How Miracles For Kids’ Co-Founder + CEO is championing those who need it most while finding balance, peace and connection in the time of coronavirus.
If you haven't yet met Autumn Strier or learned about her work, you should -- after the quarantine is over, of course. Autumn is a dynamo, a powerhouse, a positive force of nature who transitioned from an impressive career in public policy/public affairs to become Co-Founder + CEO of Irvine-based nonprofit Miracles for Kids. Her mission -- to help families with critically ill children throughout Southern California. Autumn and her dedicated team champion these families -- who are especially vulnerable during a pandemic -- by providing financial, emotional and other support, including housing. In addition to fighting for these families, Autumn is an involved and loving wife and mom of three children and we're thankful she took the time to answer some questions for us about life in quarantine.
Q: What about the current quarantine situation have you liked best - if you had to pick something to like?
AS: Hitting the pause button on life has really been an unexpected gift for my family. My husband always traveled for work, and my three kids are so scheduled they need their own assistant (hahaha) – so now that the world has stopped they are spending time (lots and lots of it) at home together. I have been at Miracles For Kids a lot – so they had to figure out how to function without me and find a new rhythm — my youngest has even tried her hand at cooking! There is something very special about the gift of time in our world, especially when we all normally have so little of it to spare.
Q: What about quarantine has been the most challenging for you and why?
AS: I feel so blessed to have my health and to have resources to protect my family and those I love. Watching our families at Miracles For Kids, who have already lost most of what they had when their child became ill, now also lose the few things they were able hold on to — their jobs, shelter, access to food — it hits me at my core and finding a new level of emotional balance has been challenging. When Miracles For Kids started 15+ years ago, I had to build a toolkit to help me process the heartbreaking stories of our children and families in crisis — and use them as my source of inspiration and empowerment. Now I am working on a new level of balance so I can process what COVID-19 is doing to those we are committed to serving, so we are ready to be there whenever, and however, they need us.
Q: Have you learned anything about yourself during this time? What? Anything surprising that you didn't know about yourself before?
AS: Well…I could definitely have a second career as a couch potato! I think when you are going so fast all the time, you forget the sheer bliss of doing nothing at all. I’m an early riser, so before I go to Miracles For Kids in the morning, I plop on the couch with coffee, a big blanket and my puppies. I thought I would go crazy, but the opposite is true — the downtime is peaceful and has been so valuable.
Q: Where have you been turning for inspiration during this time?
AS: Honestly, everywhere I turn I am inspired — by my staff, who have worked so hard to help me pivot existing programs into a rapid response mode for our 300+ families; to all of my nonprofit friends throughout the nation who have stepped up to be of service; to our families themselves, who are showing me every day what it means to be an example for your children when the world is crumbling around you.
Q: How has being in quarantine affected your work?
AS: We’ve become very good at “Zooming!” I moved everyone to rotating schedules several weeks ago to maintain small group limits at the office, and we already had a great VOIP platform in place that allowed them all to work from home or onsite without issue — so setting it all up was easy. I still come into the office every day to keep us on point, but it sure is quiet! I miss seeing everyone — and am looking forward to when we are all together again.
Q: Quarantine cuisine - any new or old favorites you've been enjoying more during quarantine? What and why?
AS: The funny thing about having everyone home is that they are getting odd cravings. My 15 year-old daughter Charlotte told me one day she wanted to eat only French food. Clearly she’s been cruising Pinterest in all her free time! So I had to figure out how to make different kinds of crepes. It was actually a lot of fun, but I’m not sure I did very well.
Q: What is your quarantine cocktail of choice?
AS: I love Pinot Noir and Moscow Mules, although I have to admit, I haven’t had any cocktails since this all started. I seem to crash at the end of the day of work and online school with the kids. I do have a few Zoom happy hours coming up with my girlfriends, though, and I can’t wait!
Q: Are there more holistic lessons that you hope society/our culture/the world will take away from quarantine (after it's over) -- things we've learned as a society during this time?
AS: I think we’ve all learned so much about our communities, and each other. It’s been uniting and divisive all at once. The one thing we know is true, and has always been true — we are all interconnected. Our choices, the way we live our lives, has an impact on others. I am hopeful we always remember that, even when we go back to a more regular rhythm.
Q: Favorite music during this time?
AS: One of my daughters is hooked on Vivaldi, and my son loves the Hamilton soundtrack – so I’ve adopted both when driving. At home, I still love my Country, Pop and R&B hit lists — Khalid is a huge obsession of mine.
Q: Any tip/s you can share with others that have made this time more bearable for you?
AS: Cat memes. My mother sends me the most ridiculous ones every day, and they make me laugh. It’s good for stress relief — and with all that’s going on with all of us fighting to keep our families safe, our businesses afloat, our minds from spinning out — we need to laugh.
Q: If this COVID quarantine "thing" was a character in a movie, what would he/she/it look like and what would be his/her/its traits? Hero or villain?
AS: Hmmmm….I grew up in the hot Mojave desert and we had a lot of Black Widow spiders there. They lived in the dark, with creepy furry legs and horrible looking red marks, and they were very scary. I was bit by one as a kid, and it was horribly painful. I see COVID-19 as similar to the world’s biggest, hairiest, nastiest spider — invisible, potentially deadly, and if you survive it — it will still hurt you physically and wound you mentally forever. Definitely NOT a hero in my book.
Q: What will you appreciate more after quarantine is over?
AS: Time with my friends. Like everyone else, I miss casual hangouts and conversations in person. And I’m a hugger, so I really miss hugs!
Q: What's your best-guess date about when quarantine will be over, when we can move about freely again?
AS: I am so proud of Californians for working so hard to stay home and safe, and recent commentary from our Governor has us slated to start slowly re-opening in mid-late May/early June right now – so that’s my best guess. I don’t know that we will ever think freely again —even if we are able to move that way. I think we will all now operate with a COVID-19 mindset and have heightened awareness to everything around us. It will change how, where and when we move — at least until testing and vaccines are readily available.
Q: Any book, podcast, movie, YouTube, Instagram accounts, albums or any other recommendations you have during this time?
AS: I’m a crime drama junkie – Criminal Minds, Blue Bloods, SVU, Homeland are my go-tos. I recently watched Unbelievable on Netflix, based on a true story, which was top notch. I love anything where the good guys win in the end!
To learn more about Miracles for Kids and to donate, please visit www.miraclesforkids.org.