Celebrating 75 years of creating an inclusive community …and we’re just getting started
75 YEARS OF SERVICE
You’ve heard our name, but do you know all we do? Easterseals Delaware & Maryland’s Eastern Shore has proudly served our local community for 75 years, creating an inclusive community for children and adults with disabilities, seniors and their families … and we are just getting started. We invite you to learn about the life-changing services Easterseals offers, and see how we’ve grown, starting as a small nonprofit serving a handful of people, to a large organization serving thousands of people in our local communities. Easterseals has grown through the years, but our mission to promote independence and empowerment for people with disabilities of all ages has been unwavering. We are proud of our legacy of service. With your support, we will continue to innovate for future generations.
Eastern Shore provides exceptional services, education, outreach and advocacy so that people with disabilities and seniors can live, learn, work and play in our communities.
EASTERSEALS: Creating an inclusive community for 75 years… and we are just getting started!By Laura Walter
Who knew that Easterseals does so much? The list grows long at Easterseals Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where the team has stayed true to their mission, while expanding services for families living with disabilities and seniors throughout the 75-year history of the organization.
“We provide services to individuals of all ages and all abilities—children and adults,” said President/CEO Kenan J. Sklenar. That includes developmental issues from birth, or an acquired disability, like a traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease or a stroke. In turn, the entire family benefits from
“Easterseals has been and continues to be an incredible resource for people with disabilities and seniors in our region,” said Joseph Guariano, Easterseals DE/MD board chair. “This organization helps children build a firm foundation for learning, enables adults with disabilities to live independently and ensure seniors remain a part of their community. The work done by Easterseals is essential to building an inclusive community.”
Easterseals provides a stunning number of services: children’s therapies, day programs for adults with physical or intellectual disabilities; job training and supported employment
for adults; plus senior services, assistive technology, personal attendant services, recreational camping and caregiver support and respite services.
Easterseals Delaware & Maryland’s Eastern Shore is one of 69 affiliates of National Easterseals, one of the oldest nonprofits in the country. In the early 1900s, “Ohio businessman Edgar Allen lost his son in a streetcar accident. The lack of adequate medical services available to save his son prompted Allen to sell his business and begin a fundraising campaign to build a hospital in his hometown,” according to the national association. “Through this new hospital, Allen was surprised to learn that children
with disabilities were often hidden from public view. Inspired to make a difference, in 1919 Allen founded the National Society for Crippled Children, the first organization of its kind.”
In 1934, the association organized its first Easter “seals” fundraiser, in which the public showed that they had donated by adding a sticker or seal to their mail. “By 1967, the Easter ‘seal’ was so well recognized, the organization formally adopted the name ‘Easter Seals,’” officials said.
After World War II, programs expanded to serve adults and returning veterans.
Locally, the Easterseals story begins with the 1948 Delaware Society for Crippled Children serving a handful of young people with disabilities in a small school in New Castle and a summer program in Sussex County. Today Easterseals spans the entire state of Delaware, plus two locations on Maryland’s Eastern Shore: New Castle, Newark, Smyrna, Dover, Georgetown, Milford, Salisbury and a fully accessible camp in Chestertown (which allows campers to safely enjoy typical camp experiences including swimming, kayaking, horseback riding, ziplining, campfire singalongs and more).
“Respect and dignity, self-advocacy and choice—those are very important philosophies in our program,” said Stacy
Montanez, an intellectual disability services coordinator who works in Easterseals’ adult day program. “Just really helping individuals become as independent as they possibly can with their life and really having control of their life.”
That’s actually a major change in the industry.
“We’ve come so far since the de-institutionalization movement since the 1960s and ‘70s when families kept their loved ones with disabilities out of the public,” said Montanez. And that’s recent history. “We still have people in our programs who lived that. So [we’re] taking a trauma-informed approach and recognizing that everyone’s story is different.”
People really love their jobs
Easterseals staff work to build positive relationships with each individual client.
“I’ve been proud to be part of this organization for nearly 30 years,” said Nancy Chipman Ranalli, Director of Community Outreach & Assistive Technology. There’s never been a day where I haven’t been proud of the program or staff … Everybody tries to live the mission every day, and when you work for a not-for-profit, and you believe in what you do, that’s important.”
Many employees’ tenure
speaks to their personal satisfaction.
“I love my job, and I love the rewarding feeling you get after a full day’s work. Even if you’ve had a challenging day, you’ve still worked to come up with the best outcome for somebody,” said Montanez. “I take personal value in that because we are a major support system for so many families … It’s coming to work every day and knowing I make a difference in the lives we support.”
Evelyn Wells, a center administrator in adult day services, has worked for Easterseals for two years, but “It just became my passion because I took my dad into the program, and I saw the difference it made in my life. And I see that it makes a difference in the participant’s … life,” she said.
“I think it’s amazing to have a group of people that has pure intention to help,” added Colleen Heckman, who oversees New Castle Childrens Therapy
Services. “We’ve had a lot of therapists stay a long time, and I think it’s because they feel they can be their best self … and they are impacting lives.”
CEO Sklenar loves spending time with the people Easterseals is serving. “When I walk into one of the day programs, I hear participants shouting out my name. That does wonders for me, that they know me and I know them … and I get to talk to our participants, see what their challenges are, what their successes have been and communicate with them on a regular basis. That means the world to me.”
Above and beyond for those with disabilities
When Stacy Montanez was ready for a career change in the disability field, she chose
Easterseals for its quality reputation. As the intellectual disability services coordinator for Kent County, she now oversees four adult programs regarding life skills, employment and day services.
“Each person in our program has a very unique, specific set of needs, and some of those are very support intensive,” and her staff steps up to the plate every day. They want to understand each person’s behavior and circumstances—and then “find a team approach to help this person. Because at the end of the day it boils down to how can we make a difference … and create the best life for this individual,” she said.
“We put the families and individuals at the center of everything,” said Montanez, who is proud of the hard work the staff does.
Every day they see success stories and “mission moments.”
“We have a participant in our Kent County location who just represented the U.S. in the Special Olympics in Berlin, Germany! … And our group is so proud of him. He’s part of the pre-vocational group and also receives supported employment services,” said Montanez. “He really came into his own and demonstrates what we teach every day about teamwork, plus the discipline of training, time management, social skills for traveling, emotional self-regu-
lation— all of those skills that make you successful at a job.”
Montanez loves to see people thrive as a result of Easterseals services where they first learn pre-vocational skills; then take on a job with assistance from a job coach; and then begin to manage their own income and save for future goals, a house or family.
Teamwork, therapy and empathy
After 25 years with Easterseals, Colleen Heckman is the clinical coordinator of Childrens Therapy Services for New Castle. Her team mostly serves children from birth to 3 years-old with motor, speech, cognitive and social/emotional development needs. Early intervention services help children reach their developmental milestones and also help parents with strategies and routines to help with kids’ development.
The therapist knows health, and the family knows their child. It’s a partnership. They figure out coping strategies together.
Her team feels empathy throughout the process. For families, grief can trade places with hope. For instance, children’s birthdays can bring mixed emotions because parents might remember the fear of a NICU stay or a past prognosis.
“We empathize with all families – especially the clients that have really grave diagnoses or had a really significant NICU stay,” said Heckman. “We join their story and help them celebrate each milestone achieved.”
“I have treated many children who are now adults thriving in their community because of the services they received at Easterseals. We touch so many lives!”
A safe, caring environment
When people send their loved ones anywhere, they want to ensure safety. That’s what Easterseals provides, said Evelyn Wells, Center Administrator for adult day health services in Smyrna. “Our program is for adults 18 and over who have disabilities and should not be home alone because of their level of support needed due to physical and mental disabilities. We serve individuals with a lot of different diagnoses, including memory loss,” she said.
“We provide a safe environment where you can drop your loved one off, and you know they’re going to be taken care of during the day. We do a lot of activities to stimulate them. We provide lunch and have a nurse on staff. The people in the program are socializing with other people … and they make friends during activities, whether it’s in the parties, music, community
outings and more.”
This directly allows participants to continue living at home, while allowing caregivers daytime for respite or their own jobs.
“It’s really challenging to care for your loved one 24/7, and people don’t understand until they get in that situation … And Easterseals is a great answer and resource,” Wells said. “We’re here to support them. They don’t have to do this alone. Easterseals provides all these services to support the community. That’s our mission … We’re ready and prepared to take care of them.”
Participants find friends and create their own community. These moments are special. There was one man with a traumatic brain injury who needed socialization, but didn’t want to join the drawing class. “Now he has drawings all over the place. Another individual who has dementia and he is a wanderer … we take a balloon and play volleyball, which gets him to sit, and he’s smiling and having a great time,” said Wells.
Easterseals helps people to feel less invisible. “We have a young lady who really needs a lot of assistance, but when she’s at the program, you can see she feels … seen, and that’s important to me,” said Wells. “Sometimes people overlook someone who is disabled, and they don’t really see the person.”
Easterseals’ primary focus is on people who have a disability and need assistance, including seniors and veterans. But what about the caregivers who provide round-the-clock assistance already?
Nancy Chipman Ranalli’s job is to support unpaid caregivers of all kinds—whether or not their loved one is enrolled in Easterseals programs. As the Director of Community Outreach & Assistive Technology, she looks out for those unpaid caregivers who are helping someone, child or adult, with any type of disability—physical, intellectual or acquired.
That could be a parent caring for a child; or a husband caring for his spouse after a stroke; or an adult caring for her elderly parents. “Sometimes you don’t know where to turn because you’re thrown into that role. That’s where we can help. Our case managers might tell you about things in the community that you’re eligible for … we try to get to those caregivers early in the process before they’re overwhelmed,” said Ranalli.
There’s even grant money for grandparents to get a little respite (a babysitter or a weekend away) when raising young grandchildren.
She encourages people to
Caregivers are ‘anyone who is helping someone with a disability’
spread the word. “It can be your next-door neighbor that you see their parent is struggling, or someone in book club struggling because of a loved one’s challenging behavior!’”
Especially since COVID-19, society has focused more on caregivers. People are getting older and living longer, so there won’t be enough paid professional staff to manage everyone. “So, it’s the adult family members who will be relied on to care for the loved ones at home … they often give up work time, or retire early so they can care for someone, and there needs to be more support for them,” said Ranalli.
It’s often less expensive for a person to stay at home instead of in a nursing home, as long as the caregiver is capable.
Easterseals also has a program dedicated to teaching people about assistive technology. A person with hand tremors can use weighted eating utensils and plates with high sides. Someone
with limited reach can install a clothing rack that swings downward. People who have difficulty maneuvering with their hands can use Velcro instead of buttons, a paint brush with a modified handle, a computer stylus held with the mouth.
Adaptive technology adds to a person’s independence. “That can make a huge difference in someone’s outlook,” said Ranalli, who has seen those moments of relief—for caregivers and their family.
“You just sort of see their face relax, or ‘Nobody’s ever told me that—thank you!’ It’s just helping somebody manage what’s going on and helping them figure that out,” she said.
Dedication from the team
“One thing that makes me so proud is how responsive we are,” said CEO Sklenar. “We continue to grow as an organization and look for new ways to provide services to meet the needs of the people we serve.”
Easterseals Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore has earned the highest level of Accreditation that can be awarded by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). During their last accreditation review of over 1,000 standards, “The examiners completed a survey without any recommendations
[for improvement]. I’m very proud of that,” Sklenar said.
When Sklenar gives facility tours, visitors are often impressed with “how engaged the staff is and how they treat the individuals with respect,” he said.
“We have a phenomenal staff. As I go out in the community … I always talk about how wonderful our staff is. They have a very challenging role … and they handle it with grace and finesse, and the staff are here because they believe in the mission, he said,”
“The best part of the job is when I’m out on the floor with the participants,” said Wells. “That’s really what brings me joy. It’s fun interacting with them, bonding with them … when we’re doing activities, seeing the smiles on their faces, that’s when you know that you’re making a difference.”
Climbing past challenges
Easterseals wouldn’t have survived so long without an ability to overcome hard times. Like many nonprofits, funding is always a challenge. Like many businesses, staffing is a challenge.
In a perfect world, therapy and disability services would be available as often as anyone needed it. In reality, barricades can include lack of adequate --------------------------------------
government funding for services, insurance limits, language barriers or even a family’s own schedule and housing situation. “It makes our heart hurt” when barriers prevent services, said Clinical Coordinator Heckman.
Easterseals actively advocates for state and federal funding to help remove barriers to service for those in need of help. The Community Outreach Program is a critical means for the public to get connected with services and resources that can improve the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities, and those who are aging. The most important thing is telling people: Easterseals is here! Therapies and support are available for you and your loved ones.
Looking toward the future
“I’m confident Easterseals’ mission will still be strong—and felt by others in the future,” said Heckman.
“We’ve grown tremendously in the last few decades, but we’ve never lost sight of the mission, which is to be a service to our community,” said Montanez. And the need has
always been there. “It’s going to keep changing and becoming more complex.”
For Montanez, it’s also “changing the way that the world views disability. It’s not a stigma. It’s something that’s part of life, and something we’re all going to live with at some point in life. One in four Americans have a disability,” she said, “whether they are born with it or it is acquired through an injury or illness.” Change means “educating our communities on helping people live a respected, dignified life, where they do have choice and can advocate for themselves.”
Sklenar looks forward to more Easterseals innovation. “Lots of continued growth, providing more services to more individuals,” he said. “And we’re looking at how can we continue to meet the needs of the people we’re serving.”
Easterseals recently added a program for adults with intellectual disabilities to help them and their families access respite services. Another new service offers Applied Behavior Analysis therapy for young children with autism. Some facility upgrades are also coming
To learn more about Easterseals, call 1-800-677-3800 or visit www.easterseals.com/de.
There may be different requirements or funding sources available for each service.
and a replacement swimming pool at Camp Fairlee.
“We’re growing and improving; we’re listening to the needs of the community and responding,” said Heckman.
How can I support the Easterseals mission?
Easterseals is a not-for-profit organization, which means there are countless ways to support their local mission.
Volunteers can provide administrative support behind the scenes. Experts in a certain field can lead an art experience or other activity—or just be another set of hands during the day. There are fundraising opportunities, including the annual Easterseals/CAI Volleyball Challenge and Walk With Me events in Sussex and Wicomico counties. Employers looking for dependable, productive employees can provide job opportunities for Easterseals participants. Contact the volunteer coordinator or webpage for more details.
Little Participants, Big Milestones!By Natalie Scott
Easterseals’ youngest participants continue to shine brightly in Easterseals Delaware & Maryland’s Eastern Shore’s Children’s Therapy services. At Easterseals, each child has their own unique plan matching their abilities and helping them master their individual goals. Isaiah, Landon, and Stella are just three of the littlest participants who have benefited from Easterseals!
“Easterseals became a part of my family. Without Easterseals I would have been walking blindly. With them, I have a new set of eyes to help Isaiah excel,” says Latoya.
Isaiah learned to speak through sign language in speech therapy, hold his head up and roll over in physical therapy and grasp objects in occupational therapy. Latoya also learned how she could help Isaiah work towards his goals at home after the therapists left, including walking on a small treadmill which helped him achieve his first independent steps.
Isaiah Has a Bright Future
Blessings come in small packages. Latoya’s blessing came in the size of her first baby boy, Isaiah, who was born with Down syndrome. While the news was, at first, shocking and a bit scary, Latoya soon realized the gift Isaiah was to her entire family. After he had heart surgery for a defect, Latoya went right to work getting him the services he needed to succeed. She found the tools for success at Easterseals.
“I would tell another parent, don’t be afraid. There is help out there; be willing to receive it. Enjoy the ride,” Latoya says. “It took me having Isaiah to recognize the importance of early intervention. Isaiah’s therapists are not just there for him, they are there for me too.”
Thanks to therapy Isaiah received at an early age he was prepared for his next big adventure, school. He is thriving in his inclusive classroom.
“Easterseals set the fundamental principles for Isaiah through his early intervention therapies,” Latoya says. “He’s had greater success with his learning from the many efforts of Easterseals. For that I’m forever grateful!”
Landon is thriving thanks to Easterseals
Once a quiet child unaware of the world around him, Landon is now waving, clapping, saying phrases, counting, writing his alphabet and numbers, and playing with others. He has learned many skills thanks to therapies at Easterseals and has added new goals to continue to help him blossom. “I was overwhelmed and scared not knowing what the future looked like for my son,” Heather says. “He has become the most amazing boy with the help of therapies.”
Landon has made great progress and went from speaking in two-to-three-word sentences to speaking in four-to-six-word sentences to communicate! He is now able to recognize and verbalize feelings like happy, sad, frustrated, and excited.
Landon is now interacting and playing with other children appropriately. He is no longer afraid of touching new textures or exploring unfamiliar surfaces. He is also able to put on and take off his own shoes. He participates in all his therapies at home which makes the therapy sessions convenient for families and relieves stress for both parents and children.
“If you are worried about your child, get help. With the right support your child can thrive. Landon is thriving. Landon would not be where he is today without his therapists,” Heather says. “He was a little boy in his shell and not aware of others and now he is engaging with us and the world around him. He never wanted to be held and now he is snuggling in our laps. With the right help your child will succeed.” ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE
Three tiny squeaks let them know she was alive. That’s how Stella, who was once predicted to never live past birth, announced her arrival into this world. Now, she is a beautiful, capable, and thriving three-year-old girl headed to preschool thanks to her indomitable spirit and the help of Easterseals Children’s Therapy Services.
“We were blindsided by Stella’s diagnoses,” says her mom, Kim. “We felt so helpless and alone. Nobody believed she would make it. We were supposed to be preparing a nursery and instead we were making final arrangements.”
After an emotional roller coaster during pregnancy, Kim and her husband, Lee, heard those three little squeaks in the delivery room that let them know she was alive. She then spent 88 days in the NICU before her parents and older sister welcomed her home. Stella’s journey towards independence was just beginning as she began therapy with Easterseals.
“The therapists became like family,” Kim says.
“They made life more enjoyable since they helped us feel more confident. I had no clue before Stella, but I cannot emphasize early intervention enough. If we would have waited, we would have lost so much time.”
While in the NICU, Stella was connected to so many wires that all her parents could do was hold her. However, once she arrived home Kim got her started with speech, occupational, and physical therapies to help Stella not just live, but blossom. At first, Stella was unable to lift her head, suck on a bottle, sit up, and use her left side.
Stella is now able to walk with assistance, assemble puzzles, color, and tolerate different textures, which is something she struggled with because of the feeding tube she had when she was born.
“Easterseals helped us think outside of the box. The journey may feel lonely but there are people and programs like Easterseals that can help,” Kim says. “Keep in mind baby steps. It’s not the timeline that matters, even if they are making small steps, it’s a win. Easterseals helps you realize that. Take those wisps of baby steps as the huge wins they are. She went from a baby who could not hold her head up at one and now is walking with assistance all thanks to Easterseals therapies.”
A trusted provider of children’s therapy services for 75 years, Easterseals Delaware & Maryland’s Eastern Shore specializes in treating children ages birth through eighteen years with a variety of challenges. On an average year, nearly two thousand children receive physical, speech and occupational therapy through Easterseals Children’s Therapy Services.
They may be the littlest participants, but each one is making big strides towards independence, and Easterseals could not be prouder of their progress!
Hello Volunteers, We Need Your Talent
Volunteers are a big part of Easterseals and our legacy, dating back to the beginning of National Easterseals when Rotarian, Edgar Allen founded the organization. Since then, we have shared a rich history with not only local Rotarians, but also companies and individuals serving many roles in our organization.
Bill Sudell may be the ‘official’ volunteer when he signs in for duty at the Easterseals in New Castle, but it’s his dog, Skipper, who is the star of the show. For the last six years, Sudell and Skipper, an eight-year-old Schnoodle, have brightened the days of the people who attend Easterseals day services.
“Skipper is the star! I just hold the leash. It is fun to see how excited people get to see Skipper,” Sudell said. “My favorite part about volunteering with Easterseals is the friends I have made with the participants and staff. The staff are very nice, friendly and appreciative!”
Sudell chooses to volunteer through PAWS for People because he enjoys the interaction with people and is a huge dog lover. “I find volunteering at Easterseals very satisfying. Easterseals has wonderful services,” Sudell said. “I enjoy seeing people interact with Skipper and seeing the enjoyment they get when he comes to visit.”
Easterseals is grateful for the many companies that invest in our mission through various ways, including volunteering at events like the Easterseals/CAI Volleyball Challenge.
Through Bank of America, volunteer Konara shares her time and talents with our participants.“Attending the volunteer events are an enjoyable social experience for everyone,” she said. “The participants are able to interact in an inclusive environment and build positive social skills and memories that will help them be successful in their future.”
Companies, like Nickle Electrical Company, also work with Easterseals on specific projects. Owen Withrow recently joined his fellow coworkers at the Easterseals Georgetown building to help wash windows. “I volu\nteer at Easterseals because I want to be the change in my community that I want to see,” Withrow said. “Volunteering at Easterseals brings me great satisfaction knowing that I’m helping the community in a helpful way.”
Students from local universities participate in internships for credit or volunteer hours to gain experience working directly with individuals with disabilities. Students are able to put their course knowledge into action and through the experience gain skills from engaging with participants. It is a true success when a student decides to join Easterseals as a full-time employee following graduation!
Bringing joy to Easterseals participants one letter at a time. In 2020, Senior Pen Pals and More teamed up with Easterseals to help combat the feeling of loneliness felt by participants who were not able to attend the adult day programs due to the pandemic. The group brought joy to over 240 participants by writing encouraging letters which were mailed to participants’ homes. Since then, Easterseals participants and their pen pals have been communicating back and forth sharing their lives with each other.
“I read an article about the loneliness in seniors, and I stood up in front of our women’s club, and I said, ‘I think we need to do something.’ I think I’m a natural organizer, and to be able to use whatever talents I had for the good of others is what it’s all about. It just makes me feel happy,” Liz Bolton, Head Senior Pen Pals and More said. “I see the caring between the participants and staff and it’s so important and I wish other people could come and see it.”
To learn how you can use your talents for the good of others, contact Alexis Bedford at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Easterseals Means Inclusion and Possibilities to FamiliesBy Natalie Scott
Carolyn loves her Easterseals day program for adults with intellectual disabilities. She loves it so much that when she is not there, she is asking to go. This sentiment means a lot to her parents, Jeanne and Larry, who call the program “the perfect fit” for Carolyn.
“I wish there was a better word than amazing to describe Easterseals. Carolyn loves being there,” Jeanne says. “We are so grateful we are at Easterseals. We feel so lucky we get to be a part of an organization that is so willing to give and be there for her.”
Carolyn participates in the day program four days a week, but she is no stranger to Easterseals. She started receiving occupational, physical and speech therapies when she was six months old where she built a firm foundation to help her be more independent. While looking for a program for Carolyn to attend after high school, her family once again turned to Easterseals.
“We loved Easterseals from when she was a baby. When we saw the day program, we knew it was a perfect fit for Carolyn.” Jeanne says. “You can see how hard the Direct Support Professionals
work to make the day program a positive experience and it is every day, not just one day. Direct Support Professionals are a part of our family.”
By participating in the day program, Carolyn has become more social, and her interest in activities has increased because of it. Her communication has also improved. She speaks more clearly and is more independent because she is able to express her wants and needs. Carolyn enjoys taking walks, going on outings to places like Lums Pond, singing karaoke, and coloring.
“To us, Easterseals means integrity, inclusion, respect, friendship and possibilities. Because of Easterseals there are so many things she can do now,” Jeanne says. “She is a gift that keeps giving. She’s given us so much. We’ve learned so much from her.”
Rotary and Easterseals –Two Friends, two Visions that Change Our World
Paul Harris, founder of Rotary International, and Edgar Allen, founder of Easterseals, came to know one another because of a shared a passion for service and volunteerism. They laid the foundation for two service organizations that have changed the lives of millions of people around the world and continues today.
It is impossible to overstate how important Rotary was and is to Easterseals. Locally in the 1990s, John Hentkowski, a past Rotary District Governor and Easterseals Board Chair, initiated and led the support of Rotary District 7630 (then 767) for Easterseals Delaware & Maryland’s Eastern Shore. In 1996, Easterseals made sure the presiding Rotary District 7630 Governor would have a place on the Easterseals Board of Directors each year.
Each year, Rotary Work Days is held at Easterseals Camp Fairlee, an accessible camp for children and adults with disabilities. Routinely more than 100 Rotarians, Rotoact Clubs (college students) Interact Clubs (youth ages 12-18), and friends come out to prepare camp for the upcoming camping season on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. These have included projects such as: building the Rotary District 7630 Pavilion, Trading Post, decks on the cabins, an amphitheater, recycling
area, pottery shed, bedside tables, utility tables, repairing a dock, and much, much more. The impact of their time, skills, equipment, and supplies is invaluable. Rotary District 7630 truly embodies the Rotary Motto, “Service Above Self” in their dedication to Easterseals.
In 2019, Easterseals presented Rotary District 7630 with their highest volunteer honor, The Drex Jones award. Named after an early volunteer to Easterseals, the Drex Jones award is given to recognize extraordinary service and volunteerism to benefit people with disabilities in our region. In addition to valued contributions on Rotary Work Days, Rotarians have raised more than $1.25 million to help Camp Fairlee provide services to people with disabilities in the Mid-Atlantic Region.
As Easterseals celebrates its 75th anniversary, we honor and salute Rotary as a partner that has been a critical part of our legacy of service to the community and people with disabilities.
Independence at Easterseals Camp Fairlee is a Countdown AwayBy Natalie Scott
Twelve-year-old Joel already has his calendar marked for his week-long stays at Easterseals Camp Fairlee this summer and he is eagerly counting down the days. Spending time at the fully accessible, one-of-a-kind camp has become a tradition for him where he experiences independence and adventure in a safe environment.
“The first year, I wasn’t sure how it would be, but Joel is adaptable and adventurous by nature. As his parent, I’ve tried not to allow physical limitations to stop him from opportunities,” Joel’s mom, Amy, says. “Joel did not want to leave camp the first year. It was such an awesome feeling as a parent to have something like Camp Fairlee available that allows him to experience typical activities.”
Joel, who uses a wheelchair, loves ziplining, swimming, dancing, and the arts & crafts at Camp Fairlee, outside of Chestertown, Md. His parents love the one-to-one he has with his counselor each year. Each year camp counselors receive intensive training to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of the campers.
“The staff that work with him are remarkable. They form bonds with the participants. They are there for the campers and make their experience over the top,” Amy says. “Joel would go to camp the whole summer if he could. He talks about camp all year round. Finding Camp Fairlee has been rewarding for the whole family. For Joel,
camp enables him to have social independence and time away from his family.”
Easterseals Camp Fairlee is an unforgettable experience for people of all ages with disabilities. During a typical summer session, campers enjoy activities including horseback riding, walking nature trails, ziplining, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, arts & crafts, fishing and so much more.
“I would tell other parents to allow their child the opportunity to experience camp. It totally exceeded my expectations,” Amy says. “The sense of joy and independence Joel had on his face when I picked him up the first time was priceless. It changed my whole world. It encouraged me to continue to give him experiences with independence.”
Easterseals Camp Fairlee is one of the only camps in the region that provides a typical residential camp experience for children and adults with disabilities. Fairlee offers week-long camp sessions throughout the summer, Learn more about Camp Fairlee services at campfairlee.com.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Joseph A. Guariano, Chair
Penny Saridakis, Vice Chair
Gary W. Spitzer, Immediate Past Chair
Pierre A. Anderson, Treasurer
Amy M. Walls, Secretary
Thomas L. Corrigan
David C. Doane
Robert J.A. Fraser
Mark L. Granger
Julie Master Grilliot
Roger L. Harrell
Dr. Nisha Lodhavia
John E. Mager
Thomas J. Moore
Paula J. Swain
Mindi Moore Tunnell
Mary Jane Willis
Thomas D. Wren
Charmaine S. Wright
John P. Gaul
Walter P. McEvilly Jr.
Easterseals Advisory Board
Carol A. Ammon
Christopher W. Baker
Craig F. Binetti
Julian H. “Pete” Booker
Irwin G. Burton III
John R. Cochran
Joan F. Coker
Ernest J. Dianastasis
Vernita L. Dorsey
Mark E. Engberg
Logan S. Herring Sr.
Lynn C. Jones
Terri L. Kelly
Kurt M. Landgraf
Ruth K. Lavelle
Lolita A. Lopez
Joshua W. Martin III
Kathleen S. Matt
Janice E. Nevin
Emilie R. Ninan
Robert W. Perkins
John S. Riley
Geoffrey M. Rogers
Craig A. Rogerson
H. Murray Sawyer
Michelle D. Shepherd
Ann H. Simpler
Henry H. Spire
William J. Strickland
Janice E. Tildon-Burton
Robert W. Tunnell Jr.
Francis D. Vavala
Enid D. Wallace-Simms
Legendary Board Member, Jim Kearns
With visionary leadership and influence, longtime board member and former Chair, the late James (Jim) Kearns brought to Easterseals a wealth of top volunteers and a strategic business acumen that majorly impacted the organization. His leadership allowed thousands more people with disabilities to be served, just like the child pictured with him here.
Isn’t It Time to Bring Inclusion to Your Workplace?By Natalie Scott
With a little help from Easterseals, supported employees like Mikayla, Asa, Erin and twins, Dontasia, and Donnisha, are transforming the landscape of the workforce and breaking stereotypes in the community. Their strong work ethic and positive attitude makes it clear when companies are looking for employees who are dependable, hard-working and can work independently, they should turn to the Easterseals Supported Employment program and the outstanding workers with disabilities that are a part of it.
Knowing Mikayla, who has Down syndrome, would thrive working within a business in the community, her Easterseals Employment Specialist, Camille, connected her with a position at Grotto Pizza where she can interact with coworkers and customers. Mikayla is just one of more than 80 supported employees that Easterseals has matched with jobs in local businesses so they can earn competitive wages with the assistance of job coaching and training.
“I love Easterseals and Miss Camille, my Employment Specialist! She helped me get my job so I can work every day and I get to do a good job to get my paycheck,” Mikayla says. “I get to make new friends and see my friends at work. I love it.”
When she isn’t working, Mikayla loves going out to eat and is a huge movie buff. She is also incredibly generous with the money she earns. She often treats her mom and friends to dinner or ice cream and has an active social life.
“Mikayla is happy and thriving. Easterseals got her where she needs to be. Each person is different and Easterseals pairs them up with someone who will hone-in on all of the aspects of your child,” says Michele, Mikayla’s mom. “Easterseals makes sure Mikayla learns and grows from her job. When Mikayla’s outside of the home at work, I feel 100% confident her best interests are being met and that means a lot. It is so much more than a job to the people at Easterseals. Camille is there when I am not, and I need her to be. It is me and Easterseals. We are her advocates.”
Easterseals relies on partnerships with more than 60 companies in Delaware such as Beebe Healthcare, Grotto Pizza, and Royal Farms to help adults with disabilities secure gainful employment in our community.
Asa, who has a hearing impairment is employed at Royal Farms where he is earning competitive wages thanks to supported employment.
“Easterseals was the best opportunity for Asa. Overall, they offer the best programs. Plus, Easterseals has services for a lifetime throughout the state and that makes a big difference,” says Asa’s father, Robert. “Asa is very social and working at Royal Farms allows him to meet a lot of people. Since he started working Asa is more self-confident and more his own person.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the jobless rate for those with a disability was approximately twice as high as the rate for those without a disability in 2021. Many people with disabilities want to work but have not been able to secure jobs because of accessibility and attitudinal barriers.
“Easterseals programs are so important to our community because otherwise people with disabilities would get lost,” Robert says. “I prefer Asa has his own life which he is able to do thanks to Supported Employment rather than him staying home all the time.”
Easterseals can help individuals determine the best path forward in reaching their employment goals in a job they love. Once individuals are trained in their position, they work independently with the support of co-workers.
“I like working at the deli at Royal Farms,” Asa says. “I am saving all my money so someday I can be rich!”
Iris, Director of Environmental Services at Beebe Healthcare said the supported employees joined the Beebe team at the perfect time as it is challenging hiring market. They each joined the team as Environmental Service Technicians and have blossomed in their roles ensuring the hospital is supplied with clean medical linens.
Thanks to that decision, Erin and twins, Dontasia and Donnisha are earning competitive wages
as a critical part of the team at Beebe.
“Supported employees are some of the best employees. The process was so smooth and perfect,” said Iris. “They are all star performers. They are hard workers with tremendous work ethic. I know if I give them a task it will get done. The work they do is important.”
Another important aspect of the Easterseals Supported Employment is ongoing individualized training and coaching for the person with the disability to ensure long-term success on the job.
“There are always opportunities at Beebe for differently abled people,” Iris said. “We look forward to a long relationship with Easterseals. We look forward to growing the program.”
When asked what her advice would be to other businesses looking for stellar employees, Iris said:
“Don’t hesitate to get involved with Supported Employment. It is the best decision you’ll ever make. With the right amount of training and support they’ll be the best employees you’ll ever have.”
To learn more about how Easterseals can help you find the perfect employee for your business, call Jane Schuler at (302) 324-4444 or email email@example.com.
“Doing Great Things for Families”By Natalie Scott
After Wayne graduated from high school, he had nowhere to go. He was at home with his parents every day. That is, until Wayne’s family found Easterseals services, and it completely changed their lives.
“Easterseals is a great program, and I would suggest for anybody to go because it helps people with their social skills. I like socializing with people there,” Wayne says.
Easterseals’ Adult Day Program, where Wayne spends three days a week, is perfect for him to interact with peers and engage in activities. Not only do his parents appreciate the break from caregiving but they have watched Wayne grow as an individual.
“Easterseals’ Adult Day Program keeps his mind active and moving forward,” Gary says. “When Wayne started attending the program, he was afraid of many things, but now he does things my wife and I never expected him to do. Wayne loves it. He comes home proud of his achievements.”
Easterseals is delighted to have Wayne as this year’s ambassador for their 11th annual “Walk With Me & 5K Run Delmarva” event. The event is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, at Baywood Greens, 32267 Clubhouse Way, Long Neck, Del.
Gary was able to leave his full-time job outside of the home and support his family as a paid caregiver through the Easterseals Personal Attendant Program which allows people with disabilities and seniors to hire their own caregiver.
In this program, Easterseals staff supports the person with the disability in their role as an employer of the caregiver.
“Life without Easterseals would be terrible. We depend on their programs,” says Gary. “They do great things for families. They are always concerned about the people they serve and their families. Easterseals has been the greatest thing for our family. It means growth for Wayne and for us.”
EASTERSEALS: A Valuable Resource for a LifetimeBy Natalie Scott
There is a lot to be said about 70-year-old Rosemary “Rosie” of Bear, Del. She is a huge Michael Bublé fan and loves to sing. The always-fashionable Rosie loves arts & crafts, especially when she does them at one of her favorite places … her adult day program at Easterseals which she has been attending since 1975. That distinction is especially meaningful this year as Easterseals is celebrating its 75th anniversary as a local provider of exceptional services for children and adults with disabilities.
“Easterseals’ day program keeps her alive. She doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to get out at home. She needs the human personal contact. She knows she is loved at Easterseals and that makes her happy,” says Rosie’s sister, Kathy. “The staff does a great job with everything. You can tell the staff cares about the people, and it is not just a job.”
Rosie attends the day program five days a week. Rosie’s brother, John visits her regularly in the program and appreciates the dedicated staff.
“You can tell the staff enjoys what they do. It is always a pleasure going in there. I come out and am always amazed about how they interact with
the participants. They are truly concerned for her well-being,” John says. “Rosie loves interacting with people. Without Easterseals, Rosie’s life would be severely impacted.”
An indispensable resource for the region, Easterseals Delaware & Maryland’s Eastern Shore served more than 34,000 children and adults with disabilities last year through direct and indirect services. For many families, like Rosie’s, Easterseals provide a lifetime of programs and services.
“Easterseals was one of the first nonprofits in Delaware to create opportunities for adults with disabilities to participate in community-based programs, rather than an institutional setting and Rosie’s longevity in our adult day program is a testament to that fact. It shows how incredibly impactful our services have been and the great need for them to continue. Without our program, Rosie would not be able to be an active participant in the community,” Kenan Sklenar, Easterseals President/CEO, says. “We are incredibly proud to serve Rosie and her family for so many years and are grateful our program can be such a valuable resource to them and other families.”
Easterseals Program: Engaging Seniors and Serving Their CaregiversBy Natalie Scott
When Litenia “Tina” of Rehoboth Beach had a heart attack, it rocked the whole family. Tina was a very outgoing and social person who was active in the community. After Tina spent 13 minutes without oxygen, her daughter, Ashley, did not know what to expect.
When Tina woke up, they discovered she
had a brain injury and low vision. She was no longer able to work and care for herself at home. Meanwhile, Ashley became a full-time caregiver to her mom while also caring for her son who has medical needs. She was now part of what is known as the “sandwich generation.” Life felt uncertain for their family until they found Easterseals Delaware & Maryland’s Eastern Shore’s plethora of program options.
“I don’t know where we would be without Easterseals and their many services which are so essential to our family,” Ashley says. “Because of Easterseals, my mom is able to continue to live more independently and I am able to provide the care she needs.”
Because Tina wanted to remain a vibrant part of her community, she started attending Easterseals Adult Day program five days a week. In the program, Tina can enjoy painting, dancing, companionship, and exercising as well as other arts & crafts projects.
“When I walked into Easterseals, I saw a lot of people and it felt like family,” Tina said. “You know I love Easterseals because I have been there six years!”
The Easterseals Adult Day Program entails having a full-time nurse on site for medical support, including monitoring of blood pressure and blood sugar, coordinating with physician offices and administering medications.
“Because of Easterseals my mother can continue to be a “social butterfly” in their adult day program, where she can feel right at home and be a part of a family! I am thankful for Easterseals because they give me peace of mind that she is in good hands there,” Ashley says. “My mom feels at home at Easterseals, and I know she is safe.”
Since Ashley is unable to work a typical job because of caregiving responsibilities, she also relies on Easterseals Personal Attendant Services (PAS) so she can focus on caring for her mom and son and get paid to do it. PAS allow seniors to choose and hire a personal attendant who helps them with bathing, dressing, meal preparation, and other duties so they can receive care at home rather than go into a nursing home.
“I’m glad I am able to take care of my family,”
Ashley says. “Having Easterseals services means a lot for my mental health. It helps to have time to myself. As a caregiver you can get overwhelmed and overworked. It is important to have time to restore myself and unwind.”
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, there are more than 53 million unpaid family caregivers in the U.S. One of the greatest needs of these caregivers is information about services and programs in their community which may be helpful to them as a caregiver for children or adults with disabilities, chronic or terminal illness, or the elderly.
Caregiving is rewarding, but it can be an exhausting job, especially when the caregiver does not get time to recharge. Respite is an option through Easterseals respite programs, which pro---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE
vide funds to support family caregivers providing care to a person of any age or disability, to take a temporary break from caregiving.
“Because of Easterseals respite care I am able to take care of my son who has medical needs and have the time to care for myself. Self-care is so important for my mental health,” Ashley says. “While my mom is in the program enjoying activities, I am able to recharge. Like I always say, ‘You cannot pour from an empty cup’ and because of Easterseals I am able to ‘refill’ my cup!”
To meet the growing need of people caring for a spouse or elderly parent going through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia, the Easterseals Adult Day Care Program in Georgetown and New Castle has a designated program space to provide center-based day care for adults with all forms of dementia, and, in particular, persons with early and mid-stage Alzheimer’s.
The Memory Care Program, partially funded by the Delaware Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities, includes modifications such as secured doors and special program areas designed to better serve families.
With a goal toward enhanced independence, Easterseals services are comprehensive and individualized to meet each client’s needs and family-focused to meet each family member’s concerns. The adult day care program offers a break for family caregivers responsible for a relative who is unable to function independently but does not require 24-hour nursing care.
For more information about Easterseals services contact us at (302) 324-4444 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Easterseals Keeps Seniors and Their Caregivers ConnectedBy Natalie Scott
When her twin sister passed away, Sylvia felt lost and lonely. The pair were very active sharing their gift of music with their community and it was a tough adjustment. Her younger sister, Deborah, recognized Sylvia’s need to remain active in the community and found Easterseals Adult Day Services. Not only does the program keep Sylvia engaged and social, but it provides Deborah with a much-needed break from caregiving.
“I wanted Sylvia to have something during the day to keep her busy. Easterseals adult day program offers a lot of activities. I knew Sylvia would be interested in the activities and making friends in the program.” Deborah says. “I feel very secure with her in the program and trust the staff who are all friendly. I never have to worry about her care. She is receiving the best care at Easterseals.”
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, there are more than 53 million unpaid family caregivers in the U.S. One of the greatest needs of these caregivers is information about services and programs in their community which may be helpful to them as a caregiver for children or adults with disabilities, chronic or terminal illness, or the elderly.
While Sylvia is enjoying activities like exercising, socializing, bingo, art projects and seminars, Deborah is able run errands and enjoy lunch with
a friend. Deborah has also taken advantage of the many resources Easterseals Community Outreach Program offers caregivers to keep them connected, such as: caregiver support groups, monthly work shops and an annual Caregiver Conference.
“The day program means the world to me. It gives me the time to have a life of my own outside of caregiving. And Sylvia loves Easterseals,” Deborah says. “I appreciate the caregiver support groups and Caregiver Conference because it gives me a sense of comradery. As a caregiver, you think you are doing this by yourself but with the support group you know you are not. They offer tips to help with different disabilities. It is nice to have friends who understand. There is a big differ ence between being a caregiver and reading about it.”
Caregiving is rewarding, but can be an exhaust ing job, especially when the caregiver does not get time to recharge. Respite is an option through Easterseals respite programs, which provide funds to support family caregivers providing care to a person of any age or disability, to take a temporary break from caregiving. Deborah has used this program to take mini vacations throughout the year, which is something she has not been able to do for years.
“The respite grant is a godsend. It is a much-needed program in our community. It gives me the opportunity to get out of the house,” Deborah says.
For more information, contact Easterseals Caregiver Resource Center at (302) 221-2087 or email@example.com. The Caregiver Resource Center and Lifespan Respite programs are partially funded by the Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities through the National Family Caregiver Support Program, Title III-E of the Older Americans Act.
Join Us in Advocacy
You can make a lasting impact in your community! Join Easterseals in advocating for people with disabilities and the people who help make their lives more independent.
Years ago, state and federal governments turned to nonprofits like Easterseals to develop services that give people with disabilities the opportunity to live more independently in the community rather than in institutions. Government promised to reimburse for these services. Unfortunately, because of years of neglect, the funding does not reflect the cost to care for the people, and that has led to low wages for the Direct Support Professionals who deliver the care every day.
Thank you, Legislators!
Recently, with the help of many leaders in the Delaware General Assembly, great progress in increasing wages has occurred through legislation called The Michael McNesby Act. Unfortunately, the funding still only covers a wage of $14/hour for direct support staff, far below the value of the difficult work that they do. Low wages continue to cause a workforce shortage which is hurting the people who depend on these workers.
If you would like to help Easterseals advocate on this and other issues impacting people with disabilities, seniors, veterans, and their families, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get involved now before it is too late!