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.
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!
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.
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.
- 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: email@example.com.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Cooperative for Human Services Inc. was awarded a five year demonstration grant from the MA Department of Developmental Disabilities (DDS) for the development of innovative day programing for individuals over the age of fifty-five. This is a population that often times remains at home because of complex medical conditions or significant day-to-day fluctuations in their health and vitality. One of the goals of the Elder Day Supports Program is to connect older adults with their communities and to increase their socialization opportunities. We strive to support our individuals to gain a sense of accomplishment and pride through volunteerism and giving back, which increases self esteem and connections with others.
On The Rise Inc., a women’s daytime shelter located in Cambridge, MA, was the perfect fit for our first volunteer program in Elder Day Supports. The shelter provides women in need with healthy lunches through donations and contributions made by volunteers. Not only were our individuals able to create and contribute healthy meals, but all the fresh produce used in the meals was grown and harvested at CHS’s organic farm in North Reading, MA. The food was fresh, healthy, full of nutrients and organic and the harvesting experience provided a sense of purpose for our older adults.
Since June, five of the Elder Day Supports homes participated once a month in the preparation of these “farm-to-table” meals. The project starts by harvesting the produce from the garden in early morning. Individuals who have shown a keen interest in farming and gardening, enjoy participating in the selection, harvesting and washing of the vegetables. Not only do they appreciate the beautiful summer weather and farm landscape, but they learn about food sources, how vegetables are grown and ripen, and use their hands and senses in the harvesting process. Because the farm is equipped with ramps and accessible structures, those individuals in wheelchairs are also able to fully participate, enjoy the farm and help in the washing and prepping of the vegetables collected.
After vegetables are picked and thoroughly washed, participants gather to plan and prepare meals for On The Rise program participants. Meals have included seasonal salads and frittatas made with freshly-laid eggs from the chickens at the farm. Keeping up with seasonal produce, and providing the freshest ingredients possible, added to the pride of creating these meals. Once the food is ready, individuals accompany staff to the shelter to hand-deliver the meals to On the Rise Community Advocates.
Preparing these meals and knowing the recipients are in need, gives our individuals a sense of accomplishment. The common purpose of harvesting, cleaning, cooking and preparing the food really brings everyone together. Every session was enjoyable – for our individuals and also the CHS staff. Collaborating with participants from multiple CHS residential programs turned this activity into a volunteer experience as well as a social gathering of peers and like-minded volunteers. Laughter, singing, and conversation are always present.
The fact that one non-profit organization could come together to help another non-profit organization added to the uniqueness of this project. Sharing our resources in the best way possible, we were able to prepare healthy and nourishing meals for those in need. Our individuals were given the opportunity to give back, feel a sense of belonging and connect to their community with love, which adds to the list of reasons why we are so proud of the individuals we serve at Cooperative for Human Services Inc.
On a very cold December Saturday, an employee of CHS got together with a group of friends and family and visited our Acquired Brain Injury home located in Tewksbury, to share holiday music and carols with the four individuals who reside there. The resident’s family members and staff also joined in on the festivities.
The Acquired Brain Injury program serves people who previously lived in a nursing facility or a chronic or rehabilitation hospital and were assisted to transition into a home setting in their community with 24-hour care, professional supports and greater access to community resources.
Though the holidays can be especially busy for everyone, the choral group members were more than generous with their time and happy to come and perform an assortment of holiday songs. We continually seek ways to make connections with our local community and are very grateful to the singers who came out to share their music and spend time with the individuals and families on a cold winter evening.
On Tuesday, December 12, students from Melrose and Malden Catholic High Schools met at the CHS office in Malden to help wrap over 100 gifts for the Individuals we serve at the Cooperative for Human Services Inc! Though this time of year can be especially busy for students, these student volunteers were more than happy to come out and lend us a hand.
We are always trying to find new ways to make connections in our local community. This project was particularly successful in that it allowed us to connect with a younger demographic, one we don’t normally get a chance to work with. We are very grateful for the student volunteers who came out to help us prepare for a fun filled holiday season!