You can do a lot in a decade – and our All-Options Pregnancy Resource Director, Shelly Dodson, is evidence of that. She’s been with Backline in various capacities – from a Talkline Advocate to our current role – for nearly ten years! In honor of all her work and many contributions to Backline and the Center, we wanted to put the spotlight on her and give you a chance to know Shelly better. Ready? Let’s go!
Tell us a little bit about yourself! How did you come to work at Backline and then All-Options?
My love affair with Backline started almost ten years ago in March of 2007 when I went through the Talkline Peer Counseling training to be a peer counseling advocate on the Talkline. I loved talkline and crisis line work and being able to have the opportunity to provide peer counseling support to pregnant people and their loved ones in all their messy, complex experiences with pregnancy, parenting, abortion, adoption, miscarriage, and infertility. For me getting involved with Backline felt like coming home. It married all the direct service work that I felt passionately about while upholding a reproductive justice frame in approach. In May 2010, I came on as the first paid staff in the role of Program Manager in Portland, OR, overseeing an amazing group of volunteer peer counseling radvocates. In July 2012, I made the decision to move back home to Bloomington, Indiana to be closer to my family and get dried out from all that rain in the Pacific Northwest. As luck would have it, I was able to stay involved with Backline and start All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center in my hometown.
What’s your favorite thing about the work you do here?
Just one thing? I’m not sure how to narrow down my list. I love so many things about working for an organization that actually practices what they preach in terms of holding true to our values. It is so rare to find that in an organization. My favorite thing about my work as the Program/Center Director is seeing how the direct service work that we do is a vehicle for culture change. Our goal is ultimately to put ourselves out of a job. I work everyday to make that happen.
I’ve always said that none of this work matters if we don’t meaningfully support the people doing this work at every level of the organization from volunteers to staff.
Why is an all-options approach to reproductive health and support important to you?
There is so much power in being able to create open-hearted, compassionate spaces for people to bring their whole selves. I’ve had the privilege to witness this time and again on the Talkline and at All-Options. The all-options approach speaks to people in a way that the traditional pro-choice/pro-life dichotomy leaves people out of the conversation. Personally, I have experienced a lot of personal liberation in my life since I’ve been involved with Backline. Being able to let go of all the judgement, and all too often recrimination, of people in their pregnancy experiences frees you up to authentically meet people where they’re at because you don’t have a personal investment in their lives.
What’s your best Backline/All-Options memory to date and what are you looking forward to as we grow?
I loved facilitating peer counseling trainings and building those relationships. Things get real deal in training time. You laugh, you cry, you grow. The other moment that really stands out to me was when we signed the lease for All-Options. I remember when we decided that we were going to go big or go home. It’s been a long road to get here and I am so proud of all that the organization – and the people in it – have accomplished.
Tell us something about yourself that might surprise your Backline colleagues.
Let’s see that’s a tricky question because I am pretty much an open book. I once completed a sprint triathlon with one of my besties, Lindsay. I did it mostly to seal the deal on a new friendship because I wanted to be friends with her so bad. And it worked! But I probably wouldn’t ever do one again.
What’s your favorite thing to do for fun?
I love baking, soaking up the sunshine, being in the water, hiking with my pup Ami, napping, reading, playing cards, and watching my shows.
If you could have any one person, living or dead, over to your house for dinner, who would it be and what would you make?
I would love to have dinner with my late grandma, Janice. She died some time ago after a long difficult battle with Alzheimer’s. She was one of those people who didn’t have a bad bone in her body and was one of the most compassionate open-hearted people I have ever know. I can imagine us making lots of sweet desserts, mostly focusing on the chocolate group.
If Backline’s mission were achieved and all ppl had the support and resources they needed for pregnancy parenting, abortion, and adoption experiences, where would you want to give more of your time?
I would buy a big chunk of land and have a gigantic puppy and dog farm. We’d all roll around and play in the sunshine together. My dog farm would focus mostly on senior dogs and those with high medical needs that have a more difficult time getting adopted. I’d also do a ton more baking. My assumption is if this happened I’d somehow magically be rich as well, so let’s go with that!