CHD Cancer House of Hope Offers Assistance for Spanish Speaking Guests

While it’s always good news whenever someone new volunteers for the staff at Cancer House of Hope, the arrival of volunteer Brenda I. Martinez of Springfield means something new. For the first time, the Cancer House of Hope will be able to offer assistance to people who speak Spanish.

Martinez, who is herself a breast cancer survivor, says she has received a great deal of support since her cancer diagnosis and wanted to give back. “The breast cancer community, including Rays of Hope and the Cancer House of Hope, has been so good to me that I decided to give back by volunteering,” she said. “The fact that I speak Spanish gives me another way I can help.”

Martinez will be volunteering at the Cancer House of Hope, 1999 Westfield Street in West Springfield, on Fridays from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., starting on September 29. She expects to assist cancer patients in setting up appointments, help arrange transportation, call people at home to remind them of appointments, and answer any questions people may have. And if those questions are asked in Spanish, she will do her best to put her language skills to good use.

“The Cancer House of Hope has never had a volunteer who can assist our Spanish speaking guests,” said Joe Kane, Program Director for CHD Cancer House of Hope. “We want to get the word out that language should never be a barrier in seeking the free services the House provides to people with cancer and those who care about them.

CHD Cancer House of Hope works to enhance the lives of people with cancer and those who care about them by providing emotional, educational, social and spiritual support. The House provides a range of cancer support services and relaxation programs at no cost to those who face this devastating disease. Each year, CHD Cancer House of Hope serves 500 guests, right here in our community. Every penny of every dollar donated to the House directly impacts programming and the people served.

Founded in 1972, Center for Human Development (CHD) is a nonprofit, CARF-accredited organization providing a broad range of high quality, community-oriented human services to 17,000 children, adolescents, adults, and families each year. The organization is dedicated to promoting, enhancing and protecting the dignity and welfare of people in need.   www.chd.org

CHD Comes Through for Young Readers

Sue Prairie, who teaches at William N. DeBerry Elementary School, is going on her third year working with English language learners. With budget cuts slated to eliminate continued school-level funding for an online reading resource program called Storia, Prairie took to social media to advocate for her school and the children. As her request for help keeping Storia available for the children gained a wider audience, CHD learned of the need and agreed to fund the Storia program at DeBerry School for an entire year.

Representatives of CHD traveled to DeBerry School to make a presentation of funds for another full year of access to Storia for teachers and students at the school to see the software in action during school hours.

“Storia is an online library of more than 6,000 high quality titles at various reading levels,” said Elizabeth Fazio, Principal of DeBerry School. “The program allows teachers to control what books are put on their students’ electronic bookshelves, and for students to pick ‘just right’ books to add to their own bookshelf. The system is flexible so it can be used for whole groups of students, for small groups, or for independent reading and personalized instruction. Storia is great because it infuses learning technology into everyday lessons. It helps students access books on laptops at school, and also enables them to access books at home, if they have internet access there, to strengthen the school-home connection.”

Storia is not only for English language learners. All students can benefit from access to so many reading titles to support their academic growth. Storia has lots of traditional chapter books as well as “leveled” books. That means if students are doing a unit in science, such as the life cycle, the teacher can pull a range of books specifically about the life cycle that are at each student’s reading level.

“It is wonderful to have the support of a community partner such as CHD to help the school provide resources that are helping to improve instruction, technology literacy, and student performance for all students,” said Fazio. “The Storia online library helps children develop twenty-first century skills as they access appropriate learning content at their own reading level. It also provides key data for teachers, essentially an electronic bookmark that helps them track individual student progress.”

Founded in 1972, Center for Human Development (CHD) is a nonprofit, CARF-accredited organization providing a broad range of high quality, community-oriented human services to 17,000 children, adolescents, adults, and families each year. The organization is dedicated to promoting, enhancing and protecting the dignity and welfare of people in need.   www.chd.org

 

 

Advanced Restoration Group Presents $15,000 Pledge for CHD Cancer House of Hope

Advanced Restoration Group, a fire and water restoration business based in Easthampton, has pledged $15,000 over three years to CHD Cancer House of Hope. On Thursday October 12, 2017, Jason Gale, owner of Advanced Restoration Group, presented a check to Joseph Kane, Program Director at Cancer House of Hope, 1999 Westfield Street (Rte. 20) in West Springfield.

“We’re a young, growing business and we wanted to become an active community partner by giving something back, as a business,” said Gale. “My Operations Director, Amy Meo, reached out to Kim Lee from CHD, and together we all agreed that Cancer House of Hope was an ideal organization to support. It really is a wonderful connection because we’re all in the business of helping people. My company restores people’s homes and businesses after a disaster, and Cancer House of Hope restores people’s hope when they’re facing the life-altering impact of a cancer diagnosis.”

Advanced Restoration Group has targeted its donation to support A Night of Light, an annual fund-raising event for CHD Cancer House of Hope. “For A Night of Light, people purchase luminary bags, which are lit and placed on the Storrowton Village Green in West Springfield to remember those we have lost to cancer and honor those who are survivors,” said Joseph Kane, Program Director for Cancer House of Hope. “This year, A Night of Light takes place on Thursday November 16 from 6 to 8 p.m.”

“A Night of Light is a beautiful evening of music, remembrance and hope that honors friends and loved ones and supports the many programs and services offered by Cancer House of Hope,” said Kimberley A. Lee, VP of Development for CHD. “We are thrilled that Advanced Restoration Group is supporting Cancer House of Hope, and their generous donation will enable us to leverage the power created by A Night of Light, over and over.”

CHD Cancer House of Hope works to enhance the lives of people with cancer and those who care about them by providing emotional, educational, social and spiritual support. The House provides a range of cancer support services and relaxation programs at no cost to those who face this devastating disease.

Advanced Restoration Group serves western Massachusetts and Connecticut with specialized services to restore homes and businesses that have been damaged by fire, water, mold, storms or wind.

Founded in 1972, Center for Human Development (CHD) is a nonprofit, CARF-accredited organization providing a broad range of high quality, community-oriented human services to 17,000 children, adolescents, adults and families each year. The organization is dedicated to promoting, enhancing and protecting the dignity and welfare of people in need.   www.chd.org

CHD’s Melissa Porter Honored with Award from Association for Behavioral Healthcare

Melissa Porter, MS, Program Director of CHD’s Community Based Flexible Supports (CBFS) for Holyoke and Chicopee, was honored by the Association for Behavioral Healthcare (ABH) with an award presented at the ABH Salute to Excellence on Friday October 20, 2017, in Newton, MA. ABH is a consortium of behavioral healthcare providers from across Massachusetts. CHD is a member of ABH.

Porter holds a Master Science in Psychiatric Rehabilitation from Boston University and is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. She has 30 years of experience in the field of human services, including work in residential settings, directing a community clubhouse, managing a substance abuse residential program for women, and managing an outpatient clinic. Currently she directs CHD’s program of Community Based Flexible Supports (CBFS) for Holyoke and Chicopee, which supports adults with chronic and persistent mental illness to be successful in the community.

“We are extremely proud that Melissa has been recognized for excellence by the Association for Behavioral Healthcare,” said Jim Goodwin, President and CEO of CHD. “Her record of service to adults with mental health and addiction challenges reflects her professional commitment and personal passion to helping people live better lives. I think it is telling that Melissa was nominated for this award by a member of her own staff. When staff members feel confident in their leadership, that reflects well on an organization. CHD was voted Best Place to Work in Reader Raves 2018, and I think Melissa’s award reveals the comradery and respect that is shared by members of our staff.”

As a CBFS program director, Porter oversees wraparound services for a large population of adults who are referred through the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. “We serve close to 300 individuals living in the Holyoke/Chicopee community, with clients as young as 21 and as old as 93,” said Porter. “Those people receive help with housing, vocational and psychiatric services through clinics, crisis intervention, substance abuse services, employment, community-based leisure activities and more, all based on individual needs. We could have somebody who comes in already living in the community, who has had hospitalization in the past but is stable, works, maybe even has a car, but needs weekly outreach services. We may also get a referral for someone who is homeless, actively using drugs and alcohol, has explosive relationships with family and friends, and is unemployable. There’s a huge breadth of who we serve and why, and we serve each person to address their individual needs.”

To provide an example of how her work impacts lives, Porter shared the story of an older gentleman named Bob, a client that CHD has worked with for nearly 20 years. “Bob had persistent mental illness and we provided a range of support to help keep him stable and live as independently as possible,” Porter explained. “He lived with his aunt in the family home in Holyoke, and he’d lived there for so long it was the only home he ever really knew. When his aunt passed away, we had to consider Bob’s living arrangements going forward. The path of least resistance would be to place him in a group home, but with someone so fragile, such a change could send him into a crisis. And besides, our client-focused philosophy means we do what the client wants, as much as that’s practical. So we asked Bob what he wanted and he said he wanted to stay. We helped him as he sorted through things and gave him control over some of that, and we even were able to employ some CBFS clients to help with interior painting. It all took time and support, but ultimately Bob went through the transition pretty successfully. He’s happy where he is, and that’s most important.”

With three decades in the field of human service, Porter offered some seasoned advice for people considering working in the field or looking for greener pastures. “Find a good organization that shares your own vision for what it means to serve others,” she said. “If it’s a place where lots of the staff have worked there for years, I think it’s revealing. There has been a push for human service providers to move to a more corporate way of doing business, which I can see because you have to sustain services. But you can still find organizations that continue the grass-roots, human quality of doing rehabilitation in relaxed, community-based ways that are real.  I think that is what we strive to do at CHD. For those who preceded me in this organization, that was important to them, so I want to continue to focus on things that speak to the mission and work for the people we serve.”

The Association for Behavioral Health has over 80 member organizations providing mental health and addiction treatment across Massachusetts. The organization’s members employ 46,500 people, serve 1.5 million Massachusetts residents annually, and work directly with policy makers to expand access to community treatment. http://www.abhmass.org

Founded in 1972, Center for Human Development (CHD) is a nonprofit, CARF-accredited organization providing a broad range of high quality, community-oriented human services to 17,000 children, adolescents, adults, and families each year. The organization is dedicated to promoting, enhancing and protecting the dignity and welfare of people in need.   www.chd.org

A Mother’s Fierce Advocacy for her Child with Autism

You never know what direction life will take you. Just ask Lisa Cooper who recalls being the mother of two children, ages 10 and 15, in the midst of growing her law practice when she found out she was having another child.

“Life happens,” Lisa says matter-of-factly. “As it happens, my life took quite a turn. My daughter, Dharbi was kid number three and she was a kid I couldn’t control. I said to the doctor something is not right here. That began the referral and request for services.”

Lisa took Dharbi for early intervention. “Dharbi was nonverbal, all physical, basically climbing up the walls or all over me,” Lisa recalls. “She’d walk out the door and not look back, never seeming to wonder ‘Are you watching me?’ That created lots of safety issues. If her siblings went outside, she cried that she wanted to go outside. She would play nicely in the yard, but when she saw a car coming she’d run out in the street in front of the car, like she was playing ‘chicken’ with the driver!”  

After working closely with a team of early intervention professionals, there was some news. “I said I like my news straight, don’t sugar coat it,” she remembers. “They said my daughter may have autism. At the time, I hadn’t heard of autism and the coordinator gave me some information to research. I read a book on autism and I found my child in that book. She was 2 years and 9 months old when she was diagnosed, and services were available until she turned 3. I figured it can’t hurt. In three months’ time, I saw the first major turnaround for Dharbi. I saw a child who could start sitting for a minute or two.”

Dharbi went to preschool and eventually enrolled in Agawam public schools, but she was still behavioral, non-verbal. Agawam offered in-home services as well as support in a school setting. Lisa took advantage of funding that enables her to hire her own senior therapist and direct therapist, and to pay for activities of Lisa’s choosing. This approach requires a parent who will advocate for the child, and Lisa is a fierce advocate for Dharbi. She’s also fierce about ensuring her daughter, regardless of her diagnosis, has access to as many different activities as possible which will expose her to every opportunity. The same as any other child would have.

Recently, Lisa discovered a range of activities designed specifically for people with disabilities and their families, offered through CHD Disability Resources. “CHD makes programs accessible to people with special needs, but it’s the family aspect that really attracted me,” she says. “I think about parents who may be able to get services for their kid with special needs, but what about their other kids who don’t have special needs? All the attention that’s paid to special needs kids can bring up a sense of unfairness in families, or even animosity. Disability Resources offers activities where everyone in the family can participate. With other programs, they let you watch your special needs kid, and the siblings can watch, but CHD lets everyone take part. That makes a family more cohesive, and the special needs kids can learn from the typical kids. Maybe my daughter can learn from your typical child, maybe she can learn the skills of verbal language by communicating with her typical peers. The family inclusion piece that CHD offers creates those possibilities. It’s huge.”

The favorite Disability Resources activity that Dharbi has taken part in was waterskiing. “She’s already talking about going next year,” says Lisa. “She’s so excited about it, sometimes that’s the only thing she talks about! You have to find out what your kid enjoys and you don’t know what that is until you try. She did rock climbing and when she seemed like she was done I pushed her to keep going, just a little bit more. When you feel like giving up but you go just a little bit more, it’s a huge deal. It was for Dharbi. Next, she wants to try sled hockey. CHD offers activities not normally offered by other organizations, plus the more common things and at a more reasonable price.” That matters especially for parents with a disabled child.

Completely embracing her role as Dharbi’s advocate has changed Lisa’s life—and Dharbi’s. “A parent who saw my kid 5 or 6 years ago would not realize that they’re seeing the same kid if they saw her today,” says Lisa. “And her exposure to programming like CHD’s Disability Resources has helped in that transformation.”