Pennsylvania NASW Executive Director Ron represents the social work profession at the PA Farm Show, January 2014.
by Linda May Grobman, MSW, ACSW, LSW
One might not expect to find social work represented amidst butter sculptures and displays of leather boots, but when it comes to the Pennsylvania Farm Show, this is exactly where you will find the PA Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) this week.
The Farm Show is the largest indoor agricultural exposition in the country and is a tradition for people in central Pennsylvania, including families, professionals, students, schools, and organizations. The 98th PA Farm Show is taking place January 4-11, 2014, at the Farm Show Building in Harrisburg, and it includes 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits, and 300 commercial exhibits.
And there’s the infamous butter sculpture. For this year’s creation, 1,000 pounds of butter were molded into the shapes of two dancing cows with three humans drinking milkshakes. The sculpture is titled, “Shake, Rattle, and Roll.”
A few rows down from this work of dairy-licious art, you can find the exhibit of the PA Chapter of NASW. “Exhibiting at the Farm Show is literally a way of meeting people ‘where they are,’” says Tara Breitsprecher, PA NASW Director of Policy and Communication. “One of the goals of NASW-PA is to create more visibility of social workers and the social work profession. Even if individuals do not stop by to talk to us, we have materials available and our name present. It is a matter of representing the social work profession as an available resource and a presence within the Commonwealth.”
The exhibit, located between exhibits of the YMCA and the Milton Hershey School, has been staffed by various PA NASW staff members each day, including executive director Ron Simon. They have fielded questions and had conversations with everyone from social workers who are members of the chapter to other members of the general public, including nurses, teachers, legislators, and doctors.
Social workers who have stopped by the booth have taken the opportunity to ask about current issues the chapter is working on, ask the staff to consider publishing a newsletter article on intellectual disabilities, and inquire about social work jobs.
“I had three individuals visit the table because they were in need of a social worker, and I was able to direct them to http://www.helpstartshere.com and offer our phone number for further assistance,” says Breitsprecher.
“In general, we are creating a presence. We want our members to feel that we are approachable and available, and we want the public to see that social workers are a part of the community and a constant resource,” says executive director Ron Simon. “Exhibiting at the Farm Show is a unique opportunity to educate the public about the profession and the association, and we are excited to be there.”
He adds that exhibiting at the Farm Show allows NASW the opportunity to interact with the general public, an opportunity that doesn’t often present itself.
“I want social workers to be encouraged by the comments of those who have stopped by to speak with us throughout the week,” Simon adds. “One of the teachers [who stopped by] said she had begun a social work degree and ended up switching to education…. She said she uses what she learned in the social work program more in her classroom than anything she learned in her education program.”
According to the teacher, “If more of our administrators understood the same concepts as the social workers, our schools would have transformed years ago.”
If you are in the central PA/Harrisburg area this week, the Farm Show is not to be missed. And after you stop to marvel at the 1,000-pound-dancing-milkshake-drinking-buttery-cows-and-people, head over to say hello to the friendly staff of the PA Chapter of NASW. They are awaiting your visit.