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To: LIFESPAN Employees (aka Ambassadors) From: Ken D. Fuquay, CEO Re: more than a Word, It’s an Attitude Early last year, I traveled to Baltimore for a conference and booked a room in a no-name out-of-the-way hotel. That little hotel exceeded my expectations; especially their employees. I was so enamored with their attentiveness that I asked one of the employees why it was that every employee seemed to love their job so much. She kindly corrected me, “We’re not employees anymore. We are all ambassadors.” I asked her to explain the difference. “Employees have a job,” she said. “Ambassadors carry out the mission of this company.” LIFESPAN has always been mission-driven to empower the individuals we serve to reach their fullest potential. Society may consider the individuals we serve to be the least, the last and the lost. But you and I know differently. The individuals we serve are gifts to be treasured and we have accepted the mission to empower them to be the best version of themselves they can possibly be. That is the mission and message of LIFESPAN. And because you are an integral part of our being able to fulfill that mission, you are not, and have never been “just an employee.” Therefore, LIFESPAN is doing away with the term “employee” and exchanging it with “ambassador.” You are a LIFESPAN Ambassador. You are valued and your work is important. To prove it, LIFESPAN is working hard to empower you to be the best version of yourselves by offering one of the strongest, if not the strongest, employee benefits package in our sector. LIFESPAN is an amazing organization filled with amazing people doing amazing things that transform people’s lives. I hope you’ll embrace the role of LIFESPAN Ambassador of Empowerment with pride. I hope you’ll share the LIFESPAN message with everyone you meet and I hope you’ll engage the mission with renewed commitment. After all, it’s not a job; it’s a mission. You’re not an employee; you’re an ambassador. I respect each of you greatly and am honored to come along side you in this mission. Respectfully, Ken, LIFESPAN Chief Ambassador of Empowerment
Opportunity is defined as a “set of circumstances that make it possible to do something.” That definition begs the questions: What is a recent opportunity that you took advantage of? Who gave you an opportunity? What did you do with your opportunity? Where is your next opportunity coming from? Opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. Someone might bless you with a monetary gift that opens up an opportunity; someone might articulate words of wisdom that help create clarity and direction for an opportunity; and an opportunity can present itself through simple acknowledgement or recognition. My opportunity to present this “Talk” for today’s “Circle Up” at LIFESPAN came by way of Christopher White. At a recent “Circle Up,” Mr. White shared a moving story about his experience being a life coach. I was present. His words motivated me. They encouraged me to recommit myself to bringing a sense of normalcy and independence to the individuals that I serve as Life Coach through LIFESPAN’s Life Works program. His words helped me see what an opportunity I have to transform people’s lives. But, it also opened up another opportunity. I told Christopher how much his story impacted me. He encouraged me to share my story with Mr. Fuquay, LIFESPAN’s Chief Ambassador of Empowerment. And Mr. Fuquay encouraged me to share it with all of you. So here I am seizing the opportunity that has come to me and I am leading “Circle Up” this week. Let me repeat that…here I am, seizing an opportunity that was presented to me. That’s why I’m standing before you. I’d like to borrow from Ms. Oprah Winfrey for minute. You know how, in the middle of her show, she points to her guests and says, “You get a car, and you get a car and you get get a car?” That’s what I want to say to each of you—but instead of a car, you get something better. “You get an opportunity.” And you get an opportunity and you get an opportunity… Each of you is being presented with an opportunity this very minute and you’ll be presented with more opportunities through this day. I’ve discovered that opportunities are like a great piece of Lindt Chocolate. The outer shell is hard but the inside is ooey gooey and O so good! Opportunities can be hard and challenging, even overwhelming at first. But, once you get past the initial jolt and you settle into how and what you are going to do with your opportunity, you eventually reach the wonderful sensation of accomplishment and joy. You know I have to say it! Opportunity is knocking. Will you answer it?
According to the Autism Speaks Organization, April is designated as World autism Awareness month. Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States. According to the American Psychiatric Association, we know that there is not one autism but many sub-types; most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which people with autism learn, think and problem solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently. Several factors may influence the development of autism, and it is often accomplished by sensory sensitivities and medical issues such as gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures or sleep disorders, as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression and attention issues. Our weekly “Circle Up” at LIFESPAN highlights the fact that just as individuals with autism are unique and special in their gifts, talents and challenges, so are each one of us. Yes, you are unique; separately set apart; there is no other person in the whole wide world that is fashioned, patterned, designed or made like you. Your fingerprint…your DNA makeup…are uniquely yours. You were cut from a special cloth. You are special and perfect in your own uniqueness in that there is no other person in this world to which you can be compared. So, eliminate the urge of allowing others to validate you and comparing yourself to others…consider this since you are unique. There is no comparison. Your journey is completely yours. It is unique. Others may try to steal part of it…tell it in their words…or shape it to suit themselves. However, the reality is no one can live it or own it but you. Take charge of your journey; it’s yours and yours alone. It is not an accident that each one of us works together, here at LifeSpan. We combine our talents and gifts and lend ourselves to the care and keep of individuals with autism and other special needs. Destiny has brought us all together for such a time as this. Keep this one thought in mind, when our uniqueness is celebrated and connected, it suddenly becomes something far greater than its individual truth. For us it manifests itself through the unlimited possibilities that lie within each of the unique individuals we serve…we celebrate their uniqueness as we work tirelessly to help those individuals not only see their potential but live into the unique possibilities for their life. Celebrate your uniqueness! Celebrate the uniqueness of others! It is the beautiful, rich and vibrant tapestry of humanity! —Marie Roberts, Accounting & Billing Specialist, LIFESPAN
A few important words from Amy Ford, LIFESPAN Program Director for Special Instruction & Community Based Rehabilitation Services: Spring has sprung! It is officially spring; the daffodils are poking their heads out, the cherry trees are in blossom, the grass is greening and the birds are singing verbosely. Spring gives me a profound sense of gratitude. But, I’ve learned some important things about GRATITUDE. Some of you know that this past year has been really rough for me, personally. Surprisingly, I have been able to stay positive and I owe a lot of that to being able to focus on the things for which I am grateful. Even in the midst of the “hard” stuff, there are things for which we can be grateful. I have always been told that focusing on the things you are thankful for helps counteract the negative things happening all around. That’s true and since I’m an elementary school teacher, I’ve found some interesting scientific evidence to back it up. Gratitude can: (physically) give us stronger immune systems cause us to be typically less bothered with aches & pains lower our blood pressure Gratitude can: (psychologically) give us higher levels of positive emotions make us feel more alert, alive and awake help us be more optimistic & happy Gratitude can: (socially) make us more outgoing make us more forgiving make us feel less lonely & isolated Gratitude blocks toxic, negative emotions and it can reduce the frequency and duration of episodes of depression. Grateful people are more stress resistant. Studies have shown that grateful people recover more quickly from serious trauma, adversity & suffering. Grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth. I am inspired by this quote from self-help author, Melody Beattie: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion to clarity. Gratitude can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” I encourage all of us to fill our lives with gratitude. It’s better for us than a multi-vitamin. (As part of our weekly “circle-up” at LIFESPAN Shopton, Amy created a garden display and had all of us to write our “gratefuls” on a butterfly and add it to the garden.) **Why Gratitude is Good by Robert Emmons / Nov 16 2010 / greatergood.berkley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good
From LIFESPAN Ambassador, Toni Huneycutt Let me start by saying to the ladies, “You are awesome. And everyday you should be celebrated!” March 8th is International Women’s Day. Additionally, the entire month of March is celebrated as Women’s Month. Why do need an International Women’s Day and why do we need a Women’s Month? It gives the world an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on the achievements of women throughout history; it calls attention to the many obstacles women have overcome in their long struggle to be recognized and valued as fully human and independent; it also gives cause to celebrate the important roles women fill daily in culture and society. Did you know that Kevlar ( a synthetic fiber used to make bullet-proof vests) was invented by a woman? Are you aware that it was a woman who invented electric hot water heaters, fire escapes, life rafts, medical syringes, dishwashers, windshield wipers and probably most importantly, chocolate chip cookies? Even an organization like LIFESPAN owes a debt of gratitude to a woman. LIFESPAN might never have existed if it had not been for Dorothea Dix. Ms. Dix was one of the first people in the world to recognize the importance of care for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled. She created the first facility in the nation specifically devoted to the care of those individuals. In an era when no one was talking about the needs of individuals with mental health and developmental disabilities, Dorothea Dix brought it to the forefront. International Women’s Day was adopted by the United Nations in 1975; however, it has been celebrated ’round the world since 1911. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Balance for Better. (#balanceforbetter). This theme was chosen because we are now entering an exciting period in history when the world desperately needs and is searching for balance. We need balance. We notice its absence and we celebrate its presence. How can we help create balance? All of us can work together to engage in conversations about women and women’s issues; we can bring attention to the women in our lives; we can celebrate their successes and notice the small and many ways the women in our lives strive to make the world a better place every single day. Be willing to engage in tough conversations on subjects like gender inequality and the salary gap. Be ready and willing to listen to the stories of the women in your life; share your story and most importantly, mentor the young ladies in you life. I challenge each of you to help build a much more gender-balanced world. Balance is not just a woman’s issue, it’s a human issue. (Editor’s note: When Toni presented this to the team of ambassadors at LIFESPAN, she distributed purple pens and ask all the ladies in the group to “leave their mark.” Purple is significant because it represents justice and dignity for women throughout the world. As Toni said, “no women should every be discouraged to leave her mark!”)
When I was younger, everybody would say, “Your smile is beautiful.” As a matter of fact, I’ve always been told my smile is one of my best attributes. I’ve discovered some very important things about SMILES. “To smile” is to form one’s facial features into a pleasing, kind or amusing expression; typically with the corners of the mouth turned up and the front teeth exposed. (By the way, it takes 62 muscles to frown, but only 26 to smile.) According to Maya Angelou, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.” So, if you have only one smile in you, give it away! Scientists have discovered that smiling on-purpose helps people feel better. Just the simple act of putting a smile on your face can lead you to feel and experience happiness, joy and amusement. Smiling on purpose changes the chemistry in your brain. Smiling has also been proven to help people deal with and manage depression and anxiety. We never know what our co-ambassadors are going through on a personal level. Some days they may be struggling inside and one simple smile from you can brighten their day, ease their burden and help them refocus their day. A sincere smile has the power to transform. I challenge you to try it! Smile. Smile at someone today and see what happens. It just might change their day…and yours, too! —Dantrelle “Dannie” Mcclure (Administrative Assistant LIFESPAN & LIFEWORKS) (By they way, Dannie challenged all of us gathered at LIFESPAN Shopton to smile. And to help us do it, she provided a “Selfie Frame” Take a look at what happened. It was transformative! And P.S. thanks for the Smile Bags, Dannie.)
A note from Robin Devore… Because of an unexpected medical leave, I had to work from home for several weeks. During that time, I was reminded how fortunate I am to work at a place that I call my “second home.” I call it my “second home” because for almost 24 years, I have grown with the individuals we support and the LIFESPAN ambassadors who provide that support. Over those two-plus-decades, I have come to realize that everything I do each and everyday has some type of impact on both the LIFESPAN individuals and the LIFESPAN ambassadors. Some days, it’s as simple as sharing a smile or giving a hug. Other days, it’s much more challenging as we work to give voice to those who don’t have a voice and advocate for those who have no one left to fight for them. At the end of the day, I know that what I’ve done has made a difference in someone’s life. I don’t have a “job.” I have a lifelong learning experience with incredible gratification. I truly get more back than I will ever be able to give. As a reminder to everyone — do what you love and enjoy, do what brings you happiness, smile at least three times a day, and let go of the things that take up negative space in your head. “Be You” and be happy! Then go change the world one smile and one hug at a time. -Robin