Friday, August 31, 2012

Good News Friday!

September 9 - 15 is National Direct Support Professionals (DSP) Recognition week, and in conjunction with that, Imagine! has submitted a nomination for 19th Street Group Home Residential Counselor Abhaya Gurung for the Irwin Siegel Agency’s 2012 DSP Recognition Award. Thanks to Innovations’ Marie Handlin and Vanessa Bishop for submitting outstanding letters of support for Abhaya, pictured here with one of his favorite people, Dasha.

Below are just a few of the comments taken from the nominations for Abhaya.

Marie Handlin, Innovations Host Home Coordinator wrote, “Abhaya brings hard work, great care, respect, and professionalism to his job on a consistent basis. He is one of those guys who does it all, and does it well and with a smile on his face. The care he provides is kind, compassionate, and with great efficiency. I know he is a consumer favorite, too, as you will hear one of the consumers who lives at the 19th Street Group Home saying his name repeatedly in adoration whenever he is on shift.”

Vanessa Bishop, Innovations Host Home Coordinator wrote, “Abhaya advocates for the consumers at 19th Street Group Home like they are his family. He spends an extra 15 minutes here and there on Activities of Daily Living sheets, not because he has to, but because he genuinely enjoys spending time with consumers and knows the importance of making people smile. Every morning he would greet one of the residents with a, “Buenos Dias senorita”, and her face would light up with a huge smile.”

And in stating why it is important to him to be a Direct Support Professional, Abhaya wrote, “I feel that showing love, empathy, and compassion towards your fellow human beings is a very important virtue to have. I get this opportunity while caring for the residents at 19th Street Group Home, and the experience also enriches my life. So many of us are never happy with what we have. We always want more of the material things which we think will make us happy. But after working with people with developmental disabilities, I don't take the things I have for granted. I cherish the good health, family, friends, and life that I have, and try to enjoy them to the fullest. I do confess though that sometimes I wish I would win the Powerball jackpot; but deep down inside, I know that I have won it may times over.”

Congratulations Abhaya, and thanks to all Imagine!’s DSPs. Please know that you and your work are highly valued and appreciated.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Get On Your Bike And Ride

This past weekend my life revolved, not unlike a bicycle wheel, around bicycling. On Saturday, I was fortunate enough to watch Stage Six of the U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge in Boulder. It was quite a thrill to watch some of the very best athletes in the world compete in a race that is rapidly becoming one of cycling’s premier events.

Then on Sunday, I got to watch (and act as the unofficial support crew) as my wife participated in the Venus de Miles cycling event (an accomplishment to be proud of – not my part – Judy’s part!) Side note: the Venus de Miles is, in part, a fundraiser for Greenhouse Scholars, which provides comprehensive personal and financial support to high-performing, under-resourced college students. It is also the philanthropic arm of Greenhouse Partners, a longtime supporter of Imagine!.

It occurred to me as I watched these two events that, at a fundamental level, the participants in the Pro Cycling Challenge and the participants in the Venus de Miles were doing pretty much the same thing. Sure, the pros are a lot faster, have better equipment, and have team strategies, but the basic mechanics of propelling the bicycle forward the pros used while they raced were no different than the basic mechanics of propelling the bicycle forward that my wife and all the other women who rode in the Venus de Miles used.

These mechanics aren’t exclusive to organized biking events, either. If I wanted to, I could go out and ride either the route of the Pro Challenge or the route of the Venus de Miles right now (granted, traffic would be harder to avoid, it might take me a week, and I wouldn’t have the support of cheering crowds, but still). At the most fundamental level, riding a bike is a simple thing, and barring physical challenges, most of us can do it even if we aren’t trying to win the Tour de France. It’s just not that complicated.

Do you know what else isn’t complicated at the most basic level? Having a developmental disability and living a community life. Those of us in the field want to extend the reach of the capabilities of those we serve. We want them to have fulfilling lives of independence and quality in their homes and communities.

The people we serve want the same things you and I want. They want to be good neighbors and use their skills and experience to contribute to the best of their abilities.

Those aren’t incredibly deep concepts or impossible to achieve dreams. Sometimes we make it more difficult than it needs to be. Not every ride needs to be a high-stakes Pro Challenge Tour, and not every ride needs to be a well organized event like the Venus de Miles. Sometimes, we just need to get on our bikes and ride.

Can't see the video? Click here.

I hope you will join me, and the people we serve at Imagine!, for a nice little ride. I promise it will be meaningful.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Good News Friday!

Many of you who have been associated with Imagine! over the years are probably familiar with Bob, a long time recipient of our services. Bob has also had a long time interest in string, and, with the guidance of Imagine! CORE/Labor Source (CLS) art teachers, Bob has turned that interest into a creative outlet. Bob creates intricate and intriguing works of art using string. Some of his string sculpture pieces are currently being displayed at Imagine!’s Coal Creek office. That's Bob posing with his work in the picture below.

Now, an even broader audience will be able to appreciate Bob’s unique artwork. CLS Art Instructor Alethea Chorey has arranged with Two Hands Paperie to have Bob participate in the shop’s Visiting Artist Series. Bob will be the visiting artist at the Two Hands Paperie store on Friday, September 7, 2012 from 1:00 – 2:30 PM, showing off his work while Alethea helps explain the process.

Two Hands Paperie, located at 803 Pearl Street in Boulder, has a stated goal of providing “an eclectic variety of hand-made journals and cards, books, art supplies, decorative paper, and unique gifts from around the world.” I want to personally thank the store for supporting Bob and highlighting his extraordinary work.

I hope you are able to attend this exciting event.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Moving Away From Groundhog Day

I’ve mentioned already that I am in the process of re-defining Imagine!’s purpose to better reflect where we are as an organization. I have been talking with employees at all levels of the organization, and I feel I am making progress to identify our true purpose, and have started to realize that so many of the descriptors used in our work don’t really do justice to what we aspire to.

What do I mean by that? Allow me to explain. . .

A system of care giving, especially long-term care giving, implies a certain acceptance of the status quo. If an organization is just providing care, it isn’t looking for change – it just wants to maintain. In that sort of mindset, the organization isn’t interested in the latest technology, it doesn’t promote growth, it doesn’t want things to be different. It just wants to stand pat.

I reject that approach for the individuals we serve. Sure we can, and will, offer comfort and care at life’s end. But what about everyone else? We work with individuals throughout their lives, individuals who have hopes and dreams, and I feel it is our duty to do everything we can to organize the world so they can reach those hopes and dreams. Our role is to position those we serve to extend the reach of their capabilities.

If we don’t operate with the expectation that the people we serve want to move beyond the status quo, I fear we will be supporting what I call a movement to sedentary behavior. I’m not interested in having my life be exactly the same ten years from now as it is today. I don’t want to be stuck in some horribly depressing version of “Groundhog Day.”

Can’t see the video? Click here.

I want to grow, enjoy new experiences, learn new things, listen to new music. I expect to deepen my understanding of the world, and likely form new opinions. I expect Imagine! to have the same expectations for the people we serve.

I am very uncomfortable with the idea that our purpose is strictly to deliver care. Imagine!’s purpose needs to go beyond just keeping things the same. This will be a challenge for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Medicaid provides most of the funding for the services we provide. The closest this funding stream comes to moving forward is using the word "habilitation" in service definitions. It is the very model of a status quo, maintaining wellness, long-term care giving approach. That is why all of us in the field need to continue to advocate for new ways of funding and delivering services. We need to continually question the way things are and start reaching for the way things should be.

Our purpose is not to give care. Our purpose is to extend one’s reach. There is a significant difference between those two roles and I believe firmly that the only role Imagine! can truly succeed at, the role where we genuinely improve the lives of those we serve, is the latter role. I can’t accept any less for this organization.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Good News Friday!

Today I’d like to share a video highlighting how AbleLink and Imagine! are partnering to create new technological solutions for individuals with developmental disabilities.

AbleLink's pioneering research and award-winning products have a common purpose: To enable individuals with cognitive disabilities to experience a more self-determined and fulfilled life. Their innovations represent a new class of empowering technology characterized by a person-centered design philosophy that results in making everyday technologies such as phones, computers, and PDA's accessible to people with cognitive barriers.

We are honored to be working side-by-side with AbleLInk to provide more opportunities for independence and meaningful community interaction for those we serve.

Can't see the video? Click here.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Good News Friday!

In the next few weeks, there are several opportunities for people to support the many talented artists who receive support from Imagine!.

For example, the Super Mini Walnut Café, located at 2770 Arapahoe Road, Suite 116, in Lafayette, (in the Atlas Valley Shopping Center at the southwest corner of 95th and Arapahoe) is currently displaying art created by artists in Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source classes.

The art (an example of which is shown below) is on display for approximately five more weeks, so there is plenty of time to stop in and support a local business that is promoting the work of Imagine! consumers. The Super Mini Walnut Café is open from 7:00 AM until 3:30 PM seven days a week.

Additionally, participants in Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source program have been invited to take part in the Boulder International Fringe Festival at Naropa University. This is the second year they will participate in the festival.

Performers will be presenting original material developed in classes at the CORE/Labor Source day program. Performance pieces will include dance, music, theatre, and live readings. The event will take place on Saturday, August 18 at 1:00 PM at the Performing Arts Center at Naropa University, 2130 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder. Admission to the festival is free but donations are accepted. Please try to stop by to enjoy a wonderful production and to support the performers.

I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

First Impressions, Second Chances

Like so many around the world and the nation, much of my recent free time has been spent watching the Olympics. Regular readers of my blog won’t be surprised to discover that while watching the games, I made some connections between that experience and my experiences at Imagine!.

Matt Centrowitz
I was watching the Men’s 1500 Meters Semifinals, and as the announcers named the competitors, I decided on the spot I was going to root for Matt Centrowitz. What is interesting about this choice is that I can honestly say that there was no rhyme or reason for my decision to pull for him in the race. I’d never heard of him before, he wasn’t one of the favorites to win (although he wasn’t a complete underdog either), and he wasn’t the only US runner in the field.*

I just sort of . . . chose him. His destiny would bump my day up or down by this apparently insignificant, one directional association. My day improved because he moved on to the finals. Matt’s day improved - but not because of me or our insignificant association. He will navigate the rest of his life never knowing that he gave me a smile.

I know I’m not the only who does that sort of thing. The very nature of the Olympics means that we are introduced to athletes who for most of their lives work hard at their craft while remaining mostly anonymous, and then once every four years they get a chance to shine on the world’s biggest stage. Sure, there are a few stars that get significant attention, but there are so many events and so many athletes that it is impossible to know them all, so we frequently make split second decisions to cheer for a particular athlete with no particular logic playing a part in that decision. It is one of those things that make watching the Olympics so much fun.

Many relationships start the same way. We frequently make split second decisions about people, or organizations, based on factors we aren’t even entirely aware of. It is simply human nature.

I know this happens sometimes when it comes to how people view Imagine!. Their decisions on how they rate the quality of what we do or on if they choose to trust us are often made in the blink of an eye.

Whether that initial view is positive or negative, at Imagine!, we have an obligation to go beyond those original, surface judgments to create lasting relationships that benefit the individuals we serve. We serve people throughout their entire lives, from toddlers receiving Early Intervention services to seniors in their twilight years receiving specialized services designed to meet the unique needs that come with aging, meaning we have many opportunities to shape a person’s view of Imagine!.

That is why it is so important for all us who work here to be constantly vigilant. We need to always deliver the best services we can, services that always have needs of the end user in mind. We can’t use excuses like not having enough funding or having too many rules and regulations to follow. No matter the conditions we operate under, we are obligated to either reinforce an individual’s perception of Imagine! (if their view of us is positive) or work to change their view of Imagine! (if that initial perception is negative).

You have probably heard the cliché that goes “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” That is true to a point, but the truth is every interaction we have at Imagine! with any of our stakeholders is an opportunity to leave a favorable impression of Imagine! and the people we serve. That can be a blessing or a curse. In the case of Imagine! employees, I know it is a blessing far more often than it is a curse. They know they are ambassadors for the organization, and I am proud to see how many truly embrace that role in a positive way. Our employees will navigate their lives, never knowing about the moments when they added a smile to someone’s face.

Then again, what do I know?

*In the race I watched, Centrowitz did not win but qualified to advance to the finals, which just completed as I was finishing up typing this post. Alas, he finished fourth in the finals, so no medal,  but I enjoyed cheering him on. Thanks for the smiles, Matt!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Good News Friday!

Today I’d like to say “thank you” to a couple of recent donors to Imagine!. Although the size of the donations are quite different, they both demonstrate the support so many in the community provide to the people we serve, and they both inspire me in my work.

One donation is small in the amount of cash, but big in the amount of heart. Here’s the story: recently an Imagine! employee sent his sister-in-law some lottery tickets for her birthday. The sister-in-law returned the $7 in winning tickets along with a note “Please buy some of your client friends at Imagine! some ice cream with this.” So the employee arranged to meet a CORE/Labor Source work crew at Wendy’s after they finished their job. A good time was had by all. In the picture below, the lucky ice cream recipients show their gratitude. Thank you, Sharon.

I’d also like to thank the Safeway Foundation for a donation of $10,000 to the Imagine! Foundation to help support services for individuals with one or more developmental disabilities. Safeway hosted a check presentation Monday at the their store located at 28th and Iris in Boulder (see picture below). The presentation ceremony was attended by members of Imagine!’s Board of Directors, members of the Imagine! Foundation Board of Directors, Safeway employees, and, perhaps most importantly, Joe Hansen.

Joe receives services from Imagine!, is on the Imagine! Board of Directors, and is a longtime Safeway employee (he’s worked there since 2001). In 2010, Joe and his mother wrote letters of support to the Safeway Foundation for a grant to Imagine!. Since that time, the Safeway Foundation has given three donations of $10,000 each to the Imagine! Foundation! Wow!

Thank you Sharon, Safeway, Joe, and all of the generous individuals, foundations, companies, and organizations that donate to Imagine!. Your support is invaluable.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On Improving The Human Condition

Recently I spent a couple of weeks at one of my favorite places on the planet. As with most of us, being somewhere else offers opportunity for reflection. It is not unusual that my mind wanders to issues of purpose. Everyone would like to think that their engagement is important, whether it be with family, friends, community, or career.

For me, and the people I work with, our importance will be measured by our influence on the human condition. As employees, are we better, faster, and stronger? Are we more effective today than yesterday? Have we learned anything new that we can share that may improve the lives of others? When we engage with others, are they better off as a result of our connection? Is that person better prepared for life? Can I say when I hang up the phone that the person on the other end understood the information I shared, or that my questions were clear?

Delivering quality service is good enough if your purpose is to simply fulfill a contract, such as building a house, installing cable, or repairing a road. In the world of human services it is possible to be a very good provider of services, and for the moment, that might be good enough. But as we know, this is short lived. Look around - automobiles are very different from yesterday and product lines have fallen by the wayside. When was the last time you saw a Plymouth or Oldsmobile?

1949 Plymouth

1934 Oldsmobile
Or think of the many ways communication has changed in a few short years. Wasn't it just yesterday that we were amazed by the introduction of a mobile phone? Now we can’t live without them. Where on earth did I leave my iPod, anyway?

My colleagues and I will be part of an effort to find new and better ways to do things. We will hold ourselves accountable to not only improve the human condition, but to introduce concepts, models, and practices that will do more with less, and to surprise the end-users with results that never entered their minds.

Then again, what do I know?