Earth Day is a special holiday in the Incompass Human Services community, not just because of what it represents to the planet – but it’s also the official kick-off of our gardening season!
This year, Earth Day fell on Friday, April 22 and Activities Specialist Cathy Brunelle once again put on a wonderful event! Day program participants at Incompass Human Services met outside of agency headquarters at 4 Omni Way in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, where Care Champions had setup stations with garden beds, flower pots, watering cans, and gardening tools. And this year was made even more special because a group of volunteers from the local BNI Global chapter!
“It’s been more than two years since we’ve been able to welcome members of the community to take part in an event like this, and the looks of joy on the faces of both the participants and volunteers said it all,” remarked Dan Esdale, chief marketing officer at Incompass.
Earth Day at Incompass is Really Earth Week!
As is tradition, each day hab room provided Care Champions with a list of seeds they wished to grow on Earth Day. And throughout the week, members of the Incompass community worked to prepare the garden beds and purchase soil so the group would have the tools they need to celebrate Earth Day right. Bianco’s Catering, who is also a tenant at 4 Omni Way, even got in on the fun providing individuals with the lettuce heads that were planted in the vegetable garden!
“We planted everything from onions to garlic to beans throughout the afternoon, and the weather could not have been better!,” said Brunelle.
Volunteers Had A Lot to Share About Their Experience…
For the volunteers from the BNI Power Players, it was their first time at Incompass Human Services – and their first chapter volunteer engagement since the beginning of the pandemic.
“My business is rooted in spreading joy, and spending the day with the Incompass day program participants was the definition of spreading joy,” remarked Dot Richards, vice president of the BNI Power Players and owner of Cards by Dot. “I loved being outside with the volunteers and participants!”
Ryan Hart, a financial advisor with New York Life and treasurer of the BNI Power Players remarked that he was impressed with the coordination of the event by the Care Champions, and could see the impact first-hand. “I was struck by just how genuine the Incompass team was in engaging us as volunteers, and ensuring they put on a great program for the people in their programs. And I can’t wait to see the progress of the vegetables that we planted throughout the day!”
By Alyvia Petrozza, Urban Youth Intern, UMass Amherst Class of 2022
If you asked me a year ago where I would be now, my answer would be so far off from the reality of it all. While looking for internships a year ago, the Urban Youth Internship program at Incompass Human Services had absolutely nothing to do with what I was hoping to work towards after college. However, pursuing internships, especially during pandemic times, was a difficult endeavor, and I began to think differently about this opportunity to work in human services.
I didn’t know what to expect going in…but as I finish I can say it was a truly transformational experience.
Looking back in hindsight, I would not change a single thing about my decision and my experience at Incompass. Working with the individuals in the day habilitation program brought me immense joy on a day-to-day basis. It wasn’t just about gaining experience and a consistent paycheck; it transformed into pure love and care I held for each individual and my passion to help them in any way that I could as an advocate. I learned that, even though the internship didn’t seem to focus on my intended area of work, I built up this invaluable experience and a fierce passion that is applicable to any path in life I decide to walk. Almost a year later and I still feel like a completely different individual than I was before I stepped into Incompass on that first day.
After my summer internship had finished, I didn’t feel completely disconnected from Incompass— I didn’t want to be. I remembered a time when myself and my fellow interns gathered in a conference room with the chief marking officer, the director of day services and the CEO of Incompass. At the end of our brief meeting, the head of marketing and the director of day services joked that my creative writing specialization would be a great fit for their marketing team. And although it may have started as a mere joke, it piqued my interest. It was a position that was more applicable to my area of study, while allowing me to still serve as an advocate and a voice for all the individuals I worked with in the day hab.
The first Incompass marketing intern!
I reached out to the director of day services and inquired about a potential marketing internship. Since he had worked with me before and knew that I was passionate about Incompass and its mission, he said right away that formulating a new internship within the program for me was something that he would do everything in his power to make happen.
And so, he did. I spent the entirety of my spring semester working as a part of the Incompass marketing team – creating content, posting on social media, and working in tools that are part of the marketing technology stack. I felt confident in bringing my perspective of already having worked with the individuals in the day habilitation program into this marketing role. Working under Chief Marketing Officer Dan Esdale and Marketing & Fundraising Specialist Amaris Torres, I was taught a plethora of things that I never thought I would be exposed to before I graduated – including posting this very story through WordPress on incompasshs.org!
The next chapter…
This internship was truly tailored towards me through and through; we focused on the projects that would grant me just the right amount of experience in all the things that would benefit me in future job opportunities. It is an extremely rewarding feeling to be able to add things on to your resume that will help you stand out amongst other applicants, which is something I whole-heartedly attribute to the marketing team who were nothing but helpful all along the way.
Now that it is coming to an end, I know that my time at Incompass, whether it be in the day hab or working behind the scenes with the marketing team, will always be held near and dear to my heart.
More than 100 people came together at the Black Box Theatre to advocate for the human services workforce
PEABODY, MA – On Friday, April 1, Incompass Human Services joined six other northeast Massachusetts human services agencies to host elected officials at the annual “Northeast Human Services Advocacy Breakfast” at the Black Box Theatre in Peabody, MA. Given the fact that it was April Fool’s Day, the theme of the 2022 breakfast was “It’s No Joke,” with a robust policy agenda focused on the workforce crisis in the state’s human services industry.
More than 100 people attended the breakfast that was catered by the Breaking Grounds Café, a social enterprise operated by the Northeast Arc. Speakers included Senator Joann Lovely, Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt, Centerboard program director Martina Campbell, and Northeast Arc family member Carol McGee – whose sister receives services from the Northeast Arc. The breakfast was co-sponsored by a consortium of human services providers:
Human services leaders are asking for an increase to the Chapter 257 Rate Reserve that would bring wages to $20.30/hour
Northeast Arc CEO JoAnn Simons, Bridgewell CEO Chris Tuttle, NFI Massachusetts CEO Lydia Todd, and Incompass CEO Jean Phelps also made remarks in support of the workforce.
“We’re specifically asking lawmakers to set aside funds to raise the starting wage for human service workers,” remarked Tuttle.
Incompass CEO Jean Phelps at the podium.
Phelps, who had just returned from Washington, D.C. where she attended the Disability Policy Seminar, recalled words from Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley that stuck with her that morning. “It would be great if we didn’t have to weaponize our trauma around disability to adequately support our services.”
Incompass Human Services and the six other human services agencies sponsoring the event used the venue to highlight the major policy initiative being championed by The Collaborative – an increase of $581.6 million for the Chapter 257 Rate Reserve. This increase is a necessary investment in the human services industry, as it would bring wages up to a more competitive $20.30 an hour.
“Without this increase, we’re going to continue to lose workers to Amazon and to the state, and we won’t be able to offer the services and supports that the vulnerable people we serve rely on,” Todd told the crowd.
Speakers focused on the important work that human services workers perform, and the lives they touch
A high point of the morning was the legislative panel, which was moderated by Arc of Massachusetts CEO Leo Sarkisian. The panelists included:
Senator JoAnn Lovely
Representative Jamie Belsito addresses the crowd.
Senator Bruce Tarr
Senator Brendan Crighton
Representative Paul Tucker
Representative Dan Cahill
Representative Jamie Belsito
Representative Thomas Walsh
Representative Sally Kerans
“This is about dignity. This is about respect. This is about our communities. This is about our vulnerable populations,” said Representative Belsito in her remarks advocating for more support for the critical workers in the human services field.
Picking up on that theme, Representative Tucker remarked that “they do it because they have a passion for helping people and working with some really special folks. No headlines. No accolades. Sometimes they might get a pat on the back, but that doesn’t pay the bills.”
Representative Walsh added that “we have a terrific group of legislators here who really do hear your message…and we have a tremendous respect for the work that you do.”
Last year’s breakfast was cancelled due to the pandemic, so this was a momentous morning
Attendees remarked on what an uplifting morning it was, and how much they appreciated being in-person given that last year’s breakfast was cancelled due to the pandemic. Senator Diana DiZoglio and former Senator Richard Tisei were also in attendance, as were numerous human services workers, families, and caregivers.
The legislative panel and human services leaders take a moment to strike a pose after a lively panel discussion.
Did you know that Heather has a cat named “Bear,” is a huge fan of Marvel movies, and has a one-year old daughter? Check out the full video below.
This month, Assistant Director of Day Programs Heather Melo sat down with CareCast host Dan Esdale. Heather happily shared insights in her role working at Incompass Human Services, and definitely had a little fun! She has spent virtually her entire career working in the field of human services, and had some heart-warming stories to share. During the conversation, she shares some of her favorite memories, tells us what she likes most about working in the field, and even gives us her take on the Brady vs. Belichick debate!
When asked how Heather would describe the Incompass experience, she had a wonderful answer!
“For me, I feel that all the staff are super invested in all of the individuals who come through this door. I feel that Incompass does a really great job of investing their time and really getting to know the individual; not just in the ways that we have to write their goals and all of those day-to-day things, but as a whole and I think we do a really good job with that.”
Heather also shared her favorite part of working as a Care Champion for Incompass…
“My favorite part is that I’m working with new people everyday, and I’m working with people who’ve been here for years and years. Seeing their growth over a time period is really fulfilling to see. And a lot of times when you know you’ve made a positive impact on those folks and you’re a part of that process, it’s great!”
Heather ended the conversation by saying “let’s do it again!” You can hear the CareCast on Spotify and iTunes as well…just search for Incompass Human Services!
And guess what…Incompass is hiring! Know someone you think would be a great fit? Let us know, as we’d love to talk to them. We have open positions in day programs and residential services, with both full-time and part-time roles available. Check out our open positions here.
For the first time in nearly 150 days, our day programs will be open next week when we welcome a small cohort of day hab participants to Lawrence and Chelmsford!
The last five months have been an incredible period for all of us at LifeLinks CLASS.
We’ve listened to our Care Champions.
We’ve connected with our families and caregivers.
We’ve consulted with fellow provider agencies.
We’ve followed guidance from federal and state agencies.
We’ve completed training to build our skills in infection prevention and containment
All of this insight, collaboration, and action has driven our agency’s pandemic response plan that has been rooted in proactive steps aimed at promoting the health and safety of our community. Remember, we suspended day programs, required face coverings, and offered hand-washing training prior to the release of state requirements.
So, at the risk of sounding self-serving, I don’t mind saying that I think we’re doing a heck of a job! ???
But hey, don’t just take my word for it! Our most recent round of surveillance testing conducted at nearly every group home just this week recorded zero positive tests! In fact, we haven’t recorded a single positive COVID-19 test in six weeks! ? ?
And remember – WE NEVER CLOSED! Our 16 group homes are staffed 24/7 and are home to nearly 100 individuals. Our nurses and clinical teams are providing essential medical care to individuals where they are. Our Family Support Center is actively serving more than 300 families throughout the region. Our family support and day program specialists have run more than 1,000 virtual programs since day programs were suspended.
The bottom line is that our organization is rooted in doing things for each other; this isn’t novel for us. It’s what makes us all Care Champions! While it’s easy to focus on tangible policies and procedures, I am especially proud of what we’ve accomplished in the past few months…
We’ve learned from each other.
We’ve supported each other.
We’ve stayed home and avoided crowds for each other.
We’ve donned masks for each other.
We’ve been there for each other.
This includes all of you – staff, families, caregivers, individuals, public officials, Directors, and supporters. So on Monday, remember we aren’t just resuming day hab; we’re taking another step forward as a LifeLinks CLASS team…and we’re doing it #ForEachOther.