Tag Archives: budget cuts

ULTRAFICO- A New Credit Scoring Model

Easter Seals Greater Houston is proud to offer our housing, financial literacy and down payment assistance programs. hoyo-staff-and-family-close-up                                                           The program has closed on over 120 houses in the past ten year with no defaults ever.  Our staff pride themselves on their knowledge, educational programs, THRIVE access, their ability to tap into city/county funds and resulting success rates. Information that affects your FICO score is always important and Katy Thorstenberg, Program Coordinator with the Easter Seals Greater Houston Financial Literacy and Housing Initiative,  gets the method behind the madness as she explains here.

Move over, old FICO – there is a new credit-scoring model in town. ULTRAFICO is being rolled out and will soon be an option for lenders to use in assessing credit risk of their would-be borrowers. After reading through the changes and trying to figure out the ‘this affects-me how’ piece, one revision pops out.  With the consumer’s consent, the ULTRAFICO model would allow the lender to actually take a one-time peak into the applicant’s bank accounts.  The lender would be able to see how you manage your cash flow; i.e., do you maintain a comfortable balance in your accounts, or do you show a periodic bouncing of checks or overdrafts?

If you have established a history of responsible cash management over time, you will benefit from higher scores.  If you don’t, you won’t.  You might ask if ULTRAFICO will be a game changer when it comes to world of credit/lending.  After all, the present FICO scores already reflect how you pay your bills – on time – late, or never – and are scored accordingly.  The answer is not a big boost to many of us who have been around awhile building a credit history through loans, credit cards and general living.  However, to those who have not yet enjoyed credit card spending and taking on an assortment of loans from personal to car to lines of credit, ULTRAFICO may add points to those individuals, dubbed “credit invisibles”, now another name for millennials. In a CBS news  report by David Shellenberger, senior director of credit scores and predictive analysis at FICO cited “40% of applicants would see an upward shift of 20 points or more in their credit score”.  Of course, scores might track downward as well.  Invisible or not, at the end of the day, you just cannot get away from the fact that DEBT and how you manage it matters.

Written by Kathy Thorstenberg, Program Coordinator of Easter Seals Greater Houston Financial Literacy and Housing Initiative

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Celebrating NDEAM – National Disability Employment Awareness Month

David Wright is a recent graduate of Stephen F. Austin High School in Sugar Land where he was in our Easter Seals Houston High School High Tech / RAMP (Ready to Achieve Mentoring) program since his freshman year. David has been interested in becoming a herpetologist for a long time and knows A LOT about it. Freshman year it was hard for our staff to keep him on track because he always wanted to talk about lizards, snakes, and reptiles. We literally couldn’t get him to talk about anything else! Through the years David got better about this, was more open to participating in what the class was doing and it was obvious he was starting to pick up on the importance of our mentoring and lessons about social cues and soft skills and more. Jacquelyn Privatera Miller went with him to his interview for the internship at the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land and he was SO professional, acted like a well prepared young adult and dressed himself so well for the interview. Everyone was really impressed. David is thriving in this environment and has opened up more and can have great conversations with people including his new co-workers. He even hugs Jacquie now when he sees her, which he would never ever have done before. So really he has just grown and matured so much in the last few years and is doing a really impressive job at his internship!  Help us congratulate David  as he is enjoying his 20 hours/week internship AND is also enrolled at Wharton Community College! Huge thanks to the museum and the museum staff for making it a life changing experience for David!

High School/High Tech is a community-based partnership of parents, educators, rehabilitation professionals and business representatives working together to encourage students with disabilities to explore the fields of science, engineering and technology. Only 56% of students with disabilities graduate from high school. High School/High Tech was developed to address this situation. Most individuals with disabilities have not had the encouragement, role models, access and stimulation to pursue challenging technical careers or courses of study. Through High School/High Tech, students with disabilities are presented a mix of learning experiences that promote career exploration and broaden educational horizons. High School/High Tech also offers a mentoring program called RAMP – Ready to Achieve Mentor Program. Learn more about High School/High Tech.

Jacquelyn Miller, Easter Seals Greater Houston, High School High Tech / RAMP

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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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