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Advocacy happens every day. It’s especially impactful when the right people listen and take action. We, the United People’s Self Advocacy group, are fortunate to have our CEO, Lou Deepe, attend our meetings. Recently, he actively solicited our opinion on areas of improvement here at Wildwood. Several of us use walkers and wheelchairs and Building 1 didn’t have push button bathroom door openers. We voiced our concerns to Lou. Bryan Norton, Self-Advocate said, “Lou does listen. He’s honorable and trustworthy. He says what he means and does what he says.”
Lou spoke with our Director of Operations Mark Normandin and within a month, push button door openers were installed on the second floor bathrooms. Mark said he will continue to work on these improvements and advocate for funds for additional bathroom door openers to be added into his budget. Bryan said, “We’re patient. We understand that it takes time to complete any project. “
Bryan stated, “It feels great to be asked my opinion and have it count. “
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On May 19th, at the Empire State Plaza in Albany, the Workforce Challenge kicked off with over 4,000 in-person participants. The race consisted of a 3.5 mile course that weaved throughout Albany’s Capital Park. Of that 4,000, Wildwood had nine in-person runners/walkers, along with an additional 17 virtual participants.
A friendly competition ensued among Wildwood employees as each employee raced to beat one another to the finish line. Virtually, Lauren Roecker was our women’s first place runner with a time of 30 mins and 5 secs, while for the men, Stephen Dicerce virtually came in first for Wildwood with a time of 26 mins and 55 secs.
In-person, Erika Boehlke came in first for a time of 35 mins and 13 secs and Matt Whelan followed her with a time of 38 mins and 51 secs.
Other than simply a race, the Workforce Challenge raised over $10,000 to donate to their charity of choice, the Oakwood Community Center. The Oakwood Community Center offers a food pantry available every Saturday and provides low cost meeting and event space for neighbors and small groups. Their goal is to “bring nurturing space for the diverse residents of Troy to meet as strangers and become neighbors who care and advocate for each other.”
Congratulations to our racers on a job well done!
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The quality of Wildwood is dependent on the caring and dedication of our amazing staff. Attracting quality staff has been very challenging at Wildwood, as with most employers, over the past year. Virus outbreaks and quarantines among staff have exacerbated that shortage. I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on our efforts in this area.
Our full-time recruiter works closely with hiring managers to ensure that applicants are moved quickly through our process and hired into the programs that are the best fit for them. We have streamlined the hiring process to make it as easy as possible for people to apply for positions. The rest of our dedicated human resources staff work closely with training and our hiring managers to ensure a smooth onboarding process, a successful orientation and on-going check-ins during the first 90 days of employment.
We continue to participate in job fairs and community hiring activities, and hold our own on-site hiring events. Our advertising efforts include a wide variety of online platforms and social media sites. Many of you probably saw our campaign with CDTA, targeting buses and bus stops. We recently added signs to our Wildwood transportation vehicles to utilize their presence all over the area and a new radio commercial aired recently.
Our most significant effort has been re-structuring our compensation system to Experience Based Compensation. Now, instead of a single starting rate regardless of previous experience, new hires for direct support positions will be paid based on their prior relevant experience and education. Our current staff have had their rates adjusted to the new pay scale as well!
We are always looking for great DSPs, and at this time are particularly needing those interested in our Day Programs. As individuals have returned to Day Programs from the height of the pandemic, we've had an increasing need for staff at both site based Day Habilitation and WOW. Some of our residential programs are also quite short-staffed. We are focusing on making it a priority to get these programs as fully staffed as possible.
How can you help? Our best source of great hires continues to be referrals from employees and families! Wildwood is a great place to work. If you know someone who would be a great fit, let them know how person-centered our organization is, and what a welcoming culture we have here. We offer great rates and cover 90% of our employees' health care costs. We also have per diem and part-time opportunities. Experience is not as important as having a caring attitude and a desire to make a difference in someone's life. Wildwood will provide the training, the support and the attention so that everyone who works here can be a success. Wildwood is a wonderful place for caring people to find a home and a career.
Please reach out if you have any questions.
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Art is important to us all. Many people with disabilities have difficulty using words to communicate feelings and emotions. Art is a means of expression and freedom. While some artists can express themselves verbally, they also choose to express themselves through their artwork. With great enthusiasm, Wildwood and the Albany Barn were able to continue our tradition of the Art Showcase on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. In a display which can only be called an eruption of color and creativity, artists from Wildwood and Albany Barn proudly exhibited their works of art together.
Some of the Wildwood student artists painted bright rainbows. They lit the walls with stimulating hues. We tend to picture a rainbow in standard arching form; red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. Each rainbow was unique, with its own colors, order and shape, demonstrating the importance of looking at the world through the artist’s eyes.
Adult artists who represented Wildwood used a variety of techniques. Diverse mediums ranging from canvas to quilting, watercolor, oil, acrylic and wood were present. Some pieces were abstract while others had a realistic representation of an animal or nature scene.
It was fascinating to see the creative interpretation of pieces from Albany Barn artists. Using a Wildwood artist’s art as inspiration, they took an idea or image and, with their own imagination, created a unique representation of the original piece.
To be known as an artist is status enhancing. Approximately two million people in the U.S. define themselves as professional artists. Many participants in our showcase have worked hard to attain this title, too. They have won awards for their work and have displayed pieces in numerous shows.
Wildwood artists continue to join the Art Showcase. Albany Barn artists return to collaborate with new people and take part in the show. Our bond grows stronger each year. We look forward to our next Art Showcase celebration with great anticipation. We hope you’ll join us!
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The 2022 Young Adult Program graduation was held on June 23rd at the Italian American Community Center. It was the first in-person and inside ceremony since the pandemic began. Sixteen graduates received their diplomas and celebrated what had been a challenging few years.
"A global pandemic couldn't slow down the growth and progress our 2022 grads gained,” Briana Macaione, YAP Teacher, says. “They knew it was theirs for the taking and with the dedication of their team, They did it!”
This group of students from YAP completed their YAP studies throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. That meant periods of virtual learning with no in-person interaction, it meant learning in uncomfortable masks, it meant quarantines and, in some cases, it meant dealing with sickness while trying to be successful at school.
If nothing else this experience taught them how to deal with adversity. There’s no doubt it took a team effort to make it through.
“I am so proud of each and every person involved with graduation; students, staff, and family. None of us could have gotten through the past few years without the support of each other,” Nancy Crane, YAP Teacher, says.
In many ways, the pandemic fostered its own lessons. Students learned to deal with changing structure, unpredictability, discomfort and isolation. Though all of those lessons might not find their way into a traditional curriculum, they will be lessons that will help them as they head into their next stage.
“I am wildly proud of them and hope everyone they meet gets to experience the fruits of their hard work as they move into adult life,” Briana Macaione says.
The entire school staff was part of the success story. They dealt with all of the changes and with a constant staff shortage. Adapting, being creative and constant teamwork made the difference. Education is never easy with children, adolescents and young adults but the circumstances of the last year made for extraordinary challenges. Suffice to say, that the challenges were met at Wildwood School.
“This year's Grad Class had a big impact on me. This is a group of young men and women who started in YAP three to four years ago, in person at Latham. Then COVID hit. Virtual learning became the new norm,” Nancy Crane says. “When we all got to come back to school in-person, it was like being at a family reunion. To culminate at graduation was incredible.”