Archived News & Events - September 2018

September 28, 2018

Merakey Wins Award of Distinction!

Merakey Wins Award of Distinction!

Merakey is proud to have won the 2018 Award of Distinction by the Communicator Awards for our new brand identity, logo, and design. Special thank you to Bailey Brand Consulting for placing this submission and for their overall support with our rebranding initiative!

September 27, 2018

The Street Project Foundation

The Street Project Foundation

Paul Sachs, Executive Director of Behavioral Health Programs for adults in Philadelphia, is also an international advocate for education, change, and hope. This summer, Paul collaborated with the Street Project Foundation in Nigeria and donated eleven laptops to their organization. The Street Project Foundation is a social enterprise that uses creative arts as a tool to facilitate opportunities, youth employment, engagement and cross-cultural dialogue.

Rita Ezenwa-Okoro, Founder/Lead Visionary of the Street Project Foundation wrote a letter of appreciation to CEO Joe Martz about Paul’s efforts and contribution: “This donation will enable us to carry out a comprehensive youth development program in digital arts focusing on skills acquisition for young people aged 16 to 25 years old from low income backgrounds and residing in underserved communities in Lagos, Nigeria.”

Thank you, Paul, for truly displaying the Merakey mission and core values on a daily basis, in every aspect of your life. A special appreciation also goes to CIO Tom Morgan, Senior Director of End User Support Christen Flaherty, Technical Services Manager Bill Hart, and the IT Team for their support with the donation of laptops.

The Street Project
The Street Project
September 27, 2018

Peyton Heart Project at Merakey Woodhaven Day Program

In recognition of Suicide Prevention Month, individuals in the Merakey Woodhaven Day Program took time during their programming day to volunteer their creative talents with The Peyton Heart Project.

The Peyton Heart Project was started in 2014 and named in honor of 13-year-old Peyton James who died by suicide. Their mission statement is “A global project created to help end suicide and bullying and the stigma surrounding mental health issues.” The project involves people creating small hearts out of yarn and attaching a tag with a supportive saying as well as helpful information, including the National Suicide Prevention hotline. The creators then leave the hearts throughout the community for someone to find in the hopes that it will help someone in need.

Individuals in the Merakey Woodhaven Day Program took a day to create hearts to be distributed in their community. With the help of their program specialists, individuals made copies of the color tags, cut out cardboard hearts, wrapped them in colorful yarn, and attached the tags. Some staff members also contributed their own crochet created hearts to be added to their donation. Over the coming week, the hearts will be distributed across the grounds at the Woodhaven Campus and in their surrounding community.

To learn more about the Peyton Heart Project, visit

September 27, 2018

Advisory Board Members Visit the Philadelphia Zoo

On September 12, members of the Merakey advisory boards from Northeast and Western PA joined together for a trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. Everyone enjoyed a nice day, taking in all the sights and sounds of the animals. This was a packed two days of fun after enjoying the Philadelphia Phillies game the night prior!

Advisory Board visits the Zoo! Advisory Board visits the Zoo! Advisory Board visits the Zoo!
Advisory Board visits the Zoo! Advisory Board visits the Zoo! Advisory Board visits the Zoo!

Special thanks to the planning committee who made this happen,
including Alex Canavan, Madge Dombrosky, Holly Koban, and Michelle Gibson.

September 27, 2018

Center for Hope: Miracle is College Bound

Miracle James

Miracle James is a thoughtful, intelligent, young woman who was born and raised in the City of Newburgh, NY. Since last fall, Miracle has been attending SUNY Albany where she is majoring in psychology and minoring in business and women’s studies. She speaks with great emotion and pride regarding her hometown which she feels is often unfairly criticized by those who do not have an intimate understanding of her community.

Until you are a part of the community, you do not have the connection to the people that live here and therefore do not have a good understanding of all that Newburgh has to offer. You just need to experience it for yourself to see that there are positive aspects to living in this city.”

Miracle has been coming to Center for Hope since her Junior year in high school and, through the work program, was employed at McDonald’s. This year, she decided to re-apply to the work program and was hired as a youth mentor at the Center. Miracle returns to SUNY Albany this year, and she adds that being a youth mentor has been a great experience for her and one that she has enjoyed immensely.

Working at the Center has given her the opportunity to give back to her community. Both of her parents work in the social work field, and as she grew up, she was constantly reminded that helping others, reaching out to youth, and giving back are important characteristics to have. “Growing up in Newburgh is hard,” she said. This experience has helped her to get out more and appreciate her community. We all wish Miracle the best of luck, and we know she will makes us proud!

September 27, 2018

Busy Bees – Center for Hope Beekeeping Program

Bees! Bees! Beekeeping is an art form in which one develops an intimate understanding of how bee colonies function, the roles the various bees play, and developing a relationship between the beekeepers and the bees. In fact, the bees rely on the nurturance of the beekeeper by tending to their hives and spraying for mites to keep them healthy. Last year, the hives at the Center for Hope in Newburgh, NY, were located at Downing Urban Farm.

After searching for the proper spot and ensuring that the bee’s flight paths would be clear of obstructions, it appeared that they were doing well, although not producing much honey. This year, the hives were moved to Crystal Lake which is more secluded and has less interference in the form of traffic. As a result, the bees and the hives have thrived there, and we needed to increase the number of hives by at least two boxes. The hives produced large amounts of honey, enough to keep the Center fully stocked! This experience has been a great metaphor for how community functions at its best, when each member is fully invested in contributing to the whole. We hope to continue our beekeeping program next summer and expand production with the help of our winged friends!

September 27, 2018

Sassy and Classy!

The sassy but classy ladies from the Merakey IDD program in Cambria County were asked to strut their stuff in the Christopher and Banks Fashion Show in Lancaster, PA on September 15.

Donna, Yvonne, and Kathy take regular trips to Lancaster to enjoy shows at the Sight and Sound Theater and to shop at the Rockvale Outlets. On their last visit to the outlets, they were asked to participate in the Fashion Show as the staff recognized their eye for fashion. The ladies picked out their outfits from head to toe, and their names were announced as they walked the runway through the store. They not only enjoyed the discounts that were offered for being a part of the show, but they were humbled by the interaction and attention received throughout the day. They have already been invited back for the next fashion show in the spring!

Sassy and Classy! Sassy and Classy! Sassy and Classy! Sassy and Classy!
September 27, 2018

Congrats to the Team of the Quarter: Fresh Start Veterans' Program

Team of the Quarter!

The team of employees that work at the Fresh Start Veterans' Program in Philadelphia recently celebrated their well-deserved Team of the Quarter win with a pizza party! The team at Fresh Start was nominated by a female Veteran who was residing at the facility, and who wanted to acknowledge all the hard work that the staff members do on a daily basis. In the letter submitted to Merakey, she stated, “I give many thanks for the opportunity to reside and receive the help needed for me to see my goals met and now have become a reality. I submitted a Team Employee Nomination in hopes that the employees would be acknowledged for a job well done.”

Congratulations to the Fresh Start team on your award, and for being recognized by the individuals you support in their recovery!

September 20, 2018

Merakey Celebrates DSP Recognition Week

Direct Support Professional Recognition WeekDirect Support Professional Recognition Week is September 9 – 15. Merakey thanks all Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and staff who work in direct-care positions, for your continuous and tireless efforts to support the individuals we provide services for on a daily basis! Your commitment to more than 50,000 individuals and families does not go unrecognized and Merakey is extremely fortunate to have you as part of our team!

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed PAR's proclamation declaring the week of September 9-15, 2018 to be Direct Support Professional Recognition Week, noting that "Direct Support Professionals provide essential support to help keep individuals with disabilities connected to their family, friends, and community and enable them to live meaningful lives in a community of their choice".

In honor of DSP Week, programs from around the organization are celebrating our dedicated employees:

The Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities programs in the Northeast Region of PA celebrated their Direct Support Professionals (DSP) during DSP Appreciation Week.
  • The DSPs in Susquehanna County were sent nice notes letting them know how much they are appreciated for the work they do every day.
  • The DSPs in Lehigh County had breakfast and lunch provided to them, including bagels, fruit, cupcakes, danish, pizza, and drinks. Staff members were thanked for their service and provided with a goodie bag that consisted of Bath and Body hand sanitizer, tootsie rolls, a tablet, and a pen. Each bag had a note attached that said “Thank you for the very important “ROLL” that you play each day! Keep up the good work!"
  • NEPA day program DSPs were also given a bag of candy and lip balm with notes stating “thanks for bee-ing a great employee, you're the balm.”
  • And finally, DSPs at Schuylkill Mountain Center gave their staff Dunkin Donuts gift cards.

Direct Support Professional Recognition WeekMerakey AVS at Patricia Hillman Miller Campus (PHMC) celebrated Direct Support Professionals Week with several festivities. During the week, staff members were treated to “Wings and Things” on 1st and 2nd shifts and pastries and fruit were shared on 3rd shift. On Wednesday, a free drink was given to staff members who brought a resident to the school store. Mary Curtz, resident support director, coordinated the first annual Cornhole Tournament!

In a challenge between the Medical and Residential Departments Marissa Robinson, Danielle Cummins and MaKeya Powell represented the nurses well by powering past the Residential Team of Rakia Williams and Travis Alexander. Several employees took their chances at the lollipop game where everybody was a winner either by winning a lollipop, a Merakey cup, a Cartoon Shaker, Tshirts and more!

Finally, a tribute from our residents written by Program Director Pam King was presented to the staff: “You make our lives meaningful; you care for us every day; you show us respect; you advocate for us; your kindness shows through in everything you do; you enrich our days with your smiles; you are the reason we love our lives at PHMC. Thank you for making a difference!!"

Direct Support Professionals Recognition WeekDirect Support Professionals Recognition Week
September 20, 2018

Congratulations, Dr. Laura Murray!

Congrats! We are pleased to announce that Dr. Laura Murray has accepted the role of the new Behavioral Health Chief Medical Officer. Dr. Murray will lead the Office of the Chief Medical Officer (OCMO) where she and her team will focus on expanding high quality, person-centered, effective, innovative, and science-supported approaches to behavioral health care.

Dr. Murray is a Board-Certified Addiction Physician with over 20 years of experience working in Behavioral Health. She has been a consult with advocacy organizations and universities for several years. She has presented and spoken at conferences across the country and is also an accomplished contributing author. For the past 13 years, Dr. Murray has tirelessly served consumers in Parkside Recovery culminating her tenure in that role as the Medical Director for Additions Services.

Dr. Murray’s new position advances Merakey’s 2020 goals by focusing on quality improvement, best-practices of care, evidence-based medicine, and patient satisfaction.

September 20, 2018

Merakey Book Drive

Kyle Walker, a paraprofessional in the Delaware Education and Autism programs recommended Merakey's therapeutic classrooms for the annual book drive at 2nd & Charles, a used book store in Newark, Delaware. During the month of August, customers were asked to donate a book to our fundraiser. We received over 600 books for free thanks to 2nd & Charles and their amazing customers!

The books will be cataloged into a library then given out in bundles to our different classrooms, allowing them to trade in for different titles whenever they need to. With titles as popular as Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Junie B. Jones, and Captain Underpants - our students ranging from grades K-12 will have plenty to read! We even have staff that want to check out books to take home!

Book drive in Newark, Delaware
September 12, 2018

Merakey Flies with the Philadelphia Eagles!

On September 6, Merakey was featured as one of the Eagles Red Zone Partner non-profit organizations during the home opener for Super Bowl 52 Champions, the Philadelphia Eagles! During the pregame, Development Associate for the Merakey Foundation Sara Keane, Manager of Culture and Development Drew Albert, and Business Development Manager Kristen Smith met with diehard fans and handed out Merakey swag at a booth stationed in Lincoln Financial Field. “We ran out of all our swag rather quickly. It was very exciting to be part of this experience!” Sara exclaimed. A few fans even stopped by the table to inquire about our services, and to pick up information on how to contact us. This amazing opportunity would not have been possible without our community partner, Philadelphia Insurance Companies for choosing us for the Red Zone Partner featured organization. Merakey would also like to thank the Philadelphia Eagles for their commitment to highlighting hard working charitable organizations. Fly Eagles, Fly!

Merakey at the Eagles home opener!   Merakey at the Eagles home opener!

September 12, 2018

Kaleena Virag - Employee of the Quarter Winner

On August 22, Allegheny Dual Diagnosis Treatment Team (DDTT) Registered Nurse, Kaleena Virag received the Merakey Employee of the Quarter award. Kaleena celebrated this achievement with her team at the Pittsburgh office where a party was held in her honor. Although she credits her team, Kaleena earned the award by demonstrating exemplary service to DDTT consumers while employing Merakey’s Core Values of Integrity, Safety, Trust, Compassion, and Quality. Kaleena is pictured below with her team. Congratulations!

Congratulations Kaleena Virag!