It is scientifically proven that interacting with gentle, friendly pets has significant health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and improving cardiovascular health. The simple act of petting produces an automatic relaxation response; it releases endorphins (oxytocin) that have a calming effect. Further, trained Therapy Dogs have been proven to lift spirits, lessen depression, decrease feeling of isolation, and provide comfort, lower anxiety, increase socialization, and much more.
For the employees at our Day Habilitation sites, a calming influence is often what the people we support need to get back on track. Some locations have creative outlets like painting or drawing while others have sensory rooms for people to use when needed. At Abbott Day Habilitation, they have Ladybug.
Ladybug, whose full name is Lindy “Ladybug” Ruff (after a retired Buffalo Sabre), was a stray basset hound from South Carolina who was then rescued by Day Hab Manager Alyssa Kapella. Ladybug is a very laid-back, caring, and loving dog. Alyssa loves her dog and wanted to share her with everyone at Abbott Day Hab but dogs can be unpredictable, even the most gentle. She knew in order to bring Ladybug in to meet everyone; the dog would have to be specially trained to be able to adjust to different sounds, touches, and noise levels. Alyssa decided to find a place to take Ladybug where she could become a certified Therapy Dog.
After receiving her certification and ID, Ladybug was able to meet everyone at the Abbott Day Hab. Upon her arrival, everyone was excited to meet her, pet her and welcome her to the group. Ladybug loves to be petted, especially on her ears. For anyone who is having a tough time, caressing her velvety soft ears brings a sense of calm faster than anything the group had seen before. Times when stress levels are elevated Ladybug remains quiet and often comes to the feet of the person in need, waiting to give comfort.
We are happy for Ladybug’s success at the Abbott Day Hab and all that she has done for the people that we support. We look forward to hearing more wonderful stories from the Abbott Day Hab team. This year will be Ladybug’s one year anniversary at the Day Hab, and her presence has brought happiness and comfort. Alyssa is grateful for the response and support she received when she asked to bring in a Certified Therapy Dog. We want to thank you, Alyssa for following procedure and thinking outside the box!
At Community Services, we believe that every person is able and deserves the opportunity to live their fullest life possible. After their mother passed away, Xavier and Richard moved into one of our Supported Apartments. They worked with staff that supported them to learn the skills they needed getting ready for work every morning, as well as budgeting their funds and scheduling any appointments they may have. The goal was to prepare them to eventually live independently in the community.
As their confidence began to grow, Richard and Xavier began inquiring about the opportunity to move into their own apartment. They looked forward to this option, as it would mean they would be able to self-direct their services and develop a plan for the supports they want and need. A Self-Directed plan lets you choose what resources you need and hire your own staff to build a circle of support in your community. This choice-based program is designed to promote independence and to build confidence as you take control of your own life.
Richard and Xavier found their first apartment closer to their family, just as they wished for. Their first staff member was a Self Determination Assistant who provided them with support and assistance depending on what they needed. They also hired Lindsey to be their Life Coach. A Life Coach assists in helping with such things as scheduling their daily routines, attending doctor’s appointments, shopping for groceries, paying bills, and much more.
Being able to hire their own staff was a big confidence booster for the brothers. They were able to ask questions that pertained to their individual needs and wants. Xavier took this as a chance to really step up to the plate as an independent individual. Despite their initial shyness, once the brothers were handed the steering wheel to their own lives, they blossomed! Now both Xavier and Richard are quick to speak up when they have any issues, letting their supportive staff know how they would like the issues resolved.
Prior to living in our Supported Apartments, the brothers needed constant reminders to set their alarms in order to get up for work. Since living independently, they set their alarms without reminder, iron their clothes, and prepare their lunches for work. Lindsey, their Life Coach, has worked with them to create a mail sorting system, helping them keep their bills organized. Richard and Xavier are eager to learn how to cook and will set food aside in order for the staff to help teach them how to prepare it.
Richard has begun taking art classes. He was taught how to draw by one of his brothers who has passed away. “He taught me how to draw faces and I kept going from there,” says Richard.” He likes to paint in his room with his door closed, “It’s nice to have some quiet time. No one is bothering you because you’re by yourself.” Xavier has been taking guitar lessons. Music is a passion of his and he makes sure he expresses that to the staff that he hires. He goes to sleep to music, wakes up to music, and cleans to music. “When I’m playing, it gets me happy and gives me joy. It feels like I can do anything I put my mind to,” says Xavier. This is only the beginning for the brothers; we are grateful they have chosen Community Services to participate in their journey.
On November 19th, the second day of the “Snovember” Lake Effect Storm, the Site Manager of the Thorndale IRA decided to try to make the trek into work. Leilani was confident she would get there knowing her truck was a powerful ride. However, her truck was no match for the “wall” of snow she encountered when she arrived in South Buffalo. Luckily, three men saw that Leilani needed assistance and dug her truck out of the snow. Having already gotten this far, she wasn’t going to let anything stop her from arriving at the IRA. Despite her determination she got stuck again, this time with no one in sight. To make matters worse, she was cold and quickly running out of gas.
Leilani decided to abandon her truck and walk the block or two to the Thorndale IRA. All she had to guide her were footsteps left by previous walkers. Then, the footsteps that she had been following disappeared and the snow was now well over her hips. She prayed for warmth and strength and turned around in hopes of making it back to her truck. It was then she came across a kind man named Mike. Mike and his wife, Julie, invited her in and offered her some much needed help and warmth. Julie ran and got Leilani dry clothes, a towel, and a blow-dryer. She put the wet clothes in the dryer and invited Leilani to stay for as long as she needed. But Leilani knew she had to get to her IRA. Her relief staff had been there for over two days and the vents needed to be cleared.
Mike, a stranger quickly becoming a friend, offered her to wear his hunting gear and said he would walk her to the IRA. Once Leilani stepped outside and noticed the conditions they were facing, she began to panic. “We will take this step by step, I will hold your hand if you need me to and I will get you there” said Mike. Even though the IRA was on the same street, it took them nearly an hour to make it to their destination. Mike helped Leilani every step of the way and upon arrival at the IRA he immediately began clearing the vents of heavy snow.
“I can only say thank God for good people and thank God for Julie and Mike for caring. They did not have to take me in or help me get to the IRA. I know it was probably not the safest thing to do, but all I could think about was helping the relief staff and the ladies who live at the IRA,” said Leilani.
On November 17th, before the storm began, Direct Support Professional Laura Webster headed into her work at the Geary IRA like any other day, not knowing she would be snowed in for three days. By the afternoon of Tuesday, November 18th, the storm was in full fury and fellow DSP, Cheryl Cole was determined to try to get to the IRA as well. She knew that Laura had already been on duty for over 24 hours. There was little food left at the IRA and Laura was growing concerned. Cheryl and her husband, Ronald, set off on a journey to the store and purchased food and hygiene items to bring to the IRA.
Cheryl and Ronald were getting close to Geary IRA when they were stopped by the police and told they were not allowed to drive any further. However their determination remained! Parking their car and walking seemed to be the only way. They were able to walk through a route made by a plow until they hit a road block. The snow was half way up their legs, but Ronald did not allow that to keep his wife from getting to the IRA. He shoveled a path to their destination and both arrived safely. Cheryl stayed overnight to help at the house.
Wednesday, day 2 of the storm, Ronald returned to pick up Cheryl and do some grocery shopping for the house. But, on their way back they were stopped again and told they could not continue driving. Knowing the people at the IRA and the staff needed these supplies; they began to put as many items as possible on a sled and walked to the house. While Cheryl stayed another night to work with the staff, taking turns napping and shoveling, her husband went back out into the battle field to take care of their family.
On day 3 of the storm, Ronald picked up a staff member, Renee Harris. He and Renee went to Parkview Pharmacy, picked up medications and eventually arrived at the site, safe and sound. This was quite an adventure for all; everyone worked hard to maintain the health and safety of the people we serve.
By Day 2 of the storm, travel bans were issued throughout the city and its surrounding areas. Some people we serve were running low on many items including medications. Due to the travel ban, the only means for some staff to travel to their jobs was via the National Guard. However by 7:00 AM the staff eagerly waiting at 180 Oak Street and ready to help had still not been picked up by the National Guard.
Deciding they couldn’t wait any longer to help people in need, a team of employees huddled at 1179 Kenmore Avenue to create a plan that would get medications and relief staff to where they needed to be. Two Program Coordinators picked up medications and staff to bring them to their, “storm headquarters” at 180 Oak Street. Site Managers Allison Schmandt and Christine Wagner demonstrated their leadership skills as they devised a plan for what needed to be done that day. They mapped out their route and began their journey. As they made it to each location, they updated others of their arrival.
The first stop was Leydecker, next was North Drive. Allison was back and forth from North Drive and Thorndale, delivering medications, picking up staff, and relieving those in need of a break. At 2:00 AM, Allison updated the others that their mission was a success!
Staff members like this make Community Services a place we can all be proud to work for. We thank you all for your patience, and commitment to “Living the Mission”.
Abbott Day Habilitation program was honored to be invited to Eastco/ California Recording Studio located in Orchard Park, NY.
George Miller, DSP- Relief at Community Services, orchestrated the visit. Our individuals relished at this once in a lifetime opportunity. Heather, Eastco Marketing Specialist and Josh, Production Engineer, lead the group on a tour of the recording studio, sound booth, and production areas. The excitement on their faces is evident in the photograph taken.
We hope to explore future endeavors with Eastco/ California Studio and continue to think “outside the box” to ensure continued enrichment in the lives of the people we serve.
The recent “Open Mic”, on April 18th, also showcased our groups talent and this visit acted as a catalyst for our group to practice and perform to their full potential.
by Julie Marzolf
Today our employees, friends and people we support volunteer their time and talents to United Way’s Annual Day of Caring. Stay tuned for photos and updates!
Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled is proud to announce the promotion of Kelly E. Kinderman, a longtime employee of Community Services to Vice President of Program Support and Development. She will be replacing Sharon Chmielnicki who has recently been promoted to VP of Programs and COO. We are fully confident that Kinderman’s skills, experience, passion and dedication for our mission makes her the ideal candidate for this position.
As Vice President of Program Support and Development, Kinderman will oversee the planning and implementation of the Agency’s quality assurance and quality improvement program, program development, strategic planning, and staff development. She will ensure compliance with all government and contractual rules and regulations. Kinderman will also serve as a Corporate Compliance Officer and HIPPA Compliance Officer. We look forward to what Kinderman will contribute to our Agency as one of our newest Vice Presidents.
BUFFALO, NY– Sharon Chmielnicki has been promoted to Vice President of Programs and COO. She will be replacing Mindy Cervoni who has recently been promoted to President & CEO. Her extensive years of experience, passion for our Mission, and tremendous leadership skills made her a natural fit for the current promotion.
As Chief Operating Officer, Chmielnicki will be responsible for overall operation of all programs and services of the Agency, including program administration, service delivery, program staff supervision, monitoring of program services, completing required reports and maintenance of records. She ensures compliance of all programs with regulatory and contractual requirements. Also, ensures achievement of financials and program outcome objectives. Chmielnicki will serve as Acting CEO in the absence of the President and CEO.
Buffalo, NY– David J. Kraus, a highly-qualified finance and accounting professional has been appointed to the Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled Board of Directors.
David Kraus joins the Board with 20+ years of accounting and finance experience in both private and public institutions. Before relocating to Buffalo, NY, Kraus was the CFO and a Partner of the Commonwealth Advisors in Baton Rouge, LA. In addition, Kraus is an active member of the WNY community. He is a member of the Advisory Committee for the Buffalo Peacemakers, and a member of the Corporate Compliance Committee and Finance and Audit Committee for the Developmentally Disabled. Kraus is also a certified Chartered Financial Analyst, Management Accountant, and certified in Investment Performance Measurement.