PEOPLE OF ALTOONA: Katie Princehouse

In this week’s #PeopleofAltoona, Balance Autism’s Senior Director of Marketing and Enrollment, Katie Princehouse reflects on her connection with the Altoona community.

Returning Home

The first job I had after graduating from college was at The Homestead (now Balance Autism), located just outside of Altoona’s city limits. I first interned as an autism associate and then moved into a manager role and eventually shared my responsibilities between the youth services department and admissions work across the organization. Though I was commuting from West Des Moines, my “home” was Altoona. It’s where I grocery shopped, ran errands, got my hair cut, tended to medical appointments and even met my husband many Friday evenings out for dinner.

After six years, my career transitioned to higher education, where I spent more than a decade. Throughout this time, I kept in touch with former colleagues of my past, and about two and a half years ago, the stars realigned to return to Balance Autism. With the help of some networking and lucky timing, I connected with a past coworker and learned they were seeking to fill a role that would be a great fit; I could utilize the experience I had gained while I’d been away. I made the career change with no regrets. Today, I feel very fortunate to work for an organization in which I wholeheartedly support its mission and am proud of the essential services we provide with purpose, innovation, creativity and compassion. Not only has it been wonderful to come back to the (now much larger) company where I started my profession, but it has brought the comfort of returning daily to the familiar Altoona community, as well.

A Perfect Community for Balance Autism

Altoona is “home” to me because of Balance Autism. This community is very supportive of our organization, and many of the individuals we serve reside in and around the city.

Balance Autism owns a number of homes both within the community, as well as our residential facility on the farm. Just as most of us do in our personal lives, our decision to buy land, homes or office space is largely contingent on the community in which it’s located. It has been very purposeful that we’ve not only remained in Altoona for nearly 25 years, but have significantly expanded our services in this location throughout this time, as well.

We teach life skills and support individuals with autism to be as independent as possible. To do so, we must find environments within communities that allow for real-life teaching moments: grocery stores provide the opportunity to teach meal planning, shopping, budgeting, and social interaction; an array of restaurants offer many opportunities to practice decision-making, such as ordering a meal for one’s self, trying new things, counting money and social skills; transportation services – Paratransit and short-distance options like Lyft, Uber or Taxi – permit individuals to independently access the community; walking trails and parks are not only used for no-cost recreational use, but provide moments to teach, learn and practice safety skills and/or stay physically active; a strong school district to partner with for school-aged individuals helps maximize education and knowledge; a variety of supportive businesses that offer job exploration or meaningful paid work. And last, but certainly not least, we seek a community with a culture of acceptance and kindness for those with whom we share our neighborhoods.

Without a doubt, Altoona provides all of these things and more. It’s a wonderful place to call home. We are thankful to the citizens of this community who make the children and adults we serve and their families feel a welcome part of the town.

Building Relationships

Altoona is conveniently located right off of I-80, making a commute from anywhere in the metro very accessible. I love that our administrative office is located within the same community where many individuals with autism reside or receive services. I get frequent visits from Stuart saying hello while he’s in the office to meet with his job coach, or from Gary stopping by each office to invite us to his birthday celebration. I get to see the faces of many children in and out of our clinic each day, and the opportunity to say hello to the families I have worked with through their admissions process. Additionally, I have amazing colleagues. With our headquarters located in Altoona, it has provided the opportunity to work with people commuting from other areas of central Iowa whom I would not otherwise know.

Currently, I’m working remotely due to COVID-19, but I plan to return to the office as soon as we are cleared.

Convenient for Working Parents

The Altoona community is laid out nicely and has everything I could possibly need. I enjoy working in a city where I can grab coffee on my way to work, run an errand at a nearby department store over my lunch hour or grab supper for the family on my way home. Like most working parents with three busy kids, my time is valuable and convenience is everything.

Commuting with Ease & Meditation

I reside in Huxley, IA. My commute is an easy 30 minutes by interstate, and I look forward to having time in the morning to focus and mentally prepare for the day. I like the evening commute to decompress so that I’m physically and mentally available to my family once I’m home.