffered one of the worst things of their entire lives, and yet they still keep on keeping on. I think a lot of people could completely shutdown after a traumatic experience, and yet the OFP clients continually strive to better their lives and work towards recovery.

Interview with Nicole Dryanski, OFP 2019 – 2021 Intern

What was the most beneficial experience for you at OFP?

Nicole Dryanski, DU Masters of Social Work Intern

The most beneficial experience for me was having this field placement becoming an opportunity with so many roles and duties I took on as an intern. The experience itself helped me grow, especially being able to work with this particular population of home fire survivors and wanting to become more evolved in this work. Thus, I would like to thank Sheila Babyak for telling Maggie to call me back for an interview.

What surprised you about the recovery of home fire survivors? 

Even though everyone might be different, every survivor shares the same struggles and barriers to overcome.

What are your next steps after graduation?

To move to the city of Chicago and officially be a working member of society.

What was it like working at OFP? 

Through all of the madness, it was such a perfect joy. I loved working with Maggie and Heather; I was more excited for my internship days than school.

How has OFP helped you grow as a clinician? 

I don’t think I could thank OFP enough for how much they have helped me grow as a person, leader, and social worker. During my time at OFP, I was everything from a maintenance worker to a case manager. Overall, I was very fortunate that OFP allowed me to work on interpersonal, case management, leadership, and non-profit management skills.

What was your biggest take away from this internship? 

That this population is so overwhelmingly underserved and overlooked, and unfortunately, I don’t think people understand the impact a disaster can have on a family or individual, and the lack of services being provided to them.

What did you learn most from the clients at OFP?

That we all are pretty simple people, and we all want the same thing: shelter, connection, and security in our lives.

Favorite quote

“If Heather and I ever had a baby, it would be you!” – Maggie

Generosity, Gratitude, and Joy

Join the generosity movement, hear from some amazing clients, and discover new ways to find joy – check it out here!


2020 has been less than ideal to date… want to make it better? Donate $20 to 2020 today! Read more here!

We are all dealing with the COVID-19 crisis… need some help? Or are you in a position to help? We’ve got options for both in this newsletter – check it out here!

The strength of our community will get us through the COVID-19 crisis. Read more here.

Be part of the change and help OFP grow in 2020! Donate here!

We are celebrating the Month of Gratitude and have so much for which to be thankful! See more here!

Our Front Porch: Looking Back

Guest Blogger: Erin Stotts, OFP Board President

Heather, Erin, and Maggie at Our Front Porch

I remember going to the first Our Front Porch meeting in January 2014, a setting that many future meetings would include: Heather’s condo, guacamole, exciting ideas, a senior citizen pug, and a hundred different directions it could and should go. At that time, I would have never guessed the journey the next nearly six years would bring, and now that the first house is bought, it seems like an appropriate time to reflect on those years.

The first few years were filled with overwhelming amounts of excitement and energy.  Evenings and weekends were spent thinking, dreaming and planning. Maggie and Heather’s knowledge and dedication were infectious, and they made it easy to want to spend my time with them and on this concept, something our community desperately needed.   

The following few years I became less involved due to starting a new job, but I never once stopped believing in and giving as much time as I could to OFP. During this time, I realized that I could have never anticipated the copious amounts of grit and time it takes to get a start up off the ground. I was constantly impressed with Heather and Maggie for never once giving up, not even a little. In fact, they seemed to only push harder where anyone else would’ve thrown in the towel.

They are completely selfless in every sense of the word and that is why Our Front Porch is what it is today, an actual property that will serve hundreds of clients over the years. It has been truly inspiring to watch two people give everything to something that they don’t need and get essentially nothing in return for it. I know that in the years to come Denver will owe these two ladies a huge thank you for the amazing service they have brought to our community, and I feel very lucky to have been along for the ride all of these years.

The Complete Fire Safety Guide

In honor of Fire Prevention Week, we want to share this great resource that will help you to both prevent and prepare for a house fire. Stay safe!

Guest Blogger: Robert Dekanski, The Dekanski Home Selling Team

In 2017, one home fire occurred every 88 seconds in the United States, and about half of the insurance claims relating to fire were made by homeowners. That same year, 77% of all fire-related deaths occurred in the home. In Canada, 19,062 structural fires were reported in 2014. Around 75% of those fires were residential.

The power of fire should not be underestimated. When a fire occurs, occupants may have as little as 2 to 3 minutes to get out of the house before it’s too late. Home fires can reach temperatures of 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit (760 degrees Celsius). When a flashover fire occurs, windows shatter, oxygen is sucked from the room, and thick, toxic smoke fills the air. Given this, it’s obvious why fires are so deadly.

Understanding how to prevent house fires, and knowing how to stay safe in the event of a fire is something every property owner, head of household or parent should consider. Here’s what you need to know – Read The Complete Fire Safety Guide Here.