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.
We asked, and you answered. On December 1, 2021, we set out to raise $30,000 for Incompass families in need. We are thrilled to announce that we exceeded our goal! Every dollar raised went to those who are supporting a loved one with an intellectual or developmental disability.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the dedicated support and generosity of our community. To each of you who made a gift to our campaign, signed up as a fundraiser, or spread the word to your friends and family – thank you.
Gregg Bonheur, former board member, not only continues to support the Incompass mission but has come in as this year’s “Care Champion Fundraising Champion” with a total of $10,100 raised! All we can say is – wow. Thanks to you, the New Year will shine brighter for Incompass families.
We are also incredibly grateful to The Durkin Foundation for their generous donation of $2,500! CEO Matt Durkin dropped by our main office with the gift last month, and we couldn’t let him leave without making him an honorary Care Champion.
Notable Donations – $1,000+ Gifts
Giovanni & Laura Cecere
Wallwork Curry McKenna
Gary and Terri Ryan
Mike and Lesley Sklar
Just as our services and supports have had to shift over these past couple of years, so have our end-of-year fundraising initiatives. The most special part of tackling this crowdfunding campaign this year was watching the community immerse themselves in the experience. We look forward to building on this idea in the years to come, and we hope you’ll continue to join us for the ride. Thank you!! 💙💜
There is a certain unspoken bond between siblings – a fierce loyalty and love that knows no bounds. When their mother passed, it was only natural that Jack would assume care of his older brother, Jimmy.
Jimmy faced two immediate hurdles when he was diagnosed with autism at a young age. The stigma of living with an intellectual or developmental disability, as well as severely lacking supports and programs. As his guardian, Jack works with Jimmy to make sure he is living the fullest life possible both at home and in the community.
It is no secret that the pandemic has been incredibly disruptive for day-to-day life, but even more so for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who depend on consistency and routine. Jack noted that the level of care Jimmy has received over the years is incomparable, especially since the onset of the pandemic and initial suspension of our in-person supports.
He mentioned that Jayne Rachier, program manager at Incompass, has gone above and beyond. “Jimmy hasn’t returned to day programs since last March because we’re worried about his health, but Jayne calls every week to check on him.”
After nearly 30 years attending our day programs, it goes without saying that Jimmy has left his mark on staff and peers alike. Prior to the pandemic, you would find him co-leading the morning exercise routine and reviewing the Morning Meeting Board to get familiar with the day’s schedule. There is one activity, however, that Jimmy finds the most solace in. Music.
Music isn’t only a source of comfort but also serves as a tool to build his communication skills. Jimmy has been nonverbal for the majority of his life but gets creative in the ways he expresses himself. If there was ever a special occasion, such as a multicultural celebration or Urban Youth activity, Jimmy would open with the National Anthem. Baseball bingo activities were commemorated with his rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”.
Health and safety concerns may have halted these experiences, but it certainly hasn’t slowed Jimmy down one bit. He faithfully wakes up his brother each morning to lead his exercise routine at home. We all plan on taking a page out of his book – teamwork makes the dreamwork. Looking forward to having you in the Incompass halls again soon, Jimmy!
Every parent envisions a certain future for their child – a future filled with happiness, an opportunity for growth, and love. What would you do if you were faced with a diagnosis that would threaten that future?
Nearly 24 years ago, doctors diagnosed Fred with severe autism. Denise Boian, his mother, suspected this when he wasn’t meeting certain developmental milestones, but the news was devastating.
Still, her hopes for Fred have remained steadfast. When asked what she wants most for her son as he gets older, Denise said simply, “Happiness. I just want him to be happy.”
Now at 26 years old, Fred is living a full life at home with his family – an intentional decision that a lot of work has gone into. To make staying at home a possibility, Denise and her husband, Jeff, have prioritized the development of Fred’s communication and behavioral skills.
Being nonverbal means that Fred has had to find other ways to communicate his needs. He’s been fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) since he was a child, which has become one of the most popular language classes across the US. Still, ASL is not enough to bridge the communication gap when Fred is in more community-based settings. That is where augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and speech-generating devices (SGD) come in.
The developmental disability (DD) community was hit especially hard by the pandemic, and many families worried about their loved ones regressing during this time of isolation. Amazingly, it was quite the opposite for Fred. For five hours a week, he works one-on-one with a special education teacher from Chelmsford High School to refine his written skills and using his SGD. He depends almost entirely on this device to communicate, and the Boston Children’s specialist that he sees was blown away by his recent progress. During their semiannual telehealth visit, Denise was beaming with pride as Fred expressed himself.
It’s no secret that Fred has some incredible people in his corner. While a loving and supportive family plays a huge role in a person’s journey in the DD community, the other piece of the puzzle is the programs and supports they receive. The Incompass Family Support Center helps the Boian family navigate these supports through the Agency with Choice (AWC) program.
When asked about staff who impacted Fred’s journey over the years, Denise noted Linda Cox, Senior Family Support Specialist, saying “She owed a lot to her.” Fred has since been transferred to Benjamin Waithe’s caseload, an Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialist, and Denise is confident that “he will show the same enthusiasm as all Incompass staff have shown our family.”
Our family support specialists help Denise manage a stipend that allows for weekly communication and behavioral therapies, respite relief, and community-based activities with Fred’s companion, Andy. Denise had this to say about their friendship, “Andy gives Fred a chance to feel like a normal kind of person. They really are like best friends.”
She often wonders what Fred’s life would have been like without this diagnosis. Would he have followed in his family’s steps and joined the military? Would he be in a relationship? She takes solace in knowing that her son will always be cared for, as her daughter will assume care of Fred one day. With the support system he has, the sky is the limit.We’re rooting for you, Fred!
Funds raised were donated directly to Greater Lowell families in the Incompass Family Support Center who were identified as high-need this holiday season.
CHELMSFORD, MASSACHUSETTS— Incompass Human Services™ (formerly LifeLinks CLASS), a not-for-profit organization that delivers enriching supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families throughout Greater Lowell and Greater Lawrence, has raised nearly $20,000 through the “Adopt-a-Family” year-end fundraising campaign in support of families in need.
” Adopt-a-Family” was launched to provide targeted financial relief to high-need families who receive support from the Incompass Family Support Center. Hardships caused by the pandemic presented new challenges for households who are already caring for loved ones with medically complex conditions. Some family members lost their jobs, while others are simply unable to work due to schools and day programs shifting to virtual environments.
Incompass Human Services put out a call-to-action to its supporters in Greater Lowell and Greater Lawrence, and the community quickly rose to the occasion. Three of the largest contributions came from long-time supporters of the organization…
Gregg Bonheur, Senior Vice President of The Bonheur Scott Traino Group at Morgan Stanley and former member of the Incompass Human Services board of directors, donated $5,000.
Wallwork Curry McKenna, an integrated marketing firm led by Alison Costello, and Decibel Media, a media planning and buying firm founded by Tim Davies, donated a combined $3,000 after working with the agency to launch the new Incompass Human Services brand.
The Durkin Foundation, a Billerica-based charitable foundation led by Executive Director Matthew Durkin that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as U.S. veterans, and those affected by Alzheimer’s Disease, donated $2,500.
The campaign’s initial goal was surpassed last week, and all of the money raised going directly to selected families in the Incompass Family Support Center who were overjoyed with the news!
“To wrap up the year with such support from our local community partners, vendors, and from Care Champions within our agency really just leaves me speechless,” says Kelly Trickett, Director of Family and Community Services at Incompass Human Services. “The impact that this has had on our families could never truly be measured and we are beyond grateful for each and every donation that has been received.”
“We faced every obstacle you could imagine this year, and we faced it head-on as a team,” added Jean Phelps, Chief Executive Officer at Incompass Human Services. “But the fact is that we rely on the generosity of the community to provide the critical services and supports that families in our network so desperately need, and the overwhelming response to the “Adopt-a-Family” initiative truly warms my heart.”