Happy Mother’s Day, Special Needs Moms!

Published By: Anne Williams, RN, CDDN

“It’s not easy being a mother. If it were easy, fathers would do it.” ~From the television show The Golden Girls

This Sunday is Mother’s day. It is a day to honor not just one’s own mom, but to celebrate motherhood and that unique bond between a mother and her child.  As a mother, I know how life changes when you have a child. Days are filled with chores, going to work, childcare concerns, acting as chauffeur, making dinner, doing laundry, confirming playdates and helping with homework. Being a mom is tiring work!

The mothers of Special Needs children understand all too well how tiring being a mom can be. These moms do everything that other moms do….plus so much more.

Author and therapist, Rachel Bernstein explains being a mom to a Special Needs child like this, “You are connected to your children in an extraordinary way — feeling their pain, shedding tears together, and celebrating in their triumphs, no matter how large or small. You persevere, even when exhausted. You smile, even when sad. You give and give, even when depleted. You encourage, even when less than hopeful. You are compassionate, even when stressed. You always have your child’s back, even when others may have turned their backs on you.”

Moms of Special Needs children become experts in their child’s diagnosis and often know more than the professionals. They can juggle multiple medical appointments and therapy evaluations. They know their child’s education plan by heart and have learned to navigate the complexities of the healthcare system. They do this while tending to their home and other members of the household; often, they are raising other children at the same time.  They are not just “Mom” to their special child, they are also protector and advocate. These moms put themselves last; oftentimes not paying attention to their own needs at all.

If you are a Special Needs mom, you are invaluable to your child. He depends on you and is counting on you to be there both physically and emotionally. But if you don’t take time to care for yourself, you won’t be much good to your child and eventually your health will suffer. An overworked mind and body can lead to chronic stress, which can cause changes in the following:

Immune system.  Your immune system is sensitive to stress on your body. Constant stress can lead to frequent illness and worsening of chronic illnesses.

Heart. Burning the candle at both ends is no good for your heart. High blood pressure, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart attack and other coronary diseases can result from a life that is high in physical and emotional stress.

Muscles. Constant stress causes undue tension on the muscles of your neck, shoulders and back. Arthritis can worsen as well.

Stomach. If you have stomach problems, they can become worse. If you don’t have stomach problems, they can develop. Conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and    peptic ulcers can emerge.

Skin. Skin problems like acne and psoriasis can worsen.

If you are a Special Needs mom, ask for and accept offers of assistance so you can recharge your batteries! Make a commitment to take care of yourself so you can provide the strength, love and compassion your child needs.

If you know a Special Needs mom, reach out to them this Mother’s Day. Offer to babysit for them…..help with their spring cleaning, or cook them a meal…give them the opportunity to focus on their own needs, even if only for a short time. Having the time to rest or enjoy some “me” time allows them to recharge, renew, and heal so they can provide the calm, consistent care their child needs.

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

_______________________________

Anne Williams, RN, CDDN, joined the DPD Family in 2008. She received her nursing degree in 1990 from the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. In 2014, she became a Certified Developmental Disability Nurse and is currently working towards her BSN at Thomas Edison State College.  Anne started her career as a staff nurse at Staten Island University Hospital, where she also worked as Nurse Care Coordinator of the Medical-Surgical Unit. Anne was employed as a Rehabilitation Nurse for St. Vincent’s/Catholic Medical Center Staten Island, as well as a Nursing Liaison for their home care services. Prior to joining DPD, Anne worked at Chilton Memorial Hospital, Pompton Plains in the Cardiac Intermediate Care/Telemetry Unit as well as per-diem Hospital Supervisor. Currently, Anne is a certified American Red Cross CPR and First Aid instructor, member of the Developmental Disabilities Nursing Association and is active in many of DPD’s social events.

Saying Goodbye

Published by: Doreen Cook, LCSW – DPD Behavioral Analyst

“Life is a series of hello’s and goodbye’s…I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again” – Billy Joel

It’s very likely that most of us have faced many goodbyes in our lives.  Generally, we learn to cope with those goodbyes, assimilate them and move on.  Individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities may often face more than their fair share of goodbyes throughout their lifetimes.  In darker days, when people were not as knowledgeable as they are today about intellectual disabilities, individuals who faced these challenges were frequently shipped off to institutionalized settings where they may have rarely if ever seen their families again.  Others, who lived in group homes in community settings, still often did not have involved families.  Staff members and volunteers often became their surrogate families; denizens of staff whose names and faces changed over the years, volunteers who promised to see them on a regular basis and maintain contact but often were not able to keep up with their commitments.  People learn and grow and move on; their lives change but for some individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, residing in one setting their entire lives is commonplace. The four walls remain the same but the scenery is an ever changing see of faces and caregivers.

It is critical to be sensitive to this when “staging” your departure from the life of a loved one with intellectual challenges.  And staging is a good word for it because for the benefit of the individual, we sometimes need to put on a performance:

Stage I:  Prepare in advance and have a script (in your head) if necessary.  All individuals need a chance to cope with, process and accept the news of a goodbye.  Plan to let the individual know along a time line that is right for them.  Two weeks is a good jumping off point – go up or down as appropriate.

Do it privately to provide the opportunity for expression of emotions.  Anticipate the potential for sadness and even anger.  Be prepared with how you will respond to that with tools such as comfort, support, gentle words and a hug when appropriate.

Stage II:  Don’t say that you will stay in touch if you have no intentions to.  For you, it may just be a figure of speech but for them, it is very literal and they will be waiting to hear from you.  Structure and routine are critical to the healthy environment of a person with intellectual disabilities.  If you will no longer be able to be part of that structure, then it is best if you don’t promise to.

Stage III:  Help the person to identify alternative sources of support if you are able to.  Loss precipitates grieving and grieving resolves when the person is able to move on in a world where they are able to identify and turn to new or alternative sources of support.  Some examples of this could be a relative, friend, community member or a counselor.

Following these easy but thoughtful steps will help to make the transition easier for everyone involved.

___________________________________

Doreen Cook has been our Behavioral Analyst since 2007. She received a Master’s degree in Social Work from Kean University in 2000. She began her career as a Social Service Director in sub-acute rehabilitation and long term care. During the time she has been with the agency, she has developed and implemented many very successful behavior management plans, started two client support groups and a community service group, ran an anxiety management group, created educational, therapeutic art and sensory classes for the clients and created personalized books and CD’s for her clients.  Doreen also oversees our adult day training program, Gruenert Center and has implemented the Saturdays at the Center Program to provide recreational opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities living at home with their parents. In addition, Doreen now oversees the DPD Community Supports Program which provides case management services for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities residing in Sussex County, NJ. Doreen is also a licensed clinical social worker and provides licensed counseling services to the individuals who live at DPD as needed. Doreen is an active member of the People Need Friends program. Doreen is also a member of the Junior Women’s Club of Jefferson Township and a member of the United Way Caregiver Coalition. 

20 Tips to Improve your Charity Golf Outing

Published By: Christopher Brancato, MA

The Department for Persons with Disabilities (DPD) provides support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout northern, New Jersey.  We are a nonprofit organization that relies on fundraising to help provide a high level of care.

Like many other charities, we host a variety of events throughout the year to help raise awareness, funds and support for our cause. Our biggest event of the year has become our Wiegand Farm Golf Classic (www.dpd.org/wiegand). The 2015 event will be held on June 22nd at Bowling Green Golf Club and Berkshire Valley Golf Course in Oak Ridge.

There are nearly 150,000 charity outings, like the Wiegand Farm Golf Classic, held throughout the United States each year. With so many events, competition can be fierce, yet we have seen a steady growth in participation throughout the last several years.

In 2010, 68 golfers came out to the Wiegand, each year since then, event has grown, (2011: 100 golfers, 2012: 143 golfers, 2013: 196 golfers, 2014: 229: golfers). In 2010, the event raised just over $10,000 and now has become an $80,000 event, held on two courses

It truly “takes a village” to develop golf outing, but with the right approach you can boost support of your event, and thus raise more for a cause that is dear to you.

Here are 20 tips to help improve your golf outing  

Putting Green: Make your golf outing a yearlong event: If your golf outing is on June 22nd, you shouldn’t begin preparing for this event on June 1st.  Set your date and venue early, you might even want to promote next year’s outing at this year’s event.  Create business cards, update your event website and create brochures as early as possible.  Fiscal years vary from company to company, but you’ll have to reach out to some at the start of the calendar year to have any realistic chance of securing a corporate sponsorship. Make sure to have information about the event with you at any networking event, you never know when you will meet a prospective golfer or sponsor.

Driving Range: Set realistic goals and develop a plan: Meet with your committee or executive team early in the year to discuss your goals for the event and logistics.  If you are looking into a new course or venue, make sure to visit several different options and have different packages quoted to see what you are getting for your investment. Reach out to the chairpersons of other outings to see how their golfers enjoyed their experience at the prospective courses you are looking into.  In addition to the typical amenities offered, see how the course can help promote your event and find out if they can offer you any prizes for your raffles, silent auction, etc.  Develop marketing/outreach plans for specific potential supporters (local businesses, corporations, golfers, silent auction/prize donors, etc.). There are many different potential donor bases and you should identify who they are and how best to reach out to them.

Hole 1: Cultivate a dedicated team/committee: Your committee members are the legs of the event.  They should help you obtain golfers, reach out to sponsors, obtain prizes and promote the outing.  Reach out to board members, friends and those close to your organization for support.  With modern technology, meetings do not even have to take place in person anymore. Committee members feel a more passionate connection to the outing and cause and thus are more likely to work hard to take the event to the next level.

Hole 2: Make your event innovative: As previously mentioned, there are over 150,000 golf outings in the United States each year and you have to do something to stand out.  Offer unique prize opportunities, celebratory guests, special contests, anything to give your event its own identity.

Hole 3: Market, advertise and offer promotions: Even if your event has 1,000 golfers on 8 different courses, you have to continuously reach out to new potential supporters.  From year to year, you never know which foursome might drop out, or what corporate sponsor you may lose.  You have to take into consideration the long term health of the event.  Set a budget for paid advertising and keep track of your ROI.  Explore different advertising opportunities each year including print advertising, radio advertising, billboards, golf outing websites, and television.  Facebook and Google offer advertising opportunities that you can specifically cater to your potential golfers or sponsors.   If you have a limited or no advertising budget, you can still promote your event.  Ask local businesses to post a flyer about your outing, find free event listing websites online, market via email; there are plenty of free or low cost options to help promote your event.   Some radio stations, news outlets and advertising companies may even barter with you, a sponsorship of your event for advertising.  You can even offer a giveaway of a free day of golf to other charity events, with the hope that the recipient comes out to support your event in future years.

Hole 4: Participate in other events:  Budget to attend a different event or two each year in the community to learn about what other outings are doing and what other courses are offering.

Hole 5: Utilize social media:  Minimally, you should create an event on Facebook for your golf outing, you can share this at no cost and ask your Facebook friends to do the same.  If you want to go a step further, create an entire Facebook page for your event.  You can even promote this page on Facebook to whatever audience you want. Create a hashtag for your event and utilize it when you are posting on social media.  Make sure all posts and pages link back to your event page.

Hole 6: Maintain a positive attitude: Stay positive and keep smiling no matter what the turnout is at your event.  When dealing with potential sponsors and golfers talk about the good your agency or organization is doing and not about how funding is cut, or how fundraising dollars are needed to prevent the “sky from falling.” Talk about how contributions from last year’s event have directly impacted your services in a positive way.  Always be thankful and appreciative of those who are donating their time, efforts or dollars to your cause.

Hole 7: Lean on volunteers from the community:  If you are fundraising for a large organization with many staff members and volunteers who want to be involved with your event, that’s great, but I believe it’s even better to have community partners involved.  Offer volunteer opportunities to your sponsors.  Many companies have community service requirements and your event could help them fulfill these needs.  It can also give them the opportunity to further market their business but putting faces of their company in front of your participants.  Having volunteers assist from the community allow you to connect at a deeper level with new, potential supporters.

Hole 8: Assign different roles to volunteers based on their strongpoints: Make sure you have individuals with a variety of skill sets on your committee who can help with various aspects of the event.  Certain people might feel more comfortable reaching out to potential sponsors than others.  Other individuals might have work related contacts who they are willing to ask to support the event. Offer to work with your committee members and provide them with the draft of a request letter if appropriate.

Hole 9: Honor those who have made contributions to the community, your cause or the event: From staff members, to donors, to volunteers there are many people involved with nonprofits and service groups that help them thrive.  Make your fundraising events an opportunity to recognize these people.  Recognition of certain individuals might also help boost event participation and revenue.  Host a “kick-off” event months prior to the outing and invite your high level sponsors and award nominees to get acquainted.

Hole 10: Give sponsors what they want: Though some sponsorships might be purely philanthropic contributions, other companies are looking for an event where they can be seen and heard.  Make sure you create sponsorship packages that create brand visibility and recognize the sponsor at the event.  Offer more than just advertising at the golf outing. Promote your sponsors before and after the event.  If you can, provide metrics to the sponsor after the event to measure their return on investment. Provide opportunities for higher level sponsors to reach out to those in attendance.  Make sure you view sponsorships as more of a “partnership” than a “gift.”

Hole 11: Make sure your golfers and sponsors feel appreciated: You can never say “thank you enough.”  The Executive Director, CEO, committee members, board members and/or development director should be at the event and should be personally thanking participants for their support.  Major sponsors should be mentioned at the event. After the event, all golfers, sponsors and volunteers should be further thanked.  The sponsors who do not attend the event should receive a souvenir journal and any other giveaways from the event.

Hole 12: Make your cause the center of your day: Where the committee members are the “legs” of the event, the organization’s mission is at the “heart and soul.” Make sure that those who come out to the event at least know who the outing is helping! Presenters should briefly talk about the impact the organization is making in the community and how fundraising dollars directly support the cause.  If possible have service recipients come out to or play in the event.  Their smiles and appreciation will go a long way.

Hole 13: Don’t over promote your cause at the event: Though we want golfers to be aware of where their contribution is going and how it is making a difference, we don’t want to be overly persistent.  Attendees are already giving to the event, most  of them are also purchasing raffle tickets and chances at other in-event contests. Representatives from the sponsoring companies and those who are new to your organization might become dismayed if they are asked for too much. We want our golfers to come back and for the event to have long-term success. On your golfer’s registration cards you can offer a check box asking if they would like to volunteer, or learn more about the organization, but don’t over pursue.

Hole 14:  Offer giveaways and contests to participants: Generally speaking, if you are making a majority of your revenue from the cost of golf, you are doing something incorrectly. Most of the funds raised from golf outings come from sponsorships and events (raffles, silent auction, etc.).  With that said, you should utilize a majority of what the golfer is paying to play in the event on making the event better.  In addition to green fees and food, you should offer additional giveaway items and contests, regardless of whether or not you can get these costs covered.

Hole 15: Make the day fun: Most of the people who are at your golf outing are there to support the cause and enjoy a nice day off from work on the course.  You can better their experience by making sure that they are receiving adequate food and refreshments and assuring that a good pace of play is kept.  Try not to double up foursomes on par 3’s to avoid long buildups. Send volunteers on golf carts to ask how they are enjoying their day and if they need anything.

Hole 16: Get feedback from golfers and sponsors post-event: Make sure to have all golfers fill out registration cards at the start of the day and obtain their email addresses. Email them a survey the day after the outing, asking them to rate various aspects of the event and analyze the results.  Show that you are listening to their requests at future events, should you implement any requested changes.

Hole 17: Don’t be afraid of change: Regular golfers in your event may grow tired of your venue, meal selection, contests or other aspects of your golf outing that have become staples of the event.  Make sure to stay connected to your participants and sponsors throughout the year and keep those who are close to the event updated on any changes.  Always keep your eyes open for new options or upgrades to the event.

Hole 18: Control the Weather: Your organization or service group hasn’t raised enough money to develop a weather modification program yet? Well, I guess we can’t control everything!  Yes, sometimes it does rain on a golf course and or during your golf outing.  It’s out of your control, but if you focus on the aforementioned points it won’t make a difference!

 To learn more about DPD’s Wiegand Farm Golf Classic visit www.dpd.org/wiegand or call Chris Brancato in the Development Office at 973-406-1104.  The 2015 Wiegand Farm Golf Classic will be held on June 22nd.

Top 10 Foods for Spring – Healthy and Yummy!

Published By: Anne Williams, RN, CDDN

The season of spring is finally here! Soon the flowers will start to bloom and the days will grow longer. Many use this time of year to do “spring cleaning”…closets are emptied, windows are washed and the yard is prepared to enjoy outdoor activities, so why not clean up your diet as well. Improve your nutrition by doing a “spring cleaning” of your menu. It is the perfect time to move away from the heavier foods normally consumed during the winter months and move towards lighter fare.

Service providers of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities should work with the individuals who they help and try to guide them towards healthy meal planning.  If you don’t have a vegetable garden at home, there are still many great options out there.

There are so many fruits and vegetables that are in season or at peak season in the early spring.  Look for locally grown foods to guarantee you are getting the freshest fruits and vegetables available. These fresh, locally grown foods not only taste better, but they also pack a punch when it comes to nutritional value. Foods that are grown and delivered from a distance are often picked before they ripen, so they don’t spoil while in transit. As a result, they lose nutrients.

Here are my top 10 fruit and veggie picks for Spring

  1. Strawberries

Strawberries may be small, but they are packed with antioxidants which help prevent damage to tissues in our body. It is said that strawberries are healthy for the heart, help increase good cholesterol (HDL), lower blood pressure and help protect against cancer. Choose berries that are firm, plump and deep red.

  1. Asparagus

A member of the lily family, asparagus is a nutritional powerhouse! It is loaded with antioxidants, folate, vitamins A, C and E and is a great source of fiber. Asparagus is also a natural diuretic, helping rid your body of excess salt and fluid. Look for firm spears with closed tips. The spears should be bright green and show no signs of wilting.

  1. Cherries

Another small fruit that boasts big nutritional value, the cherry has antioxidant properties that help with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. The University of Michigan has suggested that cherries are beneficial to cardiovascular health and may even lower one’s risk of stroke. Cherries also contain melatonin, a natural sleep enhancer. Consumption may help reduce insomnia. Red cherries should be firm and have a deep, dark color with bright green stems.

  1. Peas

The lowly little pea is a big source of energy, fiber, protein, iron and essential vitamins. They contain lutein and vitamin A, which help keep your eyes healthy. In addition, peas have high level of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. There is even research that showed daily consumption of peas may lower your risk of developing stomach cancer. Chose firm, plump, bright green pods.

  1. Beets

One of my favorites, beets have been shown to lower blood pressure and increase energy levels. Beets also improve blood flow to the brain, relax the mind and produce a feeling of well-being—similar to eating chocolate! They are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The leaves and stems are also packed with nutrients and are great in salads. Select beets that are firm with smooth, blemish-free dark red or golden yellow skins. If you want to cook the leaves, make sure they are bright green.

  1. Apricots

Dried apricots are available year round, but spring is the season to enjoy them fresh. Apricots are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants which help protect cells from the damaging effects of aging. They also contain vitamin A which keeps our skin, eyes and mucous membranes healthy. Pick apricots that are firm, plump, unblemished and are a deep orange or yellow/orange in color.

  1. Artichokes

In addition to containing many vitamins and minerals, artichokes are a great source of fiber. In fact, a medium artichoke contains more fiber than a cup of prunes. They also aid digestion, and improve gallbladder and liver function. The leaves of an artichoke should be tight and squeak when squeezed. A good artichoke feels heavy and is a nice green color.

  1. Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a vegetable, but is used like a fruit in pies and desserts.  It is a great source of calcium, which helps strengthen bones and teeth and is also known to have high levels of lutein to help keep the skin and eyes healthy. Vitamin K is the most notable vitamin in rhubarb and is a necessary component in blood clotting. This vitamin also inhibits neuronal damage in the brain and is useful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Look for firm, crispy and bright-red color stalks.

  1. Spinach

Popeye knew what he was talking about…Spinach is widely considered one of the most nutritional vegetables. It has been shown that a diet rich in spinach helps prevent osteoporosis, iron-deficiency anemia, protect the body from cardiovascular diseases as well as colon and prostate cancers. Shop for crisp, bright green leaves with no dark spots or yellowing.

  1. Grapefruit

Grapefruit is sweet, refreshing and contains a multitude of nutrients. It is known to aid in weight loss by suppressing the appetite; even the smell of grapefruit can reduce feelings of hunger. It is a natural source of vitamin C and fiber and contains elements that protect against cancer and heart disease. Select a grapefruit that is heavy for its size, symmetrical and has a bright, even color.

I hope you enjoy some of these wonderful foods as you clean up your diet or help others clean up theirs!

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Anne Williams, RN, CDDN, joined the DPD in 2008. She received her nursing degree in 1990 from the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. In 2014, she became a Certified Developmental Disability Nurse and is currently working towards her BSN at Thomas Edison State College.  Anne started her career as a staff nurse at Staten Island University Hospital, where she also worked as Nurse Care Coordinator of the Medical-Surgical Unit. Anne was employed as a Rehabilitation Nurse for St. Vincent’s/Catholic Medical Center Staten Island, as well as a Nursing Liaison for their home care services. Prior to joining DPD, Anne worked at Chilton Memorial Hospital, Pompton Plains in the Cardiac Intermediate Care/Telemetry Unit as well as per-diem Hospital Supervisor. Currently, Anne is a certified American Red Cross CPR and First Aid instructor, member of the Developmental Disabilities Nursing Association and is active in many of DPD’s social events.

Spring Ahead…Don’t Fall Behind!

Published by: Doreen Cook, LCSW – DPD Behavioral Analyst

Ahhh, it’s that time of year again, and you either love it or hate it; daylight savings time.  The office water cooler talk revolves around feeling sluggish, off and out of sorts.  Mornings are tougher and for some, it means getting up and coming home in the dark.  We’re feeling it!  If it affects you as a caregiver,  it may affect a person with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) even more drastically.

Persons with I/DD often feel it quite acutely.  Many individuals with I/DD have co-occurring mental illness. Many mental illnesses are cyclical, which means they occur in patterns of repeating behaviors that wax and wane.  Autism and bipolar disorder are just two diagnoses often noted to have cyclical behavior patterns.  In our own clients, we see these behaviors increase with daylight savings time and other triggers known as internal and external precipitating factors.  What signs should you look for and what can you do to ease these symptoms of cyclical behavior?

First, identify internal and external precipitating factors over which the individual has little control.  Let’s name some internal factors: daylight savings time, mental illness, the I/DD itself, other illness, core values of the individual, genetics, internally driven self-talk which can be positive or negative.  All of these things can trigger behavior.

Now, let’s identify some external precipitating factors of behavior:  environment.   Environment is a huge one and sometimes, environmental modifications are the only change we can enact.  On occasion, the environment is extremely difficult to change; for example – a person with I/DD living in an environment of chaos or with lack of social support or in an abusive environment or other lack of resources.  Environmental factors can also be more subtle such as living in an environment that is not stimulating or challenging enough.   Change of plans, loss, lack of sleep, hunger, holidays, substance use and family dynamics all impact on behavior.

Next, decrease the impact of the external and internal precipitating factors as you identify them and as you are able.  This can take some trial and error.

For example:

  • You know when all of the major holidays, birthdays and other celebrations relevant to your loved one with I/DD occur. Anticipate behavioral problems around that time and plan for them.
  • Let your loved one know at a time appropriate for them what the plans are to celebrate or otherwise recognize significant holidays and other events; for some, far in advance increases anxiety – for others, sooner in advance will decrease anxiety. Figure out which works best for your loved one.
  • Look at the sleep patterns of the person with I/DD. They’re going to bed but are they really sleeping? Many diagnoses of I/DD also carry with them the predisposition to perseverate so make sure they are actually getting a restful night’s sleep.
  • Daylight savings time. Don’t plan any new or stressful events during those first couple of weeks after the time change. Remember that even pleasurable events can be stressful.
  • Hunger. Make sure the person with I/DD has had a healthy, nourishing meal before any outings. Carry accessible snacks just in case you are out longer than planned.
  • Challenging environments. Such as the doctor’s waiting room. Bring an emergency kit with items to engage the person with I/DD in activities they enjoy. This could be as simple as blank paper and a package of crayons.
  • Track behavior. Write it down. Monitoring behavior for as little as two weeks and recording what you see can often give you a really good idea of what the cycle is and why it is occurring.
  • Bring that data to the next medical/psychiatric appointment for the person with I/DD. Present it to the doctor. Maybe you don’t see the connection yet but they might.
  • Develop self-awareness. How might your own behavior and responses be affecting the person with I/DD? Do a self-check every now and then and ask yourself, ‘How well did I handle that situation? Was my response helpful or harmful? What might I do differently or better next time?’
  • Most importantly, ask the person with I/DD for their input. We’re all in this together and their voice is the most important voice to listen to. If they are non-verbal, look for the message behind the behavior. What is their behavior trying to tell you?

These few simple tips can improve quality of life for a person with an intellectual or developmental disability.  Don’t be afraid to try them and fail.  Trial and error is a huge part of this process and knowing what doesn’t work helps leads you to the trail of what does work.

As always, remain compassionate, empathic and caring during this time of year and be there to work with the person to reach his/her goals.  Daylight savings time and all periods of change can be difficult, but with a little bit of care and focus you and your loved one can excel!

______

Doreen Cook has been our Behavioral Analyst since 2007. She received a Master’s degree in Social Work from Kean University in 2000. She began her career as a Social Service Director in sub-acute rehabilitation and long term care. During the time she has been with the agency, she has developed and implemented many very successful behavior management plans, started two client support groups and a community service group, ran an anxiety management group, created educational, therapeutic art and sensory classes for the clients and created personalized books and CD’s for her clients.  Doreen also oversees our adult day training program, Gruenert Center and has implemented the Saturdays at the Center Program to provide recreational opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities living at home with their parents. In addition, Doreen now oversees the DPD Community Supports Program which provides case management services for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities residing in Sussex County, NJ. Doreen is also a licensed clinical social worker and provides licensed counseling services to the individuals who live at DPD as needed. Doreen is an active member of the People Need Friends program. Doreen is also a member of the Junior Women’s Club of Jefferson Township and a member of the United Way Caregiver Coalition. 

“Nothing About Us, Without Us” – The Importance of Having Service Recipients on Nonprofit Boards

Published by: Christopher Brancato, MA – DPD Director of Development and Public Relations

The continuous struggle of people with disabilities to gain freedom and rights is an important part of our American Heritage. The slogan of the disability rights movement is “Nothing About Us, Without Us.”  This communicates the idea that no policy should be decided without the participation of the community affected.  This slogan should be kept in mind by disability and other nonprofit organizations when assembling a board of trustees or finding new volunteer board members.

Nonprofit organizations look to increase their impact by finding the “right” board members for their team.  They often look for individuals who can increase diversity and balance; people who are powerful and can be difference makers and individuals who can help achieve fundraising goals.  While these are all important qualities, they do not necessarily imply passion about the cause. It is vital for nonprofits to include representatives from the community they serve on their board of trustees and in other positions of senior leadership – if you are looking for passion, look no further than those who are directly affected by what you do.

Service recipients must not be overlooked when assembling a nonprofit board. In addition to being passionate about the cause, they represent the population the organization is helping; can provide a firsthand view on how policy changes would affect them personally; might be able to better convey current issues to other service recipients; they help the organization from marginalizing or discriminating against the actual population they are said to be helping; and can speak as a voice for the community.

Policies and bylaws shouldn’t be written and strategic planning shouldn’t be done without service recipients involved, every step of the way.

With this said, nonprofits shouldn’t look to add a board member “just because” she/he is a member of the community they are helping.  The reason for receiving services, whether it be because of a disability or anything else, is not the complete defining factor of who they are.  Prospective board members should still have qualities that will help the organization grow and flourish. Passion, dedication to the cause and kindheartedness can be found across all socioeconomic statuses and abilities.

Since our inception, the Department for Persons with Disabilities has involved individuals who happen to have intellectual and developmental disabilities in agency planning and on various executive committees.  It is within our mission to “strive to end discrimination toward people with disabilities” and to “work for social change by being a voice for justice and advocacy”, the people who we serve help us achieve this mission.

One of our newest board members is Delores Carhart.  Delores is hard working, devoted to helping others and is one who stands up for what she believes in.  Delores also happens to have an intellectual disability.

Delores has overcome institutionalization and discrimination and is now living an independent life.  Her story is one of perseverance.

Apostrophe Magazine will be running an article I wrote in their Spring Issue about Delores.     Apostrophe promotes inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their stories and photos show people achieving independence, contributing to their communities, enjoying life.  As a nonprofit organization that provides support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, we are proud of their publication for promoting awareness and inclusion.

Here is a blurb from the article, From Institutionalization to Board Member:

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The January 13, 2015, Department for Persons with Disabilities (DPD) board of trustees meeting was just like any other.

The meeting was called to order with reports from the board president, executive director, chief financial officer and development director. Revisions were made on policies and procedures and general announcements. Motions were accepted for policy changes and reports.

All were passed unanimously after inquiries and discussion.

However, there was one change in routine that day. The board added a new member – Delores Carhart.

On her first day, Delores proudly and enthusiastically participated in the meeting and was happy to donate her time to helping others.

“The first meeting was good,” Delores said. “I feel like I am contributing and making a difference. I look forward to helping out more in the future as a member of DPD’s board of trustees.”

DPD is a Catholic Charities Agency in New Jersey that provides residential, vocational, spiritual and social services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

 “We asked Delores to become a member of the DPD board of trustees because of her dedication to the community,” DPD Executive Director Scott Milliken said.

According to Milliken, Delores also makes a good candidate because she is a dedicated employee (for nearly 20 years now). She is active and involved in various social causes. And she’s an advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Delores also happens to have an intellectual disability….

“Delores is a great ambassador of social change, having been institutionalized for many years and now thriving in an inclusive and community integrated environment,” Joe Duffy, DPD board president, said.

….Delores  is involved in the local community by volunteering for the DPD’s Fight for the Right community service group; visiting My School, a local day care center, on a regular basis to read and spend time with the children; and volunteering at Gruenert Center’s special needs area.

Delores only needs minimal assistance with her daily life routines and lives independently on the bottom floor of Finnegan House.

“I never thought I would leave the institutions, and I did. I never thought I would have family and friends again, and I do. I love life,” Delores said.

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To read the full article, once it is published, subscribe to Apostrophe Magazine at apostrophemagazine.com.

We implore all nonprofit organizations to add a board member like Delores – someone who is directly affected by the wonderful work you do!

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Christopher Brancato has been our Director of Development and Public Relations since 2010 and has been with DPD in various capacities since 2003. He was previously the Director of Fitzpatrick House Group Home in Pompton Lakes and before that, was a Residential Counselor at Murray House in Clifton. Chris earned a Master’s Degree in Clinical and Counseling Psychology in 2010 and helped co-lead DPD’s “Respect” Support Group. Chris is a Board Member at the Domestic Abuse & Sexual Assault Intervention Services (DASI), a Board Member at the Jefferson Township Chamber of Commerce, a member of the NJ Association of Fundraising Professionals, a Member of the Knights of Columbus (#3835 Our Lady of the Highway Council) and a member of DPD’s People Need Friends Volunteer Group. Chris and his wife, Jaclyn were recipients of the 2013 Diocese of Paterson, Vivere Christus Award for service.

Physical Activity Promotes a Healthy Lifestyle for Individuals with IDD

Published by:  Dr. Diane P.Cavanagh – Professor – Graduate Coordinator – East Stroudsburg University

The World Health Organization and the Department of Health and Human Services recommend that adults should accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, a minimum of 5 days a week, in order to enhance their health. Moderate intensity physical activity includes actions such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling or swimming.  The correlation between physical activity and health and wellness is well documented. Many of us have been advised by our health professionals that in order to get healthy and stay healthy we must incorporate some type of exercise regimen into our daily lives. This is true not only for the general population but also for those with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD).

There is strong research evidence to support the fact that physical activity is crucial to the treatment and care of individuals with IDD. Unfortunately, physical exercise is often neglected in the lives of individuals with IDD when it should be promoted as a treatment component for physical ailments, mental health issues (including psychiatric disorders), and/or chronic diseases.  We know that persons with IDD are at a greater risk of developing hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory infections, higher cholesterol, osteoporosis and obesity which often is in part due to lack of physical activity. The benefits of physical activity in the form of a simple daily exercise program can promote a healthy lifestyle for individuals with IDD. Documented benefits of exercise may include the following:

  • Improved musculoskeletal and cardiac health
  • Stabilization of hormones and insulin levels
  • An increase in blood circulation to the brain which stimulates the region responsible for mood, motivation and memory
  • Secretion of neurotransmitters which enhance mood
  • Regulation of the body’s physiological reaction to stress
  • Anxiety reduction

Incorporating physical activity into the lives of individuals with IDD is not without challenges. Typical barriers to participating in physical activities, such as access, transportation and cost, are further complicated for individuals with IDD. Even though caregivers and/or staff love and support individuals with IDD, they often unintentionally encourage inactivity by emphasizing the need of that individual to not exert themselves or use safety as an excuse to not participate. By doing this, the opportunities to engage in much needed daily physical activity is reduced and often nonexistent. Reducing physical activity in the lives of individuals with IDD also limits social connections that are so important to both a healthy lifestyle and enjoying a quality of life that they deserve.

So what are some strategies for getting our individuals with IDD off the couch and moving toward a healthier lifestyle? According to Janicas (2014), in order to increase the success of a physical activity program for persons with IDD, a number of factors need to be considered (p.125):

  • Once an individual is medically cleared to start an exercise program, service providers need to be trained on safety measures, communication, instructional strategies, activity modification and behavioral reinforcement methods. Training should also be given to family members and other caregivers.
  • Motivational strategies such as verbal praise or providing tangible rewards are necessary while working towards fitness goals.
  • The direct involvement of caregivers or family is essential to ensure participation and adherence to regular physical activity.
  • The activity implemented needs to have some element of interest for the individual and should include the participant in the process of activity selection.
  • The activity should be modified over time to continually challenge the individual physically as his/her levels of physical endurance increase.

While giving individuals with IDD choices is important, the most effective physical activities seem to be those that are simple and cost effective. These include: walking/jogging programs (with increasing distance and speed); riding a stationary bicycle (with increasing resistance); swimming; dancing; exercise DVDs; Wii games; and, leisure activities such as gardening. More structured and fee based activities include: tai chi classes; group exercise classes; organized sports such as Special Olympics; and, monthly gym memberships.

Daily physical activity is a means for engaging in a healthy lifestyle and should be considered an integral part of the care plan for adults with IDD. Individuals with IDD have the right to the best possible care that we can provide; therefore, access to daily physical activity must be a priority. We want individuals with IDD to have a life that is healthy and filled with happiness and fun. Once into the routine, daily physical exercise provides all three!

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Dr. Cavanagh’s interest in special education began as a child where she grew up with close family friends who had two children that had hearing impairments. She began working in her parish’s CCD program with children with disabilities and also volunteering at a state institution for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Dr. Cavanagh attended Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York where she majored in psychology and special education. She graduated in 1976 and immediately continued her education at Slippery Rock University, Pennsylvania where she earned a master’s degree in special education as a graduate fellow. She began working as a special education teacher in 1977 in the Middle Country School District, Selden, Long Island. She spent the next twelve years teaching students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Diane earned a doctoral degree in 1991 from Teachers College, Columbia University in Special Education Curriculum & Instruction. She taught at Suffolk Community College and Long Island University before moving to New Jersey. In 1992 she began her teaching career at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Special Education & Rehabilitation. She has spent the past two decades teaching undergraduate and graduate classes, serving several terms as Department Chairperson and Graduate Coordinator.

Dr. Cavanagh is the Secretary of DPD’s Board of Trustees and has worked closely with our Gruenert Center in Lake Hopatcong to help provide a positive work environment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Thank you, Dr. Cavanagh for being our first guest blogger!  

 

Aging in the I/DD Community

John F. Kennedy once said, “It is not enough for a great nation to have added new years to life. Our objective must be to add new life to those years.”  Advances in medicine and early intervention programs have increased the life expectancy of those with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) but what can we do as caregivers to help our loved ones during these years?

To age successfully one must not only have good genes, but one must make good lifestyle choices and live in a healthy environment. As they age, people want good health, independence and control over their life…people with I/DD are no different.

There are, however, potential complicating factors that add to the aging process of someone with I/DD:

      • Limited access to health care due to insurance constraints and limited number of medical professionals with experience in I/DD
      • Negative attitudes about those with I/DD
      • Lifestyle choices
      • Lack of knowledge about aging
      • Effects of the disability and related treatment
      • Inability to express changes in their health
      • High risk of Alzheimer’s disease in certain I/DD populations
      • High risk of certain chronic conditions such as diabetes and osteoporosis

The aging process for some groups of people with disabilities begins earlier than usual; some people with I/DD show signs of premature aging in their 40s and 50s. For example, someone with I/DD who is 50 years old may have the physical characteristics and health status of a 70 year old! Not only do they experience normal age related changes, but they may also experience additional changes related to their disability.  Further complicating this is that they may not be able to express to caregivers what they are experiencing. Sometimes the only clue we may have that these changes are taking place is a change in behavior or an inability to perform self-care tasks.

What are the most common age related changes affecting the I/DD population?

    • Vision: As one ages there is a decrease in peripheral vision, depth perception and the ability to see in low light. An initial vision screening should be completed by age 45 (age 30 or earlier for those with Down syndrome) and every 5 years thereafter.
    • Dental: Due to the decreased production of saliva, taste perception, thinning dental enamel and receding gums a full dental exam should be performed annually. Many medications also contribute to dental issues.
    • Hearing: The ability to hear high pitched sounds, and distinguish sounds when there is background noise diminishes during the aging process. Hearing tests are recommended at age 45 and every 5 years thereafter (those with Down syndrome should have hearing tests done every 3 years throughout their life). Many of those with I/DD are at a high risk for ear wax impaction which can lead to hearing loss as well.
    • Skin: Decreased elasticity in the skin, a decline in new skin cell production and diminished sense of touch, warrant special attention. In addition, many of the medications taken by this population increase the skin’s susceptibility to the sun. The caregiver should make sure the water temperature at home is regulated (or install anti-scald devices), use non-drying soaps, apply sunscreen and sun protective clothing such as brimmed hats when going outside, check the feet often for injury or breaks in the skin, especially between the toes. Those who are bed or wheelchair bound should be assisted with changing their position every couple of hours to prevent the development of bed sores.
    • Mobility: Declining dexterity, weakening bones and a decrease in the sensation of touch may necessitate increased assistance from the caregiver in areas such as hygiene, preparing meals, eating, dressing, toileting and ambulating.
    • Gastrointestinal: Changes in the gastrointestinal system increase the risk of reflux as well as constipation. We should encourage slower eating, avoid empty calories, provide adequate fluids and encourage physical activity.
    • Eating: Those with moderate to severe I/DD and those with cerebral palsy are at a high risk for dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). This places them at a high risk for choking. Medically ordered diets may be required and supervision during meals is a must
    •  Thyroid: Those with Down syndrome are at a high risk for developing hypothyroidism (low thyroid functioning) as they age. Regular medical visits are essential.
    •  Diabetes: There is an increased incidence of diabetes in those with Down syndrome (15% as compared to 2-3% in the general population). Nutritionally sound meals should be provided, do not use food as a reward, and encourage physical activity.
    • Alzheimer’s disease: Those with I/DD are at the same risk as those in the general population for developing Alzheimer’s disease, but those with Down syndrome are at an increased risk. The rate among adults with Down syndrome is 3-5 times higher than that of the general population. It is estimated that there are some 9,000 adults with intellectual disabilities affected by Alzheimer’s disease and that this number will grow threefold over the next 20 years.
    • Common signs of Alzheimer’s in the I/DD population are:
        Loss of activity of daily living skills
        Changes in personality and activity level (aggression, paranoia, fearfulness, lethargy
      • Visual issue
        Loss of speech
        Disorientation
        Hallucinations (auditory and visual)
        Repetitive behavior or reoccurrence of an old behavior
        Seizures

A baseline neurological evaluation should be conducted on ALL of those with Down syndrome prior to the development of any symptoms. Having a baseline makes it easier to determine if later changes are due to Alzheimer’s disease or other medical conditions.

There are many unique medical, social and environmental challenges faced by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities as they grow older. While we cannot change someone’s genetics, we can strive to provide a healthy environment for our loved ones with I/DD.  By doing this, we can help them age well, and hopefully add new life to those years.

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Anne Williams, RN, CDDN, joined the DPD in 2008. She received her nursing degree in 1990 from the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. In 2014, she became a Certified Developmental Disability Nurse and is currently working towards her BSN at Thomas Edison State College.  Anne started her career as a staff nurse at Staten Island University Hospital, where she also worked as Nurse Care Coordinator of the Medical-Surgical Unit. Anne was employed as a Rehabilitation Nurse for St. Vincent’s/Catholic Medical Center Staten Island, as well as a Nursing Liaison for their home care services. Prior to joining DPD, Anne worked at Chilton Memorial Hospital, Pompton Plains in the Cardiac Intermediate Care/Telemetry Unit as well as per-diem Hospital Supervisor. Currently, Anne is a certified American Red Cross CPR and First Aid instructor, member of the Developmental Disabilities Nursing Association and is active in many of DPD’s social events.

We are happy to have Annie as a member of the DPD Family and as a regular contributor to our DPD Weekly Blog!

 

Tell me More About my Eyes

Published by: Doreen Cook, LCSW – DPD Behavioral Analyst

“Some people just need to change their status updates to, ‘Needs attention’.” ~ Unknown

“Gina?  Gina?  Why are you still sitting in the van?  Come on – it’s time to go in – it’s cold out here!” ~ Staff Member

“No!” ~ Gina

“Gina!  Come on!  You have to take your medicine at four o’ clock.  We’re going to be laaattte!” ~ Staff

“No! No! No!” ~ Gina (and Gina sits in the van for half an hour until staff talk to her tenderly and convince her that they all care for her and that  she should come in and join her friends for dinner).

Hmmmm?  Why would  Gina act that way?  She has a beautiful home where she resides,  a staff team who help her live an independent life, clean clothes, hot food, friends, hobbies and a job she enjoys.

“She’s just stubborn,” some might think.  “Oh, she’s spoiled.  She was raised with no discipline – she used to getting her own way.”  Or maybe, “She doesn’t understand; after all, she has a developmental disability.”

First off, we immediately (if not sooner) want to change Gina’s, “status update” to ‘NEEDS ATTENTION!’ in bold letters!!!!!  If you thought to yourself, ‘Oh, she’s just doing that for attention!’ you know what?  You’re right!  We all engage in attention seeking behaviors from time to time because we do need attention.

We have many ways of getting attention in this day and age; look at Facebook – the most blatantly attention/validation seeking mechanism of our time!  After all, what is a “selfie”?  It’s an attempt to validate one’s “self”.  “I’m here, I exist.  Look at me!  Look at me!”  But some individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities do not have such ways of providing themselves with self-validation.  Some may have been institutionalized at an early age, neglected, abused, silenced or just ignored and because of this don’t even have the most basic of forms for self-validation such as self-esteem.  Therefore, they might look towards others to fulfill that need and caregivers and friends need to know not only how to fulfill it but also how to lead them on a path to fill that need for themselves.

Who remembers, “The Little Rascals” and Darla’s date with Alfalfa?  Darla stares lovingly at Alfalfa and says to him, ‘Tell me more about my eyes!’  Everyone wants to know what they look like in the eyes of others; especially those important to them.  “What do you see in me?  Am I special?  Am I pretty?  Am I smart?  Am I loved???”

As individuals entrusted to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, we have an obligation to learn appropriate techniques to address attention seeking behaviors and validate people in ways that will improve their self-worth and provide them with the love and support they are looking for.  They may not have a family to provide that love and support.  Their only family may be caregivers, staff members or friends who they interact with on a daily basis.  We are responsible for their emotional needs; not just concrete needs.

In that vein, we teach our staff team at DPD to effectively handle these day to day attempts at validation so the people who live and work in our programs have healthy ‘status updates” instead of just selfie, selfie, selfies!  We employ active listening, empathic listening and reflective listening techniques involving not only our ears but our eyes, mouth and heart.  We’re looking for not only what we hear but what we see and feel.  An action, like Gina refusing to leave the van, isn’t just an action – it’s a feeling or an emotion as well.  Staff uses patience, because it takes patience to listen, see and feel.  Staff employs their skills of observation to ferret out the needs behind the actions.  Staff reflects back to our clients a positive picture of themselves; highlighting the best of what they have done and the best of what they can be, and staff reset that status update for clients from ‘Needs Attention’ to ‘I can”, ‘I am’, I will”!  But we can only be effective when we truly look, listen and hear with our hearts.  So, the next time that someone says to you, ‘Tell me more about my eyes!’ – Tell them!  Darla was really on to something there!

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Doreen Cook has been our Behavioral Analyst since 2007. She received a Master’s degree in Social Work from Kean University in 2000. She began her career as a Social Service Director in sub-acute rehabilitation and long term care. During the time she has been with the agency, she has developed and implemented many very successful behavior management plans, started two client support groups and a community service group, ran an anxiety management group, created educational, therapeutic art and sensory classes for the clients and created personalized books and CD’s for her clients.  Doreen also oversees our adult day training program, Gruenert Center and has implemented the Saturdays at the Center Program to provide recreational opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities living at home with their parents. In addition, Doreen now oversees the DPD Community Supports Program which provides case management services for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities residing in Sussex County, NJ. Doreen is also a licensed clinical social worker and provides licensed counseling services to the individuals who live at DPD as needed. Doreen is an active member of the People Need Friends program. Doreen is also a member of the Junior Women’s Club of Jefferson Township and a member of the United Way Caregiver Coalition. 

We welcome her insight are happy to have her as a regular blogger for DPD Weekly!

 

45th Annual Murray House Dinner Dance – A Night to Celebrate People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Published by: Christopher Brancato, MA – DPD Director of Development and Public Relations

On February 22nd our 45th Annual Murray House Dinner Dance was held at the Brownstone in Paterson.

Murray House is one of our 11 group homes that provides residential services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout Northern New Jersey.  Murray House is the longest running group home in the state for people with special needs.

At this event, we honor the people who live, work, volunteer and make a difference in our agency.

Here is a list of the award recipients with some info about what makes them great.  Congratulations to all of those who were honored!

Frank X. Graves Award: Frank Pinter – Frank’s Award is one that is shared with his sisters Joanne and Lisa.  Their DPD journey began 25 years ago, when, tragically, they lost both of their parents in an instant one evening.  Lisa and Joanne were college age, and sought the help of DPD, as Frank needed some assistance with his daily life routine.   Frank soon moved into DPD’s Basile Apartments, but both Joanne and Lisa have always been by his side, as supportive as siblings can be.

Frank lives each day to the fullest.  Frank has always been a dedicated employee at his day program in Hackensack, but due to recent health issues has been unable to attend.  Frank always maintains a positive attitude.  Frank, is a model brother, uncle, brother-in-law, friend, housemate, co-worker and leader.  The entire DPD Family congratulates Frank on this much deserved award and thank him for all he does to bring joy to others.

Jim and Kit Murray Outstanding Achievement Awards

Darlyn:   Darlyn moved into Alexander House a few years ago,  but she has come so far in this relatively short time.  Darlyn has battled several health issues over the past year, but has persevered through them to excel in all areas of her life.  She has thrived at Gruenert Center where she is involved in many different work activities and social groups and is active in the community, volunteering for DPD’s Fight for the Right Community Service Group.  When she first moved in, she was known as “shy” and “quiet”, but has since flourished.  Her housemates and coworkers now view her as “open”, “friendly” and “a shining star.”

Michele:  Michele, from Finnegan House, has overcome various issues throughout the last year.    She has improved her life by learning stress reduction techniques.  Her housemates and coworkers describe her as “friendly” and “kind”.   She recently started at a new job and has worked hard to excel, despite having to familiarize herself with a new routine.   She is also very proud of her weight loss throughout the last year.  “I am exercising and eating healthier, and this makes me feel better about myself”, she said.  Michele is also an active member of Jefferson Junior Woman’s Club as well as the Fight for the Right Community Service Group.  Michele’s family and friends are very proud of her many accomplishments.

Mary Beth:  “When Mary Beth moved here, she brought with her a burst of sunshine”, said Marcia Carbery, the Director of Wehrlen House.   Mary Beth has been described as having a “contagious sense of humor” and that she “brings joy to everyone she meets.”  Mary Beth is very spiritual and devout and finds comfort in God.  “I love God and I appreciate everyone in my life”, Mary Beth said.  Mary Beth never takes a day for granted, and never misses the opportunity to tell someone how she feels.  Mary Beth’s friends, colleagues and everyone she meets also appreciates her kindness and enthusiasm.

Jackie:  Jackie does not live at DPD, but is rather a volunteer at Finnegan House and a “Super Member” at our Saturdays at the Center (SATC) Program.  Jackie  generously shares her experiences and insight with her fellow members.  “Everywhere we visit, Jackie greets people who know and love her.  She seems to have friends everywhere”, said Patt Foth who is the SATC coordinator.

Jackie has been a volunteer at Finnegan House for the past 2 years.   “She always comes with a smile and enjoys the friendships she has developed.  She brings activities and crafts to do with everyone.  She goes above and beyond, never forgetting a holiday, birthday or special event. She does so much for so many” Lynne Rockstroh, Finnegan House Director, added.

Person of the Year: Father T. Kevin Corcoran – Father Kevin was presented with the Person of the Year Award by Bishop Serratelli and with a Congressional Award from Congressman Bill Pascrell for his years of service to the Department for Persons with Disabilities and Diocese of Paterson.  Bishop quoted Henry James, saying that Father Kevin exemplified, his famous quote, “Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind.  And the third is to be kind.” 

Father Kevin was born and raised in Dover, New Jersey, as the third of the five children in his family.  In 1986, he graduated from Morris Catholic High School in Denville. Later, he spent four years in the U.S. Air Force as an enlisted airman, working in electronics     calibration.  In response to a vocation to the priesthood, Father Kevin did theological studies, receiving both a B.A. and M.A. in Theology from St. Mary’s Seminary and University, Baltimore, Maryland, in 1999. His first assignment as a priest was St. Anthony Parish, Hawthorne, where he served as parochial vicar from  1999-2007. For several months in 2010, while assisting his mother who was ill, Father also did priestly ministry at St. Mary’s Parish, Goldsboro, North Carolina. From 2007-2010, and 2011 to the present, Father Kevin, in addition to being priest-secretary to the Bishop, is Vice Chancellor and Master of   Ceremonies for Episcopal Liturgical events in the Diocese.

Friends of Father Kevin’s have described him as a “great man”, a “wonderful priest”, and one who “follows in the footsteps of the Lord.” Father Kevin has been in support of DPD expanding our services to open up new group homes to serve those in need.  With over 8,000 people on a waiting list to get into programs like ours, his advocacy is very much needed and appreciated.  We are so proud to honor Father Kevin Corcoran as the 2015 Person of the Year!

Marilyn Murray Keenan Award: Jim White –  Jim has been a volunteer at Gruenert Center since April of 2011. Though he is seen as a dedicated employee Jim VOLUNTEERS ALL of his time helping the individuals who attend Gruenert.  He started out “working” 2 days a week & quickly upped that time to 3 days and soon after 4. He donates his time to Gruenert Center 3-5 hours each day. He also assists at our Saturday at the Center Program.

Typically, Jim works in the Sub Contract area. There he will assist individuals with their work skills and help any client who asks for help or has a problem. At least once a day he will take a walk into the Special Needs area just to say hello or give someone a hug.  He will also assist staff with anything they may need before they even ask.  Jim loves to cook and helps with another volunteer doing a cooking group each Friday.   “Jim is like a family member to all.  Jim is happy all the time and NEVER complains no matter what we ask of him. He epitomizes what it means to be a volunteer”, said Kathy DeYoung, Gruenert Center Director.

Employee of the Year: Linda Delaney, Wallace House – Linda has been a part of the Wallace team for just over the year.  During this time, she has really come to be a great example of “Team Wallace”.  Whenever the Wallace House experiences staff shortage, Linda is the first to step up for open shifts, whether planned in advance or on short notice.  Throughout the last year, Linda has really grown as a residential counselor and has worked very hard learning about each person who lives at Wallace House as an individual.  Linda always uses “people first” language that places emphasis on the person rather than the disability.   She is kind, caring and hardworking and we are honored to recognize her as DPD’s Employee of the Year.