Story by Katie Kelton. Photos by Stephanie Daniels.
If there is a notion to which most of humanity can relate, it is the paradoxical beauty and struggle of raising a family. Catlin Hale is no stranger to the familial dynamic. As the new Executive Director of This Side Up! Family, she fearlessly leads parents from surviving to thriving in the home.
“Social, economic, and time pressures have robbed parents of the ability to slow down and invest the time needed to create healthy relationships with each other and their children,” she shares. Families undergo constant strain in the 21st century, from doubled divorce rates to increased screen time to heightened levels of expected achievement for children. Under such dire conditions, it is vital that parents find a way to maintain their own and their family’s well-being.
As Catlin looks out over this social landscape, she can envision a solution to some of the practical issues parents face. “We believe every family can benefit from intentional time together,” she says. Birthed in 2011, This Side Up! Family was the dream of Sarah Morris, a children’s minister, to create a space for families to connect and grow in community. Their four pillars now include:
Free Family Connection Events with take home family strengthening tools,
Single Parent Support.
Any family is welcome to participate and there are no zip code or income requirements. If a family needs help beyond what This Side Up! can offer, the team will earnestly find resources that can better serve them.
Catlin was tapped as leader of the organization in 2019 and hails from a 10-year journey through the nonprofit world. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in global leadership, Catlin is a relentless giver of her time. She has served with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Literacy Achieves, and Interfaith Family Services, all of whom are dedicated to mentorship, provision, and education for families.
Like the rest of the nation, Catlin and her team have had to pivot programming during COVID-19. At-Home Date Night includes a dinner gift card and conversation topics for parents plus activity ideas for kids. The Quarantine Quality Time newsletter offers a curated list of family time ideas to 3,000 subscribers. And the first virtual family trivia night was hosted in August!
This Side Up! Family has consistently served over 500 families each year with a small-but-mighty staff, budget, and volunteer team. Catlin warmly shares the story of a single mother who discovered the organization through the clothing giveaway. The mother became more involved and found a transformational support system. She is now a member of the Board of Directors, just graduated from law school, and recently purchased a home. Other parents share stories of finding a home away from home when moving to Dallas, much-needed clothing and shoes for their children, foster care support, revival of a marriage, and connecting with their family even after a divorce. As one parent described it, “[This Side Up! Family is] an oasis in the desert of family resources!”
The hard work of helping to rebuild relationships is not without reward. Catlin shares, “I am inspired by the parents who seek to create a firm foundation for their kids – educationally and socially – in a healthy way.” The organization finds its namesake in the familiar this side up shipping term, which indicates that the item inside must be treated with care. Families can be fragile and require gentleness and perseverance.
The Dallas-Fort Worth community is the perfect home for This Side Up! Family because of, in Catlin’s words, its abundant “philanthropy, generosity, diversity, and vibrancy.” If you would like to support DFW families (or get involved yourself!), please visit thissideupfamily.org to donate, check out their wish list, volunteer, or participate.