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Counsel center recognizes chief’s 25 years of caring (Garland Morning News - 11/21/02)

21st November 2002

In The News / News and Events

Director making plans to expand services to provide for more clients

BY MARINA MARTINEZ/ Mesquite Morning News

Thursday, November 21, 2021

There’s a respect, a trust that forms wherever Elaine Ply goes.

The reputation preceded her as she settled in at Galaxy Counseling Center 25 years ago. Now, Dr. Ply’s reputation and galaxy’s are one and the same.

Dr. Ply helped develop the center into a safe house where more than 1,500 clients are helped to feel more at eas each yeat.

The center staff help a reception Friday honoring Dr. Ply’s accomplishments and commitment to her work.

“We want to share Elaine with the community,” said board president John Dornheim. “So much of the spirit of the center is Elaine’s spirit.”

The center’s 48-year-old source of strength wiggled her great-grandmother’s golden ring, her inspiration, around her right ring finger at the reception, contemplating what the next 25 years will be like, whether she’ll still be around as executive director or as a volunteer.

“The main thing is for us to continue to make sure we keep a pulse on the community, to know what they nee,” she said.

She knew of the reception but cried when Garland City Council member Jackie Feagan read a mayor’s office proclamation for Dr. Elaine Ply Day.

Work’s not done.

She feels, however, that there is more to do.

Dr. Ply wants to make sure the center provides counseling for people who speak Chinese dialects, Vietnamese, or Spanish..

The center, named for the galaxy of children who need help, moved in 1998 to its current location, 1025 S. Jupiter Road, around the corner from Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s new Forest/ Jupiter light rail station. Easier access because of the station, which opened Monday, means more clients will be able to use Galaxy’s services.

“We signed a 10-year lease because of DART,” Dr. Ply said.

As with any nonprofit agency, finding funds to keep it going is a challenge.

Dr. Ply helped find many creative ways to raise money, including a bowl-a-thon and driving at a go-kart track.

“It was the first time I have ever bowled under 100,” she said with a laugh. “That’s good isn’t it? After that, it was terrible,”

The most recent creative fundraiser involves Town east mall.

Shoppers who purchase $5 tickets from Galaxy can shop after hours, from 7 to 10 p.m., Sunday at An Evening with Giving. Patrons can enjoy store discounts, a Mesquite Symphonic Band concert, door prizes, a marionette show and free gift-wrapping and refreshments.

How she started

As naturally gifted as she may seem to her peers, Dr. Ply didn’t know what career path to take until college.

She recalled an instructor at Eastfield College telling a story of a student “so emotionally disturbed she wasn’t able to stay in the class.”

“I thought, ‘ What drives that kid of behavior? How do you help them?’”

Texas Woman’s University professor Bud Littlefield noticed a glimmer of a therapist who could help people overcome traumatic experiences.

“I know who is good and who would be good, and I know Elaine would be,” he said.

Dr. Littlefield introduced Dr. Ply to galaxy counseling Center, where she is now executive director. The center was created by Soroptimist Internation of Garland in 1975. The organization had run a girl’s shelter in a three-bedroom house on Garland Avenue.

In 1994, Dr. Ply applied for an internship at Texas Woman’s university Counseling Center.

She counseled students about drug, alcohol and physical abuse. She also advised about eating disorders, depression and anxiety. A requirement toward her doctorate, the internship also allowed her to add to her experience with college-age people.

She was devoted to her responsibilities there, simultaneously running Galaxy.

“The thing that impressed us most is she’d had a long career as a clinician and was coming back to take an internship with us,” said Don Rosen, the university center director. “It was very obvious to use early on that she had the experience, and it was quality.”

She helped start a truancy program in 2001 to help students and their families face the importance of getting to school.

Dr. Ply helped galaxy begin its program for children, teens and adults who have been sexually abused.

It was a relief because I saw so many children and women that were suffering so much,” she said.

Her passion has always been helping children and adolescents. At the center, children as young as 3 are treated for abuse ad behavioral disorders.

“She had a real knack for relating to people, especially youth,” Dr. Littlefield said. “She’s one of these Winston Churchill people who never, never give up. She be there until the last dog dies.”

Sr. Ply has never been abused, but she has a necessary level of empathy for clients and learns more every day.

“I had difficulty getting along with peers … and i came from a family that didn’t handle their anger very well,” she said.

“I’m not really sure that it matter, I think, what your elate to, whether its and abuse victim or going through a divorce or lost someone to a terminal illness, what you respond to is the depth and hurt of pain. We’ve all experienced loss and grief and hurt and anger. The human emotions are always similar. It really does take empathy — you have to be able to put yourself in their shoes.

“Listening can help you help others. The most important thing is counseling clients is learning from other clients. It teaches you about you, and teaches you about life and what other clients might be going through.”