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Lexis Lipko

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Give back to the S. June Smith Center

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Tis the season to give back! Every year when Christmas time rolls around I always find small ways to give back to my community. One year my family participated in an “adopt a family” for for the holidays where we got a wishlist from the family and headed out to stores like walmart and target for items. Another common way to give back to schools. Many times people donate books to kids at bookstores which is so easy when you are checking out. This year though I’m asking that you think about Excentia’s S. June Smith Center when you decide who you want to give back to, big or small.   If you aren’t already familiar with Excentia’s S. June Smith Center we provide Early childhood and early intervention services to help children, from birth to five, who are experiencing developmental delays or disabilities. While we don’t believe that growth and development occurs on a strict timetable, we do strive to provide our parents and caregivers with a proactive approach to ensure that their children are put on a healthy path of development. We have a collaborative approach and we work with the individuals involved in a child’s life that could enhance a child’s development, such as the family, caregivers, teachers, other support providers and members of the community.   One way for you to give back is to use Amazon Smile. Amazon Smile is a service that Amazon offers where you can link up your Amazon account with Excentia’s S. June Smith Center and .05% of every purchase you make is donated directly. So if you are already buying christmas presents or your monthly order of toilet paper for your house you are giving back without having to put any effort forward. I have provided directions below on how to link up your accounts below.   Choose SJSC as your charitable organization: Sign into www.smile.amazon.com on your desktop or mobile phone browser. From your desktop, go to Your Account from the navigation at the top of any page, then select the option to Change your Charity.  Or, from your mobile browser, select Change your Charity from the options at the bottom of the page. Select S. June Smith Center a Service of Excentia and get to shopping!   You can also follow the link below to a wishlist that the teachers at the preschools have added items that are in high demand for their classrooms. I have an example of the types of items on the list to the left.   https://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/1HHSRY6OLNHXI/ref=cm_sw_su_w Another way to give back is to hop in your car and head out to a few stores for gift cards. Susan Oberholtzer, Preschool Special Education Teacher and Associate Director of Preschool Services at Excentia was kind enough to suggest a few items that you can donate directly to a preschool. Those items being Gift Cards! In particular gift cards to Target, AC Moore and/or Michaels are great because a lot of classroom materials are purchased throughout the year at these three stores. She also suggests iTunes gift cards because they are “used to add educational apps for the children to use during guided centers in the classroom as well as to add circle time songs.”   Get in the give back spirit and help keep the classrooms at Excentia’s S. June Smith Center stocked and running by donating today!   ALAM, Lexis

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Adult Day Services

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When I first walked down the hallway in ADS I had no idea what to expect but what I quickly realized is that it was lunch time and I probably came at a terrible time. Regardless of my timing, I walked into all the rooms, interacted with individuals and direct service providers and saw that all of the rooms were full of life. Everyday up to 80 individuals arrive at Excentia’s Rohrerstown location for a day of socialization, activities and fun. When individuals come through the doors they are greeted by familiar faces and direct service providers. Throughout the day there are many trials and errors making this job important and not always glamorous.   One thing that is very important to those who run ADS is that each individual has fun whether it be in the building or in the community. Having that one on one engagement makes a huge difference in how their days develop. For some individuals coming to ADS is the only socialization they might get that day and for others it gives them a break from being at home. One unique thing that many people mentioned is how the staff actually gets to know who the individuals are that they see everyday, it isn’t just a job to many of the direct service providers. In fact a few of them have been with the company for over 10 years.  Some activities that the individuals get to do include drumming circle on Fridays, game days, end of season bashes, learning how to cook and bake, etc. One activity that was mentioned was a reptile show, which I always enjoyed in my own experiences.  All of these activities allow those in attendance to learn and perform basic life skills that otherwise might not have been learned or reinforced. The individuals recently made blankets for COBYS located in Lancaster County.  When families are looking into Excentia’s ADS program they find that it will offer their loved ones a place to go during the day where they are accepted and can build relationships among their peers. When on the tour of the facilities questions such as “What are you looking for and what can we offer you” are asked because Excentia wants to make sure you and your loved ones are getting exactly what you want out of the program.   ADS is meant to give meaningful, fun experiences in a safe engaging atmosphere and that is exactly what I saw when visiting for the day.    If you are interested in finding a fullfilling career in direct support care check out the openings at Excentia, today! https://www.ourexcentia.org/careers/. Also check out the video below!    Alpha Love and Mine, Lexis   [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O3RbrR2LZd4&feature=youtu.be[/embed]

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TRAIL Academy Graduation

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On September 16 2017 I had the pleasure of attending a very special graduation ceremony hosted by Excentia’s TRAIL Academy. In fact it was the first ever graduation ceremony of this amazing program offered to individuals who are seeking independency within their community. The goals and objectives of the Academy are Teaching, Reaching and Achieving Independent Living (TRAIL). The program did not come easy though and there were many hurdles for both the participants, their families and Excentia. [caption id="attachment_1728" align="alignnone" width="300"] Vicki,Ryan, Chris, Brett, Anna, Laurie,[/caption] The TRAIL Academy came to Excentia in June 2016 after over a year of waiting for an official answer. Laurie Kleynen and Anna Edling are the masterminds behind this program and with their persuasion and hard work Excentia was rewarded the program by Lancaster County BH/DS. The participants of TRAIL went through a series of evaluations and an assessment created by Excentia to make sure they were equipped with basic skills and so that their outcome would be successful.   Vicki Bricker, Director of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Services, Lancaster County BH/DS said at the graduation, “We wanted to create a program for the other guys.”   Vicki spoke at the graduation on how many services are focused on individuals with severe developmental disabilities and not so much on those individuals who are high functioning. Vicki and her colleagues have wanted to do something for “the other guys” for quite a few years now and she is more than thrilled with the outcome of Excentia’s TRAIL Academy.   For the last 18 months Ryan and Brett have been living together in a townhome located near Manor Shopping Center in Lancaster County. Together the two have been learning to live on their own. With the help of Direct Service Providers, Elizabeth Ortiz and Wendy Kurtz, they have been acquiring the skills and knowledge of budgeting, use of public transportation, emergency and safety skills, self-advocacy skills, securing employment, etc. [caption id="attachment_1638" align="alignnone" width="300"] Brett and Ryan at their townhome[/caption] On Saturday September 16 they were both awarded diplomas in front of friends, family and the army of people who got them to this milestone in their lives. Both Ryan and Brett took the time to thank everyone for their hardwork and dedication over the last year. Family and friends shared stories about how amazing this program is and what it has done for Ryan and Brett. My favorite story that was told happened to be about a fire drill that went south, quickly, but you had to be there to here about this one.   Anna Edling, Director of Residential Services, says “The individuals had the drive to want to live on their own. Without their drive, the instruction provided by the staff wouldn’t have been successful. While we did hit a few bumps in the road, together the individuals and program staff navigated a path that led Brett and Ryan to be successful in gaining the skills they needed to live independently. Seeing them now, moving into the next chapter of their life, each in their own apartment, is what makes me able to say that the program is a success.”   Ryan will be moving in with a roommate and Brett will be moving into a one bedroom apartment. They will both receive a few hours of support each week instead of the round the clock support like when they first started TRAIL. Two new individuals have been chosen for the 2nd year of the TRAIL Academy and will be moving into the townhome next month.   Congratulations Brett and Ryan! You both worked hard and deserve this!   If you are interested in becoming a Direct Service Provider please follow this link: https://www.ourexcentia.org/careers/. Excentia is always looking to add to our growing family!   Alpha Love and Mine, Lexis

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A Day with June

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*Disclaimer: The following names of the children visited have been changed due to privacy policies.   This past summer I got to spend the day shadowing a therapist from Excentia’s S. June Smith Center. June Gehman-Deane has been with Excentia’s S. June Smith Center since 2006. She graduated from Neumann University with a Masters of Physical Therapy. June and I spent the day traveling all around Lancaster County visiting families in their homes, which is one of the unique features about the services that Excentia’s S. June Smith Center provides.   [caption id="attachment_614" align="alignleft" width="257"] June Gehman-Deane[/caption] “My favorite part of my job is getting to work with families and giving them the tools they need to assist their children in achieving motor milestones through daily routines such as diaper changes and play activities. I love Lancaster County because of its diversity… I go from Latino homes to Hindi homes to Amish homes to wealthy suburban homes as well as economically challenged homes… the list can go on and on,” said June.   Our first stop of the day took us to Columbia where we met with a little boy named John. June sees him every two weeks and has been working on making sure he can walk on his feet flat and not up on his tiptoes. June assisted the family in process in getting a prescription and referral to an orthotist for a pair of orthotics. The orthotist came to the session so that the family, June and the orthotist could work together to determine the best option for John. After the orthotist measured and casted John for the Molded Ankle Foot Orthotics, John’s mom shared that she was worried about the fact that John will climb up the steps but doesn’t know how to get back down them.  She shared that he has fallen once or twice from the bottom steps.  June suggested making a game of sliding or backing down off of the sofa as the first step at learning to back down the steps. Soon John was enjoying this activity and we all joined in to create excitement and make the activity more fun for John.  Next session they will try it on the stairs unless he has already mastered the activity with the help of his parents.   After spending an hour in Columbia we headed in the opposite direction to Ephrata. Here we met with Lucas, the most adorable little blonde boy who was the happiest baby of the day! Lucas and his mom were pleased to show off how easily Lucas can now climb both up and down the stairs in his home. Because he had mastered the last skill in his goal, this was likely his last session with June. Paperwork was completed sharing his successful completion of six months of therapy with June. He will be moving onto Speech Therapy another service offered by Excentia’s S. June Smith Center as his mother was now concerned about his development of spoken or expressive language.   My favorite part of the day was our third stop, Park City Center where we met with Liam. His mom asked for help in finding a pair of shoes for him to wear with his new Molded Ankle Foot Orthotics (MAFO’s). We went to Payless, Footlocker for Kids and Journeys Kids. The winning pair of shoes though were a pair of converse hightops which complimented the MAFO’S perfectly. His mother was concerned about how they looked as she didn’t want her son to look different.  I loved this particular visit because I am really into shopping and it was really nice to actually feel involved while shadowing June. [caption id="attachment_1723" align="alignright" width="225"] The shoe that we chose for Liam[/caption]   Our last stop was actually at a local daycare where we met with Emma who needed to work on standing up to help strengthen her legs and also to begin to transition from crawling to walking as the routine of choice to get around the daycare center. On this particular visit June said that Emma was extra cuddly which was so cute to see! While June was working with Emma using song time as a motivator, I was being approached by the other children in the class. One little guy in particular kept putting a cowboy hat on my head and then laughing, which really topped off the entire day. June also made sure to collaborate with the staff and checking in about how Emma was participating in the class and making suggestions about how best to encourage working on walking from place to place with support (hands held) and also work on following directions as the special instructor had suggested.  The staff found it hard to do both these needed routines at the same time.   Shadowing June was an experience that I will never forget. I only got to see her interact with four children but it was evident the time and work that she puts in with each family is crucial to their development. As I have said before, I am the service and giving chair for my chapter of Alpha Sigma Alpha and being able to see what happens behind the scenes really puts all of the fundraising into perspective.   I would like to personally thank June for allowing me to spend the day with her and broadening my knowledge on the many developmental tiers that are out there. And a special thank you to her for giving quotes and insight for this blog post.   If you are interested in starting a career with Excentia’s S. June Smith Center visit this link https://www.ourexcentia.org/careers/.    Alpha Love and Mine, Lexis

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Events with the SJSC

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Last week I had the opportunity to visit two of Excentia’s S. June Smith Centers for fun filled days. On Thursday I visited the Ephrata preschool for their Olympic games and then on friday I headed to the Lancaster location for a preschool graduation. One thing that I noticed at each preschool were that the connections between the students and teachers were strong, pure and unbreakable.   Thursday When I first pulled up the Ephrata preschool I could tell we were in for an eventful morning because all of the olympic themed games were already set up outside. As I entered the main building classroom the sound of laughter and play filled the room. The kids were having playtime and snack time until the other classroom would join us. Once the other class showed up the real fun began. We all circled around a parachute, the colorful one that most of us remember playing with in gym classes when we were little kids. The kids started pulling up and down while I added beach balls into the mix, but since all of the children were different heights many times the balls would fall right to the ground. After the opening ceremony parachute game we split up into two groups -- one inside and one outside. The children who were outside played games such as the mini beach ball toss, wet sponge toss and water blaster archery with balloons. While the outdoor activities took place the other group was inside golfing, having a beach ball toss and even an ocean themed scavenger hunt. Though there wasn’t any competition among the kids during the olympic games they all still received gold medals at the closing ceremonies.                         Friday On friday I was invited to the lancaster preschool graduation which really excited me because the last preschool graduation I attended my own. When I approached the classroom the first thing I noticed were the beautiful decorations that the teacher and staff had made to make the room more lively and interactive. As I navigated through the sea of parents for my seat the sound of live music filled the air from violinists in the center of the room.   While waiting for the graduation to start myself and about 30 people were greeted by Sally who is the classroom teacher. After her opening words a woman from Earth Rhythms, a local business, handed the soon to be graduates instruments and had the entire room join along in clapping and song. As the children were getting ready for their official graduation ceremony we continued to sing songs.   After a few moments the room filled with the sound of the official graduation music played by the violinists. Each child walked back into the room but this time they all had on graduation gowns and caps, which made every parent’s face light up. After they all sat down they were presented with their diplomas and artwork that they had completed in anticipation for the big day. One thing that grounded all of us was when a diploma was presented to a family who had just lost their child the previous week.   Attending the preschool graduation and olympic games made me very thankful for the position that I am in with Excentia. I wouldn’t have these opportunities otherwise to meet and interact with the teachers, families and students who are directly impacted by Excentia’s S. June Smith Center.   If you would like to watch the lancaster preschool graduation you can watch it below.         Alpha Love and Mine, Lexis

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ASA #GetTheFlockTogether

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Excentia’s S. June Smith Center has this awareness campaign called “Get the Flock Together” or just “Flocking.” They chose to use flamingos because when they are born they aren’t pink, they are white and the environment they grow up in is what changes their colors and allows them to flourish. This goes hand in hand with what they do at Excentia’s S. June Smith Centers for children up to age five because they want them to flourish and give them the best possible environment to do that in. When I first learned about flocking I was at the Be the Change event and a guy in a flamingo costume approached me asking if I knew what flocking was and if I wanted to get a picture. Of course I didn’t know anything but after learning about I knew a tabling event was in the future. For starters a tabling event is when you book a table or two in a certain spot on campus, set up your fundraiser or awareness campaign and get students involved. The hope and outcome of tabling events is usually raising money and making sure that people are aware of what your organization does. This past spring semester I decided to hold a tabling event in April, the official flocking month, where pink feather pins were made and sold to bring awareness to Excentia’s S. June Smith Center. The months leading up to the tabling event I had sisters and potential new members create the pins during recruitment week, so not only were the feathers being made, but flocking was being talked about.  Check out the video at the bottom of this blog to see step-by-step just how easy this process can be! So when April came around all I had to do was buy a pink tablecloth, make an awesome trifold with a flamingo and set out all of the premade feathers on the table. When students and professors would walk by most were intrigued by the flamingo, which was a great conversation starter because it lead right into why I was selling the pins. Feather pins were sold for $1 and I would make sure to pin each one sold on someone’s backpack because on campus that is what gets the most attention. I also took various pictures of students doing the flamingo pose, which was suggested by the marketing team at Excentia and made for a fun group shot!  At the end of my two hour tabling slot over $40 was raised, which means that 40 people were now walking around campus with our pink feather pins and bringing awareness to our cause. It’s amazing to see how something as little as a pin can get the conversation going. If you want to host a flocking tabling event, flash mob or fundraiser check out the video above or send an email to ekserviceandgiving@gmail.com for more information.  By the way, Millersville University isn't the only campus who has "Flocked", check out Saginaw Valley State University and their Flocking Fun!  Alpha Love and Mine, Lexis      

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