As I See It: Power, strength of human spirit on display at Perkins School

Op-Ed by Perkins President & CEO, Michael Ames, published in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

The stock market has dropped by over 30% since its peak in mid-February, schools have shut down, Gov. Charlie Baker has issued a stay-at-home advisory and a mandatory shutdown of non-essential businesses, and confirmed cases of Covid-19 are increasing at an alarming rate.

There is certainly much to be anxious about and, yet, I find reason for hope. “Essential employees,” the people who work in medical facilities, grocery stores and pharmacies show up to work every day, providing critically important services to the public in the midst of much risk. Another vital part of the Massachusetts workforce is those people who work with vulnerable populations in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and residential programs.

At the agency I lead, The Doctor Franklin Perkins School (Perkins) in Lancaster, I get to see first-hand, and celebrate, the power and strength of the human spirit. Perkins staff, along with thousands of others working in or supporting the human service sector, leave their homes, families, and loved ones to go to workplaces where they care for and support some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

They do so for modest pay and in the face of the incredible uncertainty and fear caused by the novel Coronavirus. What’s more, they do so with passion and creativity, like creating a video of Perkins’ therapy dog, Cooper, encouraging hand-washing and healthy habits, organizing ice cream socials and board game days for the adults, crafting with our elders, and engaging the youth in impromptu spirit, pajama, and spa days.

Staff supporting Perkins’ residential programs and who work with or support services to children with complex challenges and adults with developmental disabilities are an essential part of our organization. These employees include direct care counselors, clinicians, teachers and others who support daily program operations and the needs of our residents. They are among an estimated 30,000 people who work in residential care settings across the Commonwealth, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau (2016).

The services these staff members provide are essential, not only because the governor’s order recognized them as such, but because, every day they show up to work and dedicate themselves to supporting, care for, and making a difference in the lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens. They are nothing short of valiant in their commitment to the people they serve.

I am humbled by our staff’s commitment and am hopeful for our future because of them. These employees are the reason I celebrate the incredible good that I see around me each day as the world around us grinds to a halt. Anxiety is everywhere and, yet, we are fortunate to have been well-staffed since this crisis hit earlier this month.

We are doing everything in our power to keep Perkins staff and the people we serve safe, including shutting down our day programs and school and practicing extreme social distancing among our staff and residents. As I write this letter, we are fortunate to have had no Covid-19 cases confirmed among any of our staff or residents. Yet we know the employees working with children and adults in residential settings face a growing threat.

For all of us this is a scary and difficult time. We don’t know when life will return to normal. Some projections bring us to 2022; the more optimistic predict disruptions through spring. As you think about your own fears and the impact of this pandemic on your own life and family, I hope you will take a moment to think about the thousands of staff who are going to work every day to ensure that all those children, youth and adults needing out of home residential supports get the compassionate care they deserve.

As we look forward to a time when COVID-19 recedes, I will always remember what our residential and congregate care workers are doing today.

Michael W. Ames, PhD, is president and CEO of The Doctor Franklin Perkins School in Lancaster

 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

COVID-19 Updates for the Perkins Community (Updated March 27, 2020) As Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread rapidly across communities and is an evolving situation for all of us, including Perkins, we have been and will continue to consult with State officials and our medical advisors to ensure the best and safest care for all that we work withContinue Reading

2019 Annual Report – Enjoy!

We are honored to share our 2019 Annual Report, Working Together, highlighting the power of collaboration at Perkins. We are so proud of the people, teams, and programs described within. As we reflect upon another great year, we are –as always– especially appreciative to the individuals we serve, as well as their families, for their partnershipContinue Reading

Perkins Rein in A Dream to Upgrade and Expand Facilities

“They have amazing patience, caring, and understanding for each child that walks into the barn. I am thankful to Perkins for all they have done for my son.” Rein in A Dream has big news! We are excited to announce that we are planning to expand and upgrade our Rein in A Dream facilities in orderContinue Reading

Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday.

Please consider a #GIVINGTUESDAY gift to Perkins today. Together, we can help the children and adults Perkins educates and cares for grow strong, develop independence, and discover joy in environments that nourish minds, bodies, and souls. Your donation makes a difference in the lives of vulnerable individuals by enhancing the programs and services they count onContinue Reading

Perkins Conroy Speakers Series 2019-2020 Season Announced

Perkins announces their 2019-2020 Dr. Charles P. Conroy Speakers Series lineup, three installments held on their Lancaster campus in the Janeway Auditorium located at 975 Main Street. Conroy Speakers Series events are free and open to the public. This year’s lineup is sponsored by Presenting Sponsors The Shine Initiative and UMass Memorial Health Alliance –Continue Reading

Perkins’ RIAD Receives $3k from the Petco Foundation

The Petco Foundation recognizes Perkins Rein in a Dream program for its success in working to enhance the lives of children, youth, and adults by providing therapeutic, educational, and recreational experiences with animals. Rein in a Dream (RIAD) has received a Helping Heroes grant of $3,000 from the Petco Foundation, which will enable them toContinue Reading

Recognition Day, Perkins Celebrates its Students

Perkins Recognition Day Perkins Celebrates its Students Lancaster, MA – On Saturday, June 15, 2019, Perkins held its annual Recognition Day Ceremony on their campus at 971 Main Street in Lancaster. Twenty-two students from across the state were recognized for their achievements over this past academic year. Secretary Marylou Sudders, of the Massachusetts Executive OfficeContinue Reading

Perkins Recognition Day Honorees Announced

  On Saturday, June 15, 2019 at 10 AM, Perkins will hold its annual Recognition Day Ceremony to celebrate the achievements and accomplishments of their students throughout the 2018-2019 academic year. 23 students from across the state will be recognized. All activities will be held at Perkins, 971 Main Street in Lancaster, Massachusetts. The ceremonyContinue Reading

Perkins Golf Tournament Raffle & Auction is Live!

Happy spring! The Perkins 16th Annual Golf Tournament is just around the corner and our jam-packed raffle and online auction are live. Over 50 chances to win incredible prizes while supporting Perkins. Raffle tickets are $20 and can be purchased online here, in-person from Kristin in the Janeway office, Donna at the Manor building, the AdultsContinue Reading