Spring 2021 Newsletter – Here Comes the Sun
Here Comes the Sun
Dear friends and family,
The COVID pandemic has turned the world as we know it upside down. Throughout the year, Ability Beyond staff has risen to the occasion time and time again, by adapting quickly to every challenge thrown our way. Our number one priority has been, and continues to be, the safety of the people we serve, as well as that of our staff.
Ability Beyond has been a leader in making sure our residents and direct care staff had access to vaccines as early as possible, and we’re pleased to say that almost 100% of those we serve have been vaccinated. We are proud to say that all of this has resulted in keeping our number of positive cases well below the local and national averages.
As we head into the second year of the COVID pandemic, and mask mandates are being lifted for those vaccinated, we can begin to see a light at the end of this tunnel.
With the weather turning warmer, we are beginning to welcome family back to our homes to visit loved ones, and we have slowly been bringing more day program participants back as well. We expect to be operating at 80% capacity by Fall, 100% capacity by the end of 2021.
Workplace opportunities are starting to open up and we’re seeing more people in our clinics. We have been hearing very positive feedback about our incredible array of virtual programming, and plan to extend that offering to even more individuals near and far.
Thanks for sticking with us, we’re getting through this together!
President/CEO Ability Beyond
2021 Gala & Beyond – Hundreds Party with a Purpose
On Saturday, April 24th, 80 guests celebrated in person at the Amber Room in Danbury, CT, and another several hundred viewers tuned in to participate in our virtual Gala & Beyond.
The event, while slightly different than in yearâ€™s past, was a true success.Â The Robert S. Young Humanitarian Award was given, for the first time ever, to the entire Ability Beyond staff, honoring all they have done this past year, and for the dedication, support and tireless commitment to the people we serve and to the entire Ability Beyond family.
The event raised close to $400,000 and weâ€™re grateful to everyone who participated and donated.
Out of the intense discussions surrounding the death of George Floyd, was born Ability Beyond’s first employee resource group, Breathe Equality. The mission of Breathe Equality is to educate, lead, inspire, and engage people in our organization and community to combat interwoven stereotypes and promote inclusivity and respect.
Chairwoman, and 15-year veteran at Ability Beyond, Shaileen Brighton-Ortiz said â€œour plan is to educate others on the unique perspectives, and experiences that employees of color hold in the workplace. We will inspire others to follow our principles by promoting cultural awareness and reinforcing communication. Our duty is to create a safe space for employees of color, and encourage effective communication, with non-black employees in the workplace. We are committed to educating and engaging senior leadership, and all non-black employees through consistent social engagement, community events, and group discussions to make Ability Beyond Stronger.
This group currently has 52 members, and 42 non-black allies working together on various initiatives across the agency and in the community.
When the pandemic struck, Ability Beyond staff pivoted quickly, and began offering virtual services to those we serve. The program has drawn praise from participants and their families alike. One parent recently wrote, Thank you very much for all that you the team are doing to make these sessions special for everyone. Danny is having a great time and has grown from the experience. He is more independent and his ability to follow instructions has improved. Great job!
Jane Davis, President and CEO says “We are now currently engaging more than 500 participants each week with our online programs in a safe, socially distanced manner via Zoom”.
This is a wonderful opportunity not only for those we already serve in other programs, we are welcoming new people interested in joining to engage with others, make new friends, socialize and learn together right from their own computer, laptop or tablet.
Virtual services will continue, even as we welcome participants back in person. Anyone interested can join up to ten classes a week. Sessions range from 30 minutes to two hours. Programs include learning how to obtain a paying job and work on job readiness, improving life skills such as cooking and organizing, as well as fun activities such as exercise sessions, music classes and games.
The virtual programs can be paid for by various funding sources including Connecticut’s Department of Developmental Services (DDS), New York’s Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) or by private pay.
For more information on class availability and payment, call 888-832-8247 or visit abilitybeyond.org.
Career Development Spotlight – Meet Meg
Last year, 25-year-old Megan E. Ryan of Cromwell – who is on the autism spectrum – landed her very first job at FedEx Ground, in Middletown. The determined young woman takes immense pride in her job as she meticulously makes sure that packages are correctly lined up for scanning.
It’s a huge accomplishment for Megan, who was hired through Connecticut non-profit, Ability Beyond. For 50 years, Ability Beyond has helped thousands of people with disabilities find meaningful employment in their communities. Hundreds of businesses have also benefited from hiring these determined and highly trained employees.
Megan, worked with Ability Beyond’s Career Development program to determine her strengths, weaknesses, and determine what kind of position and environment would best suit her. Her counselor at Ability Beyond helped prepare Megan for an interview and stayed with her on-site at FedEx Ground for 90 days to ensure she had the tools and confidence she needed to be successful.
Ability Beyond Career Development Program Manager John Schiller said, “FedEx really worked to make sure Megan was successful. They looked past her disability and wanted it to work just as much as we did. It’s a partnership and it speaks to the magnitude of their commitment.”
Her mom, Jeanne, says, “It has improved her self-confidence and helps with her independence. She is motivated to get up in the morning, start the day and get to work. She’s proud of it, and we’re proud of her growth, too.”
In case you missed it
Ability Beyond was recently featured in the news!
Saturday, July 31, 2021 7PM
Southwest CafÃ© Margarita 5k Run, hosted by Southwest Cafe, benefiting Ability Beyond
Registration Now Open
Saturday, September 18, 2021
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Monday, September 27, 2021
Ability Beyond Golf and Tennis Tournament at Ridgewood Country Club
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Wednesday, November 10, 2021
Mental Health Breakfast
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