On Being a Good Neighbor

Recently, a very close friend of our family passed away. Though I miss her terribly, she lived a good, long life and her sunny outlook touched so many people. As I thought about the happy times we had shared, I realized that the care and support we had given her had helped her to remain independent and live on her own, even as she grew old. She was a neighbor and my family just did what good neighbors do. She was also more than helpful to me and our children. I remember many a day calling her in a panic because I was leaving work later than I should have and was going to miss the bus. Nothing worse than the parent “walk of shame” into school to retrieve your children who were brought back to school because there wasn’t a parent or caring adult there to greet them. I would simply call and off she’d run to the bus stop to make sure that our children were not only safe, but had a warm hug, an endearing conversation and usually a snack with a cold glass of milk at the end of their school day. As she aged, the calls from across the street became more frequent: jars that needed opening, unfamiliar sounds in the night and a friendly “check in” to break up the day. In her final days of life she had limited ability to leave the house so those calls brought us both moments of laughter. 

Unfortunately, not everyone is so fortunate to have a natural support system of family, friends or neighbors in their lives, but access to the right kinds and levels of support can enable people, especially those facing mental health challenges, to live as independently as they can.

Services to help people facing mental health challenges to live as independently as possible can be provided through a state-funded program of Community Based Flexible Supports. As the name implies, Community Based Flexible Supports (CBFS) are both community based and flexible enough to address individual needs. CBFS include services such as:

  • Individual counseling and symptom management
  • Group therapy
  • Medication administration and monitoring
  • Substance abuse counseling
  • Help to pay bills, manage money and gain financial independence
  • Assistance in activities of daily living (ADLs) such as food shopping and doing laundry
  • Access to employment and vocational training

 

Eligibility to enter CBFS is made by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) and all services are referral-based. Given that DMH funds CBSF services, they select and contract with qualified providers, including CHD, to manage the delivery of those services appropriately. DMH conducts ongoing oversight to ensure that services consistently meet program requirements and individual needs.

“People facing mental health challenges have periods of wellness and periods of stress in their life,” explains my colleague Katherine M. Cook, LICSW, Vice President Adult Mental Health/Substance Use for CHD. “Through CBFS, services are provided to people based on where they are on that continuum. Among the CBFS services provided by CHD is supported housing in non-institutional, community settings.”

For example, CHD collaborates with the Chicopee Housing Authority in the Intensive Supported Apartment Program. People receiving services live in a cluster of apartments and are seen by support staff every day. In this setting many people can be successful without the need for elevated services in institutional settings. And that’s good, because who wants to live in an institution when they can live at home? 

“CBFS helps give people considerable independence along with structure and professional guidance that helps them become and remain stable,” said Cook. “CHD currently provides Community Based Flexible Supports to 837 people living with mental health challenges or lived experience. Of those people, about 123 live in one of 25 licensed group residences where they can receive services and contribute to their community.”

My neighbor did not have mental health challenges, but our relationship and her passing had given me pause as I thought about how important that support to her was, and how important the supports we give to people in our community through CBFS is. Sometimes, what a person needs most of all is a good neighbor. I sure had one. And I miss her.

If you would like to learn more about CHD’s CBFS program, pay CHD.org a visit or send me an email at klee@chd.org.

Generous Support, Immediate Impact

It’s so gratifying when CHD receives a generous grant that results in positive outcomes quickly.

Recently, funding from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts enabled CHD to equip four Caring Together group homes with therapeutic materials for a Sensory Space, which helps the teen-aged girls who live there to de-escalate emotionally. The materials now available to them, such as weighted blankets, help give them a sense of calm and control. Especially for youths who experienced trauma caused by abuse and are struggling with a host of emotional and mental health issues, the ability to control their emotions is central to healing.

CHD’s Caring Together group home in Holyoke is one of the programs funded with the Community Foundation grant. Now therapeutic materials are neatly organized in the Sensory Space, readily available to those who want them. Program Director Heidi Walter said the kids started to use them right away. She shared this story involving a 17 year old girl.

According to Walter, each day when the girl arrived “home” from school at Caring Together, she went right to the Sensory Space, took a weighted blanket and a stuffed turtle, then curled up tight and rested for about half an hour to de-escalate from the stresses of her day. Usually she just rested peacefully, although sometimes she would nod off to sleep. This process of de-escalation—aided by the therapeutic materials in the Sensory Space—allowed her to better control her emotions so she could focus on school work and improve her interpersonal relationships.

This 17-year-old girl has now left the group family and returned home to live with her biological mother. That was a huge accomplishment for her, and a large contributing factor was being able to control her emotions. The Community Foundation grant helped make that important life transition possible.

Moving forward, one measure of success with CHD group home Sensory Spaces will be decreased levels of stress and fewer incidents of poor self-regulation by the program participants. Already, positive results like these are happening and the therapeutic materials now available to our participants contribute meaningfully to those outcomes.

The success of Sensory Rooms is one more example that proves one of CHD’s core principles: community support matters.

Time is what moms really want from their kids every Mother’s Day

Anna Jarvis created Mother’s Day in 1908 with a memorial service for her mother at her church in Grafton, West Virginia. According to various sources, Anna’s mother, Ann, was a peace activist who had cared for wounded soldiers on both sides during America’s Civil War. Daughter Anna wanted to honor her mother and all mothers because she believed that mothers were “the person(s) who (have) done more for you than anyone in the world.”

Mother’s Day quickly became popular. Who could argue against shining a light on Mom?
Politicians in Washington, D.C., jumped on the Mother’s Day bandwagon and made it a national holiday in 1914. By the 1920s, businesses – notably greeting card makers – were capitalizing on the money-making potential of honoring Mom.

 

Anna Jarvis was not impressed. She so resented the commercialization of Mother’s Day, she spent the rest of her life trying to remove it from the calendar!

While I don’t want to see Mother’s Day removed from the calendar, I’m with Anna when it comes to placing the focus of the celebration where it belongs: Mom.

Perhaps it can begin with breakfast in bed, some handmade cards and a bunch of spring wildflowers, snipped and bundled. But, let it continue with something mothers treasure most of all: time spent with their children.

When your Mom says she doesn’t want presents, she just wants to be with you, believe her.

It’s important to recognize the commitment, the love and the compassion that mothers show to their children. It’s just as important to recognize that biology isn’t necessary to make a motherly connection. Love is.

Just ask a Home Finder in CHD’s Foster Care program. Foster mothers provide love in large measures to some of our community’s most vulnerable, abused and neglected children. Their work is both positive and permanent. Years after foster children “age out” of the care system, so many return successful and thank their “moms” for what they made possible.

Every day, in so many of CHD’s programs, our staff supports mothers who are working to overcome situations and personal hardships that prevent them from being the mothers they want to be, and which we know they can be. In programs such as Grace House and Two Rivers where moms in early stages of recovery from substance use live with their children, and in Family Outreach where moms “Strive to Thrive” to be consistent caregivers for their children, women throughout our community are gaining the life skills to be their child’s first and best teacher, provider and protector.

Yes, mothers of all kinds provide love every day, but there’s just one day each year when we all pause to celebrate it.

On the second Sunday in May, moms young and old are recognized not simply for having children, but for providing them with the care, compassion and consistent parenting that positively impacts a child’s physical, mental and emotional well-being. That’s what we should celebrate on Mother’s Day.

On Sunday, I hope you’ll give YOUR mom – whether biological, adoptive, fostering or mother-in-fact – the best gift a kid can offer: your thanks expressed through time spent together.

Kimberley A. Lee is vice president of advancement for CHD, the Center for Human Development. She can be reached by email to KLee@CHD.org. To learn more about CHD, visit the website, CHD.org.

In Lieu of Flowers

It’s difficult to escape the irony of cut flowers serving as a symbol of life. Still, when a loved one passes away, the natural beauty of flowers often plays a role in helping those who survive to cope with their loss. But some families call for more enduring gifts to honor the memory of their departed loved one.

Recently, Gerard Morneau of Springfield died. Mr. Morneau, a member of America’s Greatest Generation, was an Army veteran of World War II who served in Normandy and received two Purple Hearts. “Dad didn’t talk much about the war,” said his daughter Lily Buettner of Somers, CT, “but he approached life as a soldier, with a plan and with purpose. His hospice nurse said to me that soldiers are the last to go down. She was right, he didn’t want to let go, but ultimately it helped him to know that I’d take care of my mom and my sister when he was gone.”

After her father died, Buettner and her family thought about ways to honor his memory. “Dad was so pleased that CHD came into our lives and helped with my sister Jeannette,” said Buettner. “Going to Adult Day Health gave Jeannette a purpose to get up in the morning. It made her days enjoyable and gave her room to grow. It also gave my parents the space to stay in their own home. That changed their retirement. My dad was so happy Jeannette had CHD in her life.”

Jeannette has been a participant in CHD Hawthorn Elder Care since 2007. The program provides adult day health services designed to meet the physical, functional and social needs of elders and people with disabilities. A comprehensive clinical team works with each participant and family to create a plan of care and activities designed to deliver optimal benefits. Services include medical management, therapeutic programs, nutritional support, daily activities, mental stimulation and opportunities for social interaction. Each day at Hawthorn Elder Care is carefully planned to promote health and happiness through enjoyable, life-enhancing experiences.

“We have enjoyed working with Jeannette and her family for many years and they have been wonderful to us,” said Audrey Monroe, Director of Elder Services for CHD Hawthorn Elder Care. “We were all sad to hear her father passed, and it was a surprise when we learned that her family wanted memorial contributions to support CHD and the program that has given Jeannette and her family so much. We only learned when we read about it in the newspaper. We were touched, to say the least.”  

Monroe describes Jeannette as a social butterfly at Adult Day Health. “She loves to go out on trips to places like stores, restaurants and museums,” Monroe explained. “She especially loves the musical entertainment that comes to our program, like Rays of Elvis, and she loves to dance and sing. BINGO is one of her favorite activities and with staff oversight she helps other people during BINGO games. I think Jeannette is a good person who has a big heart.”

Continuing to take part in Adult Day Health appears to help Jeannette with her family’s loss. “Being here during the day with people she knows and cares about, and who care about her, helps her work through her feelings,” said Monroe. “I also think an important part of her doing well is the faith that her family has instilled in her, which is clearly apparent.”

Monroe fondly recalls getting to know Mr. Morneau over the years. “When we’d pick up and drop off Jeannette, he was always doing things around the house. He was a proper gentleman, community-oriented and always very kind. His family carried on his kindness by asking that memorial contributions in his name be made to CHD. We are sincerely grateful.”

“There’s been a lot of positive response to our request,” said Buettner. “People tell me it just makes so much sense and I hope we’ve put a bug in people’s ear. We know what CHD has meant to Jeannette and the rest of my family. It makes us feel good to support their work by honoring Dad’s memory.” 

Multi-faceted Plan in Greenfield Reaps Success

Mayor William Martin recently acquired a book about Greenfield that was published in 1912. He keeps it in his office, and during a recent visit by BusinessWest, he culled through it and pointed out initiatives integral to the town’s economic development that mirror historic advances in the book that were considered progressive in the early 20th century.

They include increasing density downtown, attracting businesses where growth is occurring, and developing town-owned energy companies, while continuing to meet the needs of residents.

“We have taken ideas from the past and brought them into the modern day, which is very, very exciting,” Martin said. “Greenfield is a unique, progressive, and supportive community whose roots go back centuries in time; although people have come and gone, the spirit here remains the same.

“We were called a progressive community 150 years ago and are being called that again today,” the mayor continued, as he spoke about how the town is keeping pace with change through major projects and investments that will serve future generations.

They include the new, $70 million Franklin County Justice Center which opened its doors about a month ago after two and a half years of planning and construction. “It brought people back downtown and consolidated the county’s judicial system into one building,” Martin said, adding that, although some downtown businesses suffered when the old courthouse was closed and the offices were temporarily moved, there has been a revival of vibrancy due to an increase in traffic from courthouse employees, attorneys, and people who visit the justice center to resolve legal issues.

“In addition to housing the Franklin County court system, the center is home to preventive and social-justice offices for the afflicted and the addicted,” Martin said.

The increase in visitors created an immediate need for more downtown parking, which is being addressed. Construction will begin in July on a new, $10 million, four-story Olive Street Garage that will have a solar canopy on its upper floor and offer 355 parking spaces, charging stations for electric vehicles, and spots designated for bicycles and motorcycles.

It is being built on the site of a former parking lot and is expected to alleviate traffic congestion since it is located a block from the courthouse and across the street from the John W. Olver Transit Center, which serves Franklin County Transit Authority bus routes and provides inter-city bus service, as well as a train station that houses Amtrak’s Vermonter line.

“Greenfield is the capital of Franklin County and has always been an active transportation center. Our history dates back to the time of steamboats and stagecoaches which brought supplies to the hilltowns,” Martin said.

He noted that Robert Cartelli, who owns Ford Toyota of Greenfield and recently built a new, $8 million dealership, preserved several historic bas-relief caricatures of stagecoaches, planes, and trains that were on his old building and donated them to the town. One will be mounted on each floor of the garage, and the floors will be named after the sculptures.

A large monitor will also be installed that will serve as an educational showcase for the town’s transportation history and allow visitors to learn about its importance in Franklin County.

For this, the latest installment in its Community Spotlight series, BusinessWest looks at the many initiatives and projects taking place in Greenfield that are adding to its vitality and ensuring the town keeps pace with the future.

Continued Progress

Healthcare is an industry that is experiencing rapid growth, and projects in Greenfield reflect that trend. The Lunt Silversmiths property, located about 1.5 miles from Main Street and downtown, has undergone substantial reconstruction, and phase 3 is being completed by the developer 401 Liberty Street, LLC.

One of three buildings slated for redevelopment has been converted into a residential medical treatment center with 65 beds that is operated by Behavioral Health Network. That structure also houses two residential clinics that opened last fall, and Clinical & Support Options will soon move into a 15,000-square-foot renovated space in another building.

When the renovation is finished and the remaining 15,000-square-foot space is occupied, the property will have generated several hundred new jobs and increased taxes from $2.2 million to $11 million.

“The former brownfields site has been put to good, productive use,” Martin said.

He explained that the town purchased the property after Lunt Silversmiths went bankrupt, and the acquisition included a number of ballfields on 6.62 acres of the 11-acre parcel that had been used by youth baseball teams for more than 50 years.

“During negotiations that were associated with the sale, the developer agreed to create a mini-Fenway Park that will contain three playing fields for youth in the community that will open in August,” Martin said.

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Health services and businesses in Greenfield are on the rise, and the Center for Human Development plans to move its Clinic for Behavioral Services and Community Health Clinic into 104-106 Main St., the former home of an antique and used-furniture business.

“The health clinic serves several thousand clients each month, which will help us reach our goal of increasing density downtown,” Martin told BusinessWest.

In addition, the First National Bank and Trust building downtown, which has been unoccupied for more than two decades, is being acquired by Greenfield Development Authority.

Martin said the state approved the town’s application to establish a cultural district last fall, and plans for the structure include creating a flexible space that could be used for plays, theater productions, an international marketplace during the winter, and an indoor seasonal farmer’s market in the spring, summer, and fall, as well as a gallery and museum to house the city’s antiques, including a Concord coach, an original pump from the Fire Department, a liberty bell, and a golden cane.

“This is a magnificent space in the center of Greenfield that will be used by the community and serve the interests of many residents,” the mayor said.

The Abercrombie Building, another structure downtown in the buildings along Bank Row, will also be put to new use when the state takes over 15,000 square feet and turns it into the Franklin County Public Attorneys’ Office. Martin noted that the building has been unoccupied for about 20 years, and its reuse fits in well with the idea of increasing foot traffic downtown.

Greenfield has also taken a proactive stance toward energy and technology because these sectors will play a vital role in ensuring its independence as well as its ability to attract new businesses.

Greenfield Light and Power began operating as a municipal aggregation plan more than a year ago, and brought lower-cost electricity to the community and measures to procure it from renewable sources.

Since it went online, all electricity used in the town is 100% green and is priced at $8.02 per kilowatt hour, which is less than the cost of electricity supplied by Eversource.

“Greenfield Light and Power was started by the town in the 1880s, then sold to Western Mass Electric in the 1930s. But today we have our own power company again,” Martin said, as he continued to outline the town’s history.

Another major initiative was born last year when the Town Council approved a $5 million bond to create a municipal broadband network that includes Internet, phone, and data services.

Greenfield Community Energy and Technology, commonly known as GCET, will pay for itself now that it is up and running. The mayor said the town will begin taking subscriptions within the next 60 days.

“We’re taking ideas from the past and giving them new life. It’s exciting that things done 150 years ago are the same things we want to do today. Our generation is replacing institutional landmarks, and we hope our Internet service and electric company will continue to operate into the next century,” the mayor noted, explaining that the goal was to provide the most current, fastest service for businesses in Greenfield at no cost to the taxpayer, which is part of the town’s strategy of making investments in capital projects to satisfy needs in the private market.

The town recently issued a request for proposals to demolish the former Bendix Corp. building and draw up a plan for the 17-acre brownfields site. The project is in the final stages of cleanup, and Martin said the city is working with Honeywell Corp., which is responsible for site remediation.

International Container Co. has also announced plans to move from Holyoke and build an 80,000-square-foot building in Greenfield. “We have been meeting with them for eight months, and they hope to start construction in August and hire 65 new employees after they open,” Martin said.

Eye to the Future

Improvements to the public-school system are ongoing. The new, $66 million Greenfield High School opened its doors in the fall of 2015 and sports new playing fields, a concession stand, and a track.

“The first track meet was held behind the building several weeks ago,” Martin said as he outlined other educational investments: Greenfield Community College’s establishment of a downtown campus; the Mass. Virtual Academy at Greenfield on Main Street, which was the Commonwealth’s first virtual K-12 public school; and the recent completion of $1.8 million of work at Federal Street School.

In addition, Greenfield’s Math and Science Academy, which serves grades 4 through 7, is being moved from the Federal Street School to Greenfield Middle School so more students can take advantage of its advanced curriculum.

Progress is also being made on the new 10,000-square-foot John Zon Community Center, which will be designed to meet the changing expectations and needs of seniors in the community.

Forish Construction in Westfield is in charge of the $4.5 million project and began demolition of a 15,000-square-foot brick building at the intersection of Pleasant and Davis streets several weeks ago. The town-owned structure was built as a school in 1908, operated as a hotel and apartments in the ’80s, then used as the public-school administration center.

“It’s an exciting project,” Martin said, explaining that the school’s administrative offices have been moved into the bottom floor of Greenfield Middle School.

Greenfield has also reorganized its Veteran’s Service Department that is the hub for all towns in Franklin County. In addition to a downtown office, it has a van that serves disabled vets in their homes.

“They deserve to get the care they need and also bring in between $7 million and $10 million a year in benefits, which affects our economy,” Martin said, noting that the town recently held a symposium for veterans at Greenfield Community College that dealt with Agent Orange and 43 diseases presumed to originate from exposure to the deadly chemical that was used during the Vietnam War.

In another part of town, the Eunice Williams Bridge has been restored. The historic covered structure was knocked off its abutment during Hurricane Irene and downgraded to a pedestrian bridge. But thanks to $9 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover damages in the town resulting from the storm, the abutment was replaced, and the bridge has been upgraded for vehicular travel.

Martin said Greenfield has received a number of awards in the past few years. Green River Park was feted with the 2017 Design of Facility Agency Award from the Massachusetts Recreation and Park Assoc. for major renovations that include a new basketball court, pickleball court, playground, pavilion, dog park, parking area, and Americans with Disabilities Act improvements.

And in 2016, Greenfield was designated as a Crossroads Cultural District by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and honored by American City & County magazine as a Crown Community for pioneering locally generated renewable-energy certificates into the Greenfield Light and Power Program.

A LEED Gold certification was also awarded at completion of the new Greenfield High School, and the town was recognized for the fifth time as a Playful City USA by the national nonprofit KaBoom!, which honors cities and towns that ensure that all children, particularly those from low-income families, get the balanced and active play they need to thrive.

The mayor said these accolades and Greenfield’s continued progress has not come about by accident; rather, they are a result of action that has been taken with an eye to the future.

“I have dedicated myself to making Greenfield a city that is on the precipice of inventiveness, always moving forward while maintaining a dedication to fiscal responsibility,” he said. “We will continue to look for private investments that will enhance long-term development, generate revenue and jobs, and add to our tax base.”

This is a recipe from the past that should yield equal success in the future.

Article by Kathleen Mitchell, originally appeared on BusinessWest.com, http://businesswest.com/blog/multi-faceted-plan-in-greenfield-reaps-success/