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The New York State budget was passed…..in our favor! Due to successful advocacy efforts, our legislators included funding for essential Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). Families, service providers, DSPs and people who receive services spoke up- LOUDLY!
WE WERE HEARD!
We’ve been losing our DSPs to higher-paying jobs for years. We’ve struggled to entice people to seek employment in our field. These positive first steps the budget has promised are imperative to keeping and attracting quality staff, ensuring vital supports for people with disabilities are sustained. Included in the budget was a well-deserved 5.4% cost of living adjustment (COLA) and workforce bonuses for DSPs. A proposed 11% increase COLA for special education providers with certain caveats was approved. Continued advocacy will be necessary in this area.
Self advocates have stated they are very pleased with the budget. They are pleased their DSPs are being recognized for their dedication. People don’t want to lose continuity of services and support. More work is necessary. Some programs still cannot operate at full capacity due to lack of staffing.
How can you continue your advocacy efforts? The approved budget was for this year only. Continue to remind your Senators and Assembly members about the importance of adding COLA increases yearly. Call your Legislators several times each year. Request a meeting. Become that familiar face the Legislator recognizes and develop a personal relationship.
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Throughout the month of May, Wildwood employees were encouraged to participate in “Spring into Motion”, a walking challenge implemented by the HEAL committee. Each day, employees logged the total number of miles walked into a Google form. By the end of May, around 50 employees were registered and submitting their miles.
Awards such as grocery store gift cards and massage guns were given out to the top two walkers along with two randomly selected walkers. The importance of adding two randomly selected walkers was due to the fact that not everyone has the time or ability in their day to walk 20 miles, but even if you were able to walk 1 or 2, you still had a chance to be selected as a winner!
Individually, Patti O’Mara was crowned the 2022 “Spring into Motion” 1st place winner with 347 miles walked. That’s like walking from Wildwood all the way to Baltimore, Maryland!
Between all 50 walkers, the agency as a whole collectively walked over 3,800 miles!
"Spring into Motion" was a fun initiative to stay active while also getting into the competitive, yet fun-loving spirit.The HEAL committee hopes to turn "Spring into Motion" into a yearly competition!
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That’s the age-old question, isn’t it? How do you maximize your benefits? Well first you have to define what your benefits mean to you.
To some, benefits mean health, dental and vision coverage. To others, they mean retirement savings and life insurance policies. To your coworker they could mean work perks and holidays. To your boss they could mean team building seminars and trainings. What do they mean to you? I can help you narrow it down!
First things first, you should set up an appointment with your benefit specialist to see what you, your spouse or your parent’s employer has to offer. They will be able to break down what is covered under each medical, dental and vision plan. They can also lay out what supplemental/voluntary benefits are offered and any other perks included under their employment.
By setting up this meeting you are starting a relationship where you can get comfortable asking questions and building trust which can help further maximize your benefits later on. You may not have a question now, but I guarantee you will down the road.
After finding out the basics and if they are affordable for you and your family, look into any additional perks that are not only beneficial to you, but are at zero cost!
Ask what discounts your employer offers! Here at Wildwood, we offer our employees discounts for Bj’s Wholesale Club memberships, auto/home insurance through Liberty Mutual, pet insurance through Nationwide, cell phone contracts and more! Have you asked your employer what discounts they offer? Don’t hold out, find out today!
Along with discounts, check to see what reimbursement options there are for you as well. Thinking of joining a gym? Through Wildwood’s CDPHP medical plan you can get reimbursed up to $600 per family for gym memberships.
If you dig a little deeper into the CDPHP medical plan, you will learn that you can earn life points for gift cards by completing wellness activities through Cafe Well. These activities can include personal health assessments, getting annual physicals, flu shots, webinars and more!
Sound familiar? Our wellness plan at Wildwood has the same idea! However, instead of redeeming gift cards, you receive a discounted rate for your medical premium. Don’t have CDPHP? Don’t fret! You may be able to access similar benefits with your insurance.
You may be reading this article as a supervisor looking for counseling services, trainings and self-help tools for your employees. See if your employer offers an employee assistance program or EAP! Wildwood provides EAP to all of our employees, free of charge. The EAP includes not only the services listed above, but legal assistance, financial coaching, educational planning and that is only scratching the surface. See if your insurance includes EAP, you will not regret it!
After briefly touching on a few notable options, do you feel ready to take the next step? How will you maximize your benefits?
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Five years ago, my husband told me I should apply to work at Wildwood School as a teaching assistant. I wasn’t sure about it. I wasn’t sure that I would be a right fit for a role such as this. Was I good enough?
A month later, I found myself sitting in an office interviewing for an open position as a teaching assistant. Predominantly driven by the notion that I needed to have a job in which I was provided benefits, I was looking forward to this interview. I was not aware that a few years later, I would find myself in a high school classroom creating my very own lesson plans for crafts and engaging with individuals I would have a relationship with for what could be a lifetime.
I received a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Art. Shortly after that, I went for my Master’s Degree in Art. I have always loved writing, and exploring several mediums of art such as photography, painting, felting, and so many more. I certainly didn’t realize how valuable this would be to me while working at Wildwood. I have gained so much more immediate knowledge of artists and techniques simply by creating lessons for my students. Both the class and I have learned some really great new ways of making art and a lot of background information on several different famous artists. My goal was to give them the opportunity to express their creativity in a way that they found both productive, and a means of communication and representation.
I worked alongside the Art Teacher at the school, gaining insight on useful teaching techniques for my future endeavors. We often collaborated as I was simultaneously able to expand my teaching experience during my time as a Teaching Assistant. We both loved the idea of incorporating more Art into the students’ education so it certainly seemed to work out well for everyone. I was extremely grateful for the unique opportunity I was given.
I was astounded to see the work that these students have created. I often admired the way that they are able to let go and create a masterpiece. Their expression comes from a different place—much different than a place of creation for the sake of creation. It is something difficult to put into words. It became a way of communication. I could suddenly feel some of the things that they wanted me to feel. By the simple stroke of a brush, or the number of objects on their paper, or the way things are arranged, I was able to learn so much more about them.
My students were so involved in just the process itself. In my own work, I have always made art centered on process alone, but this was different. The materials they chose to use had benefits that were both sensory as well as a means of personal representation. They didn’t need to justify a deeper meaning of their work. It was already there on the surface—in the colors they chose, the marks they made, or the scale they chose—there it was
I seldomly interfered in their work. I wanted to allow them to be who THEY were as both an artist and individual. If they wanted to make something completely different than what I was asking, I didn’t mind. As long as they were engaged in the process of making. I wanted to see their idea come to fruition—and I was never disappointed. I admired their enthusiasm!
I have no doubt in my mind that my time as a teaching assistant has transformed me as a person. It helped me grow in ways I didn’t realize was possible. I have overcome a lot of personal challenges and I am able to do things I never could as a person and an artist. It was during my time as a teaching assistant that art is a vital resource for a lot of people. It helps create a way of expression when no other way is getting the message across. I think we can all learn from the people we support when we just observe and let them be creative.