Dear Fellow Staff—

Some of the virtues of the Holiday season are that it is a time for giving, as well as a time for thanks. At NCIA, we experienced both of those values and I could not be more thankful for our staff, benefactors, family and friends for all the support we received during this tumultuous Covid-19 Holiday season. With hope and prayer, it will be our last.

First, let me thank our staff. During this pandemic, we have had our ups and downs but we finished this year on a positive note. In my update just a couple of weeks ago, I asked all staff to be extra diligent during the Holiday season. At that time, post-Thanksgiving, we had eight houses on “Outbreak” status and over a dozen staff testing positive. Staff responded, and we now have only two houses on “Outbreak” status, with both of those due to come off before the end of the year—and we currently have three staff who are out with the virus. So thank you for heeding my advice, and hope that it will carry over post- Christmas and through New Year’s celebrations.

In addition to staying safe, NCIA staff were incredibly generous with their time and resources during this season of giving. Our 61 Youth In Transition students put together Amazon gift lists, which were sent to NCIA staff. All of these students received gifts donated by our fellow staff and NCIA supporters. Simply amazing! In an email sent by one of our YIT Social Workers, she spoke of reactions from just a few families:

I just spoke with the families of three of our students. These calls were very humbling and emotional because they all cried and expressed their appreciation…but also their need.

One Mom said, “I didn’t get him anything this year because we have nothing to give. His only gift was the belt he is getting from the school. Thank you.”

Another Mom said, “I really didn’t understand what a blessing YIT was going to be on my family. We’ve been through a lot this year and ya’ll keep showing us how much you care about our family. Thank you.”

A student’s Sister said, “I truly appreciate YIT. You just don’t know how much we needed this. Thank you so much.”

I waited until I hung up with everyone to shed a few tears myself. Being able to make those calls has been the highlight of my YIT experience since COVID began… it feels so good to be part of this team.

The same thanks came in a note on Christmas day from one of the Division Managers in our Adult Residential Services program, where NCIA made sure all of our individuals received gifts:

Merry Christmas!  I’m so overjoyed today because my guys have called all morning thanking me and all of us for the holiday presents. They sound like little children being surprised on Christmas morning. I wish you all could hear the excitement in their voices!

 I just wanted to share this with you today. It was special for us this year. I guess the pandemic didn’t cancel Christmas joy! Again thanks so much!

 The giving by NCIA didn’t stop with presents—it extended to assisting in cooking and providing clients and staff with another gift—Holiday meals!  Last week our Vocational Training Center and Adult Residential Program teamed up again. Students from the culinary class in Baltimore volunteered to do extra work with their kitchen skills by preparing over 300 Christmas dinners! The dinners were distributed to all of our homes for the individuals and staff on duty, as well as to all VTC program participants. Another special thank you to our instructor, Chef Christa Bruno, and her students Afero Sterling, Joanna Little, and Jason Mattison.

Additionally, on the morning of Christmas Eve, our Business Services administrative team provided a Holiday Breakfast for our staff and job coaches. All of this shows great leadership, great participation and great compassion by all of NCIA.

On the leadership front, I am pleased to say that after our December Board of Director’s meeting, one of our members asked if they could assist with the costs associated with our clients’ Holiday dinners. I am pleased to report that we had 100% participation for contributions, which helped defray the costs of the food. Additionally, we had a substantial five-figure donation from the Lawrence P. Castellani Family Foundation, which is funded by my brother-in-law Larry, my sister Joan and their family. They have been incredible supporters of our work over the years, and we should all be thankful for their commitment to our mission.

On a final note, the vaccine to this deadly virus is becoming available and, as front line workers, our staff and individuals may become a priority in the coming months. I implore you to give serious consideration to receiving it. I recognize it is an individual decision, but the overall safety to you, your family, your co-workers and our individuals is paramount. There are misperceptions about side effects, but virtually all medical personnel are recommending it. I will receive the vaccine as soon as possible and I urge you to follow my example.

As we close out a year none of us will ever forget, I take pride in all of our efforts in decreasing the effects of the virus on NCIA and those we serve. As most of you know, I have always thought of our staff and clients as our extended NCIA family, and I am reminded of a quote from Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tuto:

You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.

So thank you for being part of NCIA’s family this year, and stay safe and we will have a great 2021!