When Bob and Wendy Minotti’s beloved son Joey passed away, they committed themselves to a mission of love in Joey’s name. They established Joey’s Gift, an effort to ensure that families with disabled children have access to the respite services necessary to keep their children close and families intact.
The Minottis, drawing from their own experience of being forced to place Joey outside the home, have created a pathway of hope for other families dealing with the stress of constant caregiving. Partnering with Easterseals Northeast Central Florida in 2007, Bob and Wendy continue to realize their dream of helping others through Joey’s Gift Respite Care program at Easterseals.
Easterseals understands that parents who may have left their child with special needs for the very first time could feel extremely anxious. That's why Easterseals offers free care and encouragement for parents of children with disabilities and allows them to take a short, healthy break with their spouse, go shopping alone, or carve out time to offer focused attention to another child in the family. The greatest impact of the Joey’s Gift program is the precious opportunity for families to feel comfortable and entitled to a short healthy break.
Will you help Easterseals keep this robust and important program flourishing in our community? Your financial gift will continue and enhance Joey’s Gift FREE monthly events. You can Adopt-A-Day, sponsor the Fun Day activity, or just help with crafts and snacks. If you feel led, you can help EXPAND respite care to Easterseals DeLand center and Project WARM in Bunnell.
When grateful parents return from their break, we often hear, “It gives my husband and I a few hours a month to relax, enjoy a little freedom, and get a much needed break” and “Parenting alone is hard, especially with a child with special needs. Now I have a few precious hours each month to recharge so I can be at my best.”
In short, a healthy break is a priceless gift! Joey's Gift spreads a message of caring, compassion and understanding, delivering a unique gift and highly practical need expressed by families.
You may donate to support Joey's Gift Respite program online here or contact Susan Moor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 386-944-7820.for more information.
Easterseals Northeast Central Florida has created a new category for recognizing outstanding staff members as part of its “Emerging Leaders” awards.
Recently at Easterseals' annual meeting, board member Melissa Burt DeVriese recognized three staff members recognized by their supervisors for overall initiative and growth mindset for the Easterseals organization. The honorees -- Deanna McGrath, Michelle Bucalos and Christina Hopkins -- are listed below. Read more about them and join us in recognizing their incredible effort, top-notch professionalism and investment in Easterseals mission!
Deanna McGrath, School Therapy Coordinator and Autism Case Manager – Deanna stepped into a new position at Easterseals as a school therapy coordinator last year and hit the ground running. She has assisted in scheduling, paperwork, is known for her consistent friendliness and upbeat attitude. She’s also an impressive seeker of new opportunities for the organization as a whole.
Michelle Bucalos, Programs Manager – Michelle is a lifelong learner and has jumped at opportunities that have presented themselves. She was one of the first staff members to fully engage in the training and use of Easterseals' donor relations management system, and she recently began writing grants as well. (Notably, Michelle found two grants that may be a good fit for Easterseals, researched them, wrote the narratives and secured funding for Easterseals through both opportunities!)
Christina Hopkins, Assistant Principal, Charter Schools – Christina has worked tirelessly building her team and building relationships in DeLand to increase quality and improve our students and families’ pre-school experiences at the Charter School there. She has done an outstanding job advancing the school, surpassing all expectations with performance. Christina is dedicated to her job and her team and families and demonstrates it daily. Most recently, she oversaw a complete renovation of the DeLand location as she acted as project manager, cheerleader, a hands-on "worker bee" and role model. Christina and her team did an incredible job to transform the Deland Charter School into a charming, inviting community school.
We are thankful for Deanna, Michelle and Christina and their ongoing efforts to help Easterseals fulfill its mission: to provide exceptional services to ensure that all people with disabilities and their families have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in their communities.
Learn more about Easterseals programs and how our incredible team brings them to life at www.eastersealsnecfl.org.
Recently, during its annual meeting in Daytona Beach, Easterseals Northeast Central Florida officially recognized its 2019-2020 Board of Directors.
2019 Lily Award Winner and longtime Easterseals supporter Len Marinaccio commented to the assembled crowd regarding the board’s exceptional leadership and commitment. It’s because of that leadership, he said, that Easterseals is a thriving, growing and dynamic organization.
Officers of the board were installed:
Returning board members include: Matt Birnie, Lonnie Brown, Pam Browne, Sheryl Cook, Ed Dimayuga, Myra Middleton, Nancy-Ellen Otte, Paul Schandel, Don Sciotto, and Darlynn Tacinelli. Also pictured are honorary board members Jim Barocas, Patti Parsons and Becky Rutland.
The 2019-2020 board also includes new members, whose three-year terms begin this year. They are:
After recognizing the board, Len turned his attention to remembering two talented Easterseals champions who passed away earlier this year: David Hood and Gloria Cook. Both were Easterseals Honorary Life Directors.
Len remarked that during Easterseals nomination process this year, the Governance Committee unanimously favored bestowing the title of Honorary Life Director to another of Easterseals’ best and brightest champions: Sheryl Cook. With a wide smile and full heart, Sheryl accepted the honor.
Lastly, Len installed the new Board of Directors during the annual meeting, reminding the audience of the board’s values and expectations for service. Those key values include customer focus; commitment to excellence; dedication to stewardship and philanthropy; a focus on communication; dedication to respectful service; a commitment to integrity; and being an advocate for Easterseals, demonstrating its purpose in the community.
Easterseals Northeast Central Florida is ever grateful for the commitment of its volunteer board and looks forward to a productive year ahead! We thank the members for for their service.
Guest Blogger: Tami Krüger, Provider Relations Specialist, Easterseals North Beaches Early StepsRead Now
I’m Tami Krüger, the Provider Relations Specialist for the Easterseals North Beaches Early Steps (NBES) program, covering Volusia, Flagler, Lake, Putnam and Sumter counties. The NBES program provides early intervention services to children aged 0-3 with special needs and/or developmental disabilities. My primary responsibilities as Provider Relations Specialist are provider recruitment of pediatric Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists/Assistants, Physical Therapists/Assistants and Infant Toddler Development Specialists (ITDS); provider credentialing with NBES; provider quality assurance (QA) via provider record audits and reviews; and provider liaison with the Managed Medical Assistance (MMA) Medicaid program and insurance networks.
Easterseals became an important part of my life when I enrolled my daughter, Chloe, in daycare at Easterseals’ Child Development Center in February 2016. She was a year and a half old and began in the infant room. I had noticed that Chloe was not trying to talk as much as other children I noticed at drop-off or pick-up times. Chloe’s second birthday was approaching in a few months and I brought up my concerns with her pediatrician. He said to wait until she turned two, as babies have a vocabulary explosion around two years old and he didn’t feel she needed my request for a speech evaluation referral.
One day while picking up my daughter from daycare, I was briefly talking with the receptionist about my concerns of Chloe talking and she told me to do a “parent referral” to Early Steps. I did not know what Early Steps was at the time and would discuss the option with my husband. Not long after, I found out about a job opportunity with Early Steps as the Provider Relations Specialist and applied for the position in June 2016. I got the job and began as the Provider Relations Specialist in August 2016. During my first few weeks, I spoke to my co-worker and Intake Specialist, Diane Brock about this “parent referral” for Chloe and how it worked. Diane explained how the evaluation and program worked. To my amazement, the parent referral was quick and easy, and by the end of the day, Chloe was scheduled for an evaluation with Early Steps in late August 2016 – she had just turned two and there was not much improvement with her speech.
Chloe was evaluated by the amazing Early Steps team, a Speech Therapist and an Occupational Therapist, with my assigned Family Services Coordinator present as well. Chloe was found eligible for the program and would begin receiving Speech Therapy once per week. There was no out-of-pocket cost to parents, either insurance paid for the sessions, or Early Steps would pay as last resort if child had no insurance. Another perk to this fabulous opportunity for Chloe – the speech therapist saw Chloe in the natural environment, meaning where Chloe normally spent her days. Her Speech Therapist was fabulous and saw her weekly at the daycare, sending me updates each week on what they did during sessions and what my husband and I should work on with her during the week at home.
Although Chloe understood what we said to her, she could not express what she wanted or needed. It was heartbreaking to watch her try to communicate with us and get frustrated and cry or shut down. Over a short time, we noticed a huge improvement with Chloe’s communication, her demeanor improved, and she was happier overall. I ended up moving Chloe to a daycare in Palm Coast, closer to home in 2017 just before Chloe turned three. Our amazing Service Coordinator set up transition for Chloe to receive Speech Therapy through the Flagler County Schools system after she turned three. The transition between the Early Steps program and the Flagler County Schools system was seamless and very easy.
Chloe just turned five, she is in the Kindergarten DREAMS accelerated program at the elementary school, is still receiving Language Therapy at school each week, and is a chatter-box! You would never know she had a speech delay a few years ago. That parent-referral was the best decision I have ever made in my life, and Chloe is living proof that Early Intervention works!
It has been three years since I began working with the Early Steps Program and over four years of Easterseals making a positive impact on our family. I have the unique ability to understand the value of Easterseals and the North Beaches Early Steps program as a parent and as an employee. I have had many discussions with NBES providers about my experience as a parent of an Early Steps child, and the benefits of open communication between the parents, therapists, and Family Service Coordinators, ensuring the child received the services they need. Over the past three years, I have learned so much about the North Beaches Early Steps program, but the most important thing I have realized is that every single person in our program genuinely cares about the children and their needs being met. I personally have seen my supervisor and the Program Director, Stephanie Ellis-Clark, bend over backwards to ensure the children and employees receive what they need. I am truly proud to be a part of this amazing program!
The Easterseals mission of “Taking on Disability Together” was experienced first-hand in my family. Beginning with the suggestion of making a “parent referral” for Chloe with Early Steps from the Easterseals’ Childcare Development Center receptionist, to the knowledgeable explanation of the program and providing the intake information, the ease of scheduling Chloe’s Early Steps eligibility clinic evaluation, the expertise of the evaluating therapists, the amazing service coordination, and the beneficial weekly therapy, my daughter found her confidence, her happiness, and most of all her voice.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone involved in Chloe’s amazing transformation and helping her find her voice!
I’m Lauren Burkhalter, a financial advisor with Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. I’m also the Chair of the Easterseals Northeast Central Florida board of directors. My primary responsibilities as board Chair are to lead the board of directors in its many responsibilities as well as help drive mission awareness and board participation for the organization.
Amazingly, I’ve been a board member for more than a decade; time flies! My father Steve served for many years on the board before me. I was aware and appreciative of Easterseals’ mission and services to our community during his time of leadership, and I soon wanted to serve on the board and continue to make a difference myself.
I have a long history with Easterseals. When I was young, my parents brought me for pediatric hearing tests after discovering I may have had early hearing loss. Their positive experience was the beginning of a longtime relationship that my family would have with this incredible organization.
I’m excited about many things coming up in the next several months at Easterseals, including our “Over the Edge at ONE DAYTONA” event this November 1-2. (I hope you’re excited too!) This year I have been able to get my Morgan Stanley Complex Manager to agree to go “Over the Edge” for Easterseals in the amazing rappelling event. Not only will it be fun and raise important funds for Easterseals, but 2019’s Over the Edge also will involve multiple offices across Central North Florida/Southern Georgia and include more than 200 advisors at Morgan Stanley!
As a professional with financial expertise, I know it is of utmost importance for nonprofits to have the support of their local community. I can’t think of a better way to introduce Easterseals Northeast Central Florida and all we do to my coworkers than through Over the Edge!
Why do I believe so strongly in Easterseals? Easterseals is important to our community because it provides crucial services to people all over that, without our organization, would go underserved or possibly not served at all. We bring awareness to all kinds of disabilities –- those that are seen and unseen. We provide therapy, early intervention services and even pioneered the effort to bring pediatric medical services to Daytona Beach to serve our children locally. And, we have an acclaimed Autism Center of Excellence and Charter School too. That’s just the beginning!
Many people have heard of Easterseals, but few know the depth and breadth of what we do and who we serve, and that we do it with a dedicated and knowledgeable team. I encourage you to explore our website to learn about the full scope of our services and get to know us better! When you do, it will become even more apparent why I’m proud to serve Easterseals with my time, talent and treasure.
I hope to see you at Over the Edge at ONE DAYTONA! A good time will be had by all!
Easterseals Northeast Central Florida’s inaugural IMPACT Team – the Spring 2019 class – recently was recognized at Easterseals’ annual meeting in Daytona Beach.
IMPACT Team was formed as a result of strategic planning at Easterseals and is a method for enhancing employee engagement. The purpose of IMPACT Team is to create opportunities for employees to affect the future progress of Easterseals and to empower them to be leaders who bring their strengths and ideas into their leadership roles.
To President/CEO Bev Johnson, the group as a catalyst for making positive changes throughout the organization as well. She empowered team leaders Susan Moor, Brenna Giblock, Debbie Neller, Michelle Bucalos and Teresa White to design the program around Easterseals’ strategic planning goals that related to employee engagement and visibility.
Future IMPACT Teams will commence twice annually and will consist of several required components: five sessions, team projects and participation in an Easterseals fundraiser.
This year’s IMPACT Team had many goals for their involvement, including encouraging positivity and growth for employees, gaining greater insight into programs, serving families better, and using the new skills on and off the job. The team is comprised of members who have been endorsed by their supervisors and directors to participate, who also are excited about the opportunity for their employees. They are:
Congratulations to the Spring 2019 IMPACT Team participants! We are proud of this first “graduating class.”
Homework Tips for Back to School
by Dorothy Lefford,OTR/L, VP Clinical Services, Easterseals Northeast Central Florida
It’s back to school time again (post Hurricane Dorian), and getting back into routines can be quite a challenge for children...and parents!
Tackling the return to school alone can be a monumental task, so Easterseals Northeast Central Florida is here to offer some help with that other monster: homework!
Try these tips:
• Identify homework/study zones
• Establish regular study time in the daily routine
• Keep distractions to a minimum
• Help children make a plan or organize their assignments while supporting them in accomplishing their own work.
A change in the day-to-day operations is a struggle for all of us, but presents an extra challenge to children with autism or other diagnoses that thrive off routine and knowing expectations.
Here are some additional tips to help everyone be successful:
• Make a "to-do" list. This helps keep homework sessions predictable.
• Consider the child's sensory needs and strengths. How can you set up the environment for success? Accessible movement breaks? Adapted utensils? Open space vs. more defined space?
• Consider reward charts. Always praise and reward your child for taking initiative and completing daily work.
• Break up the assignments into smaller segments. This also gives you more opportunity to praise your child, offer a needed movement break or a chance to gain a reward to reinforce the completion of a task .
Ask your teachers and or therapists about resources they can provide to you or direct you to for use at home particularly those which might carryover successes had at school. Always work closely with the classroom teachers; you have valuable insight into your child’s learning and they can learn from you too!
Lastly, enlist siblings, friends and relatives to serve as mentors and tutors as needed. This helps generalize skills and encourages socialization, as well as gives mom and dad an occasional break.
It takes a village to raise a child. Keep building your village!