Category Archives: Latest News

Making a Difference One Dollar at a Time

For the past seven years, Entergy Texas customer Melissa Delgado of Conroe has participated in Entergy’s Super Tax Day events to get her taxes done for free. It is one of many events held as part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program – a program sponsored in part by Entergy.

At roughly $300 per year, Delgado has saved more than $2,100 – money she would have had to pay to a tax preparation company. That savings, along with what she gets back on her taxes through the Earned Income Tax Credit, really adds up for her family.

“We found out about this program from a couple at our church seven years ago, and we’ve been coming ever since,” she said. “We were paying so much money. It was such a blessing and still is.”

Delgado and her family plan to use their tax refund to pay for health insurance.

Meanwhile, a young woman named Ashley returned to get her taxes done for a second year – a year after tax volunteer Carmen Phillips with Easter Seals Houston‘s Housing and Financial Literacy Program gave her a packet of financial education materials that taught her how to create a budget and track her expenses.

“After last year’s event we spoke a couple times via phone, but I did not hear from her again until she walked up to my table,” explained Phillips, who works for Easter Seals of Greater Houston. “She immediately recognized me and told us that because of that packet and our discussions in 2017, she worked hard all year sticking to her budget worksheets and tracking her spending – so much so that she was able to purchase her first home!

“I have to say I was both speechless and blown away by her sincerity and candor,” she said. “I was so pleased to learn that the brief education and information received through a Super Tax Day event could have such a profound effect on a client!”

Since 2011, Entergy has been sponsoring VITA sites in all five of its operating companies – Entergy Texas, Entergy Louisiana, Entergy New Orleans, Entergy Arkansas and Entergy Mississippi. Of more than 111,125 tax returns filed, customers have gotten back near $200 million in refunds.

In Texas alone, more than 8,200 tax returns have been filed, with customers getting back more than $11.5 million in refunds.

Pictured above: Entergy Texas President and CEO Sallie Rainer (left) visits with Senior Customer Service Specialist Paula Odom of Entergy Texas Public Affairs and Entergy customer Melissa Delgado.

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Happy Birthday! via Facebook!

$3,762…. That’s a nice chunk of change…For Easter Seals Greater Houston that means a child with a neurological disorder and a volunteer get to go to Camp Smiles, our overnight camp, on scholarship. It might be that child has never been to camp, and their parents couldn’t afford it. It might be that child has gotten to go before, but this year because of Harvey, money was just too tight. Whatever the case made be…  that gift means they do get to go; and I can guarantee that child’s and their buddy/volunteer’s lives will be forever changed for the better.

Or a child with a disability that needs therapy…insurance doesn’t cover it all or tough times have happened and a family has lost their insurance… you wouldn’t want to have to ever say…we can’t afford PT or speech for our child….we don’t have the money right now… That same chunk of change at Easter Seals…means they do receive therapy.

And we could list so many other life changing programs and services that thousands are able to take advantage of through Easter Seals because we have sponsors, donors, volunteers, staff, parents, clients, friends, friends’ of friends and more – who give back and allow us to continue in our mission.

So who donated the $3,762…. So many people we don’t even know and that have never met Easter Seals or our programs before, or who have watched from afar a friend’s child and some people who have benefited from our services or their child did.

How is that possible?….it’s birthday money from Facebook!.    You know the tune…”They say it’s your birthday…it’s my birthday to yeah!”  With the Facebook App…It really can be your birthday and our birthday too…YEAH!

And we think it’s amazing! When it first launched, we had people use it; and, yes they raised funds. This year, it has taken-off.   The $3762 is from 2018 – only 5 months and 10 birthdays.  So the next time you think, I really want to support “ABC” Charity (hopefully it’s Easter Seals Houston – wink) but I can’t because I don’t really have funds to donate and neither does anyone else I know.

Remember this, …WRONG. You can – and whether its’ your birthday or a drive or an event like our Walk With Me, you can do it. One dollar, five dollars, ten dollars at a time and it adds up to something life changing just like the $3762.   So give it a try on your next birthday and watch what happens!

We will give you an update in another 6 months to see what our birthdays have accomplished together!  Instructions – Login to your page on FB, click the fundraisers button on the left side of your page, click on the green button that says “raise money” for FB’s step by step instructions – its easy…try it!

Kelly Klein
Development Director
Easter Seals Greater Houston

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What the Snap?

Ethan, one of our Easter Seals Houston 2018 Summer Camp Interns, has been Denium’s counselor for the past two years. Before that, they had been in the same cabin. Over the three years, they built an amazing bond that helped both of them grow in a way that will forever be remembered. Sadly, camp does not last forever. At Camp Smiles, campers graduate when they are 14 years old. The graduation ceremony is always a very emotional time, as counselors who have been with their campers for years, give a speech to say farewell to some of the most impactful people in their lives. There is rarely a dry eye in the audience. Here is the speech Ethan gave to Denium as he was graduating:

You have been a part of my life I will never forget. From the countless catch phrases such as “ooooooh you got a girlfrieeeend” to nicknaming Pablo as Pappadeux, your humor is a gift that will be remembered by all.

This is our second year together. Imagining a camp experience without you is just strange to me. While your presence overall is unforgettable, there are some specific instances that are especially amazing. Two years ago, we had a very emotional day together. We were outside of the art barn, and I decided to sneak up on you and pop a wheelie as a joke. Little did I know, you were already in an irritable mood because of something that had just happened. As soon as I did that, you reached back and swatted at me. My popping a wheelie with you was the tip of your iceberg. You were very upset. We got back to the cabin and the other counselors and I insist that you apologize. After a while, our friend, Lee, took you to the bathroom so y’all could have a talk about it and calm down. What happened next is something that will never fail to make my heart melt. I remember you coming in, looking very sad. You came up to me and said something very softly, too softly to hear. I ask what you said. You took a moment to collect yourself. Then, you pulled me in as tight as you could and profusely apologized to me and told me how sad you were. Never in my life have I experienced such raw sincerity. While you were crying and apologizing, I began to cry as well as I realized how sincere and caring of a person you truly are.

After a couple of years with you, I’ve noticed some changes in your personality. For one, during your first year, you were completely repulsed by the idea of interacting with the icky icky girls. Now this year, you can’t stay away from them. You went from poking fun at Lee for having a girlfriend by saying “oooooh, you got a girlfriend” every time Sophie walked by. Now, you proudly announce to your whole cabin that you indeed do “have a girlfriend”.

On a more serious note, the change that I have been most proud to witness is how much more open you’ve been with your caring personality. Spending time with you has given me the unique opportunity to experience not only the hilariously wild side of you that I call “what the snap Denium” but also the sweet and tender side of you. The side of you that holds Jacoby with care. The side that is well beyond content while tickling and smiling at Niko. It has been very impactful on me and has made me so happy. I’m so proud that I got to see you interact with the little ones so well.  The way you interact with the little ones has made everyone who has been around you smile. The way you interact with Niko and Jacoby shows a new side of you that makes me so so proud. You are truly beyond your years with the way you patiently interact with these kids.

Camp has been a huge part of my life. I tell everyone I meet that there is nothing more I look forward to than this particular week. Every time I envision future camp experiences, I still picture you being a part of them. You’re an important part of this community we have and will be missed dearly.

I know that as you move on in life, you will continue to make others happy. Whether it be through your humor, or your humongous caring heart, you will make the lives of so many people much brighter. I hope that we keep in touch so that when I have kids one day, you can make them smile.

Ethan, Summer Camp Intern, Easter Seals Greater Houston

 

 

 

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Transition and Technology

Chris is a young man in his 20’s who came to Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s BridgingApps program because of his interest in technology. He and his mother wanted to understand how he could use his mobile device to help him be more productive and organized as he began to search for a job.  He owned a smart phone, but his phone was quite old and he didn’t use it for more than the basics, mostly entertainment. Part of the barrier to using his smart phone effectively was that he experienced anxiety about draining the battery, so he preferred to have it plugged into the wall, limiting his mobility.

Through a generous grant from the Hogg Foundation, BridgingApps provided Chris with a new smart phone and “one on one” trainings with Digital Learning Specialist, Tara Rocha.  During one of these sessions, Tara introduced the concept of a using portable rechargeable battery pack to Chris. Because it is small and rechargeable, Chris learned to plug his smart phone into this device that eased his anxiety about draining his battery, allowing him to be more mobile immediately.  He learned how to create calendar appointments, add items to task lists, back up his data, use contacts, and much more. Following each session, Chris has practiced the tasks at home with an at-home assignment.

When Tara demonstrated several app options for filling out forms using his smart phone, Chris became so excited that he could complete this task digitally! He found it difficult and laborious to fill out forms required for job searches and other kinds of forms as he moves into adulthood. Writing has been a challenge for him, but he is much more eager to use his phone for this task. We wish Chris the best of luck as he continues his job search, and we will continue to keep in touch as he makes progress towards his goals.

Cristen Reat, BridgingApps
Easter Seals Greater Houston
https://www.bridgingapps.org/2018/05/chriss-success-story-using-iphone-transition/

 

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Breaking the Language Barrier

IMG_0522The following was written by our School Director about Yousif, a student that is thriving thanks to the individualized education he receives at Easter Seals Greater Houston’s the Caroline School.

Yousif is such a joy to have in the Caroline School. At the beginning of the school year he was very shy and did not speak much, as he is an English language learner. As the year went on, his language skills improved and he was able to say all the names of his peers and his teachers, as well as asking questions and telling stories every one could understand. He also built great relationships with his classmates, enjoying pretend play and coloring with them. We are so proud of your communication progress, Yousif!

Tabitha Hernandez, The Caroline School Director, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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The Caroline School is now enrolling for the 2018-2019 school year. Join this incredible community focused on helping students of all ability levels ages 0-21 reach their highest potential. Our School Director, Tabitha Hernandez, would love to share with you the resources and opportunities your child would have at The Caroline School. Please feel free to contact her at 713-838-9050 ext. 362 or THernandez@eastersealshouston.org. You can also learn more at www.CarolineSchool.org.

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Earning a Home Sweet Home

Clients attending Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Homebuyer Education Classes often ask what is the key to success in purchasing a home.  As part of our curriculum, we go over the importance of credit, manageable debt, and household assets, but perhaps the answer is much more simple – PERSEVERANCE!!!

HOYO success storyA few weeks ago, a single mother of six young daughters purchased a home in Montgomery County – her first home- after over a year and a half of working hard to improve her credit, paying down her debts, and increasing assets.  This hardworking mother, Ashlee, took on a second job as a home health professional and began building up a savings account towards a down payment.  On April 30, at 5:00 pm, she signed the closing disclosure, collected her keys, and walked out of closing as a homeowner.  At times, her goal had seemed impossible, but she persevered and now she lives down the street from one of her clients and they are now making this house their HOME.

Easter Seals Greater Houston offers Credit Boot Camp, Homebuyer Education Classes, Individual Financial Coaching and more!

Katy Thorstenberg, Home of Your Own Montgomery County Home Fund Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Family and Therapists Team Up

The following post was written by the parent of an Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program client who receives services in the Brazos Valley.

DSC_0023We’d like to explain what Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Brazos Valley Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program has meant to us, our lives, and more than anything, our daughter. Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program has transformed the behavior of our daughter in a positive manner through the weekly therapy sessions. Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI Infant Program came into our lives to help us and have been the perfect tool to help our daughter with speech/language & behavior therapy.

When our daughter turned 2 years of age, her pediatrician led us to Easter Seals Greater Houston because there was a delay in in her speech. Easter Seals’ ECI Infant Program staff members came and ran a full evaluation and afterwards we started the therapy sessions with no clue how incredibly helpful they would be to our child. As the months passed on we noticed great changes in our daughter’s speech/language and in her behavior. Before the therapy sessions she hardly paid attention, but by making this a key area of focus we have seen great, positive improvements in this area and others. We started to work hand in hand with the therapists in our parental role. All the dedicated time was well worth all the positive changes we see in our daughter today. The Brazos Valley ECI Infant Program therapists have not only helped us with the problem areas, but understand why and how they came to be, all the while treating us with respect. We are appreciative as parents for not only the treatments, but the care and effort to reach all goals with her. As of today, our daughter’s vocabulary has increased substantially, she makes basic sentences, pays (more) attention, has calmed down overall, and our entire family has noticed the progress that our daughter has made since she began working with our therapists.

We appreciate Easter Seals Greater Houston from the bottom of our heart, the beautiful work and care for all the families with whom you work with, starting with ours. The Brazos Valley ECI Infant Program staff have gone above and beyond for the well-being of our daughter. Thanks to Easter Seals our lives have changed for the better.

Sincerely,

Marquez Nevarez Family, Brazos Valley Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program family, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program has expanded and is now available in 12 counties. If you have concerns or questions about your child’s development, please call 713.838.9050, ext. 385 and request a free developmental assessment.

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