2020 started off for many of us as a promising and exciting year, but the COVID-19 outbreak hurt and disrupted lives and livelihoods, businesses and organizations.  Kathy Cathcart, President and Managing Director of the Align Team says, “given how the year started, our success overall in 2020 was all about rising to the challenge. The effort our team put forth well, management couldn’t have asked for anything more. We started the year strong and we ended the year strong, thanks to the dedication and contributions from all of our employees.”

Vice President Brittany Ashby reflected on one of the most important lessons she learned this year. “I’m not sure if it is a lesson I learned or relearned,” Ashby says.  “Adaptability is crucial to be successful, especially in situations where things are not as ideal as we would like them to be.  We’ve watched our employees adapt, we’ve watched our community adapt, and we’ve watched our world adapt.  Those of us who have been able and willing to do so, have done well. And although it was not ideal for everyone, it was a good lesson to be reminded of.”

While many businesses and nonprofits struggled in 2020, there were still some shining moments.  Vice President Jody Shields said her shining moment was when the state came together in July for WyoGives. “To see businesses, individuals, families, and nonprofits come together to celebrate and support the work of the nonprofits, was truly heartwarming to me.”  And just as important Jody says, “was to see firsthand the overwhelming financial support, the positivity and the excitement around it.  WyoGives 2021?  Let’s go!”

If there could be shining moments, could there also be fun times in 2020 or did COVID dampen that spirit? “Not so!” Cathcart says. “Our team had so much fun. From Zoom meetings with staff, family and friends, to seeing their pets, husbands and grandkid! Gathering around the computer became a lot of fun for all of us. And who doesn’t like a Zoom Happy Hour?  At the Align Team our motto has always been Work Hard. Play Hard. and COVID didn’t stop us from doing any of that.”

“I’ll be honest,” Ashby says. “I am so proud of the Align Team’s ability to have had success in areas we didn’t think were possible during COVID. Examples that particularly come to mind were Jody’s efforts on WyoGives and for my team, standing up a large, federal grant in wake of COVID.  I think it is amazing that we were able to make it all work during such a challenging time.”

“I agree,” Shields said.  “For me, during COVID, there were many things I learned about our organization and about myself.  I learned how to be more flexible and adaptable. I learned how to take deeper breaths.  I learned how small our world is and how we impact each other’s lives more then we realize.  I learned that showing kindness and patience is important and both of these qualities has taught me to be more adaptable.  But at the same time, I’ve also learned when enough is enough.  I’ve learned you need good, mental health.  Good mental health means taking a break from the screen. ALL screens: Computers, TV and Social Media.   Physical health is important, but mental health for me these past months was very important.”

When I asked Kathy about the Align Team’s core values and if she felt she lived them this year, the answer was an overwhelming YES. “Our core values,” Cathcart said, “is about Team, Clients, and Community.  I believe we absolutely lived those values day in and day out.  Our team came together solidly, and we were very supportive of each other.  Our employees all went home on such short notice and you know what, they all came back to work. And when they were in the office, they made it a point to help keep each other safe. We stayed in contact with our Clients and we made sure things were going as well as possible for them.  And if we found out they needed assistance, we offered ways on how we could help them.  And as far as Community goes, we made sure we stayed active in our community and encouraged our employees to walk arm in arm with community members, stressing success and survival.”

Decision making during COVID proved challenging at times, but for Brittany the decision to get a new dog (Rhett) and running for a seat on the Laramie County School District 1 Board of Trustees, were two of the best, personal decisions she made.  “Being at home with my kids, my husband and my dogs was awesome and running for school board was a great decision also.  I love a new challenge and that seemed like one of the better decisions I made for myself this year. What was a bit challenging… was the idea of working from home.  Letting go of that preconceived notion of how I work and how I get things done, showed me a new way to interact with people. I look at it now as something I enjoy.  I also realize that it helped me facilitate my life better and I actually get more done!”

When I asked Jody if she believed she was a different person from a year ago, her response was yes.  “I value my time much more with family and friends,” Shields said.  “I’ve always thought I valued my time before, but during COVID I found myself valuing my time MORE. I also discovered that celebrating milestones was very important to me.  For example, not being able to attend our son’s high school and college graduation ceremonies in person highlighted for me the importance of these milestones.  I look at these celebrations now, and despite not being able to attend them in person, I appreciate them more than ever.” So, what advice would Jody give her last-year’s self?  “Get ready for anything,” Shields says. “Determine what is really important in your life.  Choose your battles wisely and have a reality check with yourself on what is worth the time and effort.  Oh yeah…and get some sleep!”

“Since we are all talking about decisions, impact, rebounding and appreciation, I’d like to take this time to say something too” Cathcart beams.  “The biggest impact on my life this year was definitely Dale Steenbergen, President of the Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce. I learned so much by being Chair of the Chamber Board and what it took to get through this pandemic. Getting out into our community, working together as one, getting business leaders together to accomplish challenging tasks – ALL of these had a huge impact on me personally. To see firsthand how we could really try to help businesses, well, I am forever grateful to Dale and for the opportunities he gave me.”

I’m Cathy Drzal, Marketing and Public Relations Director for the Align Team.  Please take a moment to listen to a Year End message from Brittany Ashby, Jody Shields and Kathy Cathcart.  Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.