KINfolk computer lending program
By Carol Kinsley
 

This month's Hidden Treasure, KINfolk, described simply, puts computers in the hands of kids in need for use while they are undergoing medical treatment.

As the organization's website, www.KINfolkkids.org, points out, for any teen, being able to communicate with friends, family and school is about as important as it gets. For a child of any age who is hospitalized, communication via computer becomes a lifeline.

The computer lending program was the idea of Jane Brady, at the time (1999) Delaware Attorney General and now a Delaware Superior Court Judge. Kathy McNamara, KINfolk treasurer, tells how Brady met a little girl named Brittany in the hospital. Brittany was going to have a bone marrow transplant, and her brother was the donor. Two months later, Brady saw Brittany in another hospital in Washington. She had had the transplant but had to be in isolation for two months and she was very depressed. She wasn't able to see any of her family except her mother. Her father and brother could only come on Saturdays.

"Brady saw the phone line and knew Brittany could talk to her family all the time if she just had a computer. She thought, 'Someone should be doing this.' So she did it," McNamara continued.

Brady talked to some people and got AT&T not only to offer free Internet service but to donate the first computer.

"Jane came to my house and said she needed a logo," said McNamara, who was a commercial artist. She designed a logo and gave it to Brady who said, "Okay, you're on the board of directors."

McNamara admitted they thought the program would only last 10 years because of the speed at which technology changes, but KINfolk is in its 13th year. 

"We keep on going," she said. "It's a wonderful organization. There's still a big demand for computers. Kids can Skype and do all kinds of things with computers."

The laptop computers are loaded with games and fun sites for kids along with Internet filters to prevent access to undesirable sites. The online messages and homework assignments provide a sense of normalcy. Many KINfolk kids have been able to keep up with their studies and graduate on time because of the use of a KINfolk computer.

KINfolk has become a nationwide program. A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children provides space for a corporate office within the hospital. Jazette Lane-English, the new executive director, is the only paid staff member.

KINfolk has helped more than 12,000 children since 1999. Last year, laptops went to 6,000 children in 32 states around the country. Internet access is now donated by Verizon. AstraZeneca, the founding sponsor, donates its old laptops to the program.

McNamara stressed KINfolk is a lending program. Kids use the laptops while they need them, even at home while convalescing, then give them back, she explained.

"We give laptops to kids who are critically ill, homebound or victims of trauma. It distracts them from what they are going through. If they can't sleep, there are 200 games on the computer they can play," McNamara said.

Nurses, social workers and child life specialists love the program because kids who are not bored, who are distracted from pain and who can stay in touch with their support network are much happier patients.

Doctors recommend computer use because it helps kids who have had brain damage from an accident, for example, and have to re-learn things. It improves hand-eye coordination. 

KINfolk is a tax exempt, 501(c)(3) organization; all donations made are tax deductible. Donations may be sent to KINfolk, 1600 Rockland Road, ARB 232, Wilmington, DE 19803. Volunteers are also needed. Visit the website, www.kinfolkkids.org for more information or call (302) 298-7174.

Lane-English is available to make presentations to organizations or businesses that are interested. Call her at (302) 298-7174.

The board of directors includes Judge Brady; Greg Gurev, founder of My Sherpa computer networking company; McNamara; and, as honorary chairperson, Brittany Kirk, the original KINfolk kid.


Delaware Veterans Home offers a home away from home for veterans
By Carol Kinsley
 
 It doesn't take a platoon of Marines to find this month's hidden treasure: the Delaware Veterans Home in Milford. The address, 100 Delaware Veterans Boulevard, is a sure give-away. It's right across from the medical offices along Airport Road, near the intersection of Routes 14 and 15.

Built with a combination of federal and state funding, the state-of-the-art facility has been open since 2007. Its mission is to provide outstanding long-term care services to Delaware veterans that uphold dignity and respect while sustaining and improving their quality of life. The Delaware Veterans Home is a fitting tribute to these Delawareans who sacrificed much to secure the freedoms we all enjoy today. 

There are four components to the admission criteria: The veteran must have been honorably discharged from active service, including the National Guard or Reserves, and be eligible for retirement pay at age 60 or have served on active duty for at least 180 days; must have been a resident of Delaware for the past three years; must have medical needs requiring nursing care; and must be able to pay a portion of the cost of health care.

Approval was recently granted for the facility's final 20 beds, bringing total capacity to 150. Thirty of the beds are reserved for "Special Care" for the cognitively impaired, including those with Alzheimer's disease. 

Anne Studd, chief operations officer, shared that typically the majority of nursing home patients are women. At the Delaware Veterans Home, most of the residents are men from the World War II and Korean War era. Looking forward as the military evolves, the number of women veterans applying to the home may increase. Currently, there are 11 female veterans residing at the home. With the current waiting list, the home is not able to accept veteran spouses at this time. 

Medical assessment is done by an admissions nurse prior to accepting a veteran’s application to the home. "This is a licensed, skilled nursing facility," Studd explained. "Applicants need to qualify for that level of care." Upon admission, the residents are cared for by a well qualified medical and nursing team. The on-site social workers serve as the main conduit between the staff and the residents’ families from care plans to financial matters. Other medical services include speech, physical and occupational therapy as well as dietician services.  

The homelike environment is achieved in part by the physical layout of the home, which includes a hallway called “Main Street” which boasts the home’s Barber Shop, Library, Canteen and Gift Shop. The gift shop is independently run by a team of volunteers and all proceeds are given to support residents’ needs.  

Near the main dining hall are a Chapel and Town Square where residents enjoy a variety of activities such as Wii games, trivia, the new juke box and pool table. The activity department also provides art therapy and community trips, such as bowling, local theater and the popular casino trips. 

Behind the scenes the dedicated ladies of the laundry and seamstress services keep the veterans looking sharp while the maintenance and housekeeping departments keep the home in good working order. The food service department keeps everyone well fed while paying special attention to medical requirements as noted by the residents’ nursing care team.

Holidays, whether national or veteran specific, are always a special time. "We have a big event here for Veteran's Day," Studd said. A ceremony supported by an outside veteran organization is held and “capped off with a great steak dinner." 

With the recently added beds, admission inquiries are encouraged. Contact the Delaware Veterans Home at 302-424-6100, or the Commission of Veterans Affairs at 302-739-2792. Volunteer opportunity inquiries should be directed to the Volunteer Coordinator at 302-424-6000. 

Donations, of course, are appreciated. The home has an ample supply of books and lap robes; however, there is a "wish list" of items posted at vethome.delaware.gov/donations.shtml for which cash donations are being collected. Monetary donations give the Delaware Veterans Home the greatest flexibility to make sure donations go to the highest needs of the residents.

 


People's Place helps people of all ages find their path toward independence
By Carol Kinsley
 

A song in West Side Story begins, "There's a place for us, Somewhere a place for us..." It includes the line, "We'll find a new way of living." The song was about young lovers, but there are young — and not so young — people just as desperately seeking a place where they can get help, and there is such a place, the People's Place, headquartered in Milford. This hidden treasure began in 1972 and in the 40 years since has grown into the largest multi-service 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is dedicated to helping people find their path to growth and independence.

Del Failing has been with the agency for 22 years and became executive director two years ago.

"The People's Place began in 1972 as a volunteer organization to work with youth," Failing said. A drop-in center in those first years, it had been a grass roots effort by Delaware residents who were concerned about the lack of activities and programs for the youth of Milford.

At first an all-volunteer organization, the People's Place received its first "pot" of government funding in 1976, Failing said. Organizers decided to incorporate and hire the first paid staff person. "This was the beginning of the counseling center, our flagship program," he explained. There are now four such centers: in Milford, Millsboro, Seaford and Smyrna.

The centers provide almost any type of outpatient mental help to children and adults, including individual and family therapy and medication management. The staff includes licensed therapists, social workers, psychologists, a nurse practitioner and a psychiatrist. The licensed mental health therapists specialize in depression, anxiety, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and behavioral problems.

People's Place does charge for its services, Failing explained, but it accepts many types of insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. There is some limited funding for uninsured or underinsured. "We try not to turn anyone away, especially in these difficult economic times," he said.

About 1978, he continued, the need to address domestic violence arose. "This was at a time when people did not talk about domestic violence," Failing said. "There was talk among board members: 'Do we really need to get into this?' but the argument was made, the board convinced and we opened our first safe house. Today that has grown, unfortunately, because of need. We opened two shelters, one in Kent and one in Sussex. Three years ago we opened a third dedicated to survivors who speak Spanish. That shelter (Abriendo Puertas) had existed under other management and we took it over in a merger."

A "Turning Point" program was developed which offers classes for those who batter and therapy and support groups for survivors. It also works with children who grow up in the environment, Failing said. "Research shows those at-risk become victims or batters. They learn from their parents."  

Two domestic violence hotlines are in operation 24 hours a day where individuals can call anytime to get advice. For English, call 302-422-8058; for Spanish, call 302-745-9874.

People's Place also offers three family visitation centers where custodial and noncustodial parents can exchange children and visit on-site in a safe, supervised location. The centers, located in Milford, Georgetown and Dover, make it possible to avoid face-to-face confrontation, with parents entering through different doors to pick up or visit, Failing said. "These types of visits used to happen at McDonald's or a police station, neither of which is a good location (in cases of domestic violence.) The centers offer a level of safety for parents and children."

Fifteen years ago, People's Place started a victim-offender mediation program. Trained volunteers mediate a variety of cases that traditionally would have gone to court but instead are diverted to this program. "Both parties must agree," Failing explained. "If so, we schedule a time with a trained, impartial mediator." The hope is that they can "work out an agreement that gets written and signed. It could include an apology, restitution or community service."

He continued, "People's Place monitors the agreement. If restitution is involved, we collect from the offender and pass it on to the victim. We monitor hours of community service. We have a high success rate. We tend to have better completion and restitution rate than the courts, which we attribute to personal attention.

"It's 'restorative justice.' Courts are about punishment. Our program is about bringing people together and victims telling offenders the impact on them. That doesn't often happen in a courtroom. Hopefully the offender will express remorse and restore or pay forward."

The program is available to children and adults. It prevents kids from getting deeper into the system, Failing said.

People's Place operates three homes for youth. Two are group homes for children in legal trouble, offering a temporary home from arrest to the time of first arraignment, which diverts them from being locked up. "It provides a cooling off period," Failing said. The majority end up going home.

The third home offers foster care for teenage girls. Through its Independent Living program, the organization also works with kids in foster care, staring at age 16 until age 21, "because those are tough years for anyone," Failing said. "There's nothing magical about turning 18." The program allows these young adults to live independently, helps get them on their feet with housing, employment and further education. People's Place manages a scholarship program targeted toward foster children. 

In 2009, People's Place took over a program in Dover called Whatcoat, a homeless shelter for men, women and families. The program now provides social services, transitional housing, and shelter for low-income individuals and families.  

A one-person program at People's Place offers veterans outreach, connecting veterans to benefits they have earned for serving their country, Failing said. The man who runs the program "wears many hats," he said, and covers all of Delaware from below the canal south. He offers transportation for medical care. If eligible for VA compensation, he can help vets with that. He helps widows get military burial for veterans in the family. He helps find housing and employment.

In a new initiative People's Place is starting, two new people will be hired to work with homeless veterans and their families. "It is a sad commentary on society that we need (such a program)," Failing said. "The words 'homeless' and 'vet' shouldn't be used in the same sentence."

For more information on People's Place, visit peoplesplace2.com or call 302-422-8033.

 


Chimes helps area individuals with cognitive disabilities
By Carol Kinsley
 

The Chimes Family of Services has been serving individuals with intellectual disabilities for 65 years, but you may never have heard of the organization. That's why it is this month's Hidden Treasure.

Chimes began in 1947, when the School of the Chimes was founded in Baltimore, Md., helping five students achieve their fullest potential. Chimes has grown many times its original size and currently provides services in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina and in Israel.

Chimes came to Delaware in 1994 and opened its first Sussex County location in 1997. Chimes is now Delaware’s largest provider of day, vocational and residential services for individuals with cognitive disabilities including mental retardation, mental illness, behavior disorders and autism. 

"In Delaware we currently provide services for over 350 individuals with intellectual disabilities of varying degrees," said Michele Mirabella, coordinator for sales, marketing and placement of Chimes Delaware, whose office is in Newark. Services include clinical/health services, clinical/behavioral and case management services, as well as school, vocational and residential support and services. Chimes' award-winning services and facilities are licensed by the Division of Developmental Disabilities Services and accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Funding is available through state sources. 

The philosophy which guides Chimes is based on the belief that every individual has the right to develop his or her fullest potential. 

"Chimes' programs focus on choice and opportunities and how a person wants to live and work," Mirabella said. The agency recognizes the uniqueness of each individual and promotes feelings of human dignity, a sense of self-worth and the right to make informed choices. Mirabela added, "Our main vocational goal is to assist program participants to become integrated members of the community workforce. Currently 49 percent of our program participants have jobs in the community.

"We accomplish this goal through many business partners, including some of the larger employers in Delaware: DuPont, Papa Johns, Staples and WalMart. We are very grateful to these business partners for their support and in return they have hired very hard working employees.  

"Other employment opportunities in Sussex County include the State of Delaware," she continued. "We are contracted through the State Use Law Program and the Delaware Association of Rehabilitation Facilities to provide janitorial services to the Sussex County Court Houses. This program focuses on providing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities with the State and allows several of our program participants to work in the community on a daily basis and earn valuable income."

Many of the individuals Chimes Delaware supports have multiple severe disabilities. They may need special pre-vocational programs before they can undertake on-the-job training. They may also need to develop basic skills in hygiene, personal care, mobility and socialization.

Mirabella said, "We also provide successful vocational training programs, an example of this is the culinary arts training program that is located at the Lions Club in Dewey. Through the generosity of the Lions Club and the assistance of Chimes Board Member Bill Drake, this program has allowed Chimes participants to acquire hands-on kitchen skills, which in turn opened the opportunity for work in food service at the Harrington Casino.

In July of this year Chimes Delaware opened its new Irvin and Phyllis Levin Center in Millsboro. 

"This location provides much needed additional space for our participants and will allow us to expand our services in Sussex County," Mirabella said. "This location was opened through the great support we have from our families and business partners throughout Delaware. We currently have 32 program participants in Millsboro and have nine employees providing supports to these individuals. We provide full services including nursing and will soon be providing clinical services at this location as well."

For more information on Chimes Delaware, contact Mirabella at 452-3400, by email at mmirabella@chimes.org, or visit www.chimesdel.org/index.php.


YWCA DE works to empower women
By Carol Kinsley

YWCA DE is this month's "hidden treasure," and at YWCA DE in Georgetown is another treasure, Brenda Whitehurst, Southern Delaware market manager. Whitehurst has been working with the YWCA since 1995 and loves her job. She was recently described as "a bundle of energy, enthusiasm and experience all wrapped together."

She loves the term "hidden treasure," saying that was an apt description. "That's exactly what YWCA is, a hidden treasure. When I tell people what it is and what we do, they say 'wow.'"

YWCA Delaware is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. While YWCA has been in Delaware for more than 100 years, the Sussex County office did not open until March 2008.

Whitehurst said almost everyone has heard of the YMCA, which calls to mind "brawn" — swimming, child care, youth development and physical activities. "There's no swimming pool here," Whitehurst said. With YWCA, "think brains," she said, listing goals such as self-empowerment and independence.  

Whitehurst said, "We have seven programs ranging from home ownership to financial literacy, racial justice, empowerment for girls, conflict resolution and the Center for Women's Entrepreneurship."

The Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship is one of 115 across the nation and is a component of the U.S. Small Business Administration, which formulates these centers under the Office of Women's Business Ownership. YWCA Delaware applied in 2007 to become a certified women's business center, while plans were still in the works to have a Sussex County site. 

The Georgetown center offers a whole cadre of services, including an eight-week business plan development series, one-on-one counseling, group counseling and business site visits before or after the business starts. Some services are free; for others there is a fee. The eight-week course costs $299, Whitehurst said. There is a free, two-hour pre-requisite self-assessment. There are also monthly workshops with skilled facilitators. Services are funded in part by the SBA.

"Last year we served more than 1,200 people in Sussex County," Whitehurst said. Services are not just for women, but "for whoever comes through the doors." YWCA Delaware is for "people who need help bringing vision to pass, and we have the financial partners to make it happen."

Among those recently helped are Bruce and Mabel Marshall of Greenwood. The Marshalls have had a long-standing dream of owning their own motor coach company. In 2011, they attended the eight-week Business Plan Development Series to get the technical assistance needed to start and grow their business. In April 2012, the dream of owning their own bus company became a reality. The new company is D&E Tours and Travel. 

Chrissie Feehery, a part-time Sussex County resident, saw a notice of a workshop in a newspaper and now is getting help, one-on-one, in setting up her new business, 5 Seasons Tea Room at Lavender Fields, which will utilize a barn converted to dining area at Lavender Fields in Milton. She anticipates opening for her first of two seatings per month in September 2012.  

Whitehurst, who grew up in Sussex County, is pleased to be able to help these new business owners. "When I was ready to start my own business, after working for the state for 20 years, I could not get the help I was seeking."

She continued, "What's the difference between YW’s business program and any other program? I have one word — methodology, the way we tend to look at and perceive what your business idea is. We work in four stages of business: idea, emerging, existing and expansion."

Not all programs are statewide yet. In Wilmington, YWCA operates a single women's residence serving up to 54 women, all with jobs, and there is a home life management center serving up to 33 families. YWCA offers workshops on homeownership, financial literacy, race & diversity and training for "at-risk" youth and supports an anti-poverty approach to welfare reform.

The Georgetown office has three employees in addition to Whitehurst, including a program assistant who schedules appointments, a youth advisor, and a part-time business consultant who is also a CPA and financial analyst. 

YWCA Delaware is located at 20155 Office Circle, Unit 1, in the old Easter Seals office across from Wal-Mart in Georgetown. For more information on services offered, call 302-253-0684 or visit www.ywcade.org.