First, I hope this message finds you and yours safe and well. To keep you as informed as possible, I want to provide an update on what Easterseals is doing right now during the COVID-19 epidemic.
Currently, Easterseals has no individuals who have tested positive; however, two staff members have - they are, thankfully, now recovering. We have a limited number of staff who have self-quarantine and a few individuals who are also quarantined. Please know, should someone you love come into contact with a person who has potentially been exposed, we will notify them and their guardian immediately.
How we deliver our programs and services is evolving to protect the health of the individuals we support and our staff. Our programs have always been developed and customized to meet the unique needs of each individual. The COVID-19 epidemic has changed those needs, so we are now using a variety of new and existing tools to adapt our services.
Some of our programs have been temporarily suspended to comply with local stay at home and group gathering orders. However, through our telehealth program, we have adapted resources to empower our families to communicate directly with staff face-to-face online. In some cases, our staff is dropping off learning materials on people's front porches. We have also created virtual social groups that children with autism can use to work on social skills in an online group setting. Additionally, for some of the youngest people we support, we are offering online story time.
Our Community Living staff continues to provide direct support to individuals every hour of every day to ensure their daily needs are being met. We are taking extra precautions, doing everything we can to keep the people we support, families, and staff healthy and safe. We have made changes throughout our organization based on recommendations from health authorities, including narrowing access to visitors and reducing staff on the front lines toward limiting the possibility of exposure. Our teams are staying home as much as possible, training and retraining staff on universal precautions, individualizing these precautions based on the specific needs of the people we support while keeping our team updated on safety procedures remains a critical priority.
Our committed team of more than a thousand Direct Support Professionals continues to show up every day. They are supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism, during this challenging time and are doing so with professionalism and grace. They never stop; we never close.
As a result of our outstanding community and governmental partners, along with our donors, we have been able to continue to pay our staff and ensure they had healthcare insurance. While many businesses are laying off or furloughing staff, we have been, thankfully, in a position to keep our staff whole because of these partners. Our goal is to continue this moving forward.
With that, many of you have asked how you can help. The below options are a few ways you could support us during this difficult time.
1. Start a Fundraiser on Facebook:
Simply click on the following link, and you'll be on your way to raising money for services for people who count on us every day - https://tinyurl.com/ur8z8q9
2. Contact your Legislators:
Let them know how essential disability services providers are to you and your family. Click on the following link to become an advocate today - https://tinyurl.com/tw39x7e
3. Make Masks for Our Essential Health and Community Service Staff:
Do you sew or know someone who does? Due to a global shortage of n95 masks, we need help with cloth masks. You can learn more by clicking the following link - https://tinyurl.com/tmmn5oy
I want to leave you with a final thought and commitment: Easterseals is still here. We have been here for more than 100 years. We have seen good times and bad times. Know that we are here today and will be here tomorrow.
Thank you for your support of Easterseals,
Chief Executive Officer