Dear Fellow Staff—

Another COVID week gone by and I think the momentum is starting to change! Last week we had four houses on outbreak status. This week, we had no new houses go on outbreak status, and two of the ones mentioned last week came off, leaving us with two houses left. One of our individuals is hospitalized and in intensive care. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers. In addition, keep up the safety protocols and let’s shoot for no houses next week!

Additionally, the vaccine roll out is gaining momentum, both in Maryland and at NCIA. We had a couple dozen staff and individuals vaccinated last week and today we have 15 individuals and 9 staff receiving the vaccine at one of our homes, with another clinic scheduled this Thursday for another 24 people. We currently have over 20% of our individuals vaccinated and our goal is to have all of our individuals vaccinated within the next two weeks. Sandra Mock-Meyers and our H/R Department are doing a fabulous job at protecting our clients and staff as rapidly as possible. If you have been following the research, medical professionals, both local and national, continue to support vaccinations as a way to protect you and your loved ones from this deadly virus.

Our programs continue to thrive. Our Adult Residential Services and Business Services Department have seven new staff in our on-boarding training this week, including a former senior staff from the Developmental Disability Administration, Central Regional Office. We continue to attract and hire quality individuals, a sign of a program that is going strong!

As many of you may have seen on the news, our Governor and State School Superintendent have recommended that schools re-open by March. Our Youth In Transition school leadership is again ahead of the curve! They had been making plans with teachers and school personnel for over a month to develop a hybrid model of learning to begin early March. Teachers and staff have been trained by our Compliance Department in appropriate PPE protocols and our Facilities Department has placed signage and our “Safe In All Settings” reminders thorough out the building. In addition, the School is collaborating with our Baltimore Vocational Training Center’s Culinary Arts program to provide breakfast and lunch to our returning students on a daily basis. Another nice example of how NCIA programs complement each other!

Our Vocational Training Centers are also thriving. In Baltimore, we have a completion ceremony in early February where almost 70 students will celebrate receiving certification in their respective trades. Additionally, we have entered a partnership with the Annapolis Police Department to train up to thirty of the individuals in their Re-Entry Program in our Baltimore VTC. A retired Colonel from the Baltimore Police Department, Robert Horne, whom we had worked with while he was in Baltimore, was hired by the Annapolis Police Chief to develop this program and the first person he turned to for a partner was NCIA. Kudos to all of our VTC staff for helping to change lives!

One of the values I am most proud of with our NCIA family is the individual compassion and care we show for the individuals in all of our programs. A couple of examples from this week highlight that virtue.

The first example comes from our YIT School. One of our students was having a challenge trying to complete his education and was due to graduate in January. He was 20-years-old and realized the value of his diploma. However, he was having difficulty because he was working at UPS to try to support his family, which was comprised of his 84-year-old grandmother, his two-year-old daughter and his 16-year-old brother. Our academic team is helping him revise his curriculum, our social work staff is reaching out to provide assistance and we are hoping he can graduate in June.

The second example comes from our Vocational Training Center in Charlotte. A significant number of our students come from a homeless shelter, where resources are limited. Our Program Director set up a “barber shop” for our students (complete with a chessboard) and brought in a barber at a reduced cost to cut the students’ hair. That simple gesture instilled confidence in our students as they prepare to go out on job interviews.

In past updates, I have referred to our challenge to this COVID pandemic as a marathon, not a sprint. In that analogy, the most significant part of a long distance run is endurance, and that is the phase we are now entering. Given rising vaccine efforts and our knowledge and practice of safety protocols, we are in the middle part of this run. If we endure, and we will, the finish line will come into sight in the not-to-distant future. As the spiritual leader, Gautama Buddha once said:

“Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes.”

Let’s endure and cross that finish line together.