It’s OK not to be OK.
When people who need help hear that, Stephen Massey can see the relief in their expression.
“We try to help them understand that support is a good thing,” says Massey, who is the chief operations officer and a co-director of CitiLookout Counseling and Trauma Recovery Center
, as well as the founder of Awakenings of Clark County
With more than 20 years of experience working in the social service sector in Springfield, Massey is dedicated to healing the community, particularly those on its margins.
CitiLookout has a mission of providing counseling and trauma recovery services for underserved, underrepresented and minority populations. There is a stigma in those communities attached to behavioral health and counseling, he says, and he wants others to know that they don’t have to hold it together alone.
“That’s how you get to the point that you can start receiving help,” he says.
Massey started in 2012 with CitiLookout
, which counsels both individuals and families. While CitiLookout is Christ-centered, it isn’t the focus and counselors don’t proselytize. Instead, it’s more about the culture.
Counselors want to learn who they are meeting, what is happening and how they feel, he says. They dignify the person and the experiences.
“What we do is meet people where they’re at,” Massey says.
Massey, 56, was born and raised in Springfield, growing up on the Southside of the city but attending North High School
to play basketball. Going from a predominately Black
school to a mostly white school exposed him to diverse experiences and cultures, he says.
After college he worked in group home settings with kids, and then took a position in human resources before switching back to social work. Returning to Springfield, he knew he wanted to work in behavioral health and began working for McKinley Hall
, which helps people affected by substance abuse, before starting at CitiLookout.
For Massey and his wife Melissa, an advocate at CitiLookout, Springfield is home. He hopes to be able to change lives and prepare the next generation as the torch is passed to them.
“I just think God’s made it clear that we’re not supposed to leave here,” he says
About five years ago, Massey founded Awakenings of Clark County
, which promotes social justice as well as health and racial equity through services like consulting, restorative practices, re-entry assistance for offenders in prisons or jails, and services for youth.
The organization, which runs as a nonprofit through the Nehemiah Foundation
, was sparked when Massey reflected on what would be needed and what could be done to better serve kids.
As Massey worked with at-risk schoolchildren, he heard many of them say that they didn’t feel like there was anything for them in Springfield and that they would leave as soon as they were old enough.
“I started talking to them about what it would take to stay,” he says.
Now Awakenings offers wrap-around services for youth, teaching them more about etiquette, relationships, finances and other skills.
For example, this is the third year for “Keys to the City
,” which on Friday, Oct. 29, will introduce about 50 kids ages 10 to 19 to places in Springfield that many have never visited or may have felt they wouldn’t be welcome. This year they will visit locations like Stella Bleu Bistro
, Winans Chocolates and Coffees
before watching performances and listening to a keynote speaker at Clark State Performing Arts Center.
“They get to go and have those spaces opened up to them,” he says.
Massey says that everyone has gifts, talents and a role to support others. He lives that himself and tries to instill it in other people, helping them to understand that they, too, have a purpose.
He is here to aid others, and there is no greater fulfillment.
“The highest aspiration of the human heart is when you help someone else,” he says.