March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, giving us the perfect opportunity to educate our community about the unique talents of the people we support.
This year’s theme is “See Me, For Me,” which encourages everyone to focus on each person and get to know more about them as an individual. The theme calls on our community to recognize people for their abilities. Here at Community Services, we celebrate the people we support all year long. Our Agency accepts people of all abilities and promotes their inclusion in the community. We’re committed to providing quality, person-centered services that are tailored to each person’s needs and creating individualized plans to help every person we serve accomplish their goals.
For example, our Jefferson Career Center offers hands-on learning suites where the people we support can explore different career paths and develop job skills to connect them with employment opportunities. The learning suites offer training in a variety of fields, including hospitality, office work, and automotive detailing.
We’ve also had countless examples of those that we support achieving a greater level of independence. Jason, a participant at one of our Day Habilitation programs, worked hard to gain the skills and independence to be able to go to the store and walk around without needing someone there to hep him.
Our mini-grant program, which fills gaps in funding, is another way we help the people we serve celebrate their talents and discover what they’re passionate about. Mini-grants have helped fund several programs and experiences, including camping trips, an indoor garden, a recording studio, transportation supports and more.
We also celebrate and thank our employees, advocates, families and partners for helping raise awareness in the community and for making a difference in the lives of the people we support.
If you’re interested in hearing our success stories or want to learn more about the Agency, follow us on social media and sign up for our e-newsletter here.
Businesses who are looking to hire capable, reliable and committed employees should consider hiring people with developmental disabilities. Employers will be hiring someone who is dedicated and hardworking while at the same time enabling that person to become more independent and involved in their community.
Some of the benefits of a hiring a person with a developmental disability include, but are not limited to:
- A more diverse workforce
- Increased productivity
- Motivated employees
- Less employee turnover
- Reduced recruiting times
- Fewer training costs
There are also tax credits available for businesses that employ people with developmental disabilities. The first potential credit is the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). Employers can receive up to $2,400 in federal tax savings for hiring people with low incomes. The Workers with Disability Tax Credit (WDTC) can earn employers up to $5,000 for hiring people with developmental disabilities to full-time positions and up to $2,500 for part-time jobs.
According to the 2016 Disability Statistics Annual Report conducted by the University of New Hampshire, only 35% of all people with disabilities are employed. By employing more people with disabilities, their dependence on governmental supports decreases.
At Community Services, we know a job is so much more than a paycheck. It’s about learning new skills and being a part of the community. Our Vocational Services provide a wide range of opportunities to ensure people who want to work are prepared and have the supports necessary to succeed.
Read more about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities here as well as the possible tax credits here.
After several years of planning and developing, Community Services officially opened our Jefferson Career Center on October 30th, 2017.
The center offers hands-on learning suites to help people with developmental disabilities develop skills for the jobs they want. These suites focus on specific job industries, including hospitality, automotive detailing, culinary, and office work. The Jefferson Career Center will help the people we serve explore different career paths, develop the specific skills needed for those careers, and connect them with competitive employment opportunities.
The center will also provide after-school respite programs for the children we support. Our respite spaces and playground will give children a safe, engaging place to spend time while giving parents and guardians personal time.
We would like to thank all of our sponsors and partners for their support of this project: Basil Family of Dealerships, Buffalo State College School of Hospitality, Community Services Support Foundation, Copier Fax Business Technologies, Delaware North, Eaton Office Supply, First Niagara Bank, Hyatt Regency, James H. Cummings Foundation, John R. Oishei Foundation, KeyBank, M&T Bank, Northwest Bank, NYS Dormitory Authority, Spring-It-On donors, and VSP Graphic Group.
Thank you to everyone who has helped and will continue to help make this center a reality! We can’t wait to share all the amazing success stories with you.
You can learn more about the opening of the Jefferson Career Center from the following news links:
Businesses team up to help people with disabilities find jobs
New Jefferson Career Center offers job training for developmentally disabled
Disabilities service provider opens career training center
Community group opens new job training center
New career center will help people with developmental disabilities with employment
Thank you to everyone who made the past year an incredible success for our Agency and Foundation. We invite you to take a few minutes to read our 2016 Annual Report. These stories reflect some of our biggest accomplishments, none of which would be possible without the support from our community. You can view our 2016 Annual Report by clicking here.
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.