Dear Fellow Staff—

And then there were none!  This week, our final “outbreak” home will (hopefully) be cleared and, for the first time in the past ten months, we will have no homes under quarantine. This will be quite an achievement and the credit goes to everyone—especially our hard-working staff in Human Resources who arranged for all of our clinics and vaccinations as well as you–our dedicated staff, who followed our “Safe In All Settings” protocols. We are far from finished and we can’t let up, but we are certainly trending in the right direction. So please keep wearing your masks and following safety protocols and we might have a great summer with picnics, crab feasts and family gatherings. But we must get there first!

Thanks to all the staff who signed up for this week’s vaccination clinic. We have almost 60 people signed up for this Wednesday’s clinic, including two of our individuals who have been reluctant to date. I think that only leaves one or two individuals without vaccinations, and we are working on making special arrangements for them.

On a program front, last Tuesday was a joyous day for NCIA Adult Services. This was the day that we established a return date for an NCIA long-time resident, Career Development program participant, and Business Services employee. This individual, who has been with us for almost six years, is being discharged from the hospital after over a year in surgery and recovery. He initially went in for a hip replacement, developed serious infections, and was away from us for over a year. After this time away from NCIA, he will rejoin our Adult Services family on April 1, 2021. Over the past year, NCIA held his slot in our residential program, never giving up hope that he would return. Although he will be in a wheelchair when he returns, we are most thankful that he will be able to return to his prior residence, as this house was recently renovated for complete accessibility. This individual truly holds a special place in the hearts of many members of our NCIA family. Soon NCIA will again be blessed with his guitar-playing, cowboy hat-wearing presence and his always infectious laughter. Our Adult Services staff are truly overjoyed.

Our Business Services Department continues to excel. In addition to employing over 100 individuals with intellectual disabilities, BSD now has thirteen contracts, with revenue of almost $3 million dollars annually. Vanessa Harrison and her team have done an amazing job throughout the winter, plowing and salting as well as getting our staff and individuals to their various contract locations.

Our Youth In Transition School also should be commended for their perseverance. We have been open for a few weeks on a pilot basis, and we are making plans to fully re-open on July 8, 2021. We are one of the few school that transitioned immediately to virtual learning at the beginning of the pandemic, and our students stayed with us. And we continue to get new referrals! We are all excited about our total re-opening in July. Also amazing has been the teamwork of our leadership staff. Over the past month, three members of our leadership team have added new babies to their families and everyone has continued to work together to make our YIT School successful. Thank you and congratulations to our newest NCIA family members.

Our HJH Vocational Training Centers are gearing up for some busy times. In addition to the current cohorts we are operating in Baltimore and Charlotte (over 200 students), we are opening centers in Philadelphia and Raleigh in early April. All in, we will train close to 1,000 students this year, and hope to place close to 70% of them in jobs in their respective vocations. Stay tuned for details!

I do not want to be overly optimistic, but if we continue to follow our “Safe In All Settings” protocols, NCIA is on the downside of this pandemic. I have been proud of our response, and the commitment of our leadership to guide us through some rough waters. We have stayed positive, developed responsible and safe procedures and kept our doors open in all of our programs. Very few human service agencies can say that. Helen Keller, an author and disability rights advocate who lost her sight and hearing at nineteen months old once said:

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence…alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

So let’s continue to be optimistic, to work together, to be safe together and we can look forward to a healthy future.