Tag Archives: Philanthropy

Coming Full Circle – Volunteer to Staff Member

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Katherine von Haefen is a long-time United Way Greater Houston staff person.  She was at United Way when I was in high school, and she was in charge of the Kids Way Program then.  Kids Way was most definitely the thing that taught me to love volunteering in high school, and really instilled in me the idea of lifelong volunteerism.  Fast forward to today, and Katherine’s high school aged daughter, Alison, volunteered for Camp Buckaroo for the first time this summer.  Alison had a wonderful time and is now thinking about making working with people with disabilities her career, as many of our amazing teen volunteers do.  She’s already reached back out to Kenzie Richard, Easter Seals Camp Program Coordinator, to ask about volunteering during the school year!  It’s neat to think that Katherine was around when I discovered my love for volunteering, and now I’m around when her daughter’s making the same discovery – totally coming full circle.

Christine Ellery, Program Director Easter Seals Greater Houston.

*Easter Seals Greater Houston is proud to have been a partner of United Way GH since the days of it being called The Community Chest… a very long time! UWGH has enabled ESGH to serve so many more clients – thousands and thousands – through their and their donors support allowing us to ensure family stability, create growth, independence, and more.

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Big Gifts and Little Gifts According to Our Will

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My name is Will Ellery.  I am 8 years old and I go to Parker Elementary.  My mom works at Easter Seals.  Sometimes I get to go to camp with her.  When I do, if everyone has gone first and had all the turns they want at the activities, then sometimes I get to go too.  I’ve never been able to do the ropes course because I always get scared.  One time I put on the harness and that was all I could do.  Another time I climbed up the ladder to get on the giant swing, but then I just climbed back down the ladder.  One time I started climbing the rock wall, but then I came back down after halfway because I didn’t feel safe.

Before Thanksgiving I got to go to the Veterans and family camp.  I met my friend, Ms. La’Tori, there.  She was there by herself because her baby is sick.  She is in the NICU at the hospital.  I was in the NICU too when I was a baby so that’s something we have in common.  Ms. La’Tori said she was going up the rock wall by herself, but she was going to wait for everybody else.  I told her I wasn’t allowed to go until last, and only if there was enough time.  She asked me if I had climbed the rock wall before, and I told her my stories about getting scared.  She said, “Well, why don’t we try going together?”

So we stood and waited together.  Sometimes I would get butterflies in my stomach.Will and La'Tori 2  I asked Ms. La’Tori if she was sure we could go together.  She said yes.  I asked her if she would stay with me and not go too fast.  She said yes to that too.  Some of the big older boys were going up the wall fast like Spiderman!

When it was our turn I went on the left side and Ms. La’Tori went on the right side.  She smiled real big and asked if I was ready.  I said yes and we started climbing.  Ms. La’Tori stayed right next to me.  Sometimes I even went a little faster than her!  When I had trouble on the hard parts she asked me if I was okay.  She tried to help me by pointing to rocks I could put my hands and feet on.Will and La'Tori 3

I made it to the top first!  When I got to the top I cheered for Ms. La’Tori so she could make it to the top too.  I was hoping we could go down the zipline together, but there was a line of people on her side.  I thought I would be scared to go down the zipline because I wasn’t going with Ms. La’Tori.  But you know what?  Once I got all the way to the top, nothing was scary anymore!  It’s like I just had to climb the wall once and then I got brave.

Since I went down the zipline first, I got to watch Ms. La’Tori from the ground.  I guessed she was probably scared up there.  So I yelled real loud that she didn’t need to worry and that it was going to be so much fun.  She went down the zipline a really brave way – backwards!

I’m really glad I met Ms. La’Tori at camp.  She helped me do something I never got to do before!

Note from Will’s mom (Christine Ellery, Easter Seals Program Director): Some of the greatest blessings of working at Easter Seals have been the experiences and interactions with people my kids have had.  From a young age, my kids have met people of all ages and all abilities and disabilities, and as Easter Seals has expanded its Veterans Program, my kids have met amazing Veterans and Veteran families.  All these people have helped to shape my kids and their capacity for kindness and compassion.

About Will’s story above…  One thing worth mentioning is La’Tori is an Air Force Veteran, so probably not as afraid of heights as Will guessed!  I loved and appreciated how capable and brave La’Tori made Will feel, from the times she let him climb a little faster than her, to her taking in all his words (um, screams) of ziplining advice and no-fear from below.  She made him feel so confident.  And I hope being at Veterans and family camp made La’Tori feel confident.  As a mom whose baby was also in the NICU, I know there are so many questions and so much to be anxious about; it’s hard to feel confident.  But watching La’Tori with Will, it’s so easy to see what a great mom she is.  I’m so excited La’Tori’s sweet baby girl gets to come home soon!    

Christine Ellery, Easter Seals Program Director  ; Will Ellery, Lifelong Easter Seals Houston Volunteer and Kenzie Richard, Easter Seals Program Coordinator

 

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Our BHP Community Quarterback Finalist

Congratulations Christian! You are a RockStar! So proud that you were chosen as a BHP Community Quarterback finalist! All finalists were recognized Sunday, December 8th at the Houston Texans game and ESGH will receive a $5000 donation as a result of Christian’s long-standing work with our Camp Program.

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Christian has been volunteering with Easter Seals Greater Houston’s camp programs for over a decade. Starting when he was 17 years old, Christian started as a volunteer at Camp Smiles, a week-long overnight camp that serves children with cerebral palsy. For years, Christian served as the one on one counselor for Kamal, a non-verbal camper who adored the support and friendship Christian gave him. Over the years, Kamal and Christian became life-long friends, and they still make time to celebrate graduations and big birthdays together. In recent years, Christian has taken on the role of head counselor, meaning he is in charge of an entire cabin of campers and volunteers for the week of camp. Christian is an incredible leader, both in the most serious and silliest aspects of ensuring a safe and enriching camp experience.

Christian is an integral part of the Camp Smiles community. Campers and volunteers alike adore him, and he is a trusted and remembered part of everyone’s camp experience. Not only has he impacted the lives of hundreds of campers, Christian, now a teacher, has also started recruiting his students to volunteer for camp. Christian is the perfect role model for the new volunteers’ first year at camp. The energy and light-hearted spirit Christian brings to camp is infectious; his desire to bond with each camper and counselor radiates, setting a standard of friendship within the cabin. They all became like brothers, creating a group bond that wouldn’t be possible without Christian. One of his students even earned the award of “best new counselor” at the end of camp, for his concerted effort to bond with his camper and make his week unforgettable. This success was the most certainly a result of Christian’s decade-long dedication to building stronger communities.

The most admirable aspect of Christian’s volunteerism is how effortless his hard work comes across, though his success as a camp leader comes from years of experience and dedication. From jokes, to encouragement, to tears at the end of camp, Christian is intentional about supporting each camper and volunteer in his cabin. Christian’s ability to see each camper as just another kid, despite any disability, allows him to build a community of inclusion around him. In the truest version of leading by example, the volunteers Christians brought to Camp Smiles caught onto this environment of inclusion starting on day one.  Not only did he teach this new generation of young men the basics of caregiving, Christian undoubtedly instilled in them the privilege and honor of serving others.

Christine Ellery, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Program Director

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Looking to Volunteer?

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Know any retired, hardworking individuals that need something to focus their energy on?? We are the perfect group!! Our program could not function without dependable volunteers on our team! I currently have 5-7 volunteers that are volunteering with me on Mondays and Wednesdays at Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Adult Life Enrichment Program (LEAD) but I am in search of 1 – 3 more long term volunteers.73087196_2745919965427523_4184794379765940224_n

Why volunteer with our LEAD program? Hear from our volunteers yourself:

“My volunteering with Easter Seals’ program is the most enjoyable thing I do all week. The participants are genuinely friendly, warm and accepting of everyone, group members and volunteers alike. It is easy to volunteer because the activities are well planned and always interesting. But the most valuable thing to me is experiencing relationships with persons who have faced a lot of struggles and yet remain upbeat lovers of life. I find that inspiring. And, no group has more fun than we do!”

– Linda Meriwether, 5 years

“When I decided to retire from teaching after 33 years, I knew I needed to find something for me to do to occupy my time a few days a week.  When I was growing up, my mom did volunteer work for an organization in Indianapolis and I remember how much she loved it.  Easter Seals has been very special for me.  I feel I have found another family and I am very humbled to be able to work with these outstanding adults and young adults.  They brighten my day each time I go to group.  I leave every time feeling fulfilled after working with Ashley and the other terrific helpers. I know the adults and young adults have a wonderful experience every time we meet.”

-Tom Clancy, 7 years

“I ALWAYS look forward to Mondays and Wednesdays when I volunteer at the LEAD program. This is an amazing program!  It is so much fun to spend time with the clients and visit with the other volunteers. This is a very important program to the clients because most don’t have many other social-enrichment activities in their lives, and this program has allowed them to form friendships and have fun.  It is personally fulfilling to volunteer my time to this program.  I have had many blessings in my life, and this is a chance to ‘give back’”.  -Paul Smith, 4 years

“For more than nine years I’ve really enjoyed volunteering with the  Easter Seals Houston’s LEAD program… Working with everyone makes my day and week and year. I am blessed to have this opportunity to change lives for good and I get much more than what I put in. I am thankful for the chance to make a difference and have so much fun.” -Alyson Gershenson, 9 years

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Details:

– Mondays and/or Wednesdays

– 9am to 12pm: 12pm to 3pm; or all day 9am to 3pm

– Memorial area at two different churches: MDPC and MDUMC; occasional field trips to movies, mall, sporting events, etc.

– what is LEAD? Life-enriching program for adults with varying disabilities which meets twice a week. Activities include: dance, yoga, crafts, music, games, karaoke, and more!

– duties: help individuals with varying disabilities participate in activities scheduled by Program Coordinator; assist with meals (serving and feeding); activity set-up and clean up; ensure the safety of all participants; encourage independence and participation of participants; work as a team with other volunteers and Program Coordinator

– must be able to pass background check

–  must be compassionate and caring; willing to learn how to work with all individuals no matter level of disability

– Preference: Personal reference of reliable volunteer; member of one of the two affiliated churches (MDPC & MDUMC)

Ashley Nichols, Easter Seals Greater Houston,  Program Manager, Adult and Recreation Services

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I am in the Caring Business

Caregiving-the activity or profession of regularly looking after a child or a person who is sick, elderly or disabled. There can be the feeling of fulfillment and happiness, it can also be overwhelming on a caregiver and could be mentally and physically exhausting. Being a Respite Family Coordinator for Easter Seals Greater Houston, this is what I hear every day through tears, sighs, laughter, joy and distress. I can’t help but feel the families’ pain and do what I do with love. I share their pain, fear and hurt. I can’t deny that this position has made me a better person, more compassionate and understanding to what we take for granted each and every day. I can sit here and ramble on about what a caregiver goes through, but what I need is for people to understand is that we do what we do…because we CARE. Not just anyone can do that and for that, I am grateful that I wake up knowing I did something to make someone else’s day just a little bit better.

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I start with I ABSOLUTELY love what I do.

I try to bring awareness and motivate people to go out of their way to help those in need. Overall my organization, ESGH is about caring, my Respite program is caring. If all I have to do is show them that they are appreciated each and every day by offering our services, then I will go above and beyond. It is not just a job, I do it with lots of love and pride. To all the caregivers out there, may your heart be filled with joy, warmth and happiness.

“It’s not how much you do, it’s how much love you put in the doing.” –Mother Teresa

 

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.

Adriana Rico, Respite Family Coordinator, Easter Seals Greater Houston

 

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Better, Faster, Stronger.

As a successful young professional, it is both my responsibility and privilege to give my time, talents, and financial resources to improve the lives of others.  But what if you, like me, don’t have large financial resources or much extra time to give? If you’re a young and driven professional, what you likely have is energy and creativity, so, when considering your personal philanthropy, it’s never too early to start thinking about how to be innovative and strategic in the way you spend your time and money to help outstanding organizations like Easter Seals Greater Houston.

It’s critical for community organizations like ESGH to tap into the creative thinking of young professionals in their area. Not only do young professionals have the ability to bring about bold and innovative efforts through new approaches to persistent problems, but we represent the future base of volunteers and donors for the organization.

I chose to spend my time with ESGH because I grew up friends with and babysitting for a sweet family whose youngest child has a disability. Robert, now a teenager, and his family taught me so much over the years about how a physical disability is a challenge – but not a barrier – to living life to the fullest. Once I learned more about ESGH, I wanted to bring my strengths to the table to better the lives of children and families like Robert’s. I believed that creating a young professionals model of giving within the organization would open new doors and change how my peers view philanthropy, so I helped to establish the Young Urban Professionals of Easter Seals,  a group within Easter Seals that was formed to support the organization in accomplishing its mission – to provide exceptional services for people with disabilities and their families, so that they can live, work, learn and play in their community – in a new way. This new and, frankly, fun group gives young Houstonians the opportunity to meet and socialize with other socially conscious individuals, help raise money for the organization, and increase Easter Seals’ volunteer base. Members not only learn about ways to volunteer within the organization, but they also have the opportunity to fundraise simply by attending one of our many social events like The Bash – A Halloween Happening and many others. Net proceeds of all fundraising activities of YUPES are contributed to the programs of Easter Seals. And, I’m pretty sure several of my single girlfriends have gotten dates out of these events. (I’m a sucker for multi-tasking.)

YUPES has created an energetic group of community members who are starting to think more strategically about philanthropy. We’re a group that thinks big and doesn’t settle for the status-quo. We see the value of seeking transformational and lasting changes in our community through entrepreneurial approaches.  YUPES has been and will continue to be a forum where we can educate each other on effective philanthropic methods, take an active role in leading innovative community projects and initiatives, and start giving back on our own terms.

Young professionals, please heed this: strategic philanthropy is not just for wealthy donors or people willing to cross continents for a living. As future leaders, we can lay a path now for us to see positive change in our lifetimes. Better, faster, stronger. All it takes is a little strategic thinking and a dose of youthful creativity to have a powerful impact on our communities.

The Importance of Early Strategic Philanthropy – by Meredith Johnson, YUPES Board Member

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