As Community Partners coordinator of the Amarillo Child Protective Services Rainbow Room, Stephanie Swindell manages the emergency resource room that assists some of the area’s most vulnerable children and families. Created in 1996 by Community Partners of Amarillo, the Rainbow Room was only the second such room in Texas at its launch. It provides clothing, diapers, baby formula, school supplies, cribs, and more for abused or neglected children and their families.
“I love what the Rainbow Room does and I love being a part of it,” Stephanie says. “The most fulfilling part of my job is being a part of an organization that is making a difference in the lives of children in our community. Every day a child benefits from the donations given to the Rainbow Room.” On any given week, the Room might provide a stuffed animal for a frightened child who has escaped a home of cruelty or neglect, or groceries for a single mom struggling to keep her kids fed.
Stephanie praises the compassionate CPS caseworkers who endure tremendously challenging jobs. “They might be summoned during the night to rescue a child or to help a family escape an abusive situation,” she says. “Children often enter the foster care system with nothing but the clothes they are wearing.” In such cases, even the smallest comfort – a quilt, a teddy bear – can make a difference.
In 2000, Stephanie first encountered the Rainbow Room while volunteering with the Junior League of Amarillo. “It was close to my heart then, and never really left,” she says. At the time, she owned and operated A Book to Remember, a small second-hand bookstore. Sales dropped following the advent of e-readers, so Stephanie sold her inventory of books and looked for a career change. “When I heard that the position [at the Rainbow Room] was open for the first time in 16 years, I was thrilled,” she explains. “I have a passion for this project. My heart is here.”
When not providing for children in CPS care, Stephanie enjoys the company of her husband, Victor, with whom she graduated from Amarillo High School in 1985. Were they high school sweethearts? “No,” Stephanie laughs. “At our 10-year reunion, we were voted ‘most unlikely couple to couple.’ But I guess we’re doing something right.” The Swindells are the parents of Shelby, 22, and Sawyer Beth, 20.
Right now, I’m listening to… a song on my iPhone – “Come to the River” by Rhett Walker Band.
My friends and family call me… “Steph.” Some of my family still calls me “Sissy.”
My favorite meal to make from scratch is… breakfast for dinner.
In an alternate life, I would’ve been a… storm chaser or private investigator.
The most famous or interesting person I’ve ever met is… I have seen a few famous people but never officially met anyone famous. I am most interested in the lives of our kids.
If I had an open plane ticket to anywhere, I would go to… Ambergris Caye, Belize.
My go-to stress reliever is… music.
One of my favorite childhood toys was… my Spirograph, Shrinky Dinks or Lite-Brite.
My favorite most-quotable movie is… “You’ve Got Mail.”
If I were a character in a book, I would be… when I was a child, I always wanted to be Pippi Longstocking. She was pretty cool.
The greatest piece of advice I’ve ever received is… my prayers are more powerful than my presence.
You may be surprised to know that I… used to own a bookstore and I love to read.
I know every word to the song… “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty.
My favorite bad-for-me-food is… chips and dip.
My Facebook friend count is… 1,302.
I’m secretly addicted to the TV series… “Parenthood.”
If I had a time machine I would travel… back to the ’80s – if I knew then what I know now.
by Jason Boyett
Jason Boyett is an Amarillo writer and the author of “O Me of Little Faith, Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse,” and several other books. Jason’s writing has appeared in a variety of national publications including The Daily Beast, Salon, and The Washington Post. A former creative director in the local advertising industry, his work can also be seen on Amarillo billboards, heard in Amarillo radio ads, and followed in celebrity social media streams he’s not allowed to divulge. Jason is currently writing a young adult novel, and has known his wife, Aimee, since both were preschoolers in an Amarillo church nursery. Learn more at jasonboyett.com.