Local Pastor Lifting the Mask on Child Abuse

A year ago, what started as simply providing space led to a new opportunity to help those who need healing. As a pastor, Susan Schneider believes much of her work is related to helping people find a way to live meaningful lives in spite of their difficulties. Now, Susan is more than devoted to the Canopy Center’s mission to prevent child abuse and neglect, and assist those who have already been affected. Recently, she discussed why she’s so passionate and proud to be a part of the organization.

Madison Magazine: You’ve been a board member of Canopy’s for a little over a year now, but didn’t get involved in a typical manner. How did that come about?

Susan Schneider: My relationship with Canopy Center began because they were looking for a space to hold their Wednesday night programming and dinners, and I happened to be the pastor of a church with a lot of classroom space. When I joined the Canopy Board it was because of my great respect for the organization’s values, goals and incredible staff.

MM:  Was it unanimous amongst everyone at Trinity Lutheran Church to invite Canopy Center in?

SS: Yes. When Donna Fox, the executive director, contacted us, our church board immediately agreed that this is exactly the kind of activity we want to support and nurture. They’ve been here for just over a year now, and our investment and interest in the organization just keeps growing.

MM: Has your involvement helped you grow and continue helping others?

SS: Without a doubt. My work as a pastor is only one way I can help make the world a less terrifying, more hopeful place. Supporting the Canopy Center in their efforts to prevent and heal child abuse is another way. I’m so glad to be part of the “village” it takes to raise a child!

MM: The Canopy Center is aimed at helping children and families, is there anyone in particular who motivates you to volunteer with the organization?

SS: I do not have any biological children of my own, but I believe firmly that all of us are responsible for all the children in our world. We are our sister’s and brother’s keepers.

MM: How do you see Canopy Center fitting into your role as a pastor?

SS: The Canopy Center is not a religious organization, but what they do for the world I call “ministry.” I am keenly aware of the pride our congregation takes in housing some of their work in our building—it helps our members feel like they are contributing to the harmony and well being of society. Just knowing that we provide a safe haven for folks who need one gives our faith community great satisfaction.

MM: How would you describe the impact of the Canopy Center as a whole on the people who use its programs?

SS: Every family that learns how to deal productively and not destructively with disciplining and nurturing children is a success story that affects our whole society.

MM: How does the work of the center make Madison a better place to live?

SS: I’ve only lived in Madison a year and a half, and I’ve been connected to the Canopy Center for almost all of that time. What I see, compared to places I’ve lived before, is that this organization provides a place for families who are seeking help to get it without shame. The families that attend parenting classes or call the Parent Hotline are not mandated by a court order or other external force. They have come to the Canopy Center because they know they need it. It is a sign of health to me when people acknowledge their brokenness and take steps to address what is wrong. And in that way, the family— and especially the children—of Madison are greatly blessed the Canopy Center is here.

MM: In what ways do you support the financial need of an organization such as this?

SS: Especially as state and local funding is decreasing, the financial benefits of a fundraising event cannot be overlooked. We are about to host our first, hopefully annual, “Lift the Mask” fundraiser.

MM: Can you elaborate on what the name signifies?

SS: The image is great for a program like Canopy Center because the issue of abuse continues to be stigmatized, too often ignored or brushed under a rug because of shame. To “lift the mask” is to take the cover off of the problem so that it can be addressed. We are lifting our own masks so we can look head-on at this problem in our culture, and we are lifting the masks off others who are being kept in the shadows.

MM: What can attendees of the Lift the Mask event expect?

SS: When a group deals daily with a difficult issue like child abuse, it’s hard to image not needing to put some “fun” into fundraising. There will be a silent auction with some truly super items, fantastic hors d’ouevres and drinks, and an all-around festive atmosphere. I know because I’m on the planning committee! The highlight will be having PianoFondue provide the entertainment.

MM: What are you most excited about for the evening?

SS: Honestly, I’m just excited about attending the party! For starters, it’s semiformal, and I love to dress up. The hope, of course, is not only that people will have a blast together, but also that consciousness about the work of the Canopy Center will be raised, wallets will be open, and everyone will leave feeling good. And naturally we hope to make lasting friends of our supporters.

MM: Can you share some parting thoughts on the Canopy Center to leave with our readers?

SS: This group is one that takes seriously its role of caring for those who are in need, while simultaneously giving them the tools to care for themselves and others. It is empowering. And to be part of the team that supports its work is very satisfying. My favorite aspect of the Canopy Center is that it engages people in their own problem solving. It isn’t a program where an expert comes in and tells everyone what to do. Instead, it is people who are struggling in their own journeys who are willing to be vulnerable and humble enough to share what works and what doesn’t. In helping one another, the participants also gain self-esteem and a sense of empowerment over their own lives. I am impressed with the way that this program embraces every flawed one of us, and says, “We can do this better together.”

You can party with Pastor Sue at the first annual Lift the Mask event on Friday, October 12 from 7-11p at the Brink Lounge. Tickets and more information are available online at canopycenter.org. Buy yours today and shed some light on the issue of child abuse. 

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