Archived News & Events - October 2018

October 29, 2018

Stronger Than Hate

Stronger Than Hate

Merakey joins our Pittsburgh area family in mourning the victims of the mass murder at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, a diverse and welcoming area of the City.

Three congregations worship at the site – Tree of Life * Or L’Simcha, New Light, and Dor Hadash. Each congregation lost members to hatred on Saturday. Two of the victims – Cecil and David Rosenthal – were supported by our friends at ACHIEVA and were known to members of our community as well.

We are grateful to the first responders who began arriving on the scene within minutes.

We grieve for the lives lost and hope that healing will bring unity and peace.

October 29, 2018

Employment First Works - Thomasina's Story #NDEAM

On October 22, 2018, Thomasina was presented with the 2018 Self-Advocate of the Year Award by Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disability (PAR) at their annual conference. Thomasina was overjoyed to share this wonderful experience with friends, family, and colleagues. Nominated for the award by Director of Employment Services Theresia Kody and Employment Services Manager Derrick Rogers, Thomasina’s story shows the importance of having social capital, and that having positive relationships elevates the mind, supports physical health, and nourishes the soul.

Can't see the video above? Click here to view it on YouTube.

To understand how Thomasina earned this prestigious award, we must reflect on the events from this past year. In 2017, Thomasina suffered a health complication that inhibited her from gainful employment. However, through diligence and perseverance, Thomasina overcame her health challenges, and last fall, she began working as the lead housekeeper at a Merakey location in Philadelphia. She arrived early to work every day, greeted everyone with a warm smile, and always pitched in to help her colleagues with additional tasks that needed to get done.

The Graham Company, Merakey’s insurance and risk management partner, was looking for additional support in their office, so they asked us for a referral. Merakey knew the perfect candidate to refer, so Thomasina was offered and accepted an administrative position at The Graham Company this past May. Working in unfamiliar territory, she started at 20 hours a week. Within just three days at the Graham Company, the management team recognized Thomasina’s work ethic and potential, and they asked her to expand her job responsibilities. Despite her lack of confidence in her abilities, Thomasina immediately said “yes” to this request. In doing so, Thomasina not only proved her value to the team at the Graham Company, but she surpassed her own expectations as a contributing member of the business world. This new-found confidence made Thomasina recognize that she is capable of so much more than she had realized. Thomasina is now scanning, copying, binding portfolios, and more. With these additional tasks, she received her very own computer for emailing and electronic filing. In September, Thomasina celebrated passing her 90-day probationary period working at The Graham Company with an office party surrounded by her colleagues! After five months of hard work, Thomasina has proven to be an invaluable member of the team.

Thomasina is a mother, friend, self-advocate, church member, and employee. As someone who bears many roles and responsibilities in life, Thomasina is proud of her accomplishments and successes, which helps to bring sustainability to her family. She continues to prove to herself that she is capable of doing more than she thinks she can, especially with the support of her friends, family, and colleagues. Even though change can be scary, Thomasina enjoys her ever-evolving role at work and in life.

Merakey is proud of Thomasina’s achievements and congratulates her for being recognized as PAR’s 2018 Self-Advocate of the Year Award! Click here to read the press release on Thomasina’s story distributed by PAR.

Thomasina ThomasinaThomasina Thomasina
October 29, 2018

Merakey Presents at National Technology Conference

Tech presentation

Employees from Merakey attended the 2018 Coleman Conference on Cognitive Disability and Technology in Broomfield, CO on October 3. Vice President of Administrative and Professional Services, IDD Services Sherri Portnoy and Technology and Innovation Manager Shaleea Shields presented at the 18th annual event which is nationally recognized as one of the few venues dedicated exclusively to technology and information access for people with cognitive disabilities.

Emily Shea Tanis, Ph.D., acting executive director of the Coleman Institute, invited Shaleea to present at the conference along with Daniel Davies, the founder and president of AbleLink Technologies. Their session, entitled Holistic Support: Integrating Cognitive Technologies Across Life Domains for Individuals with Cognitive Disabilities, discussed technologies that are being used to expand opportunities and enhance independence for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and other cognitive disabilities. The session highlighted work being done at Merakey and emphasized the importance of taking a holistic approach when using technologies to provide integrated support.

Merakey has been an innovation partner with AbleLink since 2014. This collaboration is part of the Merakey IDD Division’s Communication Technology Program. By incorporating customizable software into the everyday lives of the individuals that we support, we make it possible for them to stay in touch with friends and family, communicate with members of their support services team, acquire basic computer skills and explore their interests, all while safeguarding their privacy and security.

For more information about the Conference or about Merakey’s technology initiatives contact Rene Burke at or Shaleea Shields at in the Office of Innovation.

October 10, 2018

Employment First Works - Updates #NDEAM

Over the last year and a half, the Employment First Committee at Merakey has been capturing stories of people’s employment journeys. Some have been shared through The Pulse and some updates are being shared below; while others you see throughout NDEAM are newly shared. Do you know of someone’s story that they would like to share?

Contact Theresia Kody, Director of Employment Services IDD ( for support in sharing.

  • In October 2017, Ben shared about his job at Sapp Brothers Truck Stop in Clearfield, PA. One year later and Ben is almost without any paid supports. With one hour of paid support a week, Ben and his team are expecting to be completely faded at his workplace by the end of this year. Best of luck to Ben as he continues to grow and learn!
  • Michael who works at The Brewery in Slippery Rock, PA developed an appetizer for the menu: Mikey’s Flatbread. The dish started as a special lunch request from Michael due to dietary needs and he shared with some co-workers. When Michael approached the manager about including it on the menu, the positive feedback from his co-workers sealed the deal. This appetizer has appeared on the menu since May. The Brewery changes its menu often, so Michael is currently working on a pumpkin/Oreo dessert that he hopes will be included this fall.
  • Ed continues to shine working at McDonald’s in Western, PA. This summer, he used the earnings he saved to go on vacation to Atlantis with his family. Ed also celebrated his birthday with coworkers and a “regular” who Ed’s come to know gifted him two club seats and a parking pass to the Pirates game. Needless to say, he enjoyed the game and continues to love work.
  • Leo, who volunteers with Meals on Wheels, is back working his typical schedule at Windsor Inn in Northeast, PA since the restaurant was remodeled over the summer. He is happy to be back to his regular schedule earning money. Leo joined a bowling league this fall. He enjoys bowling, but this is his first opportunity to be in a league.
  • Tammy is nearing the end of the season at the Golf Course. Due to warm weather the season has been extended, and Tammy will continue to work through October. Tammy will do a ‘clean up’ of flowers. Tammy has made many friends with both colleagues and golfers at Chestnut Ridge and states she is excited to return next year!
  • Shawn has experience doing janitorial tasks, but is in the process with Vocational Rehabilitation to help figure out what he’s interested in. He likes to work for the same reason anyone else has to work: to earn “cash.”
Tammy with end of season flowers

Michael - Brewery menu with the item he created "Mikey's Flatbread"

October 10, 2018

Cambrian Hills CAB Gives Back to Their Community

On September 21, the Cambrian Hills Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) volunteered to paint areas of the Canoe Creek State Park to help give back to their community. Many individuals from Merakey enjoy this beautiful state park. Everyone laughed, made connections with park rangers, and really enjoyed giving back to their community.

October 10, 2018

Merakey Hosts 5th Annual Community Health Fair in Delaware County

The 5th Annual Community Health Fair at Merakey Delaware County, held on October 3, included free health screenings, healthy foods, and more than 45 vendors that provided literature on positive lifestyle tips, resources, and giveaway items to attendees. There was also a yoga instructor, a massage therapist, and fun fall-themed activities for kids. Life Tree Pharmacy provided free flu shots to guests. The Sharon Hill facility provides an integrated care model, where individuals have the ability to see a primary care physician, a psychiatrist and a therapist in one location. CEO Joe Martz and COO Ted Dallas welcomed those in attendance and introduced Donald Cave, Community Constituent Services Liaison for PA State Senator Anthony H. Williams, and Kiesha Brown, Quality Improvement and Insurance for Office of Behavioral Health for Delaware County. Donald Cave reminded attendees the importance of behavioral health services for the community.

Special thanks to Chante Smith-Roberson, Sharon White, Ann Brown, and all the staff at Merakey Delaware County who helped facilitate the fair and to the vendors for their participation!

October 10, 2018

National Disability Employment Awareness Month #NDEAM

This week, the Employment First Committee at Merakey is sharing individuals’ personal stories, along with stories from other people with disabilities who have and continue to make valuable contributions to the world.

Chris' Story

Chris has been working at Pardee’s Route 240 Restaurant in Cherry Tree Pennsylvania for the past eight years. Chris is a valued member of the team at Pardee’s and he has a range of job responsibilities. In the winter months, Chris ensures the patrons remain safe by shoveling snow and putting salt at the entrance of the building.

Chris truly loves his job stating, “Everybody there is nice to me and I really like my boss and her husband”. Over the years, Chris has maintained a great rapport with the patrons of the restaurant, especially the morning coffee drinkers. On the days Chris isn’t working, he enjoys sitting with the coffee drinkers and conversing about hunting and fishing.

When asked about his dream job Chris responded, “I want to open my own business working on small engines”. With the help of his support team, Chris is in the initial stages of starting up his own business with great vision for his future. He hopes to have his own small business up and running by April 2019.

Employment First Works Employment First Works

James' Story

Employment First Works

The Golden Arches of McDonald’s are a common sight in most towns and cities. McDonald’s offers the convenience of fast food to those with busy lifestyles, and in Slippery Rock, a place to hang out between classes. Many people would not find the McDonald’s in Slippery Rock much different from any other McDonald’s. There is the same aroma of frying meat; the same sound of French fries sizzling and bubbling in hot grease; the same long lines of customers waiting to fill their bellies. However, to James, the McDonald’s in Slippery Rock is special. This McDonald’s offers James freedom, possibility, and purpose.

James has worked at the McDonald’s in Slippery Rock for almost three years. He started by working two days a week as a dishwasher, but through his initiative and hard work, he earned a promotion to Maintenance Manager, which included a raise. In addition to washing dishes, James now helps unload the delivery trucks, mops the floors, cleans tables, and delivers food to cars when the drive-thru is busy.

Employment First WorksBrian Dickens, James’s supervisor said, “James has good attention to detail”. James may be busy with his job duties, but he will take the time to exchange a quick greeting with familiar customers or friends before he returns to his tasks.

James saves the money he earns, so he can go on vacation to places like Disney World and Universal Studios. Capitalizing on his skill for detail and using his earnings from work for supplies, James draws intricate worlds and creatures. Some pieces of his artwork have been displayed and auctioned off for charity. He gives other pieces to his friends. “I like getting a paycheck, so I can get things that I want,“ James explained. “I can keep making my art and go to really cool places.”

Currently, James works from 9 AM- 2 PM, four days a week. He is satisfied with the job he does and the freedom employment brings.

We have to hustle,” James said, “But that’s ok, because I like to be busy.” According to James, “Everyone is super friendly here, kind of like family."

October 10, 2018

MLTSS Community Outreach at Meadow Heights

The Merakey Managed Long Term Support Services team enjoyed spending time with the residents at Meadow Heights Senior Living Center in Uniontown, PA on September 28. They played bingo and won some great prizes. Merakey staff spent time talking with and learning about the residents. Merakey is privileged to be able to serve some of the residents living in Meadow Heights. They also shared, with other residents, the MLTSS services that Merakey has available.

October 10, 2018

Merakey Montgomery County Launches School-Based Therapy Program

New School-Based Outpatient Therapy Program! Merakey Montgomery County is happy to announce its new school-based outpatient therapy program!

Currently in North Penn School District, about to launch in Hatboro-Horsham, this program provides mental health outpatient services to students in need directly in the school setting.

As part of the program launch, therapist Etyia Faison participated in North Penn's back to school night. She had the opportunity to talk to parents, students, and school personnel about how Merakey can help.

October 10, 2018

Merakey CPS Program Joins with Jeeps Against Suicide

On September 22, the Merakey Certified Peer Specialist Program at Schuylkill Mountain Center in Pottsville, PA joined with Jeeps vs. Suicide. Merakey, along with other community programs, "Raised their Hands for Suicide Awareness". Individuals and even pets were able to participate in an art project, where individuals placed the imprint of their hand on a board for Suicide Awareness. Lori Adams, CPS, and Jennifer Kramer, ABH Services Director, manned the stand and got a little dirty to bring the word to others about services offered and the effects of Suicide to the individuals and their communities. There were over 25 models of Jeeps from various eras "Riding against Suicide"! The community support was impressive, and the word reached over 100 people. The program will continue to educate the community by participating in the event next year.

Jeeps Against Suicide
Jeeps Against Suicide
Jeeps Against Suicide