From the CEO: We Will Overcome This Together


Last week, we regretfully announced layoffs of 140 valued members of the LifeLinks CLASS day program and employment services teams. It was a truly sad week for so many people, especially those staff members whose jobs were impacted through no fault of their own. But we will get through this.

When news like this drops, it’s natural that people may draw their own conclusions. LifeLinks CLASS is not closing. CEO Jean Phelps addresses this decision directly with all of you in her latest video, explaining “why we did what we did, and what our plans are going forward.” Additionally, we are enclosing the messages that were sent to both staff and families over the past week announcing the layoffs.

To our LifeLinks CLASS family, we will continue to lead in providing critical supports to the nearly 1,000 individuals and families who we serve. The Family Support Center will continue to provide engaging virtual programming, individualized support, and personalized counsel. Our residential programs will continue to support people living independently, in one of our 16 group homes, or with shared living providers. Our AFC program will continue to assist caregivers across the community during their time of need. Our clinical teams will continue providing their invaluable services to every person we serve. Our Strive2Thrive and Healthy Balance programs will continue to engage young people in the community in our work. And if we get guidance and funding in place, we are confident that facility-based, community, and employment programs will thrive again on the other side of the pandemic.

Message to Staff on June 17:


To my LifeLinks CLASS family,


I’ve pledged never to lose focus on communicating with all of you on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our agency. Sometimes that pledge is easier to keep than others, and today I’m overwhelmed with emotion as I write to you all with extremely sad news.


Tomorrow, we are mailing layoff notices to 140 of our colleagues – all of whom work in day hab, CBDS, TREE, and employment services. (If you do not work in these departments, you are not affected.) The layoffs will take effect on July 3 and will impact both hourly workers and managers. For an agency whose mission is centered on inclusion, this development has been painstakingly difficult. Even more frustrating is the fact that due to the pandemic, I’m delivering this news to all of you from a distance – and not speaking to you directly.


First, let me assure you that this decision was not made in haste; it was a last resort. We highly value and respect every member of the LifeLinks CLASS team. But the fact is our agency is confronting three hard realities that we have little control over:


  • Reduced funding of day programs that was in place through June 30 has now ceased.
  • It’s been nearly 14 weeks since we made the announcement suspending facility-based day programs due to the pandemic.
  • We’re not sure when – or even if – we’ll be able to operate at 100% capacity again.


Over these past few months, we’ve overcome so much by working together. You’ve all been laser-focused on the people we support. You’ve adopted new policies and procedures that keep all of us and the people we serve safe in a time of uncertainty. And most importantly, you’ve stayed positive throughout this entire ordeal. I’m so grateful for that, and it’s something I never take for granted.


To those team members who are leaving LifeLinks CLASS, I am truly sorry. This is not your fault. Let me say that again – this is NOT your fault. The people you serve and their families truly value the care and supports you provided on a daily basis. Your impact will live on, as you embody what it means to be a LifeLinks CLASS care champion. I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for everything you do. I pledge to you that we will do everything in our power to recall you as soon as we are able to resume our day and employment programs.


Human resources will be in touch individually with each of you whose jobs were impacted to help with the difficult and painful transition. We informed the SEIU earlier today and will work together to follow all the policies and procedures outlined in the CBA.


To those team members who are staying with LifeLinks CLASS, let’s live up to the example set by those who are leaving us. Let’s honor their contributions to LifeLinks CLASS. And let’s never forget our mission as an agency, that every individual has a right to live a fulfilling and happy life.


I know this news is difficult, and I want to give everyone a few days to process it. I’ll be convening a virtual town hall meeting next week so we can come together virtually as a community and begin the healing process. I’ll release more details on that in the coming days.


I promise you, better days are ahead. We will persevere. And we will always be there for the people we serve. The world is a better place because of it.


Message to Families on June 23:


Dear LifeLinks CLASS Families:


Last week, I shared the extremely sad news with the LifeLinks CLASS team that 140 of our colleagues – all of whom work in day hab, CBDS, TREE, and employment services – were receiving layoff notices effective July 3. The staff who are leaving us did nothing wrong, and truly embody what it means to be a LifeLinks CLASS care champion.


When I last wrote you it was with the news that we were suspending our facility-based day programs indefinitely, The reality is that without clear re-opening guidance from the Department of Developmental Services there is no way to commit to a re-opening date. Unfortunately, even after Governor Baker’s announcement of the phased re-opening plan, our agency is confronting three hard realities that we have little control over:


  • The already reduced funding of day programs that was in place through June 30 has now ceased.
  • It’s been 14 weeks since we made the announcement suspending facility-based day programs due to the pandemic.
  • We’re not sure when – or even if – we’ll be able to operate at 100% capacity again.


Over these past few months, we’ve overcome so much by working together. No matter the circumstance, we’ve kept our focus on providing the critical services and supports to your loved ones. We will get through this. Together.


That being said, we’re losing critical funding that we need to maintain our current level of day services. While we’re hoping to recall all of the day services staff once we’re able to re-open, members of the team who you count on have been impacted by the layoffs. For some of you, that will mean changes after July 3:


  • You may have a new main contact assigned to you.
  • You may see a decrease in remote and in-person check-ins.
  • You may see a reduction in some of the day program-related services and support we’re able to provide.


Over the next week, we’ll be in touch with each of you who will be directly impacted. While this is difficult, we’re all in this together. While we have to adapt to a new economic reality, we will never waiver on our commitment to providing the services and supports that your loved ones deserve. Our incredible team has pivoted over these past few months to ramp up our virtual and remote services and programs, and you’ve been a huge part of this incredible transition.


I want to thank you all. These past few months have been challenging for all of us – especially for your loved ones who are part of our family. We’ve been forced to suspend programs, restrict group home visitation, and implement new COVID-19 policies. Through it all, you’ve been thoughtful, understanding, and incredibly supportive. The stories you’ve shared with me about the dedication of our care champions have warmed my heart in ways I cannot possibly express.


I know this news is difficult to hear. I truly wish I could be more certain about the state’s plan and what it means for us going forward, but I promise I will update all of you as soon as we have clarity.


In the meantime, be well and stay safe.


Our agency is in regular contact with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services and industry organizations and will keep you updated and informed as we learn more. We’re anxious to see all of you in person again once it’s safe to do so.

From the CEO: My Pledge to My LifeLinks CLASS Family

Today I want to take the opportunity to share with you the note that I sent to the LifeLinks CLASS team on Monday…

Dear LifeLinks CLASS family:

I’m not even sure where to begin in my message to you. Like many of you, I was disgusted and horrified by the senseless killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. I watched on my tv as scenes played out across Boston and throughout the nation over the past few nights that devolved into something that was heart-wrenching and anxiety-provoking. A desperate unhappiness for the country permeates my heart and thoughts.

I realize that today we’re all hurting deeply. We are outraged and heartbroken. As a community, we can stand together. We can help each other. We can respect one another. And, most importantly, we can condemn hate and discrimination in all forms.

There are some immutable realities that we experience every day here at LifeLinks CLASS that – for me – help to equalize my emotions and ground me. First, we are one organization focused on one mission of ensuring the best life possible for each of the individuals we support to be happy and safe. Second, there are many races, religions, and cultures represented in our workforce and the people and families who we support; we are all unique and we actively respect those differences. Third, all are welcomed, and all are supported.

Think about that last statement. Inclusion is a core value of our organization. And it’s not just something I put in the annual report; it means that we collectively aspire to give those individuals we support the opportunity to achieve their full potential in an environment free from discrimination based on race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or political ideology.

I know many of you right now feel overwhelmed, anxious, powerless, lonely, frustrated, and angry. We cannot separate the realities of the world from our work. We need to be open and honest with ourselves, and with each other, that there are systemic and ideologic divides right now in our country that are deep and wide. But remember that every day at LifeLinks CLASS we work in ways both small and wide to bridge those divides.

It’s a privilege to do what we do, and I have never been prouder of all of you or more humbled by the example of love and devotion that I have seen expressed during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. You have supported our individuals above all else, including your own families. You have stood shoulder to shoulder carrying a very heavy burden. You are demonstrating compassion to individuals who are at home, struggling to understand the restrictions of a lockdown.

At LifeLinks CLASS we have always valued the preservation of the dignity of life. I pledge to never waver in that commitment.




Jean M. Phelps, CEO

“Durkin Delivers” to LifeLinks CLASS

“Durkin Delivers” to LifeLinks CLASS

The Durkin Foundation Donates $4,000 Worth of Market Basket Gift Cards to the LifeLinks CLASS Family Support Center

LifeLinks CLASS was overwhelmed with joy to be a designated beneficiary of The Durkin Foundation’s “Durkin Delivers” campaign, receiving $4,000 in Market Basket gift cards last week that will be disseminated to families in need by the LifeLinks CLASS Family Support Center.

“The past two months have been an incredibly stressful time for all of us in the community, but the families who we support have really been hit hardest, “ says Kelly Trickett, executive director of the Family Support Center. “These $100 Market Basket gift cards couldn’t come at a better time, and I can’t think of anyone who will appreciate it more than the families we are supporting.”

The executive director of The Durkin Foundation, Matt Durkin, is a fierce advocate for the intellectually and developmentally disabled in Greater Lowell. At the onset of the “Durkin Delivers” campaign, he attended a Zoom meeting with Trickett and LifeLinks CLASS Director of Residential Services Angie Otieno to hear more about the work LifeLinks CLASS is doing this challenging time.

“Connecting with Angie and Kelly was so important to me, as I want to understand all the ways that The Durkin Foundation can help organizations like LifeLinks CLASS who are delivering critical supports to our most vulnerable population during this time of need,” said Durkin. “We’re thrilled to announce the gift to LifeLinks CLASS, and it was really a no-brainer to make them a beneficiary of the campaign.”

Durkin also touched on the impact to area small businesses as part of this fundraising campaign. “We heard over and over again from advocates that gift cards to restaurants and grocery stores will go a long way right now, and these gift cards are helping out those business owners as well.”

The LifeLinks CLASS Family Support Center works with more 300 families throughout Greater Lowell and Greater Lawrence, providing individualized services to families who have an intellectually or developmentally disabled individual living at home with them.

“Over the past two months, we’ve actually been able to increase our engagement with families in the community,” said Trickett. “We’ve pivoted to providing daily virtual supports and activities, ranging from online yoga classes and art classes to check-ins via Zoom.”


“Let’s Stay Strong and Stay Together”: From China to Chelmsford

“Let’s Stay Strong and Stay Together”: From China to Chelmsford

LifeLinks CLASS was overjoyed to receive a donation of 400 masks this week from the East Garden Church in Beijing, China, and house church in Wenzhou, China.

As we work diligently to procure highly sought after personal protective equipment (PPE), donations like these are critical to ensure the health and safety of essential direct support professionals and the individuals in the community who they support.

The donation was arranged by Bill Haddad, a member of the LifeLinks CLASS board of directors who has been actively involved in the organization.

“Every little bit counts, and when I heard that the church was looking to donate masks to worthy organizations I was pleased to connect them to LifeLinks CLASS,” says Haddad. “The team is doing tremendous work under extraordinary circumstances.”

LifeLinks CLASS also worked to procure a shipment of PPE that arrived this week, and staff in Chelmsford facilitated the distribution of supplies to other human services agencies in the state.

“It’s wonderful to see the community support each other during our time of need,” commented CEO Jean Phelps. “One of the core LifeLinks CLASS values is community, and it’s wonderful to see our staff and Board members modeling that value.”