At Easter Seals Eastern PA, it is our mission to increase independence, maximize opportunities, minimize barriers and enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities. We continually evaluate our programs through this lens and seek innovative ways to augment what we do in order to better serve the individual. Our M-Power program is designed to empower teens and young adults with disabilities to live independent and rewarding lives in their community. The program provides the support they need to develop critical life skills, participate in community life and engage in satisfying activities of their own choosing.
But what if their aspirations exceed their financial resources? For many young adults with disabilities, the cost to participate is often a barrier and prohibits them from fully participating in the life of the community or pursuing their interests. We began asking ourselves what if we could remove the financial barrier? What would that mean to the individual? What could be achieved? From those questions came the idea of creating an enrichment fund to open doors to new opportunities for participants in the M-Power program. We took the idea a step further by also using the fund as a tool for teaching consumers how to budget and manage spending to make the most out of the funds available to them. In this way, they learn essential life skills and how to make independent choices; gain confidence in their abilities; and become more engaged in financial planning.
We received a grant from the Donald B. & Dorothy L. Stabler Foundation to establish the fund and are pleased that it is indeed minimizing barriers and increasing opportunities for M-Power participants. For example, one young man is using the enrichment fund to take private cooking lessons at a local culinary center. For several years, Fred has wanted to learn how to cook, but never had the opportunity. Now he is pursuing his dream and plans to host a dinner party for his parents, the housemates in his group home and the support specialists with whom he works. “I want to cook the whole meal for them,” states Fred, “to show them how thankful I am for their help and friendship.”
Fred informed his cooking instructor of his goal, so they are working together to choose a selection of appetizers, entrees, side dishes and desserts to cover during his lessons. The instructor is also providing practical suggestions and tips on how to translate what Fred is learning into making everyday meals for himself. “I’m excited to try this at home,” he said after his first lesson.
With the support of the enrichment fund, Fred is pursuing a longtime aspiration and experiencing the joy and personal fulfillment that comes from achieving one’s goals. He is increasing his independence by learning advanced life skills that will improve his quality of life. This is just one example of the impact the fund is having on our consumers. From a simple idea we have developed an innovative solution that we hope will one day set a new industry standard to better serve consumers.
If you or someone you know is interested in learning to cook, Fred is taking lessons with 29 Cooks in Emmaus. They specialize in private culinary coaching for adults and kids, Junior Chef Culinary Camps and fun experience adult social and corporate classes.