Tag Archives: CoVid19

Thriving, Sassy and Healthy!

The following blog was written by a parent of two daughters in Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) Program:

Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Program has been extremely beneficial and rewarding for my children. My 2-year-old daughter started doing therapy with ECI when she was 7 months old. She couldn’t walk, talk or even roll over very well and she wasn’t sitting up at all.

Today, she is a THRIVING, SASSY, and very HEALTHY 2-year-old that can do almost everything the doctors said she would struggle doing. Her progress is definitely thanks to Easter Seals Greater Houston!! I am so thankful for her team of ECI therapists and the time and dedication they have put into making sure my KaMaya and her little sister Kamoura are at their very best.

Kamoura does physical therapy with ECI as well and has come a long way. Even though we are working on posture and walking, I have confidence that over the next few months, she will also be above and beyond what the doctors doubts she could do.

We have definitely enjoyed the relationships that have been built between my kids and their ECI therapists. I have appreciated the kindness and understanding that is always shown to my family, especially during the COVID19 pandemic. We are looking forward to seeing more progress with our girls in the next few months! God bless you all!

Special thanks to KaMaya and Kamoura’s ECI Team: Early Intervention Specialist Sarah Summers, Physical Therapist Ms. Charisse, Occupational Therapists Ms. Shama and Ms. Christy, SST teacher Ms. Kim, Nutritionist Ms. Tien, and Speech therapist Ms. Gretchen.

The time from birth to age three is critical in your child’s physical and cognitive development.  To help make sure your baby is reaching their developmental milestones, you can complete this free Ages & Stages Questionnaire or check with your pediatrician if you have concerns.  Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention is accepting referrals and offers tele-health as well as in-home services. Learn more!

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Thank You Greater Houston Community Foundation!

Jessica W., a single mother, became a Easter Seals Greater Houston client after Hurricane Harvey.  She sought assistance after being flooded in the home she was renting.  We provided assistance and helped her get back on her feet.  About a year later, Jessica hit another rough patch; she was laid off from her job.  Jessica became a Food Scholarship Program participant to help ease food costs, and started working more closely with a financial coach.  Jessica found another job, and this time stayed with the program, working first to create a realistic budget, and then to build her credit.  Eventually, Jessica was able to get her credit where it needed to be to buy a home.  Then COVID-19 hit.  Jessica was unable to attend our first Homebuyer Education Classes and she took another financial hit.  Her dreams of buying a home were slipping away.  However, with COVID-19 Funding we were able to prevent Jessica from falling behind.  She was able to stay afloat and overcome the hardest financial impacts of COVID.  On September 30th, Jessica was able to close on a home for her and her son.  She is now saving money from what she was paying in rent.

Mother holding childing

We cannot thank the Greater Houston Community Foundation enough for its constant support of Easter Seals Greater Houston’s work and its role in the distribution of emergency funds after disasters.  We could not help families like Jessica’s stay afloat, away from crisis, and towards their dreams with GHCF’s partnership.  Thank you Greater Houston Community Foundation, and our amazing liaison, Stephanie Blair!

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s broad resources and programs, including Emergency Assistance and Financial Education.

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Transition and Employment in the Pandemic

2020 has been anything but usual for the adolescents and adults Easter Seals Greater Houston serves and it has certainly been different for our staff. We have learned to provide services remotely and to help both job seekers and employers adapt to the changing circumstances in which people work and supervise the people who work in their companies.

In March, COVID-19 halted in-person services for high school students in our summer program which, after a two month hiatus, returned as remote services. Our staff, Robert Aranda, Ron Taylor, and Jacquie Privitera, had to figure out how to make lessons interesting and engaging for the students while meeting the requirements of the Texas Workforce Commission, the sponsors of the program. Our students and staff designed a commercial for a network consulting firm and then presented that commercial to a panel of judges from local corporations. All of this was done remotely, including a job performed, for pay, by one of our students for the networking company, Sepulveda Technology Consultants.

Job seekers, and the companies that employ them, have also had to adapt to the challenges of COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, a group of young men with autism, who were completing internships in the IT Department for Chevron, had to adjust to working from home. Despite the stereotype of persons with autism preferring solitude, these men had a difficult time adjusting to not being with their supervisors and coworkers. Their Employment Specialist, Robert Aranda, had to switch from providing face to face services to making contact only by telephone. After many sessions between Robert and the employees and supervisors, all four of the interns were offered permanent positions at Chevron. They still hold their positions and are successfully working remotely today.

For some workers, going to work in an office or warehouse is not possible because of medical issues or mental illness. Ron Taylor, one of our Employment Specialists, worked remotely for several months with a person with severe back pain, searching for the right opportunity. They found a position with Walgreens that let her work from home. Ron worked with our partners at Texas Workforce Solutions to procure a chair and desk that would support her back and let her work. As her personal computer was not suitable for her job, Ron arranged for a donated computer to be made available until she can purchase her own laptop. She is now working from home, processing orders for Walgreens and is on her way to having the funds to purchase her own computer.

Robert Williams, Easter Seals Greater Houston,
Program Director – Employment/Transition Services

Easter Seals Greater Houston provides Transition Services for youth ages 16-27 with autism and mental health conditions. Services include transition evaluation and planning, social skills training, family and community resources and goals which reflect the youth’s realizable aspirations in areas of education or work, peer supports, job placement, job coaching and supported employment. Learn more.

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. High School/High Tech also offers a mentoring program called RAMP – Ready to Achieve Mentor Program. Learn more.

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Pursuing Hope

The following was written by Dr. Cristy Gamez, the Program Coordinator for Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans, Service Member and Military-Connected Family Program.

I met a female Navy Veteran in 2017. At the time, she was a divorced mother of two and unemployed, living off her savings. She barely left the house given how unsafe she felt away from home. We started meeting weekly and she related an incident in the Navy that resulted in PTSD. We worked on her symptoms of PTSD using Prolonged Exposure and Accelerated Resolution Therapy, which was helpful with her depression. I won’t go into any more details about the therapy because I want to tell you about how life can change.

In the beginning, there were moments of hope that broke through the darkness of the depression and the ever-present paranoia and hypervigilance of PTSD. Eventually, the hope was real enough that she took steps to create the life she wanted. She filed and was awarded service-connection for PTSD. This meant she worried a little less about being homeless and losing her children. The service-connection opened up the chance to go to school and, hopefully, get a job. She spoke to vocational rehabilitation and found a science field she was interested in studying. She had wanted to study science since childhood. Her hope grew stronger. Maybe she could have the life she wanted. COVID hit and classes went on-line.  With the economic shutdown, she worried about whether there would be job opportunities after graduation.  As her savings depleted, her worry grew and hope sank. Her fear about the infringement on her rights because of the pandemic, worries about climate change, political unrest, and racial tension caused a resurgence of the paranoia, hypervigilance, insomnia, and isolation. She stayed engaged in therapy. This helped her identify things to do to help her be a little less stressed and address her fears. She started a garden and she became skilled at canning. Her self-sufficiency caused hope to resurface.

Sherry attended Easter Seals Greater Houston’s First Light Family Camp

Here we are at the end of September 2020 and things are so different. She started a job this week in her new career field, she is selling her house, and moving to a smaller city. Her dreams are coming true and she wants you to know yours can too.   

Dr. Cristy Gamez, Program Coordinator for Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans, Service Member and Military-Connected Family Program

The Veterans, Service Member and Military-Connected Family Program is made possible by The 1687 Foundation,  BlueCross BlueShield of Texas, Employees Community Fund of Boeing Houston, Tom and Hetty Ball Foundation, The Christus Foundation, CVS Health, Houston Automobile Dealers Association, The Frees Foundation, The George Foundation, John O’Shea Foundation, The Strake Foundation, Texas Veterans Commission, WithMerci Foundation, and ESGH Youth Action Council. Special thanks for your generous support!

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Thanking and Being the Reinforcements for Heroes

In spite of a year that has already included a pandemic, racial unrest, economic devastation and the most named storms ever, we live in a place where neighbors help each other, scientists and medical professionals bring hope, and parents, houses of faith, businesses and charities prove their resilience.  Underneath it all – we still live in the safest and most prosperous country – all because of the sacrifices our military has made to protect us.  As Tropical Storm Eta hits our neighbors, I am reminded of all the individuals, companies, foundations, governmental entities and volunteers who have been there – and continue to be here – for us through some extraordinary times. 

Three years after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, many of the roughly 400,000 veterans across Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast are still impacted by the storm’s devastating effects. In response to the disaster, the Qatar Harvey Fund partnered with the Bob Woodruff Foundation to deploy millions of dollars in grants to organizations serving veterans so they can rebuild, recover, and thrive after the hurricane. Those veterans now face new and urgent challenges of illness, unemployment, uncertainty, and isolation due to COVID-19. Over the past two years, this fund has supported Easter Seals Greater Houston’s mental health counseling, financial coaching and emergency financial assistance for veterans.  Many of those helped have truly begun to thrive.  This week we learned we will receive additional funding to support veterans who are still struggling with the impact of Hurricane Harvey and who have now been set back by 2020’s unprecedented events.  We are grateful to the Qatar Harvey Fund and the Bob Woodruff Foundation for the generous support, but mostly we are grateful that we will be able to support even more of the veterans who make our way of life possible.  This Veterans Day, let’s strive to be an American worth fighting for and please join me in celebrating all of you who generously make our services for military families possible. 

Sincerely,






Elise Hough
Easter Seals Greater Houston CEO

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Family Programs.

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Supporting Our Troops Here at Home

My name is Bryan Cream and I am a 100% Disabled Veteran of the U.S Army. I wanted to write and thank Easter Seals Greater Houston and all of their donors that help people like me. I know it’s cliché, but just saying thank you is not even close to being adequate. 

During the last 6 months my family has experienced several high stress situations: My father had a heart attack that they described as a “widow maker”; my mother hasn’t been able to walk for 6 months and through several doctors and tests it was discovered she had a mass on her spine and brain; my brother was diagnosed with Coronavirus and was in the hospital for over a week; my wife (who was told she was not going to be able to have children) found out she was pregnant (currently 17 weeks) and that is a huge blessing but also comes with many stresses; and my wife has lost many hours of work as well as being out of work for two weeks waiting for COVID-19 results.

I say all of this because I want to point out what Easter Seals Greater Houston and donors like you have helped me through. The financial assistance has allowed us to pay our mortgage and feel secure, even with everything happening around us. For a long time I have only seen the present and my circumstances for what they are. I still am reminded of the stress every day, but Easter Seals and donors like you have given me and my family a glimpse to a bright future. 

On top of everything else, I have been lucky enough to be able to receive training to train my dog Lucie to be a Service Dog. The training and support from Jennifer Wright has been nothing less than a blessing to my family and me. I have never seen anyone or any organization go to the lengths of helping someone the way Easter Seals and Dr. Wright have. I hope everyone that donates to Easter Seals realizes the impact they are having on individuals’ lives. It’s still an ongoing battle, but with all the support I know I will be able to get through it and one day be able to give back the way you do.

Thank you!

Bryan Cream

Easter Seals Greater Houston is proud to provide Service Members, Veterans and Military-Veterans with a wide variety of services including mental health, service dogs, financial coaching and more. Click here to support these crucial services.

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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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More Than a Transition – It is a Team Effort!

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Easter Seals Greater Houston has adapted to social distancing and other measures to slow down the spread of the disease by providing as many services as possible remotely for the people who come to us for help. Our staff in Transition and Employment Services have successfully provided all services virtually thanks to our partnership with Texas Workforce Solutions. 2020 marks one-hundred years since the federal vocational rehabilitation program was established. In normal times all job placement services, in fact all services, are carried out face-to-face with the job seeker in accordance federal regulations. This became impossible with schools, businesses, and state offices closed in March. TWS staff immediately set about the task of assuring that persons with disabilities continued to receive high-quality services from agencies like Easter Seals. This included completely changing rules and procedures to allow for remote services and relaxing other rules to make it easier for agencies to be paid and making our work with young adults and veterans possible.

DSC01505Through the entirety of #StayAtHome, we have received immeasurable support from individual TWS Counselors who are themselves adapting to new conditions by working from home with limited access to their offices. Without their help, we would not have been able to maintain contact with our clients and they would not have received the assistance they need. TWS support staff, also working from home, have kept the TWS system working which means we have the information and resources we need to help our mutual clients. This partnership has resulted in Easter Seals job placement staff helping over a dozen persons either gain employment or keep the job they have. Moving forward, we know that this shared experience between TWS and Easter Seals will mean better services for our clients, leading to a better quality of life for them and their families. Which is, after all, our mission at Easter Seals Greater Houston.

We celebrate successes large and small and want to congratulate four young adults with disabilities in particular. Beginning on March 3rd, four young men with Autism Spectrum Disorder began working at Chevron in an internship program that would, if they performed well, lead to full-time employment in Chevron’s IT Department. Chris, Luke, Shaye, and Steele were chosen from a pool of candidates that were screened and referred to Chevron by Potentia. At Chevron, they are assisted and coached by Robert Aranda, Easter Seals Greater Houston Employment Specialist. Robert also helped the interns establish eligibility for services from Texas Workforce Solutions. Chevron staff from within each intern’s section act as mentors and buddies to help them become a part of Chevron’s social family. During the course of the internships, Chevron, like many other businesses, began having their employees work from home in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. This proved to be quite a challenge for most of the interns. Robert worked with them remotely to overcome their anxiety at their changed situation and develop routines that allowed them to complete their training and work assignments. Given that these circumstances are new for everyone, Robert had to come up with new ways to communicate and solve problems without being able to see the interns at their jobs. Robert became part guide – part cheerleader as would any coach. All of the interns worked very hard to overcome the difficulties working at home caused. All four successfully overcame all obstacles and, in the last few days, were given the opportunity to become a full-time part of Chevron’s workforce. They will make the transition from intern to employee during the second half of May. Robert will continue to help the new employees face their continuing challenges as they begin their careers as IT professionals at Chevron.

The lives of these young men and their families will forever be changed thanks to Texas Workforce Solutions and Chevron!

Learn more about our Transition and Employment Services.

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An Update from our CEO

We are Here (Virtually) For You

Therapist and her baby with headphones on

Learning Tele-Health!

Easter Seals of Greater Houston is here for you during this difficult time and because you are among our most valuable supporters, we want to assure you that we are here to help. With the Coronavirus (CoVid19) situation changing every day, our concerns are amplified with fears of how our community will be impacted. In all of our decades of serving military families, people with disabilities and vulnerable members of our community-we have become experts in what it takes to beat the odds. Over a month ago, we began adapting our services to keep our staff and clients safe while continuing to provide as many services as possible through tele-health and virtual meet-ups. Click here to see how we continue to support our clients and their families. We have compiled as many resources as possible on Covid19 and are keeping it as up to date as possible. Use BridgingApps.org, our award winning tech technology program, for an amazing amount of on-line resources and ways to stay connected and follow them on Facebook to see new ideas, and resources daily.

Like all families, businesses and charities, Easter Seals Greater Houston has already been hit really hard by the pandemic, by the government mandated benefits and even with huge aid being put in place by Congress, our agency is not eligible for many of the government supports. We expect even more health and financial damage before this is over. With that said, we are steadfast in our commitment to our clients, who need us now more than ever and we are committed to doing whatever we can to protect our employees, serve our clients and come out of this stronger than ever.   Our mission statement is, “Help. Hope. Answers.” The amazing, incomparable and unconquerable Easter Seals family will fulfill that mission of providing help, hope and answers to some of our most vulnerable neighbors during this difficult time and we are grateful to you for standing by us so that we have the resources to serve them.

Speaking of virtually.. We have also moved our Walk With Me Houston event scheduled for April 25th to #WWMVirtually as well. Please consider supporting us through the event. It will be a great way for you, your family, friends, co-workers and other social groups to interact, support the community, “do good” – great home school lesson, stay active safely and more! Follow our Facebook page for our Walk With Me Virtual Sign Up Happy Hour. Last but not least, we so appreciate our current sponsors and their continued effort and support!

If you don’t have the time to commit to walking virtually (and believe me we all understand) then please consider making a gift today to support Easter Seals Greater Houston and our programs, services, clients and their families. We depend on your stewardship and support.

Be well,

Elise Hough, CEO, Easter Seals of Greater Houston

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Walk With Me…Virtually: Walk, Stroll or Roll the Block!

Out of an abundance of caution and care for our clients, teams, sponsors, friends and family walkers and rollers, we’ve made the decision to reroute Walk With Me 2020 to a virtual event. 

This year, we invite you to: Walk With Me…Virtually: Walk, Stroll or Roll the Block!

How it works: We encourage you to register (if you haven’t already) and walk, stroll or roll around your own block daily, weekly and/or on the event day between now and April 25th. Of course, your safety comes first, but we also know that taking in a little bit of sunshine can help all of us during this difficult time!

As you walk, stroll or roll your block, be sure to take photos or videos…or even live stream your experience and use the hashtag #WWMVirtually and tag @EasterSealsGreaterHouston then encourage your friends and family to do the same to help support your (or their own) fundraising efforts.

Last year, 4,000 Houstonians were in attendance. With our virtual walk, we KNOW you can help us beat that!

Every “virtual” step you take helps connect veterans, children and adults with all types of disabilities to the services they desperately need.

How to register to walk, stroll or roll around your block!
*If you have already registered as a walker, you are automatically considered a virtual walker (or stroller or roller!). As such, you do not need to re-register.
*All we need is your help with spreading the word about Walk With Me…Virtually!
*If you’re new to our Walk With Me community, register as a virtual walker here!

How to encourage your friends to continue to help you in your virtual fundraising efforts:

  • As you walk, stroll or roll your block, be sure to take photos or videos…or even live stream your experience and use the hashtag #WWMVirtually and tag @EasterSealsGreaterHouston to encourage your friends and family to do the same to help support your fundraising efforts. You can even create a Facebook fundraiser to make it that much easier!
  • Ask friends and family to join your virtual team, create their own teams and challenge their peer networks (Scout troops, Mother’s Day Out, faith communities, volunteer groups and more) to do the same!
  • Click here for an updated email you can send to your friends and family to encourage continued donations to your virtual walker page!

Donate NOW to help us continue our life-changing work!

COVID-19 has hit Easter Seals and its clients, employees and fundraising efforts hard so we need your support in helping us reach our $1 million goal NOW MORE THAN EVER BEFORE. Your commitment will help ensure that Easter Seals can continue its mission of providing services for thousands of Houstonians living with all types of disabilities each year.

Donate to a walker to support Easter Seals Greater Houston today!

We look forward to virtually walking, strolling or rolling the block with you!

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