Our Community Supports/Habilitation program provides one-on-one support to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to get them out into the community to enjoy a full range of activities, engage in volunteer service, perform a range of daily living activities, and pursue social and recreation opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic challenges the nature of the program, but our direct support professionals continue to provide life-changing and meaningful support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
We suspended face-to-face services from March 17 through July 6, and offered services virtually wherever possible to meet consumer needs for support, socialization and engagement. During that period, the program was operating at 11% of pre-pandemic capacity. In July, we resumed in-person services, but it was a slow start (25% of pre-pandemic capacity) as consumers and their families had to become comfortable with going back out into the community. Service increased to 47% pre-pandemic capacity in August, and is now operating at 100% capacity, accepting new referrals and hiring additional direct support professionals to serve new consumers.
Our direct support professionals are trained to make sure that everyone in the program learns and practices pandemic safety protocols. Easterseals is strictly following guidelines issued by the CDC and Pennsylvania’s Office of Development Programs (ODP) to ensure that consumers and staff are safely engaging with community resources.
Participants in the program engage in a variety of activities with their direct support professionals, including performing the functions of daily living (shopping for groceries, attending doctor appointments, cooking and cleaning) to volunteering and pursuing social and recreation opportunities. As volunteers, they provide a critical community service for nonprofits in need of reliable, hardworking volunteers to keep their organizations operating. Volunteer sites include Meals on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Forgotten Felines and Fidos, Salvation Army, Boyertown Library and others. Social and recreational activities are as varied as the interests of those we serve and include everything from hiking, taking a cooking lesson, enrolling in a class at the community college and doing yoga.
Only at Easterseals!
We offer an Activity & Enrichment Fund to augment our community supports program so that financial barriers do not prohibit consumers from achieving their aspirations or goals, or limit their access to community inclusion and exploration. The only requirement is that participants use the fund for activities that support their established Individualized Support Plan, which includes written details of the supports, activities and resources important for achieving and maintaining personal outcomes.
The Activity & Enrichment Fund at Easterseals has provided support to almost every individual utilizing our Community Supports services and many have accessed the fund multiple times. There have been activities funded across a wide-spectrum of needs, including things like cooking lessons, art classes, yoga classes, music lessons, gym memberships, museum admissions, theater tickets and admissions to community events. We have also used the fund for group activities to facilitate relationship building and socializing as the individuals in the program are often isolated from their peers.
At Easterseals, we want activities to be thoughtfully planned, structured and designed to enhance the individual’s life, support the pursuit of personal goals and develop independent living skills. The activity and enrichment fund makes this possible and ensures that the young adults in the program have equal access to a broad spectrum of opportunities to live, learn, work and play in the community.
The Activity & Enrichment Fund was established in 2016 with a grant from The Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler Foundation. Grants in subsequent years from the foundation have ensured its growth and continuity.