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Thrive

A platform for our community to have positive impact, cultivate honest conversation, and stand strong together through encouraging and relatable articles/stories about our struggles, accomplishments and stories.

The Slattery Home - Beyond Accessible

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The tale that brings Dr. Ed Slattery’s family to their current state of living- in one of the most amazing adaptive homes I’ve ever seen- is not an enviable one.  A horrific crash with a tractor trailer changed the landscape of their lives forever.  The response and actions that the family took to create an adaptive living space, is what is inspiring to those in the differently-abled community.  Whatever the circumstances are that led to a loved one inhabiting a wheelchair, this environment is undoubtedly the one that we would all choose to make the situation feel like less of a burden.  Knowing that a regularly designed home was not going to serve his family- an outpouring of creativity, circular thinking, and imagination blossomed just outside the metropolitan center of Baltimore.  The home that Dr. Ed Slattery helped to design and appoint features a myriad of both subtle and diverse adaptations to allow his son, Matthew, to live in a space that works for him and the chair he depends on for daily living.  Some of the features are specifically geared towards mobility ease for Matthew and some are to support the goal of a zero impact house. Before you reach the front door to the Slattery home, you encounter raised garden beds designed to allow Matthew to be able to comfortably reach the full planting space.  The beds are built from the same hardwoods that finish the exterior of the home.  Not only are they long-lasting and beautiful but also an esthetic choice that keeps the façade of the property tied to the beauty and functionality created by zero impact design. At the entrance to the home there are two uncommon features that are deeply enviable to any who regularly operate a wheelchair.  The inlaid “walk-off” carpeting feature that is located at both the exterior and the interior walkway at the front door allows for the benefits of a doormat without the hassles of a traditional rug that would bunch and shift as wheels run across the surface.  The exterior features a trough beneath that can be cleaned and the carpet area replaced as needed.  At all of the entrances to the home there are electronic buttons that open the door to allow for passage unencumbered by heavy doors. Once inside the home, which is oriented to best take advantage of the sun’s warming rays, you are further comforted by the radiant floor heat throughout the living space.  Railings in the corridors allow for stability if Matthew is venturing, sans chair, down any of the hallways.  When the home was built, the family was not sure what level of recovery he may achieve and what features would prove most important to his ultimate mobility. Pocket doors and sliding barn doors equip each doorway- allowing for ease of movement thru hallways and entrances to rooms.  The interior rooms that Matthew frequents are also equipped with electronic buttons that open and close the pocket doors. Another feature that has served the family well is the enlarged kick-plates that run the length of the hallways and the interiors of the rooms.  At 12 inches high, this feature keeps the wheelchair from unintentionally gouging the walls.  In every room there are cupboards that feature a cantilevered style which allows Matthew to roll in close enough to access the interiors completely.  This style of hanging cabinetry is found in the living room, kitchen, bathrooms, and Matthew’s bedroom. The kitchen is designed to allow for Matthew’s full access to all of the appliances.  There is a sink that is cantilevered replete with touch controls, a vertically adjustable cook-top fitted with a pot-filler, as well as a microwave oven situated below the oven for ease of reach.  The microwave also opens up/down rather than side-to-side which creates an intermediate landing for handling hot vessels.  The one kitchen appliance that does not live up to Slattery’s standards is the refrigerator.  The interior cavity, of all of the coolers they researched, is too deep to allow for access to anything but items in the very front of the shelves or on the doors. Dr. Ed Slattery works with local “hackers” to create better solutions to the difficulties of daily living for those who are wheelchair bound.  We fully expect one of his protégés to hack the refrigerator conundrum in the future. Half of the roof-scape of the Slattery home is planted with herbs that can be harvested easily from the pathway or by walking through the plantings.  The pathway leads to the observation tower which overlooks the back of the property, including fruit trees and gardens, and ultimately the skyline of Towson.   The interior of the three-story tower holds a unique chair lift that allows Matthew to use counter weights to pull himself, while seated, from the first story to the third.  It is a fully unique feature that demonstrates the delight the Slattery family finds in living within their environment. Everything about this residence is unique and it reflects the care and thoughtful nature that Dr. Slattery bestows upon his entire family and community.  

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When is a Sock-Hop more than just a dance?

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Flashback to the 1950’s at a Sock-Hop.  “The Stroll” is playing and you grab your dance partner and line up across from them as the music fills your ears and the feeling of being part of something fills your entire being.  Your eyes are greeted with smiles and you hear giggling and chatting from all around you.  You are part of something wonderful, something enviable, something that tells your soul that everything is going to be alright and you are right where you are supposed to be. Two weeks ago, Excentia’s Sock-Hop event was thrown to create opportunities for increased socialization with peers for people living in the homes managed by Excentia.  It was a cookout and dance, to spend time getting to know others, and to dance the day away.  A chance to belong and make friends that will last a lifetime. You may have a family cookout, that you invite the people closest to you, it was like that only it was the Excentia RES family.  Finding ways to connect with each other is an important piece of socialization and a first step on the path to community integration. “The Sock-Hop theme was just for fun as we love to dress up and have a great time (the Halloween being one of our biggest events and the individuals loving to go shopping and get all dressed in costume).  Next year we are looking at having an event that invites family members of those we support as a way to build positive relationships with families and the company.” shared Anna Edling, Assistant Director of Residential Services. If you would like to learn more about Excentia’s Residential Services, please contact Anna Edling or June Johnston on our website. https://www.ourexcentia.org/about/#team-and-board

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Ryan's TRAIL to employment

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Ryan began his journey to Independent Living in September of 2017. While learning the skills needed to live independently at home, an important part of this skill set is finding employment and maintaining that employment to sustain him self financially. Ryan entered the TRAIL Program in the middle of his OVR assessment. He had already participated in one assessment and was waiting for the second to be scheduled.  Due to the timeline of the TRAIL program and after waiting six months, all along playing phone tag with his OVR counselor, finding Ryan employment was becoming more urgent and important to his success. Liz and I started brainstorming about possible employment opportunities for Ryan circumventing OVR. We spoke with Ryan on several occasions discovering his likes/dislikes, where he saw him self employed and what tasks he saw him self performing. Through this process, we decided some form of construction or landscaping work would be his ideal.  When these ideas were brought up to Ryan he responded positively and was excited at the possibilities. I thought about the contacts and resources I had and first called my Aunt who owns Beaver Creek Farm Cabins on March 10th, 2017. This property requires significant outside upkeep. She liked the idea and was very receptive; however, this idea would not work due to unforeseen obstacles. I then contacted my cousin who is partners in an Arborist/landscaping business; Weaveson Arborist. At first he gave me the names of others in the field that focus specifically on landscaping due to not knowing if he had any part-time positions open. However, he called me back a few days later explaining that he had discussed this with his partner and they would welcome the help part-time performing odd tasks and general assistance. He asked that Ryan email him his resume. Ryan emailed his resume the evening of April 7th, 2017. An interview was scheduled for Tuesday April 11th. He prepared for the interview through role playing interviews and filling out an employment application. Liz and I accompanied Ryan to the interview. Ryan held his own with minimal prompting from us during the interview. Ryan was offered the job and he accepted the part-time position. Additionally, Ryan would be receiving transportation to and from work by his employer. Liz assisted him in filling out the W-4 paperwork. His first day of work was April 18th, 2017. Ryan enjoyed preparing for work by purchasing specific boots and attire required for his position, as well as an extra large lunch bag. Ryan’s job supports were provided by his employer, he would be working 1:1 with certain co-workers. Ryan has had a few obstacles while employed; however, his employer has adapted Ryan’s tasks to his skill level and has addressed concerns as they have come into play. Only one time has his employer contacted Liz or I with a concern. It was brought to our attention that Ryan had been calling off work multiple times a week. We brought this concern to Ryan’s supports coordinator and had a meeting with him to discuss what was causing these call-offs. Ryan has improved his attendance since. Ryan has benefited in multiple ways; both professionally and personally through employment. He has formed friendships and other natural supports while working there and has been included in many activities such as camping at Knoebles, going out to eat, and attending his boss’s wedding reception. We have seen Ryan’s self-confidence increase. Ryan continues to build on his skills, grow and sustain Independent Living.

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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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Ryan Wins

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[caption id="attachment_1745" align="alignright" width="271"] Ryan with Representatives Tom Murt and Donna Bullock[/caption] Ryan Reaches for Competitive Employment This is the face of a man realizing a dream.  For as long as I’ve known Ryan, he has been talking about his desire to get a competitive job.  On September 27, 2017, this dream became a reality for Ryan.  On this day, supported by staff, he rode the train with two of his peers to the Capital building in Harrisburg to be a  guest messenger for the House of Representatives, Office of the Chief Clerk.  Each one had an opportunity to interview for the open messenger position.  Following the interviews each was introduced on the House Floor and met their representatives.  At the end of the day, Ryan was offered the position and happily accepted.  He will begin his job on October 16. Pennsylvania is an Employment First State which means everyone needs to be considered for competitive employment before going to a vocational training facility.  These changes in policy are what prompted Excentia to begin an Employment Department. The first Employment Specialist began the end of May and a second was added in August.   The goal of this department is that anyone who wants a competitive job, gets one.  Our focus is on Discovery, really getting to know the person, their abilities and interests. Then we look for an employer where we can customize a position that lines up with everything we’ve learned about the person. Support is given to both the individual job seeker and the employer in order to find a good match.  On going  job support and coaching is provided and then gradually faded as the employer  takes over the support role.  The job coach continues to be available to assist as needed. We are working to help individuals explore potential jobs, broadening their view of what they believe they are able to do.  Frequently, people with disabilities have been limited to greeter positions, janitorial and food service.  We believe people with disabilities have skills that can be used in a variety of settings.  Currently, Excentia participants are competitively employed in a number of non-traditional positions including an attorney’s office, an aborist and now the House of Representatives. If you happen to see Ryan, ask him about his new job.  He’ll be delighted to tell you all about it. If you are interested in learning more about our Employment First services, contact Donna Hornberger via email at dhornberger@ourexcentia.org

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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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How to live the good life.

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With the current political climate at a constant rolling boil, the morning news can be a pretty depressing start to the day.  Mix that in with local stories of a fire or an arrest and you can start to think that we are doing it all wrong.   But there are two gentlemen that I’ve recently had the privilege to meet, who have restored my faith in humanity.  Bret and Ryan are the first Lancastrians to enter into a program called TRAIL offered by Excentia.  They are learning all of the basic life skills and practices to live independently as employed adults in Lancaster- despite the obstacles and challenges life has dealt them. I got to catch up with them at their house to talk to them about their progress and to witness their preparations for a dinner party they were throwing for their families.  They were making a spaghetti dinner, complete with homemade meatballs, salad, and garlic bread.  Smiles were abundant that day and you could see that both of these fine men were confident and making great strides towards their goals of independence.   In my next conversation with Elizabeth Ortiz, the program instructor for TRAIL, she excitedly shared with me that Ryan and Bret would like to throw another dinner party.  This time, they wanted to offer their cooking and host skills up to the community and they wanted to do it to benefit the S. June Smith Center.  May 18th Excentia’s S. June Smith Center held the Sips, Sweets, & Supports Event at Tellus 360- there were eight auction items that evening- a private yoga session, Phillies tickets, private cooking lessons with a local chef- all brought in great money.  When all the bidding was completed, one local auction item shone brighter than the others.   Bret and Ryan’s offer of a home-cooked spaghetti and meatball diner brought in $1,000 for Excentia’s S. June Smith Center.  These two gentlemen, who are working so hard to make strides in their own lives, found the time and the desire to help others in their community.  They are giving of themselves without hesitation, without direction or prodding, without question of what they will get in return. The next time that you are feeling that the world around you is full of sadness, corruption, or dishonesty- I would urge you to think of Ryan and Bret.  Follow their example and their spirit and be the change you want to see in our community.

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Lexis joins Excentia

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My name is Lexis Lipko and I am currently a Junior at Millersville University located in Lancaster, PA. I am studying for a degree in Speech Communication with an option in Public Relations. At school I hold a few positions such as secretary/treasurer for Panhellenic Council and service and giving chair for my sorority, Alpha Sigma Alpha. I am interning with Excentia’s marketing team this summer and have happily taken on this blogging experience to connect our community to happenings going on within our wonderful organization. With that being said, I want to give you a little insight on what I do for Excentia’s S. June Smith Center when I’m at school and not in the office.     Summer vacation is all about relaxing but sorority philanthropy chairs all over the country are already getting their fall semester calendars together, because the work never truly stops. Planning and organization are two very important things to keep in mind when taking on such a large position in a chapter. I took on the position in December 2016 and thus far it has brought joy to my life, because I know with each fundraising event and time spent volunteering we are making a difference.   In my sorority, Alpha Sigma Alpha, the service and giving chair is in charge of organizing volunteer opportunities and fundraising events for chapter members. We are fortunate enough to have three philanthropic partners: Excentia’s S. June Smith Center, Girls On the Run and Special Olympics. In my chapter we tend to volunteer with Girls On the Run and Special Olympics the most then focus on raising money for Excentia’s S. June Smith Center. Having three philanthropic partners makes it easy to quickly add local events to the calendar, which can keep us involved with one or more of the organizations at least once a month.       One unique thing about my chapter in particular is that we are located in the same county as Excentia’s S.June Smith Center. Being so close allows my chapter to attend events such as the Extra Give phone-a-thon and Road Rally where money is raised and then distributed among Excentia’s many programs. It is also easy to set up restaurant nights and get the community involved because Excentia’s services affect individuals right here in Lancaster County. Other chapters around the country tend to have tabling events, restaurant nights and even purchase items such as toys off of the Amazon Smile account to show their support. Some of my favorite tabling events include having a simple bake sale or a Flocking table where pink feather pins are sold in support of Excentia’s S. June Smith Center.   Of course with every position or job there come mild frustrations and hiccups. I’m sure other service and giving chairs can relate to setting up an event and not having enough ladies willing to sign up for the cause or ladies saying they need to study. My biggest frustration though is deciding what I can do to raise the most money effectively. When I first got this position I told myself I wanted to raise the most money ever in a semester and I am well on my way to making that happen within my chapter.   Pictured: Alpha Sigma Alpha, EK at Extra Give 2016   Having the opportunity to serve my chapter and Excentia’s S. June Smith Center with this fundraising position has been hard but fun work. Each event we attend or that I come up with allows monetary funds to be raised for the advancement of learning and furthering the education and lives of many individuals.   For more information about Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority and Excentia’s S. June Smith Center head over to    www.ourexcentia.org.   Alpha Love and Mine, Lexis      

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