Archived News & Events - May 2019

May 30, 2019

Philly Pretzel Factory Donates “Huge” Check to Merakey Education and Autism Services

Students, families, and staff from Merakey’s St. Anne’s Education Center in Philadelphia joined Philly Pretzel Factory franchise owner Gary Nolan on May 28 to accept a donation in the amount of $15,235, which was raised during a month-long fundraising campaign to support Merakey’s autism and emotional support programs. President and COO Ted Dallas welcomed everyone and expressed how thankful he and the executive team were for the Philly Pretzel Factory’s generosity.

As a token of their appreciation, the Center’s students surprised Gary with a plaque and personalized thank you notes. The students, who were excited for the event, wore customized capes that read “I am a Merakey Superhero”. Gage, a student from the Center also presented Gary with a cape of his own in gratitude for the incredible contribution. News cameras from the major television networks were present at the event to capture the heartwarming moments.

Throughout the month of April, Merakey partnered with Philly Pretzel Factory to sell specialty Merakey bracelets and pretzels in the shape of autism ribbons at eight Delaware County Philly Pretzel Factory locations that are owned by Gary. The fundraising campaign, initiated by the Merakey Foundation Junior Board, was a huge success. Merakey thanks Gary and his team for everything they do in support of our programs.

Check out pictures and video clips highlighting the day!
Coverage by: 6ABC | NBC10 | CBS 3

May 31, 2019

Watch 'The Employables' on A&E | June 19 postponed to July 3 @10PM

The Employables TUNE IN! 10pm EST on Wednesday, July 3 on A&E to The Employables.
WHY? Merakey will be featured on A&E’s groundbreaking new docuseries “The Employables”.
WHAT IS IT? This show follows job seekers who have autism, Tourette Syndrome, or other disorder as they work to overcome obstacles and find fulfilling employment. To help achieve their dreams, participants work with a specialist to identify their strengths and to determine how best to pursue their job search. With new tools at hand, participants attend interviews with potential employers to find the perfect line of work for them. The series also shines a light on the experiences of their friends and family as they support their loved one in their goals.
WHO? You will meet Angela, an individual who is interested in working for Merakey in Western, PA. You will also see some of your favorite colleagues featured in the program!

Does she get the job? Tune in on June 26 for the answer! Click here to watch a preview of this special series.

May 28, 2019

Get to Know Merakey - in Harrisburg

On May 16, The Merakey Foundation partnered with John Frisch, member of the Merakey Foundation Board of Directors, owner and President of Higher Information Group, and owner of Greystone Public House Restaurant in Harrisburg, PA to host a meet and greet event to members of the Dauphin County community.

The event was an opportunity for staff members from Merakey, including CEO Joe Martz, staff from the Merakey Foundation, and members from the Board to create relationships with potential new donors by sharing information about Merakey and the critical services provided. Boyd Hamilton, an employee in our Veterans program at Fresh Start, a Merakey Company, spoke of his personal experience receiving services at Merakey, and how he eventually gained meaningful employment with the organization. Former PA Budget Secretary Randy Albright also presented about the challenges of getting funding for programs in the human services industry.

Attendees were treated to good food, a beautiful view outside of the restaurant, and great company. The Merakey Foundation thanks John and his continued support of our mission and individuals in our care.

Get to Know Merakey - in Harrisburg
Get to Know Merakey - in Harrisburg
Get to Know Merakey - in Harrisburg
May 28, 2019

Community Clothing Drive

On May 15 and 16, Merakey Behavioral Health programs and the Case Management Unit in Harrisburg, PA partnered to collect clothing, shoes, and other essentials to donate to people in need in the community. Thank you, Merakey Supervisor Heather Mayberry and staff Mary Pyle for helping to organize the event and to all staff who donated their time and clothing! Check out CBS 21 News for footage of the event.

Clothing Drive
Clothing Drive Clothing Drive
Clothing Drive Clothing Drive
May 28, 2019

50th Anniversary Employee Spotlight Campaign - Monica Hall

Monica Hall

Many employees have been with Merakey for quite a number of years, and they deserve a special spotlight for all their hard work and dedication! Look for more employee spotlights in The Pulse, on digital signage, and on Facebook!

Associate Executive Director Monica Hall has worked with Merakey for an incredible 29 years. “It gives me the opportunity to touch the lives of our individuals on a daily basis,” Monica said about her time with Merakey.

Her favorite memory was being instrumental in planning a vacation at the beach in Ocean City, NJ. For many individuals, this was their first vacation ever, so it was extra special to see the looks on their faces when they saw the sand and the ocean.

The Merakey core value that means the most to Monica is compassion. She believes compassion enhances the desire to change the lives of the individuals she serves. Merakey has taught Monica patience, diligence and hard work.

Thank you, Monica, for putting your heart and soul into exceptional care and services!

May 23, 2019

Lintons Managed Services - Philly's Top Workplace

Chris Dunton & Debbie

Congratulations to CEO and Merakey Foundation Board Member Chris Dunton and to Lintons Managed Services for being awarded a Top Workplaces 2019 honor by the Philadelphia Inquirer! This marks the eighth year in a row that Lintons has achieved this honor and distinction.

Lintons supports many Merakey programs, events, and other activities by providing nourishing meals and snacks to individuals and staff members. Lintons also employs individuals from our Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities programs to help them gain meaningful employment and earn a recurring paycheck.

Click here to meet Debbie from Philadelphia. She not only works for Chris at Lintons Managed Services, but she was also escorted by him as her date to the IDD prom on May 8. When asked about the most exciting part of the prom, Debbie was proud to announce Chris as her date and dancing partner!

Thank you to Lintons and to Chris for all that you do to support Merakey.

May 23, 2019

Merakey Participates in 2019 NAMI Walk

NAMI Walks 2019

On May 4, Merakey staff members and individuals we support in Montgomery County, PA participated in the 2019 Greater Philadelphia NAMI Walk at Montgomery County Community College. The Merakey team raised over $700 to support NAMI Philadelphia. NAMI Philadelphia is an affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The organization provides information and support to people with mental illness, their families, caregivers, and friends. All the services they provide are free of charge, and they rely on gifts and contributions to support their work. To learn more about NAMI please visit Thank you, Merakey team, for representing us in the community!


Pictured: Executive Director Kim Caton’s son and Director Sarah Reimer’s son enjoying the walk and their snacks from Merakey cups!

May 23, 2019

Recovery Through Work Program Celebrates First Graduation

Congratulations to the “Recovery Through Work” Program participants from Merakey Parkside Recovery on their eight week journey to job readiness! PA CareerLink Philadelphia partnered with Merakey for a successful first cohort. Merakey’s President and COO Ted Dallas attended a celebration event at Merakey Parkside Recovery on May 13 to acknowledge and congratulate all the graduates of this innovative program.

Recovery Through Work
Recovery Through Work
Recovery Through Work
Recovery Through Work
May 23, 2019

50th Anniversary Employee Spotlight Campaign – George Markose

George Markose

Many employees have been with Merakey for quite a number of years, and they deserve a special spotlight for all their hard work and dedication! Look for more employee spotlights in The Pulse, on digital signage, and on Facebook!

Duty Administrator, George Markose, has worked with Merakey for an amazing 29 years. “This is a service to our individuals, it’s more than just a job.” George said about his time with Merakey.

His favorite memory was when he was walking to his office and he heard a former resident calling his name. They had moved out of their program into a home and had not seen George in several years.

George believes the chance run in was an acknowledgement of his service. George believes that all the core values are equally important. George’s job motivates him to be compassionate, trust worthy and act with integrity in other aspects of his life in addition to work.

Thank you, George, for putting your heart and soul into exceptional care and services!

May 13, 2019

Foster Care Awareness Month

On May 7, the Franklin Fulton Foster Care Program in Chambersburg, PA received a visit from CEO Joe Martz to help celebrate May being Foster Care Awareness month. Joe wanted to meet this fantastic group of people who worked over 1000 days with six siblings in foster care. The program requested a waiver to keep the siblings together, which resulted in guardianship with the resource parents from Merakey. The team enjoyed lunch at Olive Garden, where Joe had the opportunity to meet one of our other Merakey Resource Parents Philip Silva, who is also a manager at the Olive Garden. Thanks to Franklin Fulton’s Foster Care Program for making a difference and for putting your heart and soul into exceptional care and services!

Joe Martz visits Chambersburg
From left to right: Joe Martz, Donna Brewer, Briana Byers, Brandy Whitson, Holly Karalus, JoAnne Roeske, Alysia Snyder, Stephanie Concepcion, Kristy Robertson Litzinger, Philip Silva
May 13, 2019

A Hero at Merakey!

Thank you, Robert!

On May 7, Merakey received an email from Diana Haugh, a woman who witnessed one of our staff members save the life of an individual he supports. In her email, she commended Robert Thomas, Direct Support Professional from the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Division in Northumberland County, for the immediate actions he took to save his consumer’s life.

While enjoying lunch at a Burger King in Elysburg, PA, Marlon began choking on his food. Robert quickly and calmly responded to the incident by following the CPR protocol he had learned. Diana was sitting at the next table and could see that Marlon had turned a dusky color and was in evident distress.

Following the steps of CPR, Robert tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “Are you okay, Marlon?” When Marlon was unable to respond, and continued to choke, Robert asked for assistance and began the Heimlich maneuver. Diana was glad to help, and called 911.

Robert kept Marlon calm until the ambulance arrived, all the while continuing to work with him to clear the airway.

Diana stated, “I commend you [Merakey] for such well-trained and compassionate staff. Marlon could have died had he not been with such competent staff.

Merakey thanks and applauds Robert for his heroic actions and for utilizing the training he received to save Marlon’s life.

May 13, 2019

50th Anniversary Employee Spotlight Campaign – Crystal Harris

Crystal Harris

Many employees have been with Merakey for quite a number of years, and they deserve a special spotlight for all their hard work and dedication! Look for more employee spotlights in The Pulse, on digital signage, and on Facebook!

Recreation Coordinator, Crystal Harris, has worked with Merakey for an amazing 25 years. “I love the population I work with and I love helping others.” Crystal commented about her time with Merakey.

Her favorite memory was when she planned a jazz dinner for the residents and staff at the Merakey Iris House in Philadelphia to include live entertainment. The residents helped serve food, sang and danced. Organizing a fantastic evening with and for the residents warmed her heart.

The Long Term Structured Residence program is proud to have Crystal as a part of their team. She has been instrumental in helping serve the residents with compassion, care, and amazing skill for two and a half decades. Crystal worked tirelessly to implement the Sanctuary Model in the program and to create a safe and loving environment for all residents and staff.

Crystal believes that the most important core value is trust. By building trust between staff and individuals it can, in turn, facilitate safety.

Thank you, Crystal, for putting your heart and soul into exceptional care and services!

May 13, 2019

Merakey Foster Parent Appreciation Luncheon

On April 27, the Merakey Foster Care program in DuBois, PA celebrated the resource parents from Canal Ways, Creekside, and Highpoint Centers with an appreciation luncheon, held at Luigi’s Villa. Resource families from eight counties were recognized for opening their hearts and their homes to children in need. Without their dedication and support, children could not receive the specialized care and safety they need.

During the event, everyone participated in creating a family painting, which is proudly displayed at the office in Dubois. During lunch, every resource family was recognized, even if they were not able to attend the event. All families received a Merakey blanket, a certificate of appreciation, and a personalized card from the staff. The door prizes were also a big hit, with every resource parent going home with at least one prize.

Staff from the DuBois office thanks the Merakey Foundation for their generous donation to help fund this special luncheon. Special thanks also go to staff members who donated both prizes and their time to plan the event, and to local businesses who donated items towards the door prizes. Everyone had a fantastic time celebrating and appreciating everything that our resource families do every day.

Resource Parents
May 10, 2019

Somewhere Over the Rainbow Prom

IDD PromMore than 400 individuals and staff from Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities programs in Philadelphia and Chester Counties celebrated their prom on May 8 at the Philadelphia Ballroom. Attendees were greeted by “paparazzi” that included CEO Joe Martz, President and COO Ted Dallas, CSO Leah Pason, VP of Marketing Trish Pisauro, VP of Administrative and Professional Services Sherri Portnoy, and others as they made their way to the yellow brick road! . Individuals were excited to have their pictures taken, dance to their favorite songs, and enjoy a delicious meal.

Click here to experience some of the magic of the evening for yourself. Once again, media came out to share with television viewers all the fun that everyone had:

Thank you to all the volunteers and staff members who helped organize and run both events, as well as to the Merakey Foundation for sponsoring this special night. Individuals who attended the proms were grateful to all employees and Merakey partners for their generous donations of gowns, tuxedos, suits, shoes, and more so that everyone could look their very best.

May 3, 2019

Merakey Autism Center in Texas Hosts Open House

The newest Merakey Autism Center in Fort Worth, Texas, hosted a ribbon cutting and Open House on April 30. Despite inclement weather and tornado warnings throughout the area, many members of the community, the Chamber of Commerce, as well as Mayor Betsy Price, Councilman Carlos Flores, and Susan Young, representative from Senator Kelly Hancock’s office, attended the event in full support of the Autism Center, our staff members, and our mission.

The event began with tours of their beautiful facility, recently renovated and retrofitted to meet the needs of the individuals we support. The Chamber of Commerce officially commemorated the event with a ribbon cutting and presentation of a plaque, welcoming Merakey to the Fort Worth community. CEO Joe Martz and Chairman of the Merakey Parent Board of Directors Robert Nix participated in the ribbon cutting and presentations.

Holly Salicco, Director of Operations for the Center, welcomed and thanked everyone for their support of the Autism Center. Joe Martz expressed his gratitude to everyone in attendance and thanked the staff members for all of their hard work and dedication over the past few months in building an incredible model of care for families in the Fort Worth community.

Mika Bradford, a consultant who has been on the ground in Texas helping to build our new Autism Center introduced Mayor Price, Councilman Flores, and Susan Young. Each dignitary conveyed their appreciation of the Autism Center and its expected impact to the community. Both Mayor Price and Councilman Flores gave personal testimonials of how autism has affected their lives and families, and how they are grateful to have this new resource in Fort Worth.

Several families, representatives from school districts, and other providers in the area came out to celebrate and learn about the new Autism Center. As a result, staff members were busy giving tours and taking information for potential referrals all night!

Congratulations to Holly Salicco, Director JJ Yarbrough, and their entire team for an incredible event and for all of their hard work in establishing the Merakey Autism Center in Texas.

Merakey Autism Center ribbon cutting in Fort Worth
Merakey Autism Center ribbon cutting in Fort Worth
Merakey Autism Center ribbon cutting in Fort Worth
Merakey Autism Center ribbon cutting in Fort Worth
May 3, 2019

Somewhere Over the Rainbow at Prom

On April 24, more than 550 individuals and staff members celebrated prom at Presidential Caterers in East Norriton, PA. Everyone had a blast dancing to their favorite DJ, eating a delicious meal, and taking photos with characters from the Wizard of Oz! Visit to read more about the experience our individuals had at prom last week.

Check out media coverage of the event!

Browse through our Flickr album to see pictures from that magical night, and stay tuned for highlights of the next prom to be held on May 8 at the Philadelphia Ballroom!

IDD Prom 2019
May 3, 2019

Michelle Buzard - New Chair of the PA Chapter of the Family Focused Treatment Association

Michelle Buzard

The Family Focused Treatment Association (FFTA) recently re-established the PA Chapter of the FFTA. Michele Buzard, TFC/FCP Practice Leader, assisted in the process and was selected as the PA Chapter Chair. The position involves holding and participating in bi-monthly meetings with the other state chairs. On May 4, Chair representatives from across the county will come together in DC for the FFTA 16th Annual Public Policy Institute and TFC Advocacy Day Family First Prevention Services Act and Treatment Family Care Aligned. Congratulations, Michele, on your new position as Chapter Chair!

To learn more about the conference please visit:

May 3, 2019

Play Ball!

Miracle League

The 2019 Spring Miracle League season is underway, and Merakey Allegheny Valley School is represented by 120 individuals on 9 teams. Individuals and staff members from the Pittsburgh Campus and from the following group homes are participating: Barclay, Brodhead II, Buckskin, Clearview, East Gait, Evergreen, Ewings Mill I, Fox, Galey, Green Garden, Harmony, Hookstown, Malcolm, Maratta, Nolte, Nyetimber, Ohioview, Patterson, Pine, Robinson Technology Home, Rt. 108, Snyder II, Sunset, Windy Ghoul, Willow Acres and Wiltshire. We are grateful to all the House Managers and staff members who serve as team buddies, helping to make each game a special night out for the participants.

Games last approximately one hour with each team playing two innings. The National Anthem is sung before each game. Between the two innings participants, coaches, buddies and fans sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Each team member takes a turn at bat and circles the bases. Staff members, volunteers and fans cheer on the players as they come up to bat, and assist them in the outfield, as needed, and all games end in a tie. The teams are playing ball every Monday – Thursday, 6:30 pm and/or 7:30 pm, now through June 27.

The Pirates Charities Miracle League Field is located in Cranberry Township, PA at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Sportsplex at Graham Park. Click here to learn more about the Miracle League of Southwestern PA, and come out to cheer on our teams!

May 3, 2019

50th Anniversary Employee Spotlight Campaign - Robin White

Robin White

Many employees have been with Merakey for quite a number of years, and they deserve a special spotlight for all their hard work and dedication! Look for more employee spotlights in The Pulse, on digital signage, and on Facebook!

Direct Support Professional Robin White has worked with Merakey for an amazing 30 years. “Making sure that our residents get the loving care that they need is important to me.” said Robin upon reflecting on her time working at Merakey.

Her favorite memory was the 50th anniversary party that all staff and residents at Merakey AVS on Verree Road in Philadelphia celebrated the entire day. She also has fond memories of taking residents out for trips in the community.

The core value that means the most to Robin is compassion. Caring for our residents and seeing them happy and healthy is very rewarding to her.

Merakey has taught Robin that there is nothing like the feeling of making a difference. She has also learned that you can love what you do for a living and have fun doing it.

Thank you, Robin, for putting your heart and soul into exceptional care and services!

May 3, 2019

Lehigh Valley Celebrates Merakey's 50th, Sanctuary Style

Every March, the Merakey Behavioral Health program in Lehigh Valley, PA spends each week of the month engaging in activities to strengthen their practice of the Sanctuary Model. This year, they incorporated the Merakey 50th Anniversary celebration, culminating in a final event on March 29.

During one of the week’s activities, each staff painted a part of a canvas designed to highlight our 50-year achievement in supporting individuals in reaching their potential. Another week they collected testimonials from staff about their experience with the Sanctuary Model and created “quote bubbles” to post around the office. They also filled a time capsule with staff identifying which Sanctuary Commitments and Merakey Core Values they planned to work on for the year.

At their event on March 29, staff were recognized for their demonstration of the commitments and values:

Diversity: Christine Hunsberger
Integrity: Brenda Overly
Quality: Victoria Monahan
Safety: Jessica Hahn
Compassion: Derek Buckner
Democracy: Steve Nesgoda
Emotional Intelligence: Mary Caro
Growth and Change: Kaitlin Snyder
Non-violence: Heather Dixon
Social Learning: Dr. Yampolsky
Social Responsibility: Amy Ford (Amy was also awarded the coveted Sanctuary Crown, which she will hold for one year).

Congratulations and thanks to all!

Sanctuary Style

May 1, 2019

Michael and Bob - A Model Railroad Friendship

Michael, an individual at Merakey, has been fascinated with trains since he was a child. Amtrak, regional rails, subways and model railroads are his favorites. Michael has autism and one feature of autism is having highly focused areas of interest. For Michael, this area is trains. However, Michael also has a rule, which is to not say the “T word”. He does not say or want to hear the word “train”, he prefers to state “Septa” or “Amtrak”.

When Michael moved into his first home, his parents had a model railroad platform built for him. When Michael moved in 2015, the platform was too big to take to his new home. Thus, the search was on to find someone to help Michael build a new platform. This turned out to be more challenging than expected and it took nearly three years.

In January of 2018, Bob Mitchell saw an ad in the Philadelphia National Model Railroad Association newsletter about a man with autism looking for someone to help him build a model railroad platform in his home. Soon after, in March, Bob and Michael met for the first time. Michael showed Bob the trains he had from his previous set up and talked about his love of trains. Bob was mindful not to use the word “train” after Michael had asked him not to use the word. Bob and Michael hit it off and agreed to work together. From April to November, Bob and Michael created the new platform. Bob was great at engaging Michael with painting, laying the tracks, and adding the scenery. The new platform is now complete, and Bob and Michael continue to see each other to operate the “t words”.

May 1, 2019

Consumer Advisory's Sweet Heart Prom

Prom NightThe Cambrian Hills Consumer Advisory Group received funding from the Merakey Foundation this past fall to host a prom. The prom theme was "You are Loved-A Sweetheart Prom!" Jokes and laughs were exchanged over dinner, everyone dressed up in their gowns and suits, and the DJ played their favorite songs. Everyone connected to form a train and danced to the song “Locomotion”. The Cambrian Hills Consumer Advisory Group is truly grateful to the Merakey Foundation for making this special night possible.

May 1, 2019

50th Anniversary Employee Spotlight – Nancy Metro

NancyMany employees have been with Merakey for quite a number of years, and they deserve a special spotlight for all their hard work and dedication! Look for more employee spotlights in The Pulse, on digital signage, and on Facebook!

Revenue Cycle Analyst Nancy Metro has worked with Merakey for an incredible 29 years. “Working at Merakey has humbled me and made me proud to work for a company that puts our clients first,” said Nancy.

Nancy’s sister-in-law was born with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Her family was always concerned with her well-being and who would take care of her in the future. Nancy believes Merakey is one organization that will continue to provide the best care for individuals, like her sister-in-law.

The core value that means the most to Nancy is trust. People have placed their trust in Merakey to care for their family members, so Nancy works hard to ensure that trust is not broken.

Thank you, Nancy, for putting your heart and soul into exceptional care and services!

May 1, 2019

Merakey Presented at PAPRS 2019 Annual Conference

Representatives from Merakey in Philadelphia attended the Pennsylvania Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (PAPRS) 2019 Annual Conference on April 16 - 18. The conference centered around Opening the Door to Wellness: Inclusive Practices in Recovery. Program Director, Tess Zakrzwski, presented two pre-conference institutes; Keeping the Spark Alive: Motivation Through Supervision and Building a Better Team: Skills in Action. Tess has presented at this conference for seven years. Program Manager Lisa Quintana presented: When Compassion Hurts. Thank you for representing Merakey!

Merakey Presented at PAPRS 2019 Annual Conference