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Exploring Mental Health

September 7, 2021

Our Team, Our Passions...Colleen Welder

Before joining the Hopewell staff as a nurse in 2003, Colleen Welder, RN, BC, Director of Program and Operations, worked in inpatient psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland and in community mental health nursing. Eighteen years later, her role has grown and changed from direct care to operations. She earned an MBA in health care management while at Hopewell and is part of the Leadership Team. She is involved in day-to-day staff supervision and management on the farm.

Since March, 2020, Colleen has concentrated on keeping Hopewell residents and staff safe and COVID free. She chairs the COVID planning committee and manages testing and vaccinations. Fortunately, we have had no resident cases of COVID and no spreading of COVID in the community.

Colleen’s passion— horses—is a great way to de-stress after a long day. Horses have been a part of her life since childhood when she occasionally rode for pleasure. After college, she made riding a priority and has incorporated horses into many aspects of her life. Colleen and her daughter ride for exercise and to feel connected to nature. In addition, Colleen competes in dressage as an adult amateur and she qualified for regional championships in 2020 and 2021.

For Colleen, riding is more than a physical activity. “When I am on a horse, I am present, focused, and mindful,” she said. “If I come to the horse with anxieties, worries, and stress, I have to let go of tension and relax.” She continued, “Horses are amazing mirrors. If I have a bad day, it will be reflected in my ride, and if I have a bad ride, it’s not the horse’s fault. For me and my horse, a better ride—a better relationship—comes down to communicating effectively.”

To bring the benefits of working with horses to Hopewell residents, Colleen was certified in Equine Assisted Learning in 2005. “Despite its name, Equine Assisted Learning does not involve riding. All activities are on the ground,” Colleen explained. “The horse is your partner to help teach clients coping skills. As you work with someone, you ask them to do a task and observe the horse. You draw connections from what is happening with the horse to human interactions.” Though her priorities currently focus on operations management under COVID, she hopes to get back in the barn with residents when time allows.

Colleen said, “I enjoy being a part of community that brings meaning and purpose to people’s lives. The word that comes to mind is belonging. Many people come to Hopewell feeling isolated and alone, and it is so satisfying to watch them grow and feel a part of something. I feel like I’m helping them find a connection or change for the better. On a great day, I see residents enjoying the present moment."

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