Dear Fellow Staff—

It’s hard to believe its been one year since NCIA closed its main office and several programs due to the Pandemic. Since that time, we’ve learned a lot. We learned to manage and operate our programs remotely (Meaningful Day, HJH VTC, YIT) and quickly learned to operate our residential and business service contracts safely following the CDC and Maryland Health Department guidelines. During this time, we’ve had 36 outbreak homes, with at one point 7 homes on outbreak at the same time. We are continuing to see light at the end of the tunnel.

The house that was on outbreak status last week had negative Covid test results for everyone else in the house. The individuals were fully vaccinated and the home is due to come off outbreak as early as this Monday. However, another house was placed on outbreak this past Thursday. Once again, it was one staff who tested positive but the whole house must be monitored by the health department and the residents quarantined for a minimum of 14 days. This is going to get increasingly difficult, as we are developing guidelines to gradually allow some family interaction in April as more people get vaccinated. Until then, all of our “Safe In All Settings” protocols remain in place. Masks will be required at all NCIA locations well into the future.

This week President Biden promised that vaccinations will be available to all adults by May 1, 2021. If you have not yet received a vaccination, I, along with the President, strongly urge you to consider getting one. Here at NCIA we have had a number of clinics and have vaccinated over 350 people, including all but four individuals, who are planning to go to our next clinic on March 24, 2021. If you have not been vaccinated, please think hard about signing up at this clinic. It protects you, your loved ones, your fellow staff and our individuals from this deadly virus. To date, I have not encountered a single person who received the vaccine that had a severe reaction and it gives you a huge sense of relief that you are safe.

Our Youth In Transition School finished its second week of in-person instruction on a pilot basis without incident, and we continue to plan for an eventual total re-opening in July. Students and staff seem to be happy to be back, and our social work staff are doing a fantastic job. For a number of months we have had a “men’s group” focusing on relevant social issues. This month’s theme is “Resilience.” To complement that, they have now organized a “women’s group” to assist our female students in handling their issues.

We have a number of new individuals who are being hired by our Business Services Department to work on our contracts. It is incredible to think that we have over 100 individuals working on contracts all around Baltimore, and have continued throughout this pandemic. It really speaks to the excellent job our Compliance and Communications Departments have done over the past year in developing safety protocols and having our staff understand the importance of following them.

Our major news of the week comes from our HJH Vocational Training Centers. As you may know, we opened our first center in east Baltimore in September 2017, and our second center in Charlotte, N.C. in January 2020. Both centers have been incredibly successful, and we have trained over 1,500 returning citizens, veterans and individuals receiving public assistance. Over 60% of our graduates are now employed.

In recognition of that success, NCIA has been awarded a $2.8 million grant from the Truist Foundation to expand our VTC services to six new locations, and we are opening two new VTC programs in Raleigh and Philadelphia in early April. We have hired a Program Director and found locations in those cities, and each program will train up to 100 students in their first year. We are looking to further expand to Washington, D.C. in the next 12 months and then add another location (possibly Tennessee). When our expansion is complete, our Vocational Training Centers will be training over 2,000 people annually, changing their lives dramatically. It is certainly something of which we can all be proud. To watch a video of this announcement please click here: https://youtu.be/A3bnDijo98g

I feel blessed every day to be part of an organization and a workforce that serves many diverse populations. As difficult as our everyday tasks may be, particularly during one of the most challenging years most of us will ever face, we have continued to persevere. Our staff’s commitment to NCIA‘s mission gives me assurance that people are grateful for our work. Muhammed Ali said it best:

“The service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

Thank you for your service.

Stay safe, wear your mask and please think hard about getting vaccinated.