A Trip to The Barns at UConn

SARAH Inc. Enrichment Service Program takes part in The SARAH Challenge which aims to move our program to a more community-based presence, instead of spending significant periods of time in one of our facilities. With the weather getting nicer we are increasing our participation in this initiative. The SARAH In Action North Haven location has been scheduling day visits to The Barns at the University of Connecticut (UConn).

By popular request, the people we support and staff planned a trip to the Barns at UConn, which turned out to be a unique experience. People had the opportunity to learn about different types of animals that are used in the Department of Animal Science Program including cows, sheep, and horses. After this tour, they enjoyed several sunny afternoons at the adjacent picnic tables AND got to check out the UConn Dairy Bar.

It’s these types of outings and trips that allow SARAH Inc. Enrichment Services to stand out from the rest. We listen to the people in our programs and we strive to plan activities that are meaningful. We offer more than the standard day program activities – we offer fresh experiences, lasting friendships, and new memories.

Our SARAH In Action North Haven crew is currently planning trips to the Hartford Science Center. These trips will be one hundred percent community-based days. People scheduled for these outings will be brought to and from their homes for a full day of activities in their local community.

SARAH Inc. is committed to taking an active role in advocating with and for people with disabilities. As a non-profit agency, we stay up to date on legislative issues impacting our mission. The current Connecticut Legislative Session convened on January 9th and is projected to end in early June.

I, along with members of the Leadership Team and people receiving services in our programs, have already participated in several events at the Capital to advocate for Nonprofit Service Providers and specifically on behalf of SARAH Inc. The first major event we participated in was The Arc’s Family Hearing Day for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD). A group from our SARAH Enrichment Program, along with two members of the Leadership team, attended this event to listen and demonstrate that people with I/DD need to be included in the vision for a better Connecticut.

The two other main events we represented ourselves at were hosted by The Alliance, a non-profit whose mission is to advance excellence in community-based non-profits through advocacy and capacity building. The first event was the #Iamessential Advocacy Day at the State Capital. A record-breaking 800 people with differing abilities arrived prepared to advocate for themselves, including over a dozen people from SARAH Inc. People from our programs came ready with their filled out ‘leave behind’ forms and prepared to advocate for themselves with their Legislators. Most recently, myself and two other Leadership Team Members attended the Alliance’s Non-Profit Week at the Capital. This event allowed us to represent SARAH Inc. to our Legislators and other attendees at the Capital. I was able to set up one-on-one meetings with two different representatives to discuss important topics that can impact SARAH Inc.

We have also advocated on behalf of Community Service Providers and Direct Support Staff by providing testimony on important bills and reaching out to the community and to state representatives to make sure our voice has been heard. I have personally submitted testimony on multiple bills, an example being S.B. NO. 876 regarding the Non-Profit Grant. For each of the past two years we have received money from this grant which has allowed us to update our vans, add additional onsite security measures, renovate our Westbrook program which included a new room for storing and dispensing medication, and more. “Debt Diet Legislation” has proposed the removal of funding from this grant in the upcoming fiscal year: we must voice our support of continued funding for the Non-Profit Grant. We have seen proof that our voices can be heard through self-advocacy and written testimony. One recent success of our advocacy from the previous Legislative Session was evidenced in January 2019 with the increase in Direct Support Professional wages to $14.75.

SARAH Inc. team members are slated to attend at least one more legislative event at the Capital in May and we will continue to testify on the important bills that could directly impact the people in our programs or our staff. In our efforts to be heard we will educate our representatives and strive to make a positive impact for ourselves and all other services providers in the state.

Our advocacy efforts at these events have included several groups of self-advocates and staff. By appearing with the very people affected by legislative actions we put a human face on the issues. Thank you to all the staff members, community supporters, and self-advocates who continue to support our efforts.

In addition to spending time in the community, people in our Enrichment Programs have the chance to enjoy various exercise classes! The Sitercize classes being offered in our Madison location, are being enjoyed by participants from each location. Each Thursday, while class is in session, individuals from Westbrook and North Haven join those in Madison to take part in the fun! These classes include light weight lifting, balance exercises, and dancing, all designed to help increase overall dexterity and balance.

Stephen Kuziel, a person who receives Day Supports in North Haven, is one of the lucky participants who is enjoying the classes and benefiting from the activity. Stephen loves to be active but we all know that as we age staying active can be difficult. He enjoys the opportunity to find ways to stay active and to see all of his friends from the other programs. When asked about the Sitercize classes he says “I think Sitercize is a great way to keep my body going. I like doing jumping jacks and sit-ups. The other great thing is that I get to see some of my friends from Westbrook and Madison.”

Another exercise class being offered within our Enrichment Services program is Tai Chi in our SARAH In Action Westbrook location. Tai Chi is an exercise that puts emphasis on both mental health and your physical health. In the last twenty years or so, classes that purely focus the health benefits of Tai Chi have become popular in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and senior centers. We are happy to offer this opportunity here in Westbrook. This form of movement gives the group an opportunity to improve their balance, fitness, flexibility and overall wellness. Westbrook enjoys this class and looks forward to it every Friday!

Employment Services

SARAH Inc. Employment Services has started their first Internship program with Solstice Senior Living in Guilford. This Internship program gives four individuals the ability to learn pertinent job skills first hand. This group performs several tasks within the company including housekeeping, food and beverage services, hospitality and more with goals to take on more administrative tasks as well.

This Internship has been extremely successful so far. David, the Manager of Operations, and Robin, Solstice Director, have reported that the interns are doing a great job and they are “picking up on things very quickly”.

Jim, one of the interns, has stated that “I like it here. I learned about vacuuming and sweeping the floors.” One of his major takeaways includes an increased attention to details. He makes sure that the task at hand gets done correctly the first time.

The end goal of this program is to have the interns independently employed by Solstice, and with the success they have achieved, all of the crew members are hoping to be offered individualized employment. Seeing how these interns have enjoyed this program and how we have been able to make a difference at Solstice, we are currently trying to set up more of these opportunities with other local businesses. If you are a business owner or you know someone looking for these types of partnerships send us an email to marketing@sarah-inc.org or give us a call at 860-399-1888 ext 324.

KIDSTEPS Early Intervention

All of us at SARAH Inc. are excited for the SARAH Foundation Gala on May 16! The Gala is one of the three primary fundraising activities sponsored by the SARAH Foundation every year, along with the Annual Golf Tournament and the Summer Breeze Ride for Autism. The Gala is an annual tradition and is anticipated to raise tens of thousands of dollars this year as in previous years. Representatives of all the SARAH Agencies attend, along with supporters throughout the community at large and dozens of family members associated with SARAH. The event is a great forum to speak about the importance of SARAH and to share the experience with the community.

At this year’s event one of the families from our KIDSTEPS Early Intervention Program has been invited to speak about their experience within the program. Natile and Patrick are loving parents to their son. A little over a year ago their son was referred to our program. Since his entrance into the program both he and his family have grown tremendously. Working with a myriad of dedicated KIDSTEPS staff this family has been able to grow as a unit and watch their son flourish.

The SARAH Inc. KIDSTEPS program is the third largest Early Intervention program in the State of Connecticut. Our staff is made up of experienced social workers, therapists, speech pathologists, and more. We are proud to say that we serve over 1,200 children and families throughout 31 cities in Connecticut a year! The goal of KIDSTEPS is to provide parents the support they need to help them become stronger advocates and help increase their capacity of caring for their child.

We are truly excited to hear the full story from this family. It’s not too late! If you are interested in hearing more please purchase your Gala tickets here and join the experience.

The SARAH Inc. Board of Directors and the SARAH Inc. Management team are continually adjusting and following a strategic plan for Program Diversification and Sustainability in line with our mission To Enhance Skills and Enrich Lives of all Individuals with Differing Abilities. The current plan is driven by our mission, supported by strong leadership and allows SARAH Inc. to remain financially strong through a changing landscape of funding insecurity and legislative changes.

Within Adult Services, SARAH Inc. will continue to develop our Employment Services and Transitional Services to create employment opportunities, and evaluate and prepare people for employment readiness. Our Enrichment Services continue with the SARAH Challenge to further connect people with their local communities.

KIDSTEPS, our Early Intervention program, is currently serving the greatest number of children ever (over 800) and continues to grow as the need for Birth to Three Services continues to increase. We are looking to someday expand our geographical footprint with a view of expanding beyond the 31 towns in which we currently provide services in.

As the agency continues to grow, our need to recruit and retain qualified, caring staff also continues. The Board itself is also looking to grow; we are eager to meet with professionals, especially those with fundraising expertise who would like to discuss joining our vibrant group. We are also interested in securing a Board Member with a financial background as we look to incorporate more grant funding and secure additional donations to augment our income stream.

SARAH Inc. is a vibrant and vital entity with caring individuals advocating for the people we serve. Please join your neighbors in thanking SARAH, Inc. for their continual effort to Enhance Skills and Enrich Lives of Individuals with Differing Abilities by clicking on the “Donate Now” button.

SARAH In The News

SARAH Inc. Open House events will take place in May.
Please join us for any or all of the scheduled events taking place as follows:
Westbrook, Mon., May 20; Madison, Tues., May 21; North Haven, Wed., May 22
5:00pm – 7:00pm

See our mission in action and talk to the people we rely on to provide people-centric services to the people in our care. Talk with Executive Director, Denise Henry, the Director of Enrichment Services, George Reid-Perry, and other members of our team to learn what we can provide your loved one.

SARAH Inc. Director of Employment Services, Jen Kostek, and members of her Employment team will also be on hand to discuss positive changes to our Employment Services, including Individual Supported Employment and Transitional Services. With the support and guidance of Jen’s team more people than ever before are successfully finding competitive employment!

Consider taking this opportunity to ask questions of our staff and learn what may be possible for your loved one. Parents of children graduating from the school system are also invited to visit to see if SARAH Inc. is the next step in your child’s path to independence.