COVID-19 Strategy Update (1/1/2021)
A Message from our CEO, Wendy Sullivan
I hope this message finds you safe and healthy as we enter the promise of 2021.
2020 was unique to any year we have experienced in our lifetime, both personally and professionally. For me, as the year continued, I found that gratitude held a transformational power amidst the chaos. During the darkest moments, this same gratitude allowed me to see past the acute hardships, the challenges, and the uncertainty. As partners in this work, you provided a countless source of this gratitude. Your generosity and commitment ensured that we weathered the difficulties brought by the COVID-19 pandemic with grace and grit.
This same gratitude extends to our team at Easterseals Midwest. I could not be more proud of how our nearly 1,800 employees continue to respond to the ongoing changes and challenges. From the onset, our staff made it clear that they were ready to support individuals with disabilities no matter what it took. Today, our team continues in this promise and rises to every challenge with character, professionalism, and passion.
Despite a year filled with unique challenges, Easterseals Midwest continues to revolutionize how we partner with the community, provide support and education to families and individuals, and move toward expanded support where there is an ongoing need.
Thank you for your partnership and for being a constant source of hope and help for me, our team, and the people we support.
I want to begin by celebrating the wildly successful 2020 Festival Gala and Auction. In case you missed it, you can watch a recording at www.watchfestivalnow.org. You will find celebrity appearances, including Andy Cohen and Jon Hamm. Festival raised $468,000. None of which would have been possible without our outstanding Board Emeritus Judy Kent and her fantastic committee of more than 70.
We cannot thank all who participated enough; this was indeed a fantastic outcome, and during a pandemic, the funds raised will help us reach many families who need us. The event was so well received, members of our development and marketing teams, along with key volunteers, have been invited to present a graduate seminar on the lessons and success learned from the event at Webster University George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology.
Again, thank you, Judy and the entire committee, for making this event possible and for its tremendous outcome; it indeed would not have been possible without each of you.
Currently, we have four individuals with disabilities and 12 employees who have tested positive for COVID-19. Sadly, recently an individual we support in St. Joseph, Missouri, passed away as a result of COVID-19. We continue to use the CDC and local health authority guidelines.
Our policies on handwashing, disinfecting surfaces, and the requirement to wear a mask while practicing social distancing continue. Daily health screenings remain in place for all employees visiting a site, including an individual's home. Employees who travel outside of
their home region must report this to Easterseals to determine if testing or quarantine is needed. We continue to monitor local, state, and federal guidelines, and we continue to operate offices and program sites at 30% occupancy, if not less.
We have roughly a five-month supply of PPE, except for gloves. We are currently experiencing a shortage of all sizes of gloves and are finding prices three to five times higher than usual. Since August, we have been trying to stock up, but we use about 25,000 pairs of
gloves a month, so supplies dwindle quickly.
As COVID-19 vaccines continue to roll out, we believe that our frontline staff and those we support in our community living program will be among the first groups to which the vaccine will be available. In the coming days, we will be launching an internal education series to
inform personal decision-making on getting the vaccine. Although we encourage everyone to do so, these educational materials are geared towards providing clear information to inform decision making. Although they are not yet available, they will be available at https://tinyurl.com/sh8wpjt for anyone to reference in the coming week.
The cost of COVID-19 has been high, both in loss of life and in unbudgeted and unexpected expenses. We have currently spent more than $3.5 million on overtime, crisis pay, PPE, and all that goes into preparing and keeping people safe during a pandemic. We have only been able to rise to this occasion because of our donors' unwavering belief in our work and your generosity. Although we will have some ground to make up this year, we are confident we can achieve anything with partners like you.
From early intervention for infants and children to programs and therapies that support success in school and the workforce to services that help individuals live with independence in our community, we are committed to the lifelong success of every individual who receives our services, all 5,000+ a year!
As always, we cannot thank you enough for all that you do for Easterseals. Your support of our organization means the world to each of us, and we are profoundly grateful.
We could not do it without you!
Happy New Year to all,
Chief Executive Officer