December 2019 Agency Newsletter

SARAH Inc.'s Year of Giving

This time of the year is commonly known as “The Season of Giving”. During these few months communities and charities participate in Giving Tuesday, increased volunteer hours, and year end giving campaigns. However, giving back, donating, and volunteering is something that should be done consistently and year-round.

At SARAH Inc., we are always looking for ways to support our local communities. Through the years we have garnered a robust list of community partners, and have cultivated a large volunteer program dedicated to helping our neighboring communities. We are proud to announce that throughout 2019, SARAH Inc. volunteered at more than 20 locations including The James Blackstone Library, the Grateful Pony, Meals on Wheels, Sarah’s Cupboard, and several more. Accumulatively, all of the individuals in our Adult Services programs have provided more than 2,300 volunteer hours throughout the year. On several occasions, these volunteers have stated how volunteering has left a positive impact on them.

Andrew who regularly volunteers at the Branford Food Council, says he “love[s] to help people, I bring food to their doors.”

Scott enjoys volunteering at the James Blackstone Library and East Haven Library. He says that he “like[s] to bring library books to people because it is nice.”

Not all acts of kindness need to be monumental to make a difference and we are glad we can make such a positive effect. According to Oscar Wilde, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” We are proud of the impact we made in 2019 and we are excited to see what 2020 brings our way.

If you or someone you know is need of volunteers or want to partner with SARAH Inc. in another way, please send us an Email.

What’s Happening in our SARAH Inc. Programs

From the Desk of the Executive Director

As 2019 draws to a close it gives us an opportunity to reflect on the year that was, and prepare for the one ahead.

Our KIDSTEPS Birth to Three Services reached a new participation milestone of over 500 eligible children in a single month. Due to the growth of these services we expanded the number of staff in this department by 48%.

Adult Services was successfully reorganized to separate departments for Employment, Enrichment, and Community Support Services. This has allowed for improved oversite, support, and growth for these departments.

In October, SARAH Inc. held its first awareness campaign event. As an agency we decided to host multiple showings of The R-Word film to raise awareness around the negative impacts of the everyday use of the R-word in society. Thanks to Foxwoods, The Mashantucket Pequot Museum, The Katharine Hepburn theater, and other generous donors, our film series was a success. More importantly the film, and the Q&A we scheduled with the film’s Director, helped raise awareness around this important issue. In the next few month’s we are partnering with the Guilford community for our final showing. This film has sparked at least two more groups into hosting their own premieres to help spread awareness and to end the negative use of the R-word. If you want more information about hosting your own premiere or want to know about our experience then send us an email to marketing@sarah-inc.org.

In the upcoming year SARAH Inc. will continue to focus on strategic growth across all departments along with a continued focus on quality, innovative services. We will also continue in its advocacy work in the upcoming legislative session. This means working with legislators to ensure community providers receive the funding needed to deliver services and pay employees a competitive wage. Given that 2020 is an election year SARAH Inc. will  focus on voter registration and the importance of exercising the right to vote.

Our accomplishments in 2019 and the progress we look to make in 2020 would not be possible without our dedicated staff, the families and friends that help us make a difference, and the communities that support us. Thank you all for your hard work, belief in our mission, and your continued trust in SARAH Inc. 

Enrichment Services

We want to give a warm SARAH Inc. welcome to Mekah, a new arrival at the North Haven Enrichment program. She is a New Haven resident and graduated high school last year. Mekah comes from a large family with five brothers and sisters and she is an Aunt to seven nieces and nephews. Since she started at SARAH Inc., Mekah has expressed a strong desire to continue to learn and to volunteer. When she is out volunteering with the group she says how much she enjoys the opportunity to help others and being involved in her community.

Additionally, Mekah enjoys staying active. A favorite activity of hers is playing basketball at the YMCA. She also has a passion for baking. Our North Haven program is always experimenting with new recipes and she loves learning to make something new. We are honored that Mekah and her family chose SARAH Inc as her provider agency.

George, Director of Enrichment Services, wants to provide a brief end of the year update on the Community Supports Services which since February is a program designed to specifically focus on the individuals and their interests. 

In our Community Supports, we currently have 20 individuals enrolled receiving over 700 hours of service per month. Living in a range of residential settings in the community, the individuals have the opportunity to experience life with a dedicated staff member in a 1:1 structure. The programs have a strong volunteer component that provide the opportunity to stay active in one’s community and engage in recreational activities. The ability to provide staff dedicated to this service model, allows the individual to better focus on developing and working on goals to increase their independence. Looking to the future, SARAH Inc. will continue to grow the Community Supports program, understanding the value and need for enriching community based programs.

Employment Services

What a year it has been for SARAH Employment Services!

Individual Supported Employment (ISE) has been incredibly successful. Our Employment Specialists have been very busy assisting individuals with getting employed in the community. The following businesses have hired SARAH Supported Workers just this year alone; Advanced Auto Parts, Bobs Surplus, Honeywell Firelight Systems, AMAZON Fulfillment Center, Subway and Aleia’s Gluten Free Bakery. We’d like to give a shout out to these businesses for seeing the value in our workforce!

SARAH Transitional Services, a program which helps individuals develop job skills and prepare for competitive employment, now has 38 individuals in the Program who are supported by seven Transitional Coaches. Each month we welcome new assessment sites to the program in an effort to provide as much vocational training and experience as possible. Most recently we welcomed Wallingford Food Bank and the new Branford Recreational Center. Six individuals graduated from the Program and are now working and earning a paycheck! In addition to the individuals who are now employed, we had three individuals ask to join the Transitional Services from other SARAH Inc. programs. These individuals wanted to add a vocational component to their daily program. SARAH also invested in a new Transitional Curriculum for Transitional Services. Life Centered Education or LCE has been a welcome addition to their day. The interactive, computer based curriculum offer hands on experience for them and provides the Transition Coaches with essential lessons to review with their group.

Lastly, it has been made increasingly clear that other areas of the state would benefit greatly from SARAH Programs. As a result, we are expanding certain services into the Norwich area as well as Milford and Cheshire. We are very excited to be able to bring the great programming provided by SARAH Employment Services to these and their surrounding towns.

KIDSTEPS

KIDSTEPS has gone paperless!

Starting in June SARAH Inc. KIDSTEPS signed a contract with a company called CentralReach and began the journey of transitioning to a paperless system. Opting for a paperless system offered a myriad of positive outcomes including:

  • Allowing families to have access to their child’s record in real time while providing a secure environment to store their records
  • Giving all therapists access to seeing case file information for the children on their caseload
  • Allowing for timely and accurate data to be entered for the CT Birth to Three system
  • Streamlining the number of people that need to handle the documents and therefore reduce errors
  • Lastly, saving the environment and generating a cost savings by reducing our paper and printing outputs as well as the number of manpower hours previously needed to file the paperwork once it was printed

The process started slowly as there was a great deal of groundwork that needed to be done before the final switch occurred. We started building the online forms needed to move forward and transferring the existing data into CentralReach. The KIDSTEPS staff attended online trainings in September to learn about basic functions and promptly started entering their visit notes into the system. Next we added in all other documentation. While we didn’t expect everything to be perfect during this transition, it went smoothly and there was no dip in quality to the exceptional services we offer to the families in our program.

KIDSTEPS employees have been phenomenal about riding the wave of this change. Switching platforms is challenging and it required learning a whole new layer of skills and knowledge which previously wasn’t required. It also required KIDSTEPS to create, revise, and implement an enormous number of procedures to make all the pieces work together to form the coordinated machine that is KIDSTEPS! The next phase is in development at the moment. It will include a plan to support the Independent Contractors as they join staff in going paperless. KIDSTEPS hopes to implement this next phase in early 2020.

A Message From SARAH Inc.'s Board of Directors

We are excited to announce that Linda Vigorito received the Board Member of the Year award at the Shoreline Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Non-profit Conference! Linda has been a critical member in our SARAH Inc. team for years. She became involved with SARAH Inc. as she advocated for her son Matt, first while he was a student and later on as an adult receiving day and residential services from SARAH. In this time she became a Director on the SARAH Inc. Board and progressed to President of the Board. 

Upon her ‘retirement’ after 12 years of service she received a call from the SARAH Foundation asking if she was interested in taking over the helm as President of their Board. She eagerly agreed and served 6 more years at the SARAH Foundation. After working in the non-profit field for over 18 years, Linda stepped back from her volunteer duties to pursue other interests. However, in May 2014, she was once again called on to join the SARAH Inc. Board of Directors which she continues to do to this day, currently in the role of Immediate Past President.

 

Linda is passionate about the role of volunteering. She feels strongly that volunteers make a difference in the community while creating friendships and building bonds strengthens our communities. We are grateful for the work Linda has contributed to SARAH over the years and we know that our organization would not be where it is today without her in a guiding role.

Have You Met Stephanie?

Do you ever wonder who writes the emails you read or the social media posts you like? At SARAH Inc. we have Stephanie! She joined SARAH Inc. last June as the Marketing and Communications Coordinator and since become an integral member of the team. Although Stephanie is new to the non-profit sector she comes with a professional background in social media management and digital marketing. 

Beyond the everyday Marketing efforts Stephanie is working towards growing SARAH Inc.’s Development efforts. One of her most recent endeavors to help this program grow is earning a Certified Grant Writer Credential through the American Grant Writers Association. This was a rigorous process which involved a 4 month online class, as well as passing a final exam which lasted 8 hours! The credential greatly increased her grant writing abilities and has opened up more resources to find and secure supplementary funds for SARAH Inc. As a non-profit having a robust Development program is an important factor in a business’s continued success. Stephanie always puts in the time needed to get the job done and we are glad to have her on the SARAH Inc. team.