Community Connections: Crafting Comfort with SquashCares

 

On Saturday, April 21, 2018 Sydney Soloway, now a graduating senior at Dana Hall School in Wellesley, MA, organized and hosted the 4th annual SquashCares event. As a 14-year-old, Sydney was an avid squash player who also wanted to contribute to her community. Sydney began to recycle used equipment for those less fortunate but realized that the small rubber balls could not be reused. After some research, she discovered that she could sew the balls into fabric to create a weighted blanket. She gave the first blanket to her Autistic cousin who found it to be comforting and calming and this was how SquashCares was born. Soon after, Syndey approached CHS to become a recipient of some blankets and the relationship continued.

Each Spring, Sydney organizes a large sewing event at Dana Hall and volunteers come to assemble and sew the blankets, which are then donated to many non-profit organizations in New England. Gale Alles, CHS Operations Manager, participated and spoke to the volunteers about individuals supported by CHS who use the blankets with positive outcomes and thanked them for their participation. Sydney will graduate in June and continue her studies at Hamilton College in the fall. The non-profit she founded will continue on with the help of college groups, squash leagues and other supporters.

To learn more about SquashCares visit https://squashcares.org/.

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY- Farming and Gardening

Do you enjoy the outdoors? Do you appreciate gardening and harvesting vegetables? Then we have the perfect volunteer opportunity for you. The Cooperative for Human Services is looking for volunteers to help us maintain our farm and organic garden. In return, you will be able to enjoy some seasonal vegetables, flowers and fresh eggs. Flexible hours! Contact Christine at 781-538-4626.

CHS Celebrates Earth Day!

Keeping our Earth healthy is a top priority for the Cooperative for Human Services Inc. as it is the home of our wonderful individuals and employees. In order to best support our CHS family, we have started the annual planting in our organic garden. The garden provides us with an opportunity to share wholesome and pesticide free-fruits and vegetables. Our individuals enjoy a unique opportunity when they visit our garden and see where their food comes from. The garden is truly an extension of their back yard, and they often put in a helping hand for the harvest. The CHS garden is just one of the ways in which we work to keep our Earth happy and healthy.

A Look Back on a Successful Opening Season at The Co-Op Cafe

CHS Launches The Co-Op Café

The Co-Op Café is a CHS program that offers activities, entertainment, speakers, cultural celebrations, food tastings and other events, on a daily basis at our Dartmouth Street Center in Malden. The cafe is open Monday through Friday during scheduled daytime hours and also operates Wednesday evenings.

The Co-Op Café was an idea born in the fall of 2017 to address the needs of individuals who were seeking more opportunities for adult learning and socialization. During the warmer months, individuals spend time in nature and participate in outdoor activities and events at the CHS-Jackson Farm in North Reading.  However, as Fall approached and the weather turned cooler, activities at the farm began to slow down, but the eagerness to engage and participate with others did not. A coffee house or “café-style” atmosphere seemed be the perfect environment to host a variety of experiences during every season and with input and approval from the individuals served, the concept was born.

A Look Back on a Successful Opening Season

Over the past few weeks, we heralded in the much-anticipated start of Spring by announcing a new line up of events at the Co-Op Café.  But before the last of the snow melts away, we would like to take a moment to reflect back on what has been a tremendously successful first season at the café.   

The company celebrated the Grand Opening of the Co-Op Café on January 10th with over 50 people in attendance! Then, on January 15th, the café held a week-long series of celebratory events based on, “I Have a Dream”, to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and his work in human rights activism. During the following two weeks, the café’s calendar was filled with offerings such as meditation and mindfulness classes, a participatory African drum circle, cooking workshops and live music. In the first month alone, more than 200 participants from the agency’s residential programs and Individual Supports Services program experienced the cafe. As a result, new friendships developed and old acquaintances were renewed.

In February and March, some of the most popular activities from January were included in the schedule and new events were introduced including  National Frozen Yogurt Day, karaoke night, and a live performance from a improv comedy troupe from Boston.

After each session, attendees are encouraged to provide feedback on the program presented and are also asked to recommend future topics of interest. This information is collected and forms the basis for forward planning to ensure that the wishes and desires of the individuals are met.

Springing into a New Season at the Café

Part of our goal at Cooperative For Human Services Inc. is to support individuals with a safe and nurturing environment where they can continue to grow, learn skills and increase their independence. The Co-Op Café experience can be a stepping stone for many individuals as they continue to pursue full integration into their respective communities.

The first season of the café far surpassed what was anticipated and clearly identified a need for more opportunities. We recognize the staff, volunteers and guest presenters who have come together to help make our opening season at the café such a success.

No matter if it’s the tenth time or first time visiting the café, we are certain individuals will have a great time!

Chapter 1: Community Engagement Through Local Libraries

At Cooperative For Human Services Inc., we are continually seeking opportunities to support individuals to engage in their communities in new ways. The Greater Boston area is rich in local resources that are low cost or free to residents and one such resource is the local town library. Despite the spread of electronic reading materials, today’s libraries not only focus on literacy but have evolved into gathering places for its membership. Libraries are inclusive, safe and accepting environments where individuals are free to explore hobbies and topics of interest.

Most of the individuals we support have library cards, visit their local libraries regularly and participate in events offered there. We also found that many people enjoy listening to someone read aloud to them as it can be soothing and comforting. Since not all libraries offer readings, CHS approached several large libraries to collaborate on development of reading groups for our residential programs in Lexington, North Reading, Reading and Melrose.

Individuals were provided with a personalized tour of their facility and all that their library has to offer: Ebooks, music, movies, art exhibits and cultural events. Each participant was gifted a copy of Chicken Soup For the Soul and a personal journal to document the books they read. Individuals were excited and interested to get started. They come together monthly to decide on book topics, listen to readings and participate in the book discussion at the end of each meeting.

Reading, listening and learning at the library helps individuals feel included in their community and also brings the joy of books into their world.

Shared Living Opportunity in Melrose, MA

Are you compassionate, caring, and dedicated? Do you seek a deeper connection with people?

Consider opening your heart to mentor a talented and smart young man with special needs living independently from his supportive family. We offer a beautiful, 2-bedroom, furnished family home in Melrose included as part of the compensation. This is a great opportunity for working professionals, single adults, couples, families, emptynesters, stay-at-home parents – YOU!  Expand your household income with a monthly stipend for rent, food, recreation and caregiving. Candidates must demonstrate their knowledge of good nutrition, healthy food choices and preparations.

Join the Cooperative for Human Services, Inc who has supported adults with disabilities for nearly 40 years and has consistently achieved the Commonwealth’s highest quality scores. Visit www.cooperativeforhs.org to learn more about us.

Minimum Qualifications

  • High school diploma (or equivalent)
  • Personal commitment of a minimum of 1 year if hired
  • 2 years of successful and related experience (caring for family members, raising a family, human service or health care support services)
  • Driver’s license & vehicle
  • Demonstrated knowledge of nutrition and healthy living

Interested and qualified candidates, please send cover letter expressing why you’d be the best candidate for this unique opportunity, along with a current resume, to: cmarshall-bradley@cooperativeforhs.org.

Put your Phone on Airplane Mode – And Other Tips for Daily Mindfulness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Direct Support Staff are excellent caregivers for the people we serve. They know each individuals’ story and what makes them happy in their lives. As a caregiver, our staff experience both joy and challenges. To support their work, we encourage our staff to be present in the moment and to practice mindfulness. 

Here are some tips offered by Julie Jackman, RN and CHS Healthcare Coordinator, that you can follow daily if you are providing direct care for someone you love.

No matter where your day takes you, you can always make time to practice mindfulness. 

Put your phone on airplane mode

Don’t wait for your next trip to take advantage of your phone’s “airplane mode feature”. If you find yourself engaged in an activity that needs your full attention, you can switch your phone into airplane mode for a while so that you aren’t distracted by incoming calls or text messages. This will allow you to focus more fully on the time you spend with family, friends, and loved ones. If you get into the habit of turning your attention away from your phone you will find it becomes easier to focus on the present moment.

Get more sleep

It is difficult to be fully present when you are feeling exhausted. Practice healthy sleeping habits to ensure you are rested enough to get through each day. Aim for 8 hours of sleep each night and try to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day to help your body adapt to a consistent sleep schedule. The more rest you get at night, the more rested and present you will feel during the day. 

Connect with nature

Another way you can work mindfulness into each day is by paying closer attention to the sights and sounds you encounter in nature. Take time to notice the way the sun warms your face through the window even on a cool winter day. Any opportunity you have to be outside, try to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature without distraction. Remember to take a few extra deep breaths of fresh air when you are walking outside. 

Meditate

Meditation does not have to be practiced for long amounts of time to be effective. Try spending just a minute or two each morning to focus on how your body feels, breathe deeply, and stretch any muscles that feel especially tight. You can also try this exercise before bed, paying close attention to any extra mental or physical stressors that may have come up during your day. 

Eat slowly and mindfully

One of the best ways to work mindfulness into your day is by practicing mindful eating. So often we find ourselves hurrying from one place to the next without paying enough attention to the way our body tries to communicate with us. Each day you can make an effort to listen more closely to the signals your body sends when you are hungry or thirsty. This type of mindfulness will help you to better understand when you are hungry, how hungry you are, and what type of nutrients your body is craving. If you find that you do not remember to drink water until you are already very thirsty, try setting occasional reminders on your phone so that you can get in the habit of checking in with your body regularly.  

Food Pantry Launched to Supply Free, Healthy Options to Individuals Served

Cooperative for Human Services Inc. launched a food pantry program in partnership with the Food Donation Connection, a national organization headquartered in Nashville, TN that links service providers and other non-profit agencies to the food service industry in order to aid local hunger relief and reduce food waste. The Food Donation Connection introduced CHS to Whole Foods Market, Bedford, MA and Seasons 52, an upscale restaurant in nearby Burlington, MA and encouraged the companies to work together to develop a plan of food redistribution.  

People with developmental disabilities tend to live at a relatively low US income level and through this partnership, the Cooperative For Human Services Inc is able to provide the individuals it supports with free food that is high in nutritional value.  Meals received from the restaurant are pre-cooked which ensures that individuals with poor cooking skills are afforded a hot meal of the quality served in the finest dining venues.

Every Tuesday morning, CHS employees and individuals who volunteer, arrive at the restaurant to pick up excess frozen meals from the previous days menus.  Each week’s offerings are different, ranging from roasted chicken to butternut squash soup. One individual who discovered a personal passion for cooking, volunteers for the pick ups from Seasons 52 in order to meet the restaurant chefs and get a behind-the-scenes look at the daily operation of a professional kitchen. This helped to inspire his passion and he now visits other CHS homes to prepare special dinner dishes. He is fulfilling his dream of cooking for others and showcasing his talents at the same time.

In addition to food distribution, the program helps the individuals served connect with their community by building relationships with employees at these local companies.  The experience of volunteerism and knowing that they are giving back to others has a positive impact on participants.

Each Monday and Wednesday, staff and individual volunteers arrive at Whole Foods market with a truck to pick up fresh produce and dairy products, breads, frozen meats, condiments and a wide assortment of natural and healthy foods. Some of the volunteers choose to participate so that they can acquire job skills such as organizing, following directions, and customer service that they can build upon when seeking future employment opportunities.

The food is transported to the company’s Dartmouth center in Malden where it is sorted and prepared for distribution. Individuals living in their own homes in the community and supported through CHS’s Individual Support Services are primary recipients of the pantry’s free food.  One Individual Support Services manager visits the pantry and fills his car with food and delivers it to the people he supports who are often times in between jobs, unable to cook for themselves or at times, homeless. Pre-made sandwiches, salads, and other items are a tremendous help both financially and nutritionally to those he supports.

Next, deliveries are made to the nearly forty CHS residential program homes throughout Greater Boston. The goal is to have all of the food distributed and consumed, but if there is ever a surplus, the company donates the food to other local organizations who are also feeding those in need locally. During the summer months, harvested vegetables from the company’s organic farm in North Reading and the urban garden plot in Malden are also included in the food pantry program. With each new experience, the individuals practice social and communication skills, learn new ways to connect with, and give back to others and continue to connect with their communities in meaningful ways.

We are very grateful to be a part of this network of companies that have come together to help bring nutritious and wholesome foods to those who need it most. To our partners at Food Donation Connection, Whole Foods Market, and Seasons 52 Restaurant, to our hardworking staff, and to our wonderful individual volunteers –thank you for all you do to improve the quality of life for so many.

If you are interested in learning more about the Food Donation Connection visit http://www.foodtodonate.com/Default.aspx.

Building Community through Cultural Exploration!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cooperative for Human Services Inc. offers a monthly Cultural Connections outing for individuals involved in any of our Residential, Day or Individual Supports programs. At CHS we are constantly seeking new ways for our individuals to explore, interact and grow as members of the community.

The Department of Transitional Assistance and the Mass Cultural Council have collaborated to create The EBT Card to Culture Program which offers any EBT cardholders reduced or free admissions to many of Massachusetts’ finest museums and cultural institutions.

The program is a great opportunity for many of our individuals, because often times tickets to these types of organizations can get expensive. Individuals can now access over 125 museums and other educational cultural centers.

Each month, the CHS Cultural Connections Program organizes and promotes day trips to one of the many different cultural institutions. Last fall, we attended the Peabody Essex Museum for some local history. In December, the Museum of Science in Boston took us on a journey of science and technology exploration through dynamic programs, stage presentations and hundreds of interactive exhibits.

Our individuals are very interested in learning about the world in which they live, as well as simply enjoying the culture-rich city that we are a part of. Stay tuned for updates on our road trips, as we continue to explore the many cultural treasures this year!