Tag Archives: Houston

Celebrating Our Stellar Students

The Caroline School students had a great time at their End of School Year Bash! There was much to celebrate and many ways to do it. We experimented with chemical properties to make Elephant Toothpaste, painted a year-end group mural, made giant bubbles and engaged in a LOT of sensory play!

Here’s to a successful (and in-person) 2020-2021 school year! Thank you to The Caroline School teachers & families for helping our learners flourish. See you soon for Summer Program. Click here you would like to volunteer for our summer program in June and July!

The Caroline School has openings for the 2021-2022 school year. At The Caroline School, abilities, rather than disabilities, dictate the pace and path that each student follows. With an average class size of eight learners and a staff to student ratio of 1:4, teachers are able to meet every student at their level. Learn more about the incredible community and education your child can benefit from here. Please contact our School Director, Tabitha Hernandez, at THernandez@eastersealshouston.org or 713-838-9050 ext. 362 with questions or to schedule a tour.

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Advance Auto Parts is Advancing Inclusion

Easter Seals Greater Houston, in partnership with Advance Auto Parts, the Easter Seals National office, and the James Emmett Company, has begun a project to recruit persons with disabilities for positions within Advance Auto Parts stores and the distribution center for the Houston region. Advance Auto Parts has a company-wide initiative to increase the number of employees who have disabilities throughout the company. Both full-time and part-time jobs, across all shifts, are available at three Advance Auto Parts stores in Houston and at their parts warehouse in north Houston. Houston is the fourth city in America where Advance has initiated this project. A similar project began in Dallas the same day as the Houston project. Advance has a goal of increasing the number of employees with disabilities in every state in which they have facilities.

Easter Seals staff have reached out to Texas Workforce Solutions (TWS) offices to include them in the partnership through their services for persons with disabilities. TWS can provide equipment an employee may need, job readiness, and job training and job coaching if an employee needs assistance on their job. We have also made information about this initiative available to the Easter Seals Veterans and THRIVE programs.

When a person with a disability wishes to apply for a job with Advance, they should go online to https://www.advanceautoparts.jobs/en-US/page/retail-careers to determine the job(s) for which they wish to apply and contact Robert Williams at RWilliams@eastersealshouston.org to make sure their information is given to the James Emmett Company, which will shepherd their application through the interview process. Persons who apply through this initiative will receive a job interview and extra points toward meeting the requirements for their chosen jobs.

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Hope

Maybe the quiet, the extra time with partners or children or the radical change in our lives made it happen, but 2020 gave us (if we decided to take it) a chance to look again at our jobs, our schools, our homes, our friends, family and all of the people we love.  There has been an almost unfathomable magnitude of loss of life, learning, liberty and livelihoods-I am not minimizing these at all.  However, this week, we received a huge reminder of the thousands of gifts of this year.

MacKenzie Scott, who is an author, mother and philanthropist, chose 384 charities – out of the more than 1.5 million US charities – for major gifts.  Ms. Scott consulted with hundreds of field experts, funders, and non-profit leaders and volunteers with decades of experience to pick the 384 beneficiaries. She said they leveraged the,  “…collective knowledge base in a collaboration that included hundreds of emails and phone interviews, and thousands of pages of data analysis on community needs, program outcomes, and each non-profit’s capacity to absorb and make effective use of funding.”   After their extensive due diligence, Ms. Scott gave Easter Seals Greater Houston its largest gift ever – $7 million dollars.  Our expectation is that we will be able to multiply the impact of her gift by using it, in part, as a challenge fund – asking other donors to help us truly leverage her gift to achieve our ambitious goals. 

We plan to use her gift in three ways:

  • Stabilize – as a reserve and operating funds to allow us to access more government funding (you incur the costs and get reimbursed a few months later-creating cash flow issues);
  • Strengthen – as a bridge to sustainability for our existing programs by funding ways to grow and take clients off of waiting lists for services; and
  • Grow – as a way to invest in promising new ways to deliver services and address emerging needs locally and invest in the Easter Seals affiliate network initiatives nationally.

I have huge respect for the non-profits working in the Houston area-there is amazing work being done, but I know that Easter Seals Greater Houston is special.  Just a few of the memorable gifts this year include:

  • a crumpled dollar mailed with a note of encouragement from an older donor;
  • our BridgingApps program which helped us and lots of others in the community transition to tele-services and made 75 videos to support families during the pandemic;
  • the employee who bought groceries for a client’s family to tide them over until we could get them more help;
  • our record-breaking virtual Walk With Me fundraiser which was supported with walkers from around the world;
  • our staff embracing tele-services by sharing what they learned and becoming a real lifeline for clients who felt completely isolated;
  • our Emergency Assistance Program which helped thousands of local families get through the toughest times;
  • the Veterans Team who stayed on call 24 hours a day because so many families were facing increasing financial and mental health challenges;
  • The hundreds of families who received financial coaching and the 38 low-income families who bought their first home with our help- one who said, “We have hope now.  We have hope for our children…”

Our mission statement is “Help. Hope. Answers.”  The gifts of this year have been extraordinary.  Ms. Scott’s transformational gift helps make us stronger, braver, and surer that we can keep doing the work that is so badly needed in our community.  You have truly allowed us to realize our mission-in the midst of the struggle and pain of 2020, there has been real beauty.

I love the way Ms. Scott ended her post about her gifts, “If you’re craving a way to use your time, voice, or money to help others at the end of this difficult year, I highly recommend a gift to one of the thousands of organizations doing remarkable work all across the country. Every one of them could benefit from more resources to share with the communities they’re serving. And the hope you feed with your gift is likely to feed your own.”   I do not have an adequate way to thank Ms. Scott, our staff or all of you who have supported us other than to tell you, we will try to honor your support and trust in us by serving veterans, service members, people with disabilities and their families with the care, integrity, passion and skill that they deserve.   

Elise Hough
CEO, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Letter from the Heart

To our friends at Easter Seals Greater Houston, I would like to thank you for the support you have given to our family as well as to many other families like ours. Your great contribution to many families like ours is extremely helpful, we are very grateful for the support that the Easter Seals Respite Program has given and this makes our life and work easier with our children and other families in special need. Respite Blog Careigiver for November spanish translation

Your work is not simply an office job but a way to be good human beings and in the same way, it will be rewarded with the best payment that they could accrue which is the blessing of God. You are the ones who who give hope to every person who labors with disability and makes things possible and others to relax, breathe and sit down with the support they need.

Hoping that these few but grateful words will come to your hearts, I am very grateful to them, that God will continue to bless them.

-Valentin, Easter Seals Respite Client

Respite Services provides relief options to parents who provide ongoing care of their family member who has a disability. Many parents of children and adults with disabilities have low incomes and cannot afford to hire providers to take time away from their children. Many people with disabilities require 24-hour, around-the-clock supervision, attention and care. This continuous demand becomes a tremendous drain on caregivers emotionally, physically and mentally-this care will remain constant as they grow older. Consequently, families of children with disabilities are at high risk for divorce, substance abuse and child abuse because of the continuing stress of caring for the child with disabilities. Respite care is an assistance program to parents, but just as importantly, is a prevention program aimed at stopping some of the social problems that can result from the tremendous demands made on families due to the disabilities of their child or the institutionalization of the family member with a disability. For more information click here. This important program is largely possible because of the generosity of our community, please consider donating today.

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The Power of Communication

CTP 2nd blog Anna pic

For some children and adults having a voice to communicate comes from an augmentative and alternative communication option. A way to communicate.

Anna was referred to Easter SealsChildren’s Therapy Program to get specialized services to learn to use a high-tech communication device so that she can communicate her own thoughts to her family and friends. She uses a wheelchair for mobility and has a lot of difficulty controlling her motor movements including her breath support and muscles for speech. The therapists have been trying different communication devices that let her “touch” the screen with her eyes. In addition to her speech therapist, Anna works with physical and occupational therapists to strengthen her core, stretch her arms and legs, and relaxation techniques. All of this helps control her posture and head control so that she can successfully activate her communication device.

Anna has a great sense of humor and is really motivated to get her mom or therapists to laugh. She has been practicing telling jokes and silly stories. It has been great getting to know the “real” Anna now that she is able to show us how much she has to say. Her mom has been very excited to get to know Anna’s favorite things and hearing her opinions.

Due to the success she has had in her weekly sessions, Anna’s school is working with her family to provide additional supports for Anna to use her device at school and in the community. She is also starting a standing program to help her regain strength and function, help with transfers, and improve breathing and other quality of life measures.

Daryn Ofczarzak, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Children’s Therapy, BridgingApps

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The Wonders of Early Childhood Intervention

To the Easter Seals ECI Infant Program – the Woodlands team. Way to go Jeannie, Lisa, and Nicola!

Our experience with Easter Seals Early Childhood Intervention Program was a very positive one. From the very beginning (our daycare suggested we reach out when my son was about 11 months old). little boyAustin’s initial evaluation was a lot to take in, but they explained everything they were doing (and more importantly, WHY), and what the process would look like to begin services and what we should expect (this all before we ever had a diagnosis too)… over the past two years, I have relied heavily on Jeannie and Lisa’s guidance on best practices for us to be using with Austin at home, helpful toys/exercises/etc., and celebrated almost every milestone with us along the way. Easter Seals ECI Staff have been more than flexible with my often hectic work schedule (even when I sometimes forget to call and let them know Austin wouldn’t be at daycare for whatever doc appointment/illness/trip 🤦🏻‍♀️), and I loved getting feedback/photos/progress updates from Lisa after Occupational Therapy sessions. I, of course, wish they could have worked with Austin even more than what was available, but ECI has provided an incredible foundation for Austin’s development and future success. Thank you doesn’t seem like enough in this case and I’m quite sad that it’s come to an end.

Austins Mom – Easter Seals ECI Client

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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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My Independence Day

Dear Easter Seals Greater Houston,

I want to express my feelings about training my service dog puppy, Just Bob, during these extreme conditions, and with my limited physical abilities. Without the Easter Seals Veterans Service Program and partner, My Service Dog, being available to provide safe environments, leadership, and guidance, I would have given up by now.

My life has changed in more ways than I could have imagined having this highly intelligent puppy in it. He is also a member of my family and they feel the same about him. We all work together to teach him, love him, and correct him. In just over a couple of months, Just Bob has enhanced my life, and the lives of my entire family. I honestly cannot believe how much he means to me and how I could not do without him.

In the beginning I was wondering how I could train Just Bob from a puppy, build a strong foundation and teach a full-blown service dog. It was only possible thanks to Easter Seals Greater Houston and My Service Dog’s constant communication, assistance, and guidance.My Independence Day

A perfect example of your team’s dedication and commitment is the photo attached to this email. There was ‘no way’ I was going to get into my wheelchair and let someone push me around a nature path where other people could see.  I am glad that she finally convinced me because it was a great training session, the weather was beautiful, and Just Bob learned how to maneuver with my wheelchair like never before. The outing did me good, taught both of us so much, and wore Just Bob out!

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart,

Blaine C.

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veteran Service Dog Program.

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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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MOST of All!

Teamwork makes the dream work!  Teens with cerebral palsy and volunteers (many of them long-time volunteers – thanks, friends!) had a great time last month at Easter Seals Camp MOST Weekend Camp – riding horses, doing archery, and challenging themselves at the tower – and learning about self-awareness, advocacy, and teamwork during the jam sessions. Camp Most pic 1 This past weekend the crew worked together to line up PVC pipe and get a marble from one end to the other.  Kudos to teen, Sebastian, for stepping up and leading the teens and getting everyone started on a plan.  The teens got the ball rolling and had a resounding success!

Kenzie Richard, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Program Coordinator

Camp Most pic 2

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