Joanna Tebbs Young
CIRCLES OF COMMUNITY
This is the eighth in a series of everyday stories about everyday people in our community.
I am a firm believer in following your heart, your passions, and staying focused on what feels right to you. I know, through my own experience, that when you listen to your inner voice, your intuition, doors open which lead you exactly where you need to be, using your gifts and strengths — in other words, to be your most fulfilled self. You can’t always see at the time where you are going, and some steps sometimes seem completely off track, but one day it all comes together. How your life experiences connect suddenly makes sense.
This happened to Charity Eugair, a therapist working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence through expressive arts therapy, who is today combining her background and interest in psychology, art, hospitality and a deep love of nature. And, as a proud Pittsford native and resident, it was, above all, her decision to stay in her beloved Vermont when so many young people flee for so-called greener pastures, that has helped click it all together.
Born into a successful entrepreneurial business family — owners of Pittsford Mills Cabinetmakers — Charity and her brother were surrounded by creativity and hard-working people. “Our family’s ideology was that anything was possible if we worked hard. I grew up watching one-of-a-kind things being built.
“We lived in the country, we built tree houses and forts, we had freedom,” she continued. “We were permitted to find our own way.”
And find her own way she did. Although as a teen Charity was interested in psychology, she choose to forego college right after graduation from high school at MSJ because she knew, despite societal pressure to do otherwise, that she didn’t want to go to college right out of high school. She wanted to get to work.
She also didn’t want to leave her home state. “I just always loved it here, I had no burning desire to leave. I love to be immersed in the outdoors, in the sanctity here in Vermont. It’s on your doorstep, right at your fingertips. That is restorative to me.”
Working first the front desk at Holiday Inn, she moved up to sales, and learning the ropes of the hospitality business, eventually moved onto event planning at Inn at the Six Mountains. Weddings, corporate events, family reunions; “It was a great learning opportunity,” she said.
Eventually, Charity started working as “a jack of all trades” for the family business, which built custom cabinetry for multi-million-dollar homes. Already artistically inclined, she latched onto the graphic design aspect of the job, and pursuing training in specific software, became a kitchen designer. “I got an enormous amount of education learning the ropes of those jobs,” Charity explained. “It wasn’t evident to me at the time how much I was actually learning, figuring it all out as I went.”
However, after working with her family for ten years, Charity began to feel a pull towards something else. “I loved my work [with the family business] but I felt disconnected from my purpose.” And it was the very work she was doing which helped her realize her need to return to a more personally resonant artful life.
She is a lover of quilting, especially the style known as crazy quilting — many a Victorian housewife’s “quiet protest” — one of which, an 1850s family example hung in her childhood home, was for Charity a “lasting imprint.” The craftsmanship of the cabinet-makers, the artistic talents of the employees, “pushed me back to longing to have creative involvement in my work.”
But art wasn’t all she was missing. It was also the “looking at the psychology and the driving forces of human behavior” that had fascinated her as a teenager. And interestingly, it was working with the 1-percent clientele, the financially privileged population, through the custom cabinetry design business that actually re-piqued her interest in psychology. She noticed that although this was a population “insulated from financial stress,” they were not “necessarily insulated from emotional stress,” she explained. “There was still sadness.
“I then consciously made a decision to shift work to reconnect with my purpose,” Charity said. She became a business counselor at BROC in 2006, piloting an arts-based business program called Vermont Creatives, through which she worked with people all along the socioeconomic spectrum. “That experience, because it existed in the context of community action, exposed me to humanitarian issues and social-issue work.”
Leaving BROC in 2008 to raise the first of her two boys, life for Charity became family-centered. But she was also “thirsty for learning.” Taking lots of classes at CCV, she eventually enrolled full-time at College of St. Joseph and finished a degree in Behavioral Health while home with her children.
“Once I devoted my energy to learning,” Charity said, “I found I loved it. It was hard to stop.” Studying while also working at the Women’s Network as a clinical services coordinator, in 2016 she graduated from Goddard College with a MA in Psychology with a focus on Expressive Arts Therapy.
Today, Charity has a private practice in Rutland called Phases of Change, where she supplements therapy with expressive arts, including among other arts Narrative Quilting, a storytelling process of literally piecing together one’s story in fabric. It “offers someone another way to express their struggles in a way other than the words they may not have yet,” Charity explained.
As she has in Maine with a colleague from Goddard, she also plans to offer in Vermont workshops and retreats in expressive arts, integrating what she sees as “what Vermont has to offer in terms of nature, sanctity, serenity into therapeutic nature of expressive arts.”
“I am where I need to be to do this. There’s no place better than Vermont to be pursuing this endeavor.”
And so, stepping along a path she didn’t expect to take her where it has, learning things she didn’t expect to learn, Charity is exactly where she is most happy, helping others through art, nature, and her love of Vermont. “Over the course of many years, I unwittingly received a lot of education. Ironically it led me back to my original love and purpose.”