Tag Archives: budget cuts

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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Making The First Five Count Through Early Intervention Services

Ella:

Ella has been enrolled in the Easter Seals Greater Houston ECI/Infant Program for about 6 months. Per one of the therapists on her Infant Program team –  visits started with tantrums, then evolved into stoic silence. Mom swore she said about 10-15 words, but the team never heard them the first month or so. Now, this lovely chatter box has a vocabulary that is growing every day. Ella is combining words to make 2-4 word sentences on her own, and parrots everything she hears. She is able to sit and attend to learning and play activities for 30+ minutes without getting distracted, and has some of the most creative pretend play we have seen.

 Mica:

We have been utilizing the services of the ECI/Infant Program at Easter Seals of Greater Houston over the past year for our son Mica, who was diagnosed at birth with Trisomy 21.   Mica’s progress has been wonderful so far, thanks to the team of dedicated therapists at Easter Seals.  Mica’s physical therapist Charisse as well as his nutritionist Thein have been instrumental in his growth and development.  His occupational therapist Christy as well as speech his therapist Bridget are working on improving his skills. My wife and I are very pleased with the team’s dedicated and professional approach in dealing with Mica.  For anyone with a child with a disability in the Houston area, we highly recommend the ECI/Infant Program Easter Seals as they do a wonderful job.

 The Dawkins Family:

“Thanks to Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI Program and wonderful staff our son, Cavani, went from no communication at all, to using words and sign language to express his needs to us. Easter Seal’s knowledgeable therapists helped our child, and our family, transition from in home therapy to a public school that meet our child’s needs. We truly can not say enough good things about Easter Seals and their ECI/Infant Therapy Program.”
– The Dawkins Family

WHAT IS ECI – EARLY CHILDHOOD INTERVENTION AND WHY IS IT NECESSARY?

WHAT IS MAKE THE FIRST FIVE COUNT AND HOW CAN IT HELP YOUR CHILD?

WHAT IS THE ASQ (AGES AND STAGES QUESTIONNAIRE) AND HOW CAN IT HELP?

Want more info? Info@eastersealshouston.org

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The SMART Road To Assistive Tech for ALL

In 2010, I was working at an educational non-profit when I helped to start a support group of parents and therapists where we shared information on how smartphones and touch tablets could help children with disabilities improve developmental skills. I was interested in how technology could help my youngest son Vincent, who at the age of 6 had the fine motor skills of an 18 month old. I knew that he would never write with a pen and paper, but I also knew that technology could play a big role in his early education and throughout his life.

Vincent had tried joysticks and other technology prior to the tablet to write and communicate, but he needed hand over hand assistance to operate them. However, with the iPad he was able to navigate independently. What a boost to his confidence and an ease to his frustration!

Other parents and therapists had similar thoughts but, because this mobile technology was so new, we spent hours exploring possibilities of which apps were the most helpful for our kids. We were overwhelmed by the sheer number of apps available, so we set out to find a way to make searching easier for parents and professionals. That support group and quest for solutions turned into BridgingApps, a website and program of Easter Seals Greater Houston.

Becoming part of Easter Seals Greater Houston has been a blessing in the most profound way for this program and for our family. With the help of Easter Seals’ leadership and vision to help the program grow as quickly as possible, we have been able to make great strides in its’ development and reach. In 2014, BridgingApps won the Verizon Powerful Answers Award for Education that came with a $700,000 prize.  Our website is filled with resources for people of all ages and abilities – parents, caregivers, therapists, doctors and people with disabilities – looking for the right apps to fit their needs.

We now have three assistive technology labs (Thanks to The George Foundation and ATT&T) in the Houston area and satellite support groups in Austin, the Rio Grande Valley and Fort Worth, Texas.  In 2016, we gave more than 55 presentations and trainings in Houston and around the country. Our website enjoys 9,000 registered users from 187 countries, 7,000 monthly visitors, a podcast segment, an online course, a regular column in a digital magazine, and 3,500 apps in our database. We are excited to explore new ways in which mobile technology can assist young adults with special health care needs, older adults, and seniors through collaborative projects with Texas Children’s Hospital, TIRR Memorial Hermann, Amerigroup/Anthem, UnitedHealthcare, and others.

As a veteran of the US Army, I am thrilled and honored this year to be working on a project that provides services and mental health supports to veterans and their families by using technology. Through a generous grant from TV+FA, we are able to provide technology training in different formats to veterans and their family members.  This spring we have already provided 10 Veterans Access Cafes in locations around Houston to demonstrate how smartphones can be used as a mental health support with apps like Calm, Swirlicity, and Stay Quit Coach. We continue to add content each week to www.bridgingapps.org/veteransresource  to share information on apps and other technologies that benefit veterans and their families.

Cristen Reat, Easter Seals Greater Houston, BridgingApps Founder

 

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Little Steps Big Success with Easter Seals Houston Early Childhood Intervention Program

chelsea linn pic 2Written by a client’s adoptive mother.

‘It was Thanksgiving eve 2014 that I received a call from my husband wanting to know if I was still interested in adopting a baby, my heart sank. My husband and I only had one daughter and she was now 19.  We had always said one day we would try to adopt but had not pursued it, so I was very much surprised by the phone call.

My husband went on to explain that a very distant relative of his had reached out to him to see if maybe we could take a family member’s newborn, if not they were taking her to the local fire station.  We had until midnight to get there (Dallas), and well my response was an immediate YES!!!!  I left work, went straight home and we had a family meeting to ensure our 19-year-old was on board, AND her response was “what are you waiting on… GO”!penguin playing pic

We brought Jordan home that night she was 6 weeks old.  We immediately noticed that she wasn’t crying very much and that she was moving her head and arms very little. I took her to the doctor and they told me she wasn’t moving or crying because she had been left in a car seat or swing for long periods of time and had very little interactions with her parents. The doctor told me babies cry because they need something, but if no one responds eventually they stop crying. It really hit me hard now how much she had been neglected. I contacted the CPS agent in Dallas and she explained what all had happened, she told me that Jordan had been born with 4 drugs in her system and that was why they had an open case, I had a home interview and the file was closed with CPS.

monkey communication pocI had heard about #MakeTheFirstFiveCount and their on-line Ages and Stages Questionnaire.  I filled out an Easter Seals referral form and Jordan was evaluated by Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECI) and on January 28, 2015 she was diagnosed with a NON-categorical four-month delay and she started Physical Therapy & Occupational Therapy with the Liberty County Easter Seals staff.cheetah moving pic

Ms. Leanne Armel, an amazing therapist that has been with Easter Seals Greater Houston for over fifteen years, started working with Jordan intensely, and she told me this wasn’t going to be easy and for me to stay strong…This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, as her mom my first instinct is to protect her from hurting (she had been through so much already). Every time Ms. Leanne saw me she would always reassure me this was for the best and always gave me early intervention caregiver’s techniques to do at home & in the classroom as well while not doing therapy.

Nov 2015 Infant program blog pic3 by Sharon MottA few months into it Ms. Leanne told me not to give up but to be thinking about talking her to the doctor to see if she would benefit from surgery. I was so scared and unsure as to what to do?? Ms. Leanne was so comforting and really listened to me without judging, she understood how hard it was to see Jordan crying during the sessions, but I prayed every day for God to lead guide and direct all decisions.  January we had our second IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan) meeting and Jordan graduated out of the program and was ahead of schedule in most milestones!! Can you believe we were discussing surgery one year ago!!  Now she will be school ready! and we are equipped with more knowledge and resources moving forward!

Sears Family,  Easter Seals Greater Houston Early Childhood Intervention Program Clients

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Mapping White Noise

With one keystroke, we can now connect with seemingly unlimited information sources through our apps, but parsing through those sites and separating real knowledge from the distraction of background static of white noise is not easy.

With over 1.6 million downloadable apps from the Apple store alone, it is safe to say that there is an app designed to fill in every corner of your life.

Do you want to measure the exact chemical breakdown of your perspiration on any given day? Got it.

Do you want to track your pulse rate and calorie expended during your last aerobic workout?  No problem.  In fact, one fitness app tells you when to drink water AND when to invest in newer foot gear.

There is even an app that randomly pulls frames from your posts through multiple social media sites and flashes on your screen to remind you how happy you were in times past.  Disclaimer here – you must have actually lived the experiences and posted the snapshot to your friends in order to be able to relive such happy moments.  Unfortunately, the algorithm to turn a sad post into a happy one does not exist yet.

In the financial space, you will find an even more intimidating range of apps that promise to track spending, create budgets, design investment plans, trace every dollar on its way in and out of multiple accounts in real time, and ply us with superior money management tips to keep us out of harm’s way.

With so much information at our fingertips, why is it still so difficult to make good financial decisions?  Perhaps, sheer weight of information has become the problem.

Bank On Montgomery County (BOMC) brings together non-profit organizations and financial institutions with knowledgeable staff that will connect you with those banking products and financial education classes tailored to your family needs.  Do you need to open a bank account or start a savings plan?  Are you dealing with student debt or a disappearing retirement account?  Are you looking for an affordable mortgage and perhaps are eligible for one of the many down payment assistance programs to finance your first home?   Our BOMC partners across the county are here to provide you the map and tools to reach your financial goals.

Easter Seals Greater Houston is so excited to be the lead agency working with the Bank On initiative through Mont County United Way and others. For more information about Bank On, click here.

www.eastersealshouston.org
www.bankonmc.org

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

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Time for a Financial Wellness Checkup?

Ahhhh – yes, it must be summer.  Rodeo crews have hitched up their trailers and gone home, art festivals and crawdad 2014 home ownerfeasts spill outside, , allergies and….TAX Returns.    As we mull over our 1040s and contemplate how best to make some positive changes, a number of remedies come to mind.

For the mosquitoes and allergy thing, there is the convenient corner drugstore, but for that IRS love-letter called our tax returns which clearly shows how much we spend and how little we save, there is no such easy solution; however, it can be a not-so-subtle wake-up call to ask ourselves what kind of money management plan we follow.

That old baseball sage, Yogi Berra, famously said, “When you get to a fork in the road, take it”.  When it comes to a social media, free-spirit quality kind of thing, that philosophy works rather well.   However, the ‘fork’ plan, which is actually the NO PLAN path, or what I call the bumper-car strategy to life, is probably not going to help you build those financial resources so important in creating a firewall between you and that ugly ‘D’ word – DEBT.  Did you know that you should not be spending more than 30% of your monthly income on your housing expense?  Did you know that at any one time, your family should have at least 3 – 6 months of funds set-aside to help you survive those unexpected, unpleasant, and really unfortunate events that happen all too frequently? You might ask….how much exactly is 3- 6 months reserves in $$$$$$?  A very good question which leads to the next best question, do we even know how much we spend on a monthly basis, or, bottom-line, do we have a household budget?  By that I mean a real budget based on real income, not future hoped-for windfalls, AND including fixed debt, variable debt, and monthly savings towards our dream goals – a house, a not-pre-owned car, or the inevitable retirement.

If you would like to  take a financial wellness check-up, the Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Housing Initiative staff is here to help.  Financial coaches work with families to reduce debt and build credit and resources. HUD-certified Homebuyer Education is provided, and down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers is available for Montgomery County.  For whatever your income and whatever your goals may be, a sound financial plan is your first step.  So when you get to that fork in the road, ask yourself… Does this fork take me where I want to go?

Katy Thorstenberg, LMSW, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Many thanks to United Way Greater Houston, United Way Montgomery County, & Woodforest Bank and the many other collaborators we work with, to make this possible!

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