Finish Lines: Mary Birks

Mary Birks, Sunset Drive, has been the executive director of Outreach Teen & Family Services since October of 2014. Outreach is a community-based counseling agency with a roster of part-time professional counselors serving young people ages 5-21, and their families. Outreach partners with the municipality to provide free and reduced-fee services to Mt. Lebanon residents.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way you offer your services? 
Our counselors pivoted immediately to providing telehealth to present clients. We established a waiting list for those who were interested in face to face counseling services. However, as closures continued, new clients understood and expected to work with a counselor via telehealth. We are fortunate to have received grants from both Staunton Farm Foundation and The Pittsburgh Foundation to support our efforts in providing telehealth counseling sessions. Two of our counselors recently piloted the top two telehealth platforms, so after an extensive review, we look forward to launching a new agency-wide platform this year.

Have you seen a change in the types of issues your counselors have encountered this year?
Not particularly. Our clients usually come in for services dealing with anxiety, depression and stress. So far this year, the top three reasons clients are coming to Outreach are for anxiety, depression and adjustment. We expect to see more kids coming into the agency in the fall as school starts up again, and they begin to deal with other stressors in their lives.

Your annual fundraising event, A Night at the Speakeasy, had to be postponed to September 10.
We are going virtual! What a learning experience this has been for our committee, led by Kara Malley and Kelly Schraven! Ken Rice will once again be our event’s emcee, and we will hear from a recent client about her experience with Outreach.

Are there other ways patrons can help to support Outreach?
We would love people to ‘attend’ our virtual event on September 10 and participate by bidding on auction items. Our emergency appeal in April brought in close to $7,000 from 35 donors; we greatly appreciate our amazing donors, most of whom live within Mt. Lebanon, and recognize the importance of supporting our kids and families. While our Annual Appeal is sent out each November, we accept donations year-round, of course! Just go to our website and click on the ‘Donate’ button. Thank you for supporting Outreach!