Archived News & Events - August 2018

August 29, 2018

Mikey’s Person-Centered Minion Party

Mike, an individual who receives services at Merakey, had a Minion themed person-centered party at his home in Washington, PA in July. Not only does he enjoy the little yellow characters, but they share some key similarities. Like Minions, Mike has his own language. He uses a combination of vocalizations, gestures and expressions to communicate with his staff.

At the party, staff set up a “thick it” bar where they had the opportunity to experience different consistencies of liquids by adding “thick it”. This exercise helped them understand how the texture of a food or beverage affects taste and satisfaction. The “thick it” bar showcased the proper consistency of: nectar, honey and pudding.

There were tips for pureeing foods on Mike’s photo booth the “Michael Gazette”. Some of these tips included ”ALWAYS EMULSIFY” and “NOT TOO THICK OR TOO THIN”. During his party, Mike socialized with his “Minions” and shot a confetti cannon with hand-over-hand assistance. He also battered a Minion Piñata filled with his favorite snacks; bananas and Go-Gurt.

Direct Support Professionals Amber Dubielak and Kelsey Simmons took the Minion theme and ran with it. They created a menu of delicious Minion foods and a wonderful photo booth that Mike enjoyed during and after his person-centered party. Kelsey and Amber involved Mike in the party planning by offering him choices of everything, from colorful backgrounds to the name of his newspaper and choice of props. Kelsey and Amber hand-painted yellow Minion t-shirts for staff and guests, and a “Master of the Minions” shirt for Mike to wear. What a wonderful way to celebrate Mike and to learn more about him! Kelsey and Mike will be spending some time scrapbooking the memories of the party for Mike to look at and remember.

Mikey's birthday party! Mikey's birthday party! Mikey's birthday party! Mikey's birthday party!

Pictured in photos: Mikey, Ryan – Direct Care Workers – Kelsey Simmons, Amber Dubielak, Richard Fraizer.

August 20, 2018

Employment First Works - Tammy's Story

Employ Tammy In 2017, Tammy wanted to learn how to hit golf balls and putt. However, she wanted more of a challenge than a Par 3 or miniature golf course. She wanted to learn at a country club golf course! With some support, Tammy began practicing two to three times a month at Chestnut Ridge Golf Resort and Conference Center in Blairsville, PA. While there, another customer observed the landscaping of the club with its beautiful flowers and asked how they were maintained so well. This statement invoked an interest of Tammy’s and later, she expressed that she would like a job at the club planting and watering the flowers. With some support and leveraging networks over the course of seven months, Tammy was hired as a 2018 seasonal employee to tend to the Golf Course flowers.

Tammy faced challenges due to people’s assumptions about her work ethic due to age and concerns about her interest in manual labor. Thankfully, Tammy was determined to prove her value and has wonderful supports in her life who encouraged her.

Tammy stated that she loves this job and knows how much is involved in taking care of all the gardens and flowers. As the Golf Course season ends in October, Tammy is enjoying her work and looking forward to applying for the 2019 season.

“It is a lot of work but look at what you get!” Tammy commented.

August 20, 2018

Free Swim and National Night Out in Shamokin, PA

On August 7, Merakey Behavioral Health services in Shamokin, PA partnered with Northumberland County to sponsor a free swim from 12pm-7pm for the surrounding communities. They had a great turn out and the kids had a lot of fun! Games were provided for the different age groups and a dance competition was held during the event! The free swim was a great lead into National Night out later that same evening. Activities enjoyed by the children at National Night Out included making stress balls with balloons and rice, lollipop pulls for prizes, and drawing in coloring books.

You can read more about the event on The News-Item's website (subscription required).

National Night Out in Shamokin, PA
National Night Out in Shamokin, PA
August 20, 2018

CAG IDD Picnic was a Success!

On July 26, the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Division held the first Consumer Advisory Group (CAG) picnic at Little Buffalo State Park in Newport, PA. This event was held so that all members of the CAGs throughout three states (PA, VA, and NJ) could meet, network, and be recognized for giving back to their communities and for advocating for themselves and others. The CAG is very active in self-advocacy and civic engagement within their communities. This event, funded in part by the Merakey Foundation, provided an opportunity for the individuals to have a collective voice and to make change. Some of the activities during the picnic included corn hole, karaoke, dancing, crafting, picture taking in a photo booth, and a town hall meeting. There was a lot of singing and dancing as Art Khaimchayev (a.k.a, DJ Freeman) volunteered to DJ the event. The town hall meeting was facilitated by Vice President of Program Operations and Development Betty Boyd and recently retiree Astrid Berry where the individuals had the opportunity to talk to CEO Joe Martz, Vice President Terry McNelis, and Chief of Operations Ted Dallas. They discussed how we can partner to improve supports, discuss what they like, dislike, and what they would like to see change. A special “thank you” to all of the CAGs, staff, and team members who participated and helped make this event successful! The goal is for this event to be held annually and to grow even larger!

CAG IDD Picnic at Little Buffalo State Park in Newport, PA!
August 6, 2018

Laughter and Love: A Funny Fundraiser Raises $18,000!

On August 1, the Merakey Foundation Junior Board presented their very first fundraising event, a night of laughter and love at the Helium Comedy Club in Philadelphia. With a star-studded line up of nationally recognized comedians, the club attracted an audience of over 200 guests. Chip Chantry from NBC’s Crazy Talk and Whacked Out Sports headlined the show with featured performers Chanel Ali from MTV’s girl code and Katie Hannigan from Laugh’s on Fox. The night of fun raised funds for the Fresh Start Recovery Scholarships. Fresh Start, a Merakey Company, housing and supportive service programs for adults were developed to work with individuals with a history of homelessness, chemical dependency, and varying degrees of behavioral health issues. After the initial 90 days in recovery, the Merakey Foundation offers scholarships to recovering individuals who require extended stable housing. The national rate of recovery from someone without secure housing after 90 days of sobriety is 4%. With continued secure housing from Merakey’s Fresh Start program the recovery rate increases to 86%.

Filled with tasty treats (donated by Federal Donuts) and laughter, guests contributed over $18,000. Jeff Pittner, Executive Director of Fresh Start, thanked everyone in attendance for their contributions that will help save the lives of those in recovery. President of the Merakey Foundation Junior Board and District Manager of Janssen Pharmaceuticals Megan Nolan introduced the goal of the new board; to collaborate with the Merakey Foundation’s Board of Directors to identify new and innovative ways to cultivate the next generation of donors. She left the audience with a challenge, “find something that matters to you and say yes. Be the change the world needs and make a difference”. The event was a fantastic first step forward for the Junior Board, in creating changes to make a positive difference.

The Junior Board would like to thank Memoir Health, Brothers Inc., Federal Donuts and Paradigm Group Consultants for sponsoring this funny fundraiser.

August 6, 2018

Chester County Consumer Advisory Group Picnic in the Park!

On July 19, the Consumer Advocacy Groups of Merakey AVS Western Division held a picnic at McDanels Boat Launch at Moraine State Park. Attendees came from Kennedy, Slippery Rock and Zapp Program Centers, Pittsburgh and Patricia Hillman Miller Campuses. Many people took advantage of the beautiful day and spent the afternoon fishing on the lake. Luckily, the fish were biting, and several people made a catch. Some individuals participated in games such as bean bag toss, lawn bowling, and ladder golf. The highlight of the picnic was the “Tony Tunes” sing along concert led by Program Aide Tony Bellassai. Everyone was given the opportunity to sing or play an instrument.

The group enjoyed a huge picnic lunch. Throughout the day, people stopped at the Snow Cone Tent for a cool treat to beat the heat. Members of the Advocacy Groups had a wonderful time seeing old friends and meeting new people. Everyone commented on the beautiful weather and how they couldn’t wait to get together again.

August 6, 2018

The "Me" in Merakey!

During the week of July 9, staff at the Crums Mill Road location in Harrisburg participated in a photo-booth style celebration, capturing how each of the staff members make up the “Me” in Merakey. With a make-shift cardboard “Me” and 4th of July props, everyone posed as their best selves and amazing smiles! The photos have been memorialized and put on display in the Crums Mill lobby.

What a creative and unique way to celebrate staff who put themselves into their work every day, making our Merakey mission a reality!