Jesse and I were recently discussing his role as an advocate recently when we met.  He takes his role as an advocate for himself and for other people with disabilities seriously. He knows that with a swipe of a politician’s pen, life for him and others can change in an instant. It is why making his voice heard is not something he does only on occasion or during the budget process, it is something he tries to build into his life. 

“'Be Fair to Direct Care!’ has been our motto for years,” Jesse said. “We can’t keep having such turnover. We need funding to support us and our staff.”

The advocacy has made a difference. Governor Kathy Hochul recently announced that $1.5 billion has been earmarked to support the careers of direct support professionals. This money will support recruitment and will pay incentives to keep and reward long-term staff.  There is also a plan to give bonuses  to staff who have gotten vaccinated.  

“I’m mighty glad Governor Hochul did this,” Jesse said. “I don’t want my staff to leave their jobs and find other jobs in the community that pay more. People with disabilities are glad. We’re happy the staff that support us are being respected for their work.”

Jesse was part of a team that started a campaign that involved letter-writing, phone calls and in-person visits with legislators.

“Governor Hochul listened to us through our letters, phone calls and advocacy with our legislators. Each method of education and advocacy was impactful,” Jesse said.

The self-advocates know the work isn’t over and that advocacy is a life-long process. This victory is proof of what can be accomplished when people put their voices together.

“I want to thank Governor Hochul.  She cared,  listened and took action.   This is a great first step. We have to keep the momentum moving,” Jesse said.  "Keep up your advocacy, please and thank you!"

    It's that time of year when families and friends get together. Whatever your holidays bring, most likely it will include family friends you don't know so well, or kids of friends or even your niece or nephew who are home from college. There are those uncomfortable moments when you don't know what to say. I say -- talk about Wildwood and the employment opportunities we have! 

    Why? Because we all benefit from having great employees who stick around.  The fact remains true, even today, with the job apps and career tech, that the  best way to attract reliable employees is word of mouth. We are a great company to work for! However, as the recruiter it’s my job to say that. It’s so much better when you, as a member of the community, say it. 

    How do you do this? It will probably come up more naturally than you think. For example, if the conversation turns to, The Great Resignation, there’s an in! Maybe mention how flexible Wildwood has become regarding shifts and how we value the idea of promotion from within.  

If you hear someone saying nobody wants to work anymore!  You can say that’s because they aren’t working for Wildwood! Okay, that sounds a little contrived, but you get the point. Talk us up!

Some conversation starters: 

  • You can talk about Wildwood Programs as being an entree into the Human Services industry

  •  You can talk about how that  local college student can get a per diem DSP; Comm Hab; Respite or even part -time Teacher’s Assistant position. 

  • How about the away-at-college sector? Explain that per diem is something you can do on vacations and summer. 

  • You can mention to the retired folks that are getting bored that Wildwood values their experience and they can take on a part time job where they get paid to do good in the world. 

  • Of course, don’t forget that full time positions working with our individuals or supporting our program are the mainstay of our organization. 

  • Find an interested party? Talk up the benefits! Here’s what I say as a former teacher, the full time benefits are comparable to a teacher’s.

What if you don’t want to say all that? Just say “Call Michele Hall, our new recruiter, she’ll talk to you about the Wildwood opportunities and get the process started. Her number is (518) 836-2353. “

Thank you for all that you already do!!!

Enjoy your holidays!!!

    What is work?  What does the concept of work mean to you?  What compels billions of people around the world to leave their homes and engage in work each and every day?  What is the purpose of work?   

    A quick Google search defines work as an “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.”  For many of us, the effort we put into work is directly related to earning a paycheck.  Essentially, the purpose of our work, at the most basic level, is to obtain enough money to provide for the necessities of life, a few simple comforts and, if we are lucky, savings for a future retirement. 

    But beyond the monetary incentives, work empowers us to be self-sufficient.  It allows us to be self-reliant.  And it provides us freedom, a freedom greater than purchasing power and far more satisfying.  It provides us the freedom of choice.  The freedom to make decisions that will impact our lives for the better and the means to help make them a reality.  

    In other words, work is independence.

    For individuals with disabilities, however, the independence offered by traditional work is often difficult to obtain.  In fact, statistics from 2019 presented in the Annual Disability Statistics Compendium showed that out of the 1, 077, 425 individuals with disabilities living in New York state, only 378,105 were employed.  This translates to a 35% employment rate and stands in stark contrast to the 78% of the population without disabilities engaged in work.  Factor in the negative impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the workforce overall and the disproportionate effect it has had on this segment of the population in particular and the picture becomes even more bleak.

    So what does this all mean for our students?  How will the challenges presented by their disabilities, reluctant employers and limited access to support services impact the quality of their lives?  With so many potential barriers preventing employment, what, then, is the purpose of work for our students? 

    If we allow ourselves to view it as more than just a way to earn a livelihood, work can begin to take on a whole new meaning.  The entire concept can be reimagined, re-purposed to better meet the needs of our students and prepare them for the realities they will face when they step out into that big, scary place known as the "real world."  Work can be redefined.

    For the vast majority of our students, the ultimate goal, the result they are working toward, is to acquire the skills and hone the abilities necessary to reach for the least restrictive environment possible upon their graduation from Wildwood.  Whether it be obtaining opportunities for meaningful employment, participating in prevocational training and supports or securing coveted openings in community based adult programs, the ability to do for oneself… To be self-reliant to the greatest extent possible, often becomes the determining factor.  How, then, can we redefine the concept of work to better prepare our students for the world awaiting them?

    Let’s start with the definition.  Work is an “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.”  Next, let’s rethink the purpose of work.  If we determine that "work is independence" and the desired result is achieving it to the greatest possible extent, we can redefine the purpose of work for our students in new and meaningful ways.  We can use ‘work’ to help them achieve the best results for their futures…we can use it to help them be as independent as possible.   

    So here we are…it’s time for a new definition…one that truly accounts for the needs of our students without diminishing the value and importance of traditional employment.  A definition that “works” for us all, pardon the pun…

    “Work is the activity of acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue and achieve the greatest level of independence possible.”   

    Now that we have allowed ourselves to view the concept of work in a different light, we can begin to use it as a tool for building the independence our students will need beyond the walls of Wildwood.  We can truly focus on the skills necessary for improving their lives and increasing their opportunities to achieve futures full not of restrictions, but possibilities.  We can begin to teach, develop and help strengthen the foundational skills they will need to obtain the  greatest level of freedom available to them upon graduation.  We can use work to help light the pathway to a greater level of independence.

    We all should reach for the stars. The desire to pursue and achieve the best versions of ourselves should not be limited by a disability.  Those of us fortunate enough to be in a position to help guide the students of Wildwood along their path toward a less restrictive future want nothing more than for their highest aspirations to be fulfilled.  But as we help them reach for those stars, we have to remain cognizant of the work that it will require.

    For it is easier to reach the stars when you are standing on a sturdy foundation.

We're excited to present our 2021 Giving Thanks Recipe Book!

To access this Recipe Book, click here:

Inside, you can find an abundance of Thanksgiving recipes along with tips for mindful eating and important food information. This cookbook contains a mix of classic recipes such as Herb Roasted Turkey and Pumpkin Pie, along with a few unique yet delicious recipes such as Creamy Pumpkin Hummus, Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Broccoli, and Peanut Butter Cup Pie!

This recipe book is in a PDF format and can easily be printed out for anyone that prefers a hard copy. 

Enjoy a healthy, delicious and safe Thanksgiving!

Over the past few weeks, Wildwood was featured state-wide on Spectrum News. 

One feature was about the success our employment department has and how people, given the chance, can succeed and really help employers.

View here:

The second feature focused on our terrific school music therapy program.

View here:

Both of these stories were featured in NYC, Syracuse, and Buffalo as well as in the Capital Region.



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