Dear Fellow Staff—

As we enter our 34th week of living and working under this deadly pandemic, we continue to be relatively fortunate in our wellness efforts. We still have two homes on “outbreak” status.  Of our approximately 500 staff, we have only four out of work for COVID-related reasons, so let’s keep following our “Safe In All Settings” protocols. They are surely working!

Having said that, we are entering a very challenging time over the next two months. The holiday season is around the corner and we are in the midst of a major surge of COVID-19 in our state and country. All Center for Disease Control research indicate that the virus spreads most rapidly in group and family settings. So please be extra diligent in wearing your face coverings and following all other safety protocols. We all want to have more holidays in the years to come, so we might have to make some sacrifices this year.

In past updates I have spoken of the “unsung heroes” within our NCIA workforce. This week I would like to highlight a group from our Youth In Transition School—our academic coaches. These are the front-line staff who are working with our teachers to assist the students with their daily work. During our virtual learning environment, it is easy for students to be “Zoomed out.” However, our coaches use their great relationships with our students to keep them motivated. From providing wake-up calls in the morning to sending encouraging texts and motivational messages during the day, our coaches have gone the extra mile to meet the needs of our students. They exemplify the true meaning of a coach, mentor and role model. Supervised by Shawn Elbert, they include Kathy Braxton, Dave Burgess, James “Binky” Jones, Keith Bazemore, Juliet Paige, Tierra Thomas and Shawn Phillips. So thanks for your inspiring work, and keep it up!

Our Adult Residential Services continues its excellent work, and is preparing to open our first Behavioral Support home. This home, for up to two residents, is meant to be a temporary respite for an individual who is either transitioning out of a more secure environment into the community, or is in need of intensive behavioral intervention in their existing placement. Staff are experienced and trained in handling extremely challenging behaviors. We have hired an excellent house manager, and we are looking forward to accepting our first individual in the coming weeks.

Our HJH Vocational Training Centers had some exciting news this past week. We received notice that NCIA has been selected by the Truist Bank Foundation to be one of their National partners to provide our VTC services in the communities they serve. Truist Bank is the sixth largest bank in the country, resulting from the merger of SunTrust and BB&T. They are providing NCIA with start-up funds to open programs in six additional sites over the next couple of years and will be featuring our work in the communities where they have banking operations. Our next two centers will be in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Raleigh, North Carolina. We are truly honored, as their only other National partner is the United Way of America.

In closing, I want to continue to encourage all NCIA staff to be mindful of the toll this pandemic can have on our mental health, and that of our friends and family, particularly during the upcoming holiday season. It can be very stressful, as our regular routines, travel and daily lives have been severely disrupted. In life, there are times when we choose our challenges, and others when our challenges simply choose us. Nobody chose the challenge of this deadly virus and we must support each other in every way possible until it is over—and it will be.