Adults with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or other intellectual and developmental disabilities served by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) will lose services if funding and policies don’t meet the requirements of the re-opening period and thereafter. The campaign #DontCutUsOut is to ensure that our safety net continues.
Help us, help those in need by clicking on the link below. Your voice is important.
We stand in solidarity with people of all abilities, races, backgrounds and origins and support their human and civil rights. It is our mission and legacy as an organization to empower people, particularly those we serve. We honor our employees for their dedication, strong values and great hearts. We commit to looking inward, going to the root of racial issues, to listen, engage in meaningful dialog and push progress forward on inclusion, diversity and equality.
Martin Luther King, Jr. declared, “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” Our work has always been based on personal connections and quality of life. We believe change will come about through these personal relationships, through respect for each other and through the acts of uplifting people.
We wish never to forget the horrors and injustices of the past so that we may apply understanding to safeguard our futures.
We call on families, professional colleagues, stakeholders, vendors and other partners to come together and also commit, once and for all, to eradicate institutional racism. There is much work to be done but it is achievable.
As we continue to navigate through our new normal, we are hearing some great stories about our CHS Team that we think are worth sharing. We will continue to post stories as we learn about them. We honor our employees, our heroes, for their dedication, strong values and great hearts. We think you will too.
Maintenance Team: Peter Chappelle, Devin Ibanez, Tim Nihan, Leo Rosa
On a typical week, our CHS Maintenance Team includes Peter and Devin. Responsibilities range from all types of indoor and outdoor work that can include painting, moving furniture and everything in between.
All that changed in March 2020. The Maintenance Team transitioned into our Covid-19 Team doubling in size with a more critical, focused role. Led by Ed Napier, Director of Maintenance, the team brought on Tim and Leo from other areas of the agency, now tasked with prioritizing work to support and insure the safety and well-being of our Individuals and staff.
The First Initiative
The team quickly identified that our infrastructure needed to be adjusted to establish safety protocols for all interactions. A distribution process was created to insure a no-contact delivery/pick up system between the team and programs. Large plastic containers were positioned outside of each home and used for drop off of medications, groceries, PPE and homemade masks from friends and neighbors. The team learned how to grocery shop for large households, transport individuals and staff to/from appointments and safe outdoor activities. And, of course after each transport, the vehicles were sanitized in preparation for the next travelers.
Next was handling all the fix-it jobs that are typically completed by our contractors. Entering each residence now required suiting up in full PPE gear to complete repairs. The team quickly learned how to troubleshoot and fix small appliances and plumbing, landscape at the farm and houses, clean and disinfect homes and some of our office spaces.
This team epitomizes what we call Heroes. They understand the work they do is important, why it is important, and accepted the challenge and rose to the occasion. We are incredibly grateful for the dedication and selflessness this team has shown. Thank you Peter, Devin, Tim and Leo for helping us through one of the most challenging situations of our lifetime.
On October 30th, the Northeast Region of the Department of Disability Services recognized individuals and their supporters who have worked together to achieve a significant accomplishment. Three CHS teams were nominated and recognized for accomplishing goals that were particularly meaningful to the individual served. Below are their stories.
Mike & Melissa’s Story Prior to his accident, Mike was a talented carpenter and musician, a nature lover and a big fisherman – his life was quite fulfilling. That changed unexpectedly on one holiday evening, when Mike and his brother left his father’s house and were struck by a drunk driver. Mike’s injuries were substantial and life changing. He was left with severe nerve damage, and an inability to take care of himself. He recuperated at Tewksbury State Hospital for 6 years and then transitioned into the community and was welcomed into our newly constructed Acquired Brain Injury home in Tewksbury.
When Mike arrived, he was not speaking, not interested in eating, not walking and not participating in his rehabilitation. Mike was very easily agitated and frustrated. Melissa Murphy, Program Director of our new ABI home, was determined to understand Mike, connect with him and support him in the new environment he now calls home.
Melissa recognized early on that Mike’s family would need to be the historian and the voice on his behalf, sharing his likes/dislikes, preferences, hobbies, etc. Mike’s sister Pam stayed at the ABI house from 9am-9pm for several months to model for the staff how to care for her brother. Pam was incredibly close to Mike, and wanted to be the best sister she could for him. Near the end of her life, Pam asked Melissa to step in and be a sister to Mike when she couldn’t be.
Melissa has created an environment of trust, love and support for Mike and his family. Mike’s father is now 82. He has lost 4 children and his wife in just 5 years, and continues to support his son through a horrific life- threatening accident. Each week Mike’s sister provides dinner for the entire ABI house – a roast beef sandwich for Mike and pizza for everyone else – it’s the best delivery of the week!
Melissa continues to speak with family regularly. She learned early in their relationship that Mike liked music, specifically David Gray. After several unsuccessful attempts to connect with Mike, she decided she needed to try new things.
One weekday evening, she was preparing dinner for the residents and her team. She always enjoys listening to music while cooking. One of the oldies came on the radio – Neil Young’s ‘Old Man.’ Melissa was singing as she often did, and heard a voice behind her. When she turned around, she found Mike softly singing. Melissa approached Mike in the kitchen, and they sang the entire song together. She now knew that music was their connector.
Once Mike began singing, Melissa knew he was capable of more than just singing. She worked with him daily on speaking: starting with asking questions and expecting verbal responses: Burger or meatloaf for dinner? What holiday is in October – Halloween or Thanksgiving? These prompts continued to keep Mike talking, and helped to rebuild his memory.
From the beginning, when Mike would swear or become agitated, he and Melissa agreed they would have a goal of working on “kindness.” When she put her hand gently on his shoulder (when he would swear) Melissa would ask “ what are we working on?” His response was always, “kindness and I am sorry. “ He now recognizes when he is frustrated and is able to acknowledge his actions.
When Mike moved to Pine Street, Melissa applied for a fishing license so he could fish again. After several attempts, Mike now fishes frequently at Lowell Boulevard.
Mike wasn’t able to walk when he arrived at CHS. But with music in the background, and a supportive team by his side, over the course of several months, Mike learned to walk down the hallway – maxing at 50 feet at one time.
Once Mike started to achieve some of these new milestones, Mike and Melissa drove into Boston for a Neil Young concert. This may seem like an everyday occurrence for most people – but this was BIG! Not only for Mike, but for the entire support staff and family. A new chapter was opening…
The many achievements – talking, walking, gaining confidence and comfort outside of the house and in large crowds have helped Mike to overcome the obstacles that are his reality. Trusting Melissa and the team supporting him has allowed Mike to start living his life again, on his terms.
Melissa has learned many lessons from her experiences with Mike over the last several years. First and foremost, make room in your heart when caring for someone to love them as if they are your family. When you take care of someone as a “patient, room number or a job”, you have no impact on their life and they will have no impact on yours.
Charlie & Mat’s Story Mat and Charlie have been working together since February of 2018. At the time Charlie was referred to the Cooperative for Human Services, he had been dealing with the loss of his father in January of 2017 and his mother in September of 2017. He was living in his family home, which was in the process of foreclosure, he was unemployed and had accumulated significant debt. Charlie was suffering from poorly-treated, uncontrolled diabetes, untreated anxiety disorder and was not taking his medications correctly. His attending physician was refusing to see Charlie until he resumed psychiatric treatment and was placed in appropriate DDS supported housing.
To cope with anxiety, Charlie was using visit to the Emergency room as a way to assist himself. From January through May of 2018, Charlie had been to the Emergency room 37 times, none of the visits stemming from an actual medical condition. Mat first started by developing a trusting relationship with Charlie. This wasn’t easy, as Charlie did not trust readily. But Mat was persistent and followed through consistently on everything he said he would. While Mat was developing a relationship with Charlie, Mat also began to develop relationships with the other people in Charlie’s life, particularly his two cousins. Mat was able to assist them in communicating with Charlie in a way that lowered Charlie’s anxiety.
Together, Charlie and Mat worked on reducing Charlie’s debt. His cousin was able to pay off the home’s mortgage, but Charlie would still need to pay for water, house insurance and property taxes. Reducing his debt would allow him to pay these expenses, giving him the gift of remaining in the family home. Mat applied a multi-pronged approach to teaching Charlie about his budget with the use of multiple visuals. Charlie also allowed CHS to apply to be his Representative Payee for his Social Security benefits. Mat and Charlie began to utilize the local food pantry, Open Table, in Maynard which saved Charlie money and provided him with a meal and a place to volunteer.
Although it’s been difficult, Charlie has learned to manage his budget (most of the time). Charlie and Mat also found a job for Charlie. He obtained employment at a local brewery in January of 2019, where he is able to walk or ride his bike to work. They are currently working on how to use his paycheck to pay down his debts and of course, have a little fun money.
Mat and Charlie have also been working on making healthy choices when it comes to food. Charlie’s blood sugar had become more stable and he is feeling healthier. He is logging his blood sugar consistently and sharing the results with his doctor, who is quite pleased with his progress. Over the past 18 months, Charley has learned to better manage his emotions and communicate his feelings. He no longer has to utilize the ER for non-emergency situations.
The last time Charlie was in the ER was July 4th , which is a far cry from the 37 visits in four months back in first half of 2018. Charlie has learned to use his words in a way that allows him to communicate what he doesn’t like and to negotiate for things he wants. Charlie has learned that he has someone he can rely on and call when things are not going well. He knows that Mat will assist him to get through whatever life has thrown at him.
John & Ionannis’s Story Ionannis is a live-in manager at a home with 5 adult men with Autism. One of the men, John C. was seriously overweight and struggling with associated health risks.
After spending time getting to know the men and building a relationship of trust, Ionannis recognized that he needed to help John get healthier so that he could live a long, healthy life.
To guide John, Ionannis modeled healthy living choices and talked with John frequently about taking better care of himself. They agreed that for his well-being, John needed to loose at least 100 lbs. But Ionannis agreed that he himself also needed to lose some weight so they agreed to lose it together. The men started by walking the 72-acre property where they live on a daily basis: one hour each morning and one hour each evening. They created a chart to track John’s progress, and within 20 months, John hit his goal of 100 pounds lost.
There were a few barriers encountered, particularly during the last several months leading up to the goal. Keeping John motivated was challenging because his medications and Day Program can tire him, and in his spare time, he enjoys relaxation. John is very forgetful, unless it is about your dog’s name, age and birthday. Continuous reminders about the walking schedule and motivating him on hot/cold days was challenging, but manageable. And, because he was excited when he lost weight, he knew that he was getting his body healthy which is important for his life. Home weekend visits are always exciting for John. We did identify through weighing before and after the weekend visits that John didn’t make healthy choices. This was evidenced pretty regularly by a 7-10lb weight gain after the weekend.
Today, John is more confident and his attitude changes when he goes to the doctors. He likes getting acknowledged by his doctor for the good work he is doing. He expresses pride and shares his story with friends, family and other CHS staff when he sees them. Physically, John’s health has improved dramatically – he is more alert and active during the day, sleeps better, and because of the weight loss, his snoring has declined a few decibels in the house so everyone is resting better!
Because of this dramatic change, John’s meds were reduced significantly or eliminated. Blood sugar previously taken daily in house is now checked at the 3 month physical/checkup. And, with his new found confidence and stamina, John now enjoys exercising and attends the local YMCA 3x/week where he walks on the treadmill, lifts weights and swims in the pool.
Additionally, John and all of the folks at the North Reading home eat healthy meals everyday. With Ionannis being a great chef, he enjoys using the fresh herbs, veggies and eggs from our farm to create delicious and healthy meals. He has educated and modeled how healthy food and regular exercise can be easily incorporated into everyday choices and lifestyle.
Ionannis wasn’t sure which approach to take to successfully motivate John to get healthy. He decided that being a ‘parental figure’ could be effective, and we agree. Ionannis has cared for John with unconditional love, support and motivation. Their bond is strong and undeniable.
An old Greek proverb that Ionannis sited when summarizing the accomplishment with John was: ‘ Do good and throw it in the sea’ when translated means do a good deed and let nobody know about it. John is very humble, and he views this experience as part of his job. In the end, we recognize him for going above and beyond –that is why Ionannis is being nominated.
With the holiday season just around the corner, now is an opportune time to consider a few new family strategies that can help you create a more meaningful holiday for your sibling. Some individuals find that the holidays can be a time of distress, sensory overload and anxiety when their routines are changed. Here are some ideas to support your sibling to navigate family holiday events and help to make their experiences positive, memorable and meaningful
Begin by planning ahead. Share some photos of previous family holidays to help remind your sibling of what the holiday together means, the history of your family traditions and how this year’s visit will unfold. Knowing what to expect will help your sibling manage anxiety and allows time for you to address questions and concerns. Collaborate together on the length of the event. For instance, if your sibling seems anxious to know when Thanksgiving dinner will start, set an alarm on your cell phone and share it as a “special alert” between the two of you. Be aware that your sibling may feel better in the morning than in later afternoon or evening when they are tired so schedule the holiday event during their best time. Establish a location with your sibling that can become a “safe zone” where they can retreat, as needed, if they begin to feel overwhelmed. Have a favorite activity, book, or snack on hand to help them return to a state of comfort.
You may have some extended family members who do not see your sibling as often as you do or who don’t fully understand their disability. You can empower relatives with advanced information about your sibling. Send out an update on your sibling prior to the family event and include information from My Year which documents new experiences and places visited. Point out how the person has grown over the year, topics they enjoy discussing, activities to avoid and some things that may present a challenge at the celebration. This will guide everyone to a more enjoyable time together. Remember that you help to set the tone for the event, so be self-aware of your own tension or anxiety as family and friends gather.
If the time together centers around attending church, synagogue or a community arts event, you may want to plan to sit near an exit. If your sibling experiences sensory overload, the family can leave quietly without disturbing the performance. Lights, smells, sitting closely, sounds, etc. can all contribute to heightened anxiety, so be aware if your sibling needs to take a quiet break.
Gift exchanges can be a challenge, but planning ahead can help. Send family members some ideas of gifts that your sibling might enjoy receiving. Also, include those gift ideas that should be avoided. Wrap presents so that they are very easy to open to minimize possible frustration. Keep track of the gift giver so that you can help your sibling send a thank you card later.
Giving back can often times be more rewarding than receiving a gift. There are many reasons and benefits to encourage your sibling to participate in the holiday tradition of gift giving. Consider the individual’s talents and interests and find opportunities to incorporate their love of singing, crafting, reading aloud, drawing or baking as a gift. Ask your sibling to take some photos with your cell phone and help them create unique note cards for family members. Whether creating gifts or shopping in the community, the time together will help to strengthen your special relationship and add more meaning to your sibling’s holiday.
Cooperative For Human Services responded to a growing need for more housing options to support young adults with developmental disabilities as they transition from special education programs to adult services. In June 2019, the organization opened a residential program in Andover, MA to support up to five young adults with a wide range of abilities, hobbies and interests. The home is located on a tree-lined street of stately Colonial homes and is within a short walking distance to the heart of town. This proximity offers the individuals served with easy access to community activities, outdoor venues and opportunities for socializing.
As the individuals settle into their new environment, they are supported to create a Vision for their unique interests, hopes and dreams which will then lead to setting goals through development of an Individual Service Plan (ISP). Person-centered Visions are a starting point, but the goals evolve and change as the person grows, matures and increases in independence.
Later that same month, the Cooperative For Humans Services opened a residential program near downtown Malden, MA to support young adults diagnosed with Autism disorder. The urban home features two apartments that serve up to four individuals and a third apartment which is home to a live-in manager. The goals for this type of living arrangement are first, to ensure the health and safety of each housemate, to foster the personal growth of the individuals’ served with continual staff support as needed and to promote maximum independence.
Each residential program, regardless whether located in a suburban or urban setting, has a focus on engagement and development of new relationships. The transition to a new home can be challenging, but engagement in hobbies and activities helps serve as an outlet for expression of feelings and aids in processing the changes. Open dialog with housemates, staff, family and friends is encouraged until housemates settle into a new routine and their personalized surroundings.
During the transition period, individuals are encouraged to expand their network of natural supports beyond school, family and paid staff. Relationships in the community, with the potential to blossom into friendships, are particularly nurtured, as are those developed through shared experiences, hobbies and sports. It takes time to adjust to a new community, but functioning as an adult in an environment of greater independence is just the beginning of an entirely new life full of possibilities.
As the warm weather officially comes to a close, we would like to take a moment to reflect on all of the fantastic BBQ events we hosted this summer at Jackson Farm!
This summer the Cooperative for Human Services hosted 14 barbeques at Jackson Farm. We were so fortunate to be able to share these events with over 400 of our individuals, their families, and local neighbors and friends.
Everyone came together to prepare wonderful home cooked meals. We grilled everything from traditional hamburgers to Korean BBQ pork and apple wood smoked chicken! We also made tossed salads and grilled vegetable melodies using fresh fruits and vegetables harvested from our organic gardens at the Farm. Of course no BBQ would be complete without refreshing ice cream, cookies, and fruit salads, especially on the warmer days.
In addition to the amazing meals we shared together, everyone enjoyed the live music and yard games! Each of our BBQs featured a local musician or musicians who went above and beyond to include our individuals in the guitar strumming and tune singing! Yard games like tin can alley, corn hole, ring toss, and bocce were enjoyed by all!
Even our farm animals joined in the summer festivities! Some of our individuals chose to spend their time visiting with some of our farm animals including our very social Nubian goats, Bruce, Jackson, and Brown, our newly adopted Vietnamese Pot-bellied pig Maime, and of course our rabbits Salt & Pepper, guinea pig and chickens.
At the end of the evening, everyone left with a full belly, a smile, and goodies from the farm! Everyone received a CHS baseball t-shirt or baseball cap, freshly cut flowers and organic vegetables and herbs from our gardens.
Thank you to all our staff, volunteers, and members of the community who helped make these events such a success! All though the leaves have only just started to fall, we are already looking forward to all the events we have planned for next summer at the Farm!
In May 2018, Cooperative for Human Services joined a collaborative effort with The ARC of Massachusetts and MA Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to participate in the Pathways to Friendship Project. The mutual goal is to elevate efforts in social inclusion by advancing relationships and friendships among people with and without disabilities. The initiative required a 2-year commitment of time and attention on the part of the organization to focus on the promotion of relationships. The ARC’s role is to provide facilitation, consultation and support while DDS continues to refine its Quality Enhancement tools and processes around social inclusion.
The company identified a cross-functional team of five project leaders who in turn, assessed and selected eight individuals of varying needs to participate in the initiative. Participants were evaluated with a survey to determine their baseline level of activities and will undergo an intermediate and end-point survey to collect data. On-going approaches to activities and participation in community events are documented regularly across the initiative and shared with the ARC. Project leaders meet with and share what is learned with other Pathways to Friendship teams based in 24 other member agencies in Massachusetts.
Over the last few months, the project team has made notable progress with the individuals selected. Once their interests were identified, participants began to explore their chosen areas of interest with staff. These include becoming a volunteer at a local shelter, delving into the world of comic book art, participating in monthly car modeling clubs, and making connections through local churches and YMCAs. It is the hope that through this initial experience, individuals will create meaningful ties with non-disabled people who can assist them to become contributing members of their communities.
As a Pathways to Friendships partner, the company was eligible to apply for a one-time Florence Finkle Fund grant on behalf of each participant. Florence Finkle was an original member of The ARC of Massachusetts and an advocate on behalf of people with developmental disabilities. All eight of the CHS participants received grants this year to assist them with purchases including club membership dues, sports equipment, appropriate church clothing, transportation to events and other types of supports.
As the project nears its mid-point assessment, there is great excitement in the air as participants form long-term friendships in the community and share new hobbies with like-minded enthusiasts.
Welcome to two-year-old Mamie, the newest member of Cooperative for Human Services’ small animal therapy team, based at Jackson Farm. Along with Rambo the rabbit and our three new baby guinea piglets, April, May and June, Mamie is a one-of-a-kind Vietnamese pot bellied pig. She epitomizes the values of CHS — a gentle, friendly being who is working to achieve a fulfilling and inspiring life that encompasses community and healthy lifestyle.
As a baby, Mamie was shipped from her breeders in Texas to live with a family in Franklin, MA. Unfortunately, her owners did not know how to care for a pot bellied pig, so she was not given outdoor space to exercise, root, or wallow, and was fed doughnuts, cookies, and fast food. At 200 pounds, her owners could no longer keep her, so they brought her to the MSPCA’s Nevins Farm in September 2018 to wait for a new, forever home. This is where CHS stepped in.
On Tuesday, January 22, 2019, CHS farm staff brought Mamie to her new home https://www.boston.com/news/animals/2019/01/24/amy-pig-mspca-adoptedin a cozy, pig-outfitted stall in the big barn at Jackson Farm. She bravely withstood single-digit temperatures on her very first weekend with us, burrowed under the hay inside a tent of blankets that we added for extra insulation. On Friday the sun finally shone and our Mamie ventured out of the barn to explore her new home. She wandered over to the goats and hens, snorting and sniffling, comfortably spending time with the other animals. She lingered in the field, seeming to delight in the warmth of the sunshine.
Mamie and all of us at CHS have some work to do to help this special pig: She came to us 80 pounds overweight. The extra fat makes it hard for her to move, makes her depressed and lethargic, taxes her organs, joints, and systems, and obstructs her vision. We have committed to supporting her to address her special needs, with appropriate food, plenty of outdoor space to root, wallow, and roam, and daily piggy aerobics with farm staff or any residents or guests who come by and want to participate.
The barn door is open all day and she has the entire field to roam in; hens, goats, bunnies, guinea pigs, staff, residents, and guests to visit; and a warm stall to return to at night. The more she can exercise, the sooner her health will improve. The more company, the happier our friendly pig will be. Soon she’ll be able to enjoy a healthy pig lifestyle, and will add so much to our animal therapy program.
We intend to walk with her to help her regain her health, to scratch her behind the ears, or to toss a ball back and forth with her. She’ll reward you with a wagging tail, a shiver of excitement, rolling over so you can rub her belly, and the affection and attention that make Vietnamese pot bellied pigs such good pets, loyal friends, and well-trained therapy animals.
Cooperative for Human Services continues to provide services and supports to an ever-increasing number of individuals in their homes and CHS residential programs. In November 2017, the organization established a Food Pantry to provide people served with no-cost food so that everyone has access to good nutrition and healthy options.
Recently, the organization expanded its partnership with the Food Donation Connection, a national non-profit matching company, and began to work directly with two well-known hospitality destinations, The Cheesecake Factory and Chipotle Restaurants, Burlington, MA. These partnerships increase the company’s ability to offer pre-cooked food and dinner entrees to individuals who may have poor cooking skills or are attempting to successfully manage a meager food budget.
The Food Pantry continued to expand its food distribution this summer when the organization doubled the size and capacity of its organic vegetable gardens. The company’s urban garden plot in Malden, MA also yielded a larger variety of vegetables that were distributed through the Food Pantry. In both locations, individuals learned about growing, nurturing and harvesting fresh produce as well as how to incorporate fresh vegetables as part of their daily food intake.
Several long-standing CHS cooking groups benefited from the Food Pantry and the garden-fresh produce. Participants eagerly awaited vegetable deliveries which then influenced menu choices for what was to be prepared for that evening. People not only prepared the food, but also communed over good food and transported food home for another meal later in the week.
Through the Food Pantry, individuals have an opportunity to be introduced to new dining experiences that are often times outside the scope of their normal weekly food budgets. Roasted duck, goose pate, chutney, organic yogurt and brie cheese are just a few examples.
Food security — having access to enough food for an active, healthy life, is one of the many important components that Cooperative For Human Services provides through its Food Pantry, expanded business partnerships and organic farming sites.