A Message from the Chief Executive Officer of The Arc ECT
It’s been a challenging year so far, to put it mildly! We’ve been trying to keep everyone informed through a series of podcasts and agency updates, but still wanted to showcase the incredible work our team has done during this crisis.
September 13-19 was National Direct Support Professional Recognition Week and this year every staff member of The Arc ECT earned our gratitude and respect for creatively delivering services to the people we support while keeping everyone safe and healthy.
This mini-newsletter provides snapshots of our many programs and their activities since early March. The pandemic has interestingly led to the development of some really creative solutions and new programming modalities that we plan to continue implementing, even when we are all back to “normal.”
Have a great Thanksgiving, everyone!
A Message from the President of the Board of Directors
Since the outset of the pandemic, the Board has been in constant contact with our CEO, so I’ve been able to hear daily how our team members have stepped up to this unprecedented challenge with fortitude, creativity, and no small amount of courage.
We’ve worked with leadership to create and review new policies and procedures that have allowed the agency to safely continue programming, and have reached out to families and local leaders to keep them informed of the safety protocols we’ve implemented. We are
indeed fortunate to have such an incredible group of people helping and caring for the people we support.
Please be sure to check out our latest Annual Report, now available on our website.
Our 22 residential programs are fully functional and as always are operating with staff 24/7 with NO positive tests to date. Many of our Day program staff have been redeployed to the residences, so those residents who also take part in our Day programs have the benefit of Day program activities right at home.
Betty-Jo Davis, Deputy Chief Quality Assurance Officer-Residential Services, reports that everyone’s been doing a terrific job. “The managers and staff have been super creative. The team has found different activities and trips that keep everyone active, happy and safe.”
The biggest challenge at the moment is being able to accommodate individual needs and desires while making sure that the whole residence stays safe. “We’re taking advantage of the warm weather to allow outside family visits with guidelines in place, and that seems to be working really well—both families and residents really appreciate being able to finally see each other face to face.”
Some residents have been able to return to work at both our micro-enterprises and group supported employment with other area agencies. “They are really happy about that,” says Betty-Jo. Everyone is so eager to get back to work."
Re-Imagining Day Services
We’re taking a very cautious and measured approach to bringing people back to face-to-face services at our Day programs. Everyone’s anxious to return to seeing their friends and program team, but since we always take a person-centered approach to the supports we provide, we need to make sure that our Day participants have no underlying health issues that could put them at risk.
For those who are still at home, we have a wide array of virtual opportunities that we’re sharing, so that everyone is receiving services in the safest possible way. “One of the things this pandemic has shown us,” notes Laurie Herring, The Arc ECT’s Chief Operations Officer, “is that in all our services there is a wonderful sense of community, and of responsibility towards each other.
"It didn’t just happen because of COVID-19—it was there all along. And it was good to remember—this shared concern, consideration, and fondness, as we all have looked out for each other these past months.”
In-Home Supports Continued to Provide Just That
Even though our over 80 IHS participants couldn’t attend their regular day supports, our In-Home supports staff continued to visit people with IDD at their own homes whenever possible.
“People were feeling very lonely and isolated, and didn’t know how to access resources online,” said Pat Grygorcewicz, Deputy Chief Quality Assurance Officer for Individual Services, who retired this month. “Our team made sure that both the people we support and their families got the tools they needed—whether it was instructions on how to access TeleHealth, support groups online, or their staff here at The Arc. For those homes that weren’t appropriate to enter, we replicated the home visit on platforms like Zoom. I think it made everyone feel much more comfortable and connected.”
Although our participant employees could not return to work during the first months of the pandemic, our tenacious team members did all they could to make sure that our micro-enterprises would be ready to open as soon as it was safe to do so.
Culinary Manager Kim Sandberg used all the ingredients we still had on hand to bake our famous cookies and other treats to donate to our supported residences. And Lawn/Landscape crew Job Coach Tim Bates attended to all our commercial accounts, assuring our customers knew we’d be back as soon as possible. In Woodstock, Director of Community Enterprise Jennifer Ricci and Job Coach Marnie Hitchew oversaw the gradual re-opening of the Redemption Center (for donated bottles and cans only) and the Emporium, which began accepting donations again in May and reopened to the public in October.
And although our Farm Stand was not able to offer fresh produce to the public this season, generous grants from the Chelsea Groton Foundation and the Ledyard Rotary allowed us to maintain the garden space, where staff and residents of the house where the garden is located grew vegetables for our other residences.
Employment and Micro-Enterprise Update
Creating Safe Spaces and Welcoming Homes
Following both DSS and CDC protocols and guidelines, we’ve made all our homes and program spaces clean, safe, and welcoming for both our team and the people we support.
The Reopening Team literally scoured the globe to secure as much PPE as possible during the first weeks of the pandemic, and thanks to grants from our wonderful partners at The United Way of Southeastern Connecticut and the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, we were able to purchase additional equipment that keeps staff and participants safe throughout the day. The team also made certain that all program spaces received a thorough cleaning down to the ductwork, and rearranged office and program space to ensure ease of daily cleaning/maintenance and appropriate distancing.
Staff received training in all our new protocols and guidelines; all our buildings and residences now require daily checks prior to entering. The Department of Developmental Services (DDS) allowed us to keep our contracted funding in place, so we were able to ensure that our residences are always fully staffed.
Keeping Us All Connected
The Arc Eastern Connecticut officially embraced virtual service delivery, as all our team learned how to take advantage of online meeting platforms to attend conferences, plan curriculums, and continue to provide programming to our participants who couldn’t receive services face to face.
The IT team worked tirelessly to ensure that everyone had the ability and equipment to work and communicate remotely. They also added extra services at the homes for people to have more TV and video choices. The team also oversees our cloud-based case management and reporting system, and trained the many staff temporarily reassigned to residential programming in the nuances of residential reporting.
Staff at our Employment Transition Center (ETC) developed Zoom and ZooRoom meetings for program activities, peer-to-peer chatting, interactive games, and lots of fun. Last month our Community Life & Advocacy program held its first-ever Men’s group—and did it on Zoom!
The Arc Team . . . in the Spotlight
Congratulations and Welcome are in order for both new additions to The Arc ECT’s family and for team members who received promotions this year.
Jennell Ricard, former Student Program Coordinator at ETC and Assistant to COO Laurie Herring, has been promoted to Deputy Chief Quality Assurance Officer-Day Services for both our northeastern and southeastern Connecticut programs.
Two House Managers at our supported residences, Alex Cabezas and Jason Fletcher, will now take over as Residential Directors of our Southeast and Northeast residences, respectively.
And Jennifer Ricci, formerly Director of Employment for our programs in the northeast, has been promoted to Director of Community Enterprise, also overseeing the agency’s six micro-enterprises throughout the region.
We also welcome Terry Wilson to the Human Resources Department. She will be assisting Chief Talent Officer Elizabeth Korineck, who assumed that position earlier this year.
Keeping our Fundraisers Fun
We made the difficult decision this Spring to cancel our Golf Tournament, Film Festival, and Murder Mystery Dinner Theater event.
We’re hoping that we’ll be able to hold all these great events next year—not only are they truly entertaining in their diversity and scope, they represent a significant portion of the funds needed to continue to provide vital programming for the people we support.
And there’s more good news —our 43rd annual Strides Road Race was still held this year! And we dare you to find a virtual road race that was this much fun. Held from October 4 through October 11, runners completed the course of their choosing, or ran our traditional Camp Harkness 5k, 10k and 1 mile fun run/walk/roll.
There were prizes for top finishers, incredible swag (including our always-snazzy T-shirt), social media exposure . . . and the ability to participate with family and friends around the country—at the same time!
“Our family has personally benefited from community services for people with disabilities . . . . These programs enriched [lives] and provided much-needed respite for family members.
We have enjoyed the Strides day event [since 1978]—its purpose, the camaraderie, the gathering of friends and strangers alike, and, of course, the food! As George's mom became more physically disabled, she "rolled" with us in the Family Fun Run.
Having experienced these years of Strides' events, it is rewarding and encouraging to see folks of varying abilities come together to better the lives of so many.”
in a thank-you letter to The Arc ECT
Speaking of Fundraising . . .
Many of you will have already received our Annual Appeal. This year’s focus is a combination of innovative thinking, adaptability and keeping our connections strong with one another and the community.
These days, working together and supporting each other is more important than ever. We hope you’ll consider making a gift to The Arc ECT—no amount is too small.
Our monthly subscription option allows you to donate as little as $5 a month easily and automatically (you can cancel any time), and this contribution goes such a long way—providing support groups to women with IDD at-risk of sexual assault and domestic violence, bringing music and art therapy to people with autism, providing mobility, communication and sensory equipment—and so much more that helps people with IDD live their dreams.
And don’t forget Giving Tuesday! Be a part of this wonderful global movement on December 1. Celebrate the end of 2020 (yippee!) while “Walking In Partnership For Full Equality” for people with IDD in eastern Connecticut. Find out more here. NEED LINK WHEN READY