One of the best parts of my role as CEO of Easter Seals Serving DC|MD|VA is visiting our centers and connecting with the children, adults, and caregivers we serve, as well as with the incredible team members who work so hard every day.
It is especially gratifying when I get to be part of celebrating the team members who have been with Easter Seals for 10 years or more. Whenever an employee reaches that milestone, I visit to present a service award, but more importantly, the entire Center community – participants and staff – comes together to celebrate the accomplishment. Each time I see something unique, whether it’s Penny, one of the older adults served in our Adult Day Services program saying, “It used to be that I hated Mondays and loved Fridays, but now because of the incredible staff at Easter Seals I hate Fridays and love Mondays,” or a classroom of two year-olds singing “Happy Birthday” because they know their teacher has done something great and that’s the celebration song they know!
This year we are celebrating 11 employees with 10 or more years of service, and I am excited to share a few of their stories so you can share my joy in the community that Easter Seals represents.
Amanda Barnes is teacher at our Child Development Center of Northern Virginia. Thanks to our partnership with the Virginia State Department of Labor’s “Project Pathfinders” initiative, she has been able to advance her career while working to enrich the lives of the children she instructs:
“I have worked at Easter Seals for 16 years and wanted to continue to advance in my career. Renee, the Assistant Director at my Center, helped me learn about a program that would enable me to earn my degree, which will make me eligible for a promotion! Thanks to Easter Seals, I am able to enrich my education and further my career in this field that I love, while learning the newest best practices to use with the families we serve.”
Jill Chimka directs our Early Intervention Services. She will be soon be celebrating her 15-year anniversary as an Easter Seals employee, but has a relationship with the organization dating back to her time as a summer camp counselor with the Easter Seals affiliate in Colorado.
Jill lives in the neighborhood where our D.C. Child Development Center is located, and often runs into parents of the children we serve after they graduate. I love hearing her retell the story of a young girl born with cerebral palsy. When the girl was born, her Mother quit her job to care for her, and when she found Easter Seals she was ready to re-enter the workforce. She decided to enroll in a training program to become a teacher, and later ended up teaching Jill’s daughter:
“Easter Seals feels like a second home to me. I’ve had two children of my own attend our inclusive center in D.C. They were well cared for and had the opportunity to make friends of all ability levels. I love our mission and being there for families in their time of need. I’m proud of our early-intervention team and the great accomplishments our children are able to achieve as a result of their hard work.”
Christie Cooper works as a health technician at our Hagerstown Adult Day Services location. She has been with us for 11 years and has watched Easter Seals grow:
“One of the biggest changes during that time is the number of clients we serve each day. When I first started there were only about 20 clients a day. Now we have double that number.”
She also appreciates how an organization that is “person-centered” and works to accommodate the special needs of clients and their families applies that same philosophy to its employees:
“There has not been a time when Easter Seals has not been family-oriented and understanding when ‘life’ happens. Having young children, this is very important to me and I am grateful for that understanding and flexibility available from Easter Seals.”
Brooke Kaiser leads Respite Services from our Silver Spring headquarters and has also been with us for 11 years. Although she always had a passion for serving children, and volunteered with various organizations, she had made her living in public relations. But when she saw an open position with Easter Seals, she knew it was the right opportunity to combine her passions with a career. Like Christie, she has also witnessed the growth at Easter Seals, not just in how many we serve, but also in who we serve:
“I’m proud that we now offer so many great services to military and veteran families. And it’s been wonderful to see how the respite program has grown since its beginning. As a military spouse, I truly understand the importance of supporting our military and veterans and not just the service member, but the ‘whole family unit.’ I love that we allow individuals to feel independent while we are helping them.”
Our Easter Seals team demonstrates an amazing commitment to respect – both in how we as an organization interact with our team members and in how our team members interact with our participants and their caregivers. It is truly something wonderful to experience.