We are proud to introduce you to the women and men across The Fedcap Group who were nominated by their executive directors for going “over and above” since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These individuals have shown true leadership. Staying calm under pressure and never losing sight of the mission, they have embraced innovation and creative thinking. Working long and irregular hours, their resilience and can-do attitude have ensured that those in need continue to receive the services they rely on during this unprecedented crisis.
They represent The Fedcap Group at its best.
Donna Quinn has a complicated job. She and her team work together to harmonize benefits plans for all of the agencies of The Fedcap Group—a strategic challenge in terms of timing— and also manage highly regulated retirement plans and workers compensation.
Given the complexity of benefits and their importance to all staff, it is a good thing that Donna is a people person and is always patient when people have questions about benefits. She sees herself and her team as being in the business of customer service for employees, and she aims to be the best.
“I live and breathe benefits but not everyone does, so I always take the time to carefully explain whatever the issues are, and to present alternatives so people can help themselves.”
“Donna’s leadership is exhibited in her person-centered approach to sharing her expertise, delivering top quality benefit program services, and problem solving, She is a true people person,” said Ed Bolognini, Executive Director, ReServe Elder Service, Inc.
Since Donna became Benefits Manager four years ago, she has nurtured a culture of teamwork and accountability. A true leader herself, Donna has a message for aspiring leaders: “Don’t be afraid to try different things, to get out of your comfort zone. Volunteer for projects that might not be in your niche, and consider different perspectives. Learn as much as you can, and don’t be afraid to speak up.”
Silvia Juarez advocates for approximately 40 participants, helping them access SNAP benefits and recovery services, and manages workforce training and job placement services for those referred to CWS by partner agencies such as the Office of Returning Citizens and the Department of Transitional Assistance. Silvia maintains objectives and outcomes in the CWS tracking system, and advocates for service recipients with outside organizations.
The pandemic put a lot of stress on Silvia’s clients as they transitioned from supportive in-person group meetings to individual meetings online. Some lost their jobs and got discouraged, but Silvia, with extraordinary compassion and empathy, encouraged them with her own story—she came to the US from El Salvador in 1984. She didn’t speak English, but learned to, and put herself through college, earning a Bachelor of Science degree.
“You have to work hard and be resilient,” Silvia said. “I always take the time to explain whatever the issue is, and always try to help people to help themselves. My work is person-centered, because different people face different barriers, and make individual choices.”
“Silvia’s compassion is a beacon in the storm for so many who come through our doors,” said CWS Executive Director, Craig Stenning. “Her tireless efforts to help others and strive for excellence is the epitome of what CWS has sought to accomplish for 144 years.”
Kimberley Argennia is Residential Manager for three Individualized Residential Alternatives (IRAs) operated by ESNY in the Rochester area. Each IRA serves adults with developmental and physical disabilities.
Kim manages a 40-person staff and is in charge of IRA operations, ensuring that each house has everything it needs. She oversees volunteer and community job opportunities for individuals in the house programs, facilitates family involvement, and helps those who seek more independent living. Her duties also include ensuring that compliance and regulatory mandates are followed to the letter.
As a leader, Kimberley is driven by a passion for service. She knows all of the residents well, and attends all their life planning meetings to better understand their goals and dreams. For Kim, that’s what it’s all about— working towards the best outcomes for those she serves.
“You don’t typically see that level and quality of services in residential homes,” said Shawn McCurley, Deputy Director of Easterseals RI / Granite Pathways. “It’s a home first rather than a program. The physical setting is beautiful and well-maintained, and the residents, who are valued and happy, are treated as individuals and shown a high level of respect.”
“My passion for the job is same as 17 years ago, when I first came to Easterseals,” Kimberley said. “I want people to go as far as they can, to help them live their life to the fullest extent. As a leader I take pride in my work, try to be humble, and treat each day as a new day.”
Maria Gatewood, Director, ENABLE/Fedcap, brought over 30 years of nonprofit experience to ENABLE— experience that drove the supported employment agency’s success in providing integrated employment opportunities to people with I/DD. Maria, who thinks like an entrepreneur, helped keep ENABLE financially stable throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, when NJ Department of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS) field offices closed, curtailing referrals.
Taking the helm of ENABLE/Fedcap in 2019, Maria instituted a series of aggressive goals based on industry standards, balanced the budget, and was poised to launch fee-for-service pre-employment transition services for high school students. Highly regarded throughout New Jersey’s VR community, ENABLE is positioned to resume its pre-lockdown trajectory of growth. “I look forward to expanding into new populations. There are so many individuals with barriers to employment who will have to learn new skill sets because of the pandemic, and will need a bridge to take them from unemployment/under-employment to jobs with living wages, I want ENABLE/Fedcap to be that bridge for them in New Jersey.”
As a tireless advocate for the employment of people with I/DD, Maria meets regularly with state agencies, chambers of commerce and workforce development boards throughout New Jersey communities where ENABLE operates. She has a great network and is looking forward to using it to move the company forward.
As Program/Administrative Manager for Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services, Sara Heidenheimer is in charge of providing counseling and referrals to women veterans for a range of services, including housing and financial assistance. She has helped hundreds of at-risk women veterans of all ages, and often their families as well. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as many service providers struggled, Sara made sure that Dixon Center outreach, events and important reports continued uninterrupted. She even helped with the roll-out of Service Before Self, a podcast that tackles the evolving needs of veterans and their families, based on the idea that veterans can succeed in the communities where they live.
“Without her efforts in the Women Veterans Program, Dixon Center would have been hard pressed to have as successful a 2020 as we did,” said Colonel Duncan S. Milne, US Marine Corps (Ret.), President, Dixon Center. “While other organizations hunkered down, Dixon Center was able to expand our operations. All of this was made possible in large part due to Sara’s dedication and hard work.”
Sara has been helping veterans since she graduated from college. As part of a military family–her husband is an active-duty Navy Chief Petty Officer–Sara understands the needs of those served by Dixon Center. She credits her husband and leaders of Dixon Center with helping her develop a vision of leadership. “A leader,” she said, “is not someone who tells you what to do, but someone who gets down in the dirt and helps you do the work—someone who listens, and knows their own limitations”.
Donna Keefe began working with The Fedcap Group in September 2013. In 2015 she returned to her home state of New Hampshire when Fedcap was awarded its first NH contract. As Director of New Initiatives for Granite Pathways, Donna and her team develop innovative and sustainable solutions that change people’s lives. Many current staff began as volunteers at Safe Harbor Recovery Center or Seacoast Pathways while in their early stages of recovery. At Granite Pathways, they found people like Donna who believed in them, and they have flourished and grown as people and professionals, with many now filling leadership roles.
“Donna is a natural leader, because of who she is as a person as well as her passion and commitment to her work,” said Patricia Reed, NH State Director for Granite Pathways. “She is incredibly resilient when challenges emerge, inspires others to do their best, and has built a strong team at Granite Pathways.”
Throughout the pandemic Donna has staffed the Granite Pathways home office, ensuring that staff working remotely had whatever they needed to be productive and effective, stepping in to help solve problems that have emerged, and taking on whatever tasks were required to ensure that vital services continued for those in recovery.
“I have worked in nonprofits all my life. In this environment, one must wear a lot of hats and just do what needs to be done”, Donna said. “If you see a need you fill it–you lead your team by example.”
Barry McCairn, Delivery Manager for Fedcap Scotland, is responsible for the delivery of services in two geographic regions. Fedcap Scotland serves those with significant barriers to employment, and through StartScotland, is the largest provider of employability services for the Scottish Government. The need is great-one-third of Scottish workers receives government support, with widespread hardship due to unemployment, poverty and bankruptcies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted the delivery of these vital services, and upended the payment model for those services, which is based on reimbursement after clients meet a series of employment milestones. To ensure the viability of service providers during this challenging time, the government temporarily introduced a cost-plus funding model, which covers providers’ costs. Barry led efforts to implement the complex new financial rules, even as he and his team moved from a face-to-face delivery to remote service delivery.
“Barry has really stepped up over the past few months,” said Susan Paterson, Interim UK Operations Director of Fedcap Scotland. “He has taken the lead in working with our funder, the Scottish Government, and other providers, and has demonstrated great leadership qualities during a very busy time of bidding for new and future business.”
When Suzanne Stoute, Program Director at Chelton Loft, joined The Fedcap Group five years ago the East Harlem Clubhouse had a provisional certification. Today, with over 120 active members, the clubhouse is fully certified. Suzanne’s success in achieving this milestone speaks to her ability to form strong working relationships with mental health agencies, hospitals and nonprofits, and to leverage those relationships into funding and operating success.
Clubhouse members created art projects that are displayed throughout the neighborhood, and visited a local farmers market, where they procured fresh fruits and vegetables to provide to members. When the lock down began, Suzanne sought and was granted permission to modify the clubhouse’s budget in order to provide cell phones to members who were without them so that they could participate in virtual programming.
Suzanne co-chairs the NY State Multicultural Advisory Committee which advises the Commissioner of Mental Health on policy, programs and activities related to individuals from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, or diagnosed with mental illness. “I am passionate about service parity and inspired by spotting a need,” she said. “I love a challenge, and when I encounter obstacles, I tend to use outside-the-box thinking to get around them.”
Paul Wickson, Head of Health & Wellbeing at Fedcap UK, exemplifies how leaders at all levels go above and beyond to serve customers before and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under Paul’s leadership, the team develops and delivers weekly digital Health & Wellbeing workshops to customers on topics such as Work, Health & Wellbeing, and Stress Management & Coping Strategies. Paul believes in metrics to measure the team’s impact. All customers surveyed noted the sessions enabled them to manage their well-being more effectively, and 84 percent said that the sessions had moved them closer to returning to work.
The team stepped up to protect vulnerable customers by ensuring access to food, medicine and mental health resources normally available in their communities, and by reporting interruptions to health authorities, families or friends. Under Paul’s guidance, the team mastered the steep learning these interventions required. The team also introduced twice-weekly online sessions to ensure the health and wellbeing of staff and external supply chain partners. Over 100 people have attended each session, with more than 90 percent reporting positive results.
Nicole Bacon has stepped up to improve delivery of services during the current public health crisis. She is relentlessly upbeat and always willing to help—and, she brings substantial skills and experience to online teamwork.
Thanks to Nicole, BTC’s 16 sites in Maine have been collaborating daily using Microsoft Teams and meeting regularly through Zoom. The ten-day Power of Possible workshop has migrated online, as have virtual workshops on health and safety, resources for kids and all aspects of work readiness.
Nicole coaches instructors and staff on how to make effective online presentations, and her consistency and positivity have boosted morale across the BTC family.
Vicky Barokha hit the ground running when the pandemic hit. She reached out to employers, Rhode Island DOE, Office of Rehabilitation Services, and other community partners, all of whom were willing to continue providing services online.
To date, employer partners have conducted at least 20 informational interviews on Zoom with young people looking for jobs. Vicky has overseen the online shift of
Diversity & Inclusion training, Community-Based Work & Job Exploration Programs, and Career Connections – a 10-week curriculum for middle school students – and ensured that NCISI maintain its person-centered approach, focusing on individual skills and preferences. She is also spearheading new community
sponsorship and outreach efforts.
Gregg D. Caplitz took CWS’ existing programming and, working with the IT department, converted it to Zoom and Google Classroom.
Programs include work-readiness training and ServSafe—a national food-handling certification—and commercial cleaning. Working with the Boston Public Defenders Office and the courts, Gregg has engaged individuals who have been released from prison to home confinement in this training.
In partnership with other area nonprofits, Gregg is also spearheading efforts to provide three daily meals to as many as 4,000 Boston-area hospital workers. Virtual partnerships to address youth homelessness are also underway.
Jon Cray ensures that his Total Facilities Management work crews are equipped with PPE at all times. Every day, his crew members perform proactive, extra cleaning services to thoroughly disinfect all touchpoints and entire working areas.
If a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case is reported, teams put on Tyvek suits and perform “hotspot” deep cleaning.
Jon is a 35-year veteran of janitorial services, related trades and management. His crews know he has their backs and would never ask them to do anything he wouldn’t do himself—a true leader
Amanda Dubois faced a dilemma when the lockdown began. The program screened, assessed and assisted people seeking substance use disorder treatment.
Assessments are difficult to do via electronic media, and most people seeking services don’t have Zoom capability.
Amanda and her team devised a way to screen people in their offices using PPE, social distancing and cleaning procedures to ensure safety. Amanda showed remarkable dedication, continuing her impactful and life-changing work.
“In March 2019 when Julie Dalton became our Health & Safety Manager she undertook studies to solidify her knowledge while continuing to work full time,” said Brian Bell, Executive Director, Fedcap UK. “Julie has stepped up to that challenge and in doing so has exceeded expectations at a crucial time.”
As Health & Safety Manager for Fedcap UK, Julie led the development of the agency’s COVID-19 business continuity plan, which was critical in supporting teams as they transitioned to remote working. She communicated with people across the agency and did extensive research to ensure that senior leadership had timely information to inform decision-making and planning. Julie is now working tirelessly to ensure that the transition back is just as smooth.
With the added complexities of our UK countries moving at different stages, she is working to understand the needs of the business and introducing new health & safety measures to support a safe return. Julie worked with other business leaders to create a survey to identify the needs and concerns of the Fedcap UK workforce, has implemented individual and site risk assessments and a model/test office, and supported a strong communication plan so that all stakeholders are fully briefed.
Wil Edwards had to completely redesign the center’s successful business model when the pandemic hit.
The model, built on catering and corporate events, is focused on providing transitional employment, serving the community and generating revenue.
To build upon the existing FAC model, Wil has reached out to private and public partners, and now works with The Migrant Kitchen, World Central Kitchen, Feed the People and others to provide daily meals to NYC seniors, hospitals, homeless shelters, churches, mosques, and first responders.
During the lockdown, the Food Arts Center and partners have provided over 120,000 meals.
Silvia Estrada led innovative changes to the programs’ service delivery models. The RikerSMART program typically works with inmates in housing cells at Rikers Island jails.
The new model limits face-to-face time and uses a modified self-led curriculum with the same elements—including life skills, financial literacy, work readiness and anger management—delivered to a “safe bubble” at the jails.
Silvia’s team created a toll-free 24/7 hotline and initiated Zoom meetings with inmates and returning citizens to discuss transition plans and other concerns.
Jails to Jobs’ modified service model provides wellness checks and housing and employment services to those recently released who are living in city hotels, as well as food, gift cards, t-shirts and hygiene kits.
Sabrina Gibson annually oversees about 250 volunteers who provide an array of services to individuals living with a disability.
The most important part of these volunteer services are the deep and supportive relationships that develop between volunteers and those served—especially now that people are living in isolation.
Sabrina is spearheading the virtual transition, which will include remote reading, exercise and pet therapy (people won’t be able to touch the dogs, but they can see them!)
Our Voices Count, an MVLE advocacy group, will also be going virtual with guest speakers who will discuss topics of importance to those served.
Susan Hawkes and her staff of therapists maintained communications with families and incoming referrals as pandemic-related shutdowns began.
Families, hesitant to switch to the Zoom telehealth model—hoping for quick resumption of home visits—were encouraged to do so, and today almost all existing clients and new referrals are receiving online nursing, educational and nutrition services, as well as speech, physical and occupational therapies.
The therapists, none of whom had previously used telehealth, adapted quickly, using creativity, ingenuity and experience to engage and assist families. Therapists are serving six children per day, up from an average of four before the pandemic, and they are sharing and receiving telehealth best practice suggestions on social media with national provider groups.
Gloria Henry has played a critical role during the pandemic. She is visiting sites throughout New York City and parts of New Jersey, where staff of The Fedcap Group are working, to ensure that security staff at those buildings are taking the proper steps to keep people safe.
Gloria meets with security staff at these sites to discuss social distancing procedures and security measures.
“Most security staff are doing an excellent job,” she said. Always looking ahead, Gloria is planning to use everything she is learning about safety during emergencies in her training when classes resume. She is inspired by the great work of The Fedcap Group staff and security personnel throughout the region.
On the morning in March right after Seacoast Pathways closed its clubhouse, Joe Hill was busy moving all of its operations online.
Using Zoom and Google Hangouts, Joe notified all clubhouse members, and he established a virtual meeting schedule including morning, afternoon, and ad hoc meetings throughout the day about issues that arise and to share webinars. These meetings and activities mitigate the feelings of isolation among clubhouse members by keeping them active and engaged.
Joe also instituted a Sunday “Coping Café.” And now, one of these Zoom meetings is being used for community outreach on Facebook and other social media. These efforts reflect Joe’s creativity, empathy and humor and have resonated deeply with supporters, attracted new potential members and engaged others in the community eager to help.
Keith Hunt began looking into telehealth service delivery even before the lockdown began.
After consulting with state licensing agencies and taking all required steps to protect patient privacy, Keith was able to lead the way on implementing a telehealth model.
The migration to telehealth allowed years-long relationships between families and therapists to continue, bringing great comfort and essential services to families. Keith ensured that frequent staff meetings on Zoom continue and that best practices are shared with team members and catalogued in a database.
Barbara Kuczyra runs the second largest food bank in Port Jervis in Orange County.
Monthly outreach, which typically distributes thousands of pounds of food to hundreds of needy families, has switched to an appointment system. Three days a week, about 50 families per day come in at ten-minute intervals to receive 50-pound bags of food.
Inmates from a local prison typically help load 14,000 pounds of food per month. With the prison on lockdown, Barbara successfully reached out to police and DPW for help.
With only two volunteers, Barbara has also reached out to foundations, grocers, churches and food banks for additional supplies, and has expanded outreach to a growing number of needy families.
Jeff Lumpkins no longer meets in person with most clients. And yet, he continues to be a great listener, sees everyone as an individual, and addresses the fears and concerns of clients on Zoom, all while helping them find the job they want.
Even during these challenging times, Jeff continues to reach out to new employer partners—knowing that there will be a time when job placements will start to come back.
For clients currently employed as cleaners, baggers and cashiers, Jeff ensures that they feel comfortable, supported, valued, and that they are taking proper safety precautions.
“Casey Lutz’s can-do attitude and proactive approach to her work has set a strong and positive example for everyone with whom she interacts,” said Patricia Reed, New Hampshire State Director. “Her technical skills have been invaluable to our programs and her leadership is consistently in evidence as she works with staff to learn to use new tools and methods.”
A great leader must multitask, and Casey, Project Manager for The Fedcap Group, leads or works on many strategically important projects across the organization.
Casey oversaw the audit process for Granite Pathways’ Doorways program, providing training and quality control, and built a dashboard for metrics management. She was part of a team that created medical billing metrics (MBM) tracker, a tool to track medical billing for telehealth services, and provides oversight and training to the nine Fedcap Group companies using MTM.
Casey is responsible for the consistency and content of Board Planning Reports as well as timely completion of all board reporting material. She works with finance to analyze corporate credit card usage and identify redundant spending, and acts as a change champion to help programs understand and use Salesforce.
Luanne Macri has shown tremendous leadership during this pandemic. Her staff is working with school districts to ensure that all students’ academic and social needs are met—and that they stay fully connected with staff as the school moves its curriculum and services online.
Teachers are conducting weekly IEP meetings with students and families and social workers are making frequent wellness check and helping guide students. Job coaches are working with the school’s 13 graduating seniors to complete their transition plans and help them get approval for an extended school year if necessary.
For students without laptops or internet access, the school is delivering work packets directly to their homes and picking them up when completed. The school is also making weekly food deliveries to the homes of all 57 students covering eight cities in five counties.
Ana Minter played a key role in opening up the agency’s Benefits Screener to the public.
Previously, it was for licensed partners only. Now, people in a growing number of states can access benefits for food, housing, mental health referrals, domestic violence services, and more.
The COVID Response Team also created packets for each state served by Single Stop that list existing and emergency benefits such as rental assistance and healthcare enrollment. Ana also leads weekly webinars for managers across The Fedcap Group so they can use the benefits screener to better serve those in need.
Valentina Morales led efforts to put services and workshops online for The Women’s Project, The Fedcap Group’s initiative to provide a viable alternative to pre-trial detention for women incarcerated at Rikers Island because they cannot afford bail.
With courts closed, appearances and mandated services for substance abuse and mental health are now offered online and are accessible to all participants, who are given cell phones.
Women can also participate in a book club and workshops online on topics including work readiness, resume writing, the arts, and those that deal with grief and isolation.
“Diamond Mullings is a thoughtful leader who others look to and depend on,” said Don Harreld, Senior Vice President, Education for The Fedcap Group. “She is dedicated to improving our children’s quality of life and sets high standards for herself and those around her.”
In her capacity as Asst. Director Easterseals Child Development Center in the Bronx, Diamond is passionate about her program’s culture. With the twin stresses of COVID-19 and graphic images of police violence impacting the health and well-being of her hardworking staff, Diamond instituted weekly staff meetings to affirm and define the center’s culture and values. The top five values were identified as teamwork, health, respect, family and community, and Diamond drafted action plans to address each in a concrete way. She initiated staff support groups to focus on areas like gratitude and inner strength; in one session staff were asked to focus on something they didn’t think they could overcome, but did.
Diamond saw it as her responsibility to help staff “see light in a dark time in order to become more efficient and confident” in their work. Diamond also led grant-funded initiatives that resulted in numerous professional development opportunities for staff, as well as home delivery of school and therapeutic supplies to all of the school’s 126 students.
Jesse Perez had three days to guide a team of 50 therapists and case managers, and 430 clients and their families, from an in-person service model to telehealth.
Challenges included connecting with the families, getting the necessary documentation and signatures, developing new bilingual consent forms and procuring iPhones for those who needed them.
With perseverance and flexibility these challenges were met, and physical, developmental, speech and occupational therapies are being delivered to all client families who want them thanks in large part to Jesse’s leadership.
“Kimberly Quinonez-Francois is a consummate professional,” said Ed Aresnault, HR Director for The Fedcap Group. “She is bright, intellectually curious, and not afraid to make a decision to move things forward. She inspires her staff, colleagues, and anyone whom she is able to serve in her work.”
As Director of HR Information Systems, Kimberly is responsible for personal and work-related information about The Fedcap Group’s workforce, and related workflows and reporting. One of her great successes was to implement a system to seamlessly provide employee information to managers, while reducing paper usage by 80 percent. Kimberly and her team are implementing new Oracle capabilities that will integrate hiring directly with HR’s Oracle’s HCM, and a learning management system that will deliver training and centralize training videos.
An expert communicator, Kimberly provided guidance to staff about HR matters throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. She works with managers to ensure the employees are supported and their concerns addressed. A true leader, Kimberly is always looking down the road to ensure that the decisions made today are the right ones going forward.
George Rios works closely with GSA and other partners to ensure office buildings that house key government agencies are sanitized and safe.
The safety of his 130+ crew members in the six buildings he manages is of paramount importance. Working with long-time vendors like Ocean Janitorial, George makes sure crews always have appropriate PPE.
George is always on call to respond to any emergency cleaning and works closely with partners to provide flexibility in scheduling crew members as conditions change—such as the closing of the NYC subway system during late-night hours.
Sandra Russell led the agency’s transition when the pandemic hit to ensure that it continued to deliver the same great services—just in a different way.
In a coordinated response to the results of a customer questionnaire that Sandra designed, she implemented an Innovation Group to conceive, develop and champion a new approach to service delivery, and to consider potential new approaches going forward.
Thanks to these efforts, most of those served now receive services online. Sandra, who sits on Fedcap UK’s Senior Leadership and Crisis Management team in addition to managing her own teams, also works closely with department heads to ensure that the agency not only supports its customers, but also its teams and subcontractors. Fedcap UK has received great accolades from funders for its seamless transition to remote working and online service delivery.
Arlene Sabdull migrated the agency’s free tax preparation services online.
Last year, the program, which normally relies on four community partners, served 21,000 clients.
Working around the clock, Arlene ensured that the virtual program is IRS and HIPPA compliant. She then trained a large group of community partners to provide the service to their own clients and shared the Single Stop appointment system. This has been of tremendous support to individuals needing help filing their taxes.
Teresa Shaw, Contract Manager for Kennedy Scott in the UK, manages a team of 17 people and throughout the lockdown, has guided them smoothly through the challenges of remote working, new delivery models, new IT infrastructure and much more.
Teresa has boosted morale in the face of adversity and as a leader, has continually shown confidence, commitment and compassion in daily Zoom calls with her team. Teresa and her team support individuals with multiple barriers to employment with job searches, action plan meetings and a variety of employability workshops designed to help them reach their individual goals.
Ryan Simpson, Program Coordinator at Community Work Services, took CWS’s innovative Power of Possible job readiness training workshop from the classroom to Zoom and restructured it to provide critical support to participants who are struggling during this challenging time.
The workshop now emphasizes resiliency throughout the training to help and support individuals who are anxious about finding or keeping jobs. Participants are reminded that CWS employer partners are still hiring, and they are encouraged both to reach out to employers and to use their strengths and talents to overcome the current obstacles.
Mithie Solis, Admissions Liaison for Easterseals Central Texas (ESCTx), has taken on many new roles–doing anything and everything to help ESCTx continue to serve during this crisis. She manages Medicaid insurance verification and authorizations for audiological services.
Mithie delivers hearing aids to patients who are immunocompromised and manages scheduling and reception for the patients that visit the site for hearing tests—checking temperatures, ensuring that everyone uses Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and adhering to safety guidelines. Mithie, who is bilingual, also provides assistance to ESCTx’s Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program, and found protective masks when they were in short supply.
“With years of experience in government, for-profit and nonprofit sectors Carla Smith understands what it takes to build sustainable and relevant programs,” said Grant Collins, Senior Vice President, Workforce Development. “She is a team player who goes the extra mile to get the job done.”
As Director of Operations for Fedcap Inc., Carla led a fast transition to remote services for the agency’s many workforce development programs when the pandemic lockdowns began in March. The programs have different needs, requirements, mandates and funders, adding significant complexity to the process, but Carla worked closely with multiple partners to ensure a seamless transition for each, with no break in service. The success of the transition reflects Carla’s deep understanding of programs, contracts and goals, and expert communication skills when working with program managers, IT, QA staff, etc.—“collaborating to understand how we can optimize performance,” she said.
Carla’s empathy and emotional intelligence lets her see programs through the participants’ eyes; she emphasizes what they can do rather than what they have to do. Going above and beyond, Carla also led two successful clothing drives for program participants and their families.
Vanessa Stergios assisted programs participating in employment training and credentialing, as well as provided information about community resources to partners such as Teamsters Military Assistance Program, the Utility Workers of America Military Assistance Program, and the AFL-CIO that help to remove barriers in transition and increase quality of life for veterans and their families.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in partnership with The Allen J. Lynch Medal of Honor Foundation and Peoples Gas, Vanessa and the team were able to quickly provide emergency assistance to displaced veterans in the Chicago area.
Kyle Tomczak has been working with his team nonstop since the lockdown began.
As programs and services across The Fedcap Group migrated online and virtually all meetings switched to Zoom, Kyle and the IT team made it happen.
They are teaching people how to use technologies such as virtual private networks (VPN) and Zoom telehealth and ensuring that laptops are dispersed throughout the agency. Kyle and the IT team set up an IT Help Line that is open 8 am-6:30 pm EDT on weekdays, and 10 am-4 pm on weekends. They are the technological engine that keeps The Fedcap Group moving.
Dustin Ward worked double duty during the lockdown—managed program elements, provided direct service and filling in for other staff. He led daily debriefing Zoom calls with staff, and after an initial influx of clients when the pandemic hit, Dustin tracked daily productivity of staff, including services provided and revenue captured. He never lost sight of the mission—to change lives.
Dustin’s positive, calm demeanor coupled with strong and steady leadership were exactly whatwas needed during this challenging time.
Eric Waters has encouraged staff to see the COVID-19 impact as a new opportunity to deepen and transform client engagement.
Specifically, Eric initiated a remote participation model where participants join virtual groups, one-on-one mentoring, and case management sessions.
This work is fully funded under Wildcat’s contracts and has driven remarkable improvements in client contact. Since the remote initiative has been implemented, the number of contacts with participants has doubled and absence has plummeted.
Lora Winghart oversaw the transition of services offered by ESNY’s Mental Health and Diagnostic Center in Rochester to an online format.
The complex transition included working with the clinic’s staff to reach out to client families and manage state-mandated paperwork—while providing counseling, medication management and other services; managing staff coordination and testing; and still doing intake.
The Kessler Center teaching and services were moved online to serve the center’s youth, and similar adaptations were made for the agency’s three community group homes for adults.