Tag Archives: community

Escaping Boredom Together

Even though we are just itching to get to see each other again in person, we are making the most of our time on Zoom! Every week our LEAD Adult Program meets virtually via Zoom with a different activity planned for each meeting. Last week, Kenzie Richard volunteered her time to lead our adults through a Disney World Virtual Escape Room! Our LEADers participated in each challenge to escape Disney World. Some of the challenges were quite hard but when we worked as a team, we were able to get out in just under an hour. Thank you Kenzie for leading us through that fun adventure! Check out this video of our Adult Program participants working together to escape the room and boredom.

Do you have a special activity or program you think our LEAD Adult Program would enjoy? Are you interested in leading us through the activity for 30 minutes or an hour via Zoom? Email Ashley Nichols at ANichols@eastersealshouston.org to learn how you can get involved!

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s LEAD (Life Enrichment for Adults with Disabilities) Adult Programs.

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The ROI of Mentorship

The following story was written by Carmen Phillips. Carmen is the Montgomery County Program Coordinator for Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program and High School High Tech.

January 2021 is the 19th annual National Mentoring Month and I can’t help but wonder where we might all be right now without the influence of a mentor.  Imagine, for a moment, a world without Apple Computers, Microsoft or Facebook; a world without Oprah Winfrey, Mother Teresa or even Marlon Brando as the Godfather.  This, my friends is a world without mentors.  Some of the most successful and brilliant minds of the last century had one thing in common.  They all had a mentor.

So, what does it mean to be a mentor?  According to world-renowned speaker and author Bob Proctor, “A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself and helps bring it out of you.”  I’m sure many of you can dig deep and think back to a time in your life when you looked up to someone for direction or guidance and approval.   Someone who changed the trajectory of your life.   A coach, a teacher or a boss perhaps.  Or perhaps, like many young people in America you had no one.   Well, you wouldn’t be alone.  More than 1 in 3 young people, an estimated 16 million, never had an adult mentor of any kind while they were growing up, according the national report The Mentoring Effect published in 2014.  This population includes an estimated 9 million at-risk youth who will reach age 19 without ever having a mentor, making them less likely to graduate high school,  go on to college and lead healthy productive lives.

Photo of young adults and mentors

For those 9 million at-risk youth, mentorship is a life-line.  It’s make or break and sadly in some cases, life or death.   It takes one caring adult to take interest and invest just a little bit of time into a young person’s life to forever change its course. Whether it’s a attending a football game, an occasional bowling night, a weekly text or just checking in on their report card, the smallest investment in a youth’s life results in some of the largest gains.  Not only for the youth, but for the mentor and the community in which they live.  In fact, according to a study cited by David Shapiro, President and CEO of MENTOR, every dollar invested in quality youth mentoring programs yields a $3 return in benefits to society at a minimum.  I think it’s safe to say that even Warren Buffet (who, by the way, mentored Microsoft mogul Bill Gates) would consider that a pretty darn good Return On Investment (ROI). 

The Mentoring Effect study also found that 76% of at-risk young adults who had a mentor aspire to enroll in and graduate college and 45% of all at-risk youth with a mentor are now enrolled in some form of postsecondary education. So what do the numbers tell us? That mentoring makes a difference; it improves outcomes, it increases graduation rates, it reduces the risk of drug and alcohol use, it builds healthy interpersonal relationships and fosters measurable success in our at-risk youth in America.  

So, what’s not to love about Mentoring?  If you are interested in helping change the trajectory of a young person’s life and want more information about donating your time, skills or dollars to our at-risk Youth Mentoring Programs here at Easter Seals Greater Houston visit our website at www.EasterSealsHouston.org or reach out to us at 713-838-9050.

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Growth During the Pandemic

Hello, my name is Teresa G. I attend Easter Seals Greater Houston’s LEAD Adult Program weekly throughout the year. Since COVID, we have been meeting online through Zoom. Here are a few reasons why I like to attend the virtual programs:  I like the LEAD virtual program for various reasons, but perhaps the most important reason is it allows me to share my life experience as a person living with a disability with other LEAD Adult Program participants.  The participants that attend the LEAD Adult Program are all at different stages in life.  As a long time member of the LEAD Adult Program I can share my ideas and wisdom with my LEAD community.

During this COVID experience, the LEAD virtual program has provided members with a sense of normalcy and continuity which is very much needed during this uncertain time.  An added blessing to having the LEAD Adult Program go online is that the shy quiet members of the LEAD Adult Program have discovered they have a voice.  They have been working extremely hard to overcome their shyness and speech difficulties to be heard over Zoom.  The improved communication and social skills among all the LEAD members has been a beautiful thing to witness.

I have also noticed LEAD members becoming more comfortable with using technology across other forums such as Facebook and Messenger.  Easter Seals Greater Houston is important because it has programs that are unique for adults with disabilities.  The LEAD Adult Program is unique because it encourages peer groups to come up with creative solutions to life problems.  The facilitators and volunteers at Easter Seals Greater Houston work extremely hard to foster a sense of independence among its members. They provide LEAD members with tools and supplies such as event planners, access to information, computer apps, and ways to handle emergency procedures when we socialize as individuals or in groups independently outside of Easter Seals.  Programs such as LEAD and BridgingApps are unique to Easter Seals Greater Houston and that is why I think Easter Seals Greater Houston is an important part of the larger community.

Signed,
Teresa G.
Easter Seals Greater Houston LEAD Participant

Learn more about our LEAD Adult Program and other services for adults with disabilities.

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The Power of a Sticky Note

Sitting here the day before my 25th anniversary of working for Easter Seals Greater Houston and I am both amazed and bewildered at the same time.

…Amazed. Amazed because of our community of volunteers, donors, staff, foundations, corporate sponsors and partners and the amazing feat we just accomplished in the midst of a pandemic with our Walk With Me Event.

Bewildered…because of #StayAtHome, the Economy and oil and gas, hurricane season, protests, diversity, questions of inclusion, and yes even the murder hornets!

I think the two go hand in hand…at least in my world.  I think I am a sticky note! I have “stuck with” Easter Seals Greater Houston through thick and thin. I started when we had 30 employees, 3 maybe 4 programs, several small but meaningful events and a 1MM dollar budget.  We have evolved over the years into a 25MM dollar budget, more than 240 employees, 12 plus programs and 1 historic fundraiser called Walk With Me that just grossed over $776,000. You would think we are breathing a sigh of relief.  No, we will always be holding our breath.

In my 25 years, I truly thought that I had seen it all.  The fall of Enron (a lesson for all nonprofit organizations in Houston), Tropical Storm Alison, some great booms, a lot of busts, Katrina, Rita, Ike, Memorial Day Flood and every one thereafter, Harvey, Imelda, government budget cuts (over and over again to early intervention, Medicaid), all of which have had us on a steady learning curve.  We served the forgotten and the UN-able when it originally came to evacuation. We have a handle on that and we definitely have it down when it comes to emergency assistance.  Thankfully, we have developed some incredible partnerships and collaborations.  They are sticky notes too.  We have learned how to best serve the most vulnerable since we began our work in 1947…whew…then, COVID19, a completely new historic learning curve.

Thankfully, technology has evolved to the point where we can continue to do our work and our mission…virtual or not. Our staff and clients have always been aware of the ways in which technology can assist our clients. Which leads me to reflect on diversity, inclusion, and disability. I have read two extremely pertinent quotes in the last few days. The first – “Work from home was never a privilege for people with disabilities.” Think about that one for a hot minute. And, the second – “We all have a part in creating a more equal and just world.” 

When I started the percentage of donations supporting disability and mental health probably wasn’t even calculated because it really didn’t figure into the equation. Now we know, TODAY less than 5% of charitable giving is directed to disability.  Awareness of disabilities today is vast compared to 1995 in large part due to the increased understanding of the autism spectrum and because of social media.  We have always been proud of those that “stuck with us” and those numbers are thankfully much larger now. More sticky notes. Children I have watched grow up volunteering who are now going into disability law, therapeutic and social work. Even more of them, regardless of where they go, carry us in their hearts.  Carrying the message of diversity (and yes, disability fits in there) and inclusion wherever they go, which of course, brings us to today. AND, the companies – our sponsors and partners – that know that disability is a part of the diversity and inclusion conversation.  Employee Resource Groups, Corporate Social Responsibility – used to only be words – now they are actions.  TODAY I truly believe they will be even stronger actions.  Actions by all of us–individuals, parents, families, companies, volunteer groups, and schools.  

There you go. All in all a pad of sticky notes.  Some can lose their stickiness but we keep them maybe use a little tape to rearrange, some fall off to never be applied again, some stay on our desks forever and we don’t even see them, some have water stains, some are wrinkled or torn, and they are a beautiful variety of colors and sizes. Regardless of where you fall as a sticky note – thank you for being one of ours.  The list is long of thanks to our staff, volunteers, donors, corporations, walkers, caregivers, clients, collaborative partners, foundations. I hope in reading this you recognize yourself. 

The picture here is of Robert Ryan, one of our Ambassadors of Walk With Me…Virtually. He just graduated on to public school from the Caroline School! I think this picture says it all. You don’t have to stick with us, but we are so grateful that you do.  For that right now in this community in an extraordinary time, we cannot thank you enough. 

Huge thanks to our incredible Walk With Me Virtually Sponsors and PartnersProsperity Bank and their staff, WithMerci Foundation, Alvarez and Marsal, Robert & Janice McNair Foundation, TEAM Inc., Texas Children’s Hospital, and more for sticking right there with us!

Kelly Klein
Development Director
Easter Seals Greater Houston

Click here to learn how YOU can be a sticky note for Easter Seals Greater Houston.

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The Caroline School is More Than a Place

To be honest, it was a little heartbreaking for the entire Easter Seals Greater Houston staff when we realized that remainder of The Caroline School’s year was going to have to be completed at a distance. It is such a wonderful joy to see these kids when we are at work. Even though only a fraction of our staff are part of The Caroline School team, we all benefit from hearing them laughing and playing during recess. Throughout the school year we can see how their education and friendships are blooming. It’s a daily reminder of what our programs are accomplishing all over the greater Houston area.

Our School Director and Teachers work hard day in and day out to make sure that our students get an engaging and tailored education. It is impressive, but not surprising, that these incredible educators went into overdrive making sure that the remaining virtual school year was held to the same high standard. We are proud of our teaching team as well as the parents who became “quaranteachers” in this midst of this difficult time.

This year has taught us that The Caroline School is not just a place, it is a community deeply committed to giving each student the chance to thrive in both their education and relationships. We look forward to the day that our students are all in the same place, but know that in some ways we are always together. Let’s celebrate our beloved students who made the most of the virtual school year! Thank you to everyone who shared pictures so that we could all enjoy your amazing accomplishments!

Our teachers made individualized learning boxes for weekly drop-off and pick-up. These boxes included art, movement, music, CVI adapted visuals and books, early academic tasks, and literacy!

Our families and staff had video sessions with interactive documents and tele-teaching.

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There was a massive amount of mutual appreciation. Parents sent videos and messages to our staff and teachers made a “Quaranteacher Supply Mug” filled with coffee and chocolate for our parents.

We hosted virtual hangouts so that The Caroline School students and teachers could have extra time to laugh and reconnect.Virtual Hangout

And of course we celebrated graduation! Congratulations Liam, we will miss you dearly!Liam Graduation

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Caroline School

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Make Our Veterans Program Part of Your Unit

Usually I write about a person who was helped by the services I provide through Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans Program. This time I’m going to do that with a twist, so let me tell you the story. Years ago I met a Marine and after this initial meeting our paths diverged for a long time. About a year ago, our paths crossed again at a Marine Corps birthday celebration in Houston and I learned he was a County Veterans Service Officer. After catching up we discovered that we both worked in the Veteran community to reduce the stigma around mental health, providing services to Veterans and their family members. Though our services are different, they both aim to end the suffering in silence of so many Veterans. Over this year, we have discussed all these things and one thing was clear-we have the same mission. A partnership was born that extends to the many Veterans we meet each week.

You might think this is just a story about two people in the community working together to help Veterans, but it isn’t. Yes, we benefit from the collaboration because of the confidence and trust that is shared between us. I know he will work hard and go the extra mile to help those I refer to him. He knows this of me too. Yet, the most important part of our meeting is how our complimentary services have benefited those that have served and their families. He most often refers individuals who have suffered in silence for years due to experiences from their service. Most often it is combat related. veteran-blogHe tells them how things can get better and how they can feel better. He offers hope from someone who has been there. He helps connect them to the services they need. And they get better. When they come to our Veterans Program I give them information about what they are dealing with, the sense of isolation reduces, they feel the support, more things seem possible, and more gets done. I tell them, “You didn’t get here by yourself, so build a unit that will help you get out of this.” Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans Program can be part of that unit. A County Veterans Service Officer is part of my unit. And we press forward . . . offering hope and services to those who want them and who no longer want to suffer alone.

Dr. Cristy Gamez-Galka, Mental Health Lead for Fort Bend Veterans Case Management Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Easter Seals Greater Houston is proud to offer a variety of services that Veterans and their families can benefit from including Fort Bend Veterans Case Management Program, Fort Bend Veterans Companion Dog Program, Bank On Montgomery County as well as the collaborative efforts of the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance.

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