Cool Girls with Tag: counseling

Karen Humphrey Sullins

Name: Karen Humphrey Sullins
Age: 47
Location: Montgomery, Alabama
Occupation: Owner- Helping Hands Professional Counseling & Consulting, LLC and Executive Director- Hearts Of Hope, Inc a 501(c)3 company

Karen Sullins is working hard to make a difference. This counselor has turned her compassion into action, founding Hearts of Hope after serving children and families who struggled with crime and poverty and realizing that their needs were simply not being met.

“Our purpose in communities is to offer support, provide education, and empowering youth to encourage better choices and resiliency, improving relationships, building character, and improving overall mental health and wellness by infusing hope and a sense of self safety alongside leadership skills,” Karen explains.

The path toward becoming a therapist began at the age of 11, when her parents summoned her for a family meeting where they discussed becoming foster parents.

“We were a middle class family with the median 3 bedroom, 2 bath home,” Karen explains. “One of our first long-term placements was a baby boy named Jonathan who has been shaken by his mom to the point of brain damage, and we were unclear how debilitating until he became 3-4 years old. Doctors at the best hospitals spoke of him having a life expectancy of age 5; they were wrong! Completely handicapped, he remained in a wheelchair his entire 21 years, never spoke, and never got up; however he touched everyone he came in contact with with his infectious laughter. Even surgeons were amazed at this child’s desire to live.”

After Jonathan, Karen and her family fostered more than 55 sexually abused girls, taking them into their home and sharing their lives and resources with them.

“I often look back at the simple letter I wrote at age 23 nominating my parents for “Parents of the Year” for their selfless serving and giving to children who otherwise would not have had normalcy,” she reflects.

Beyond her organization and counseling efforts, Karen has also been given the opportunity to speak to legislators about school safety, following her involvement with Sandy Hook Promise.

“I stumbled across Sandy Hook Promise following a training on Active Shooter-School Safety out of state. I signed up to be a Promise Leader in my small part of the world, and to share prevention programs, and speak to people about the violence occurring in our towns and communities; particularly in the school systems,” Karen says.

By working with the Sandy Hook Promise, Karen has helped to promote suicide prevention, support the “know the signs” program, and Say Something, which is an app that allows anonymous reporting of threats to the authorities.

After receiving an email from Sandy Hook Promise informing Alabama Promise Leaders that they could attend a listening session with the Federal Commission’s Department of Education panel from Washington, D.C. that was in town, Karen knew she had to attend in order to lend a voice to the debate over arming teachers in classrooms. She met with as many Administration members as she could on the Monday before, so that she could accurately represent those counties with the fervor and insight they deserved.

“There was a feeling of urgency that if I did not speak on behalf of those who could not; I may never get their little voices out there to be heard. When I spoke, I can honestly say that I could hardly remember what I said when I sat down,” she says. “I mentioned that the Federal Commission try prevention programs before going as far as arming stressed teachers. Teachers are educators, not police officers.”

And what advice does Karen have for young women?

“Find people and things that build your own armor, as life and people will most definitely disappoint you, but be brave enough to face disappointments, as an individual, as a young lady, and as a contributing part of the world that needs our insight and unique abilities, so that our future world is a place we anticipate being a part of,” she says. “Be courageous enough to be the difference.”

For her tireless service to the community, and her relentless desire to “stop the violence,” we think Karen Sullins is a very Cool Girl!

A $200 donation was made to Hearts of Hope on behalf of Karen. You can donate here.

Dara Pearson

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Dara Pearson HeadshotName: Dara Pearson
Age: 47
Occupation: Therapist

Therapist Dara Pearson is making a difference, in her community and beyond, one person at a time. This Portland native dreamed of being either Miss America or a firefighter when she grew up, and while those dreams didn’t exactly manifest into reality, her work does save lives and inspire women.

Originally Dara did advocacy work with survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and it was from that experience that she was prompted to do more.

“There was so much trauma that I wanted to learn how to support people through emotional and psychological healing,” she explains. “So as a single mom, I went to graduate school at Oregon State University and got my Masters in Counseling.”

With her tenacity and dedication, along with the support of her friends, family, and awesome kids, Dara made her support and service career came to life.

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Dara Pearson With Wings

“I really love being a therapist, mostly because people open up to me about their most intimate struggles of being a human being. It’s a really sacred thing and I feel deeply honored. The survivors that I work with are some of the most courageous, resilient humans that I know and I am deeply honored each day work alongside them,” she says.

Her work with Saving Grace, a local non-profit organization in Central Oregon that supports survivors of domestic and sexual violence, began thirteen years ago. With Saving Grace, Dara helps to provide essential resources to those who have been exposed to family violence and sexual assault. Their organization provides support groups, emergency shelter and transportation, court advocacy, programs for children who have been affected by violence, crisis counseling, as well as a variety of aid and information to those in the community.

“It’s really essential work because so many people in our community are impacted by these particular types of violence,” Dara says. “Survivors need a place where they are believed and supported, as well as physical and emotional safety, legal advocacy and representation, and attainable and sustainable resources. The challenging part of working for a non-profit is that we don’t have enough resources to go around, so we have to get really creative with what we have. I often wish that I had a magic wand, a really big sparkly one.”

And what else does this magical mental health professional do away from Saving Grace?

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Dara Pearson at Women's March“These days I’ve launched into private practice, where I am expanding my expertise and providing support to survivors of human trafficking, the LGBTQ community, and continue to develop trauma informed approaches to the therapeutic relationship. I still work part-time for Saving Grace and my absolute favorite thing is the Sexual Assault Support Group that I co-facilitate. The survivors in that group support each other in such a sweet connecting way that they can traverse something as horrific as sexual assault, and still come out the other side. Many of them are doing advocacy work, speaking out in the community, and utilizing music and art to make a difference.”

Beyond her work, Dara hopes to write a book about her adventures, become fluent in Spanish, and teach yoga. She spends her free time hiking, practicing yoga, and spending time with her kids and animals.

“I just finished up a yoga teacher training, so will be starting up a Yin Yoga class for survivors,” she adds. Fantastic!

And what advice does Dara have for young women who are looking for a place in this world?

“Never let anybody else define you; you are perfection, just the way you are. You are enough, you are worthy, you are fabulous. Relationships that don’t nourish you are not worth your time. Relationships should feel free and safe and allow you room to thrive. The other thing is that if you are ever harmed by intimate partner violence and/or sexual assault, it is never your fault. Not ever, There are safe places to reach out to and people that want to help and support you.”

For all of her brave work and dedication to helping people survive and thrive, we think Dara Pearson is a very Cool Girl!

Here are a few websites to local non-profits that are doing great work in Central Oregon. (doing great work with survivors of domestic and sexual violence) (doing great work with survivors of human trafficking)

A $200 donation was made to Northwest Youth Discovery (an organization doing great work with girls) on behalf of Dara. You can donate here.