Welcome Home

Yesterday, Venture celebrated the opening of its 44th residential program with an open house at the agency’s brand-new home in Rutland.  The program’s five residents welcomed friends, family, Venture staff members, and community leaders into their new home and were excited to give tours of their new place, including their adaptive bikes, game room, and sensory room.

We were also happy to host Senator Anne Gobi (D – Spencer) and Representative Kimberly Ferguson (R – Holden) who were able to learn more about our program and services in their local communities.  A big thank you to Senator Gobi and Representative Ferguson for joining us!

We’d like to extend great big congratulations to the five incredible young adults who are exploring their independence for the first time and the outstanding staff team that have made this transition so successful.  Like many people in their early twenties, these folks are eager to start their lives independently of their parents and families, explore the world around them, make decisions about their own lives and discover who they are – and Venture will be there to help guide them every step of the way!

Thank you to everyone who joined us to celebrate.

The Nonprofit Role

Earlier this week, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette published an article about the city’s relationship with nonprofits. Below is the response from our President and CEO, Mike Hyland.

The September 18th Politics and the City article missed the point entirely because it’s simply misplaced: the work done by non-profit agencies in Worcester and other cities has nothing to do with politics at all.  Rather it is a matter of responsibility.  Human services agencies have a responsibility to support people who have been too often disenfranchised and left behind.  Meeting this responsibility comes with a myriad of challenges, not the least of which is financial.

Non-profit agencies are just not like other businesses.  They can’t unilaterally raise prices as other industries do in response to market conditions or even demand.  If the cost of oil goes up, a gas station raises prices.  If the cost of labor goes up, a restaurant can charge more.  When the Yankees are in town and demand increases, the Red Sox raise ticket prices.  Non-profits that rely on federal and state payments cannot do this.  When the cost of insurance goes up or when the price of fuel goes up or when the cost of advertising goes up, our prices stay the same.  When we have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime because there are more jobs than people to fill them, nobody gives us more money and we can’t send a bill to anyone.  Want proof?  In the past few years because of a law passed way back in 2008, human services providers were given mandated rate increases for the first time in 28 years.  I can’t think of another industry that has experienced this or could survive it.  The government allows agencies to fundraise because of these dynamics.  Frankly, donors will be far more reluctant to contribute if their donations are going toward taxes and not services. This isn’t a complaint but merely a fact in our business.

These agencies provide a service that the local governments cannot.  Helping the homeless, the developmentally disabled, the sexually abused teenagers, and other disadvantaged populations doesn’t happen without non-profit agencies and our ability to provide this support in a cost-effective manner which is enhanced by the ability to open homes in the most efficient way possible.  Changing the landscape now by requiring some sort of approval, or worse, trying to compel us to violate the rights of people we support by asking for permission to let them live in a safe neighborhood is an abdication of the greater responsibility we all have to improve our society.

Do we all have a responsibility to be good neighbors in return for the exemption that allows us to open homes in neighborhoods?  Of course we do.  Agencies should be sensitive to the larger community and its culture and fabric.  This should apply to all new neighbors however, not just group homes.  Our goal is to be part of a neighborhood and not a pariah. Councilor Tony Economou struck an interesting cord when he noted “There’s nothing more frustrating than getting a call at 5:30 or 6 on a Friday evening from an organization letting you know that it has purchased a property and they intend to put some kind of program there”.  Really, nothing more frustrating?  I’d counter that telling a family that their son or daughter or brother will not be getting the help they need in a timely manner because he or she isn’t welcome, more frustrating.  That’s a call that families and guardians would certainly find more than just frustrating.

Celebrating Those Who Provide Care

Happy Direct Support Professionals Week!  The following was submitted by a member of Venture’s management staff in honor of our many direct care staff members who fulfill our mission every day:

What is compassion, and do we innately possess this most altruistic of characteristics?  Sympathy is our ability to identify and feel sorry for another’s misfortune.  Empathy occurs when we understand and share that person’s feeling.  Compassion is not only identifying with another’s misfortune but also acting on it to alleviate it.  Compassion is a learned attribute that involves overcoming social awkwardness, fear, and the unknown.  Yes, we are most likely equipped intrinsically with a sensitivity chip that allows us the ability for compassion –unfortunately, few of us act upon it.  What makes some of us more inclined to reach out and lend a hand when needed, often at times to a complete stranger?  Helping a friend or family member is certainly easier and almost expected due to connection and relationship, but a stranger or someone we share little or no connection with at all?  The fear of consequence, of doing something wrong, of ridicule, or potential liability gnaws at us.  Genuine compassion takes courage and an irresistible draw to help regardless of consequence.  Nowhere have I seen the evidence of this more frequently than in those who work as caregivers in our field.  Caring for another is a difficult job – one that many cannot do.  I am always amazed at the perseverance that exists during times when life and job become overwhelming and stressful for our staff – they are the direct support professionals that give of themselves every day.  Many have placed the needs of those we serve above their own.  I asked one day after observing a quiet moment between one of our staff and a gentleman we serve, “What makes you respond the way you do to his needs? He doesn’t speak yet you seem to understand him.”  The staff member told me he left his family in Kenya about five years prior.  It was the most difficult decision he ever made.  “In my culture,” he said, “the family unit is strong, and we are taught from a young age that it is our duty to care for our elders.”  He nodded toward the gentleman who sat quietly rocking, listening. “It’s our responsibility to see he’s cared for.”

Compassion flows from the core of human caring.  Our collective human experience binds us together regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation.  American-Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chödrön believes compassion to be an aggregate equalizer:  “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals…”

Those who provide the care are the leaders of our organization.  They are truly the ones who represent Venture’s core values through their work every day.

I am humbled by our agency’s direct support professionals, or whatever title is used to describe their work throughout the field.  Any description of their position will surely pale in comparison to the job they do.  No words do justice or measure the impact they have on the lives in our care.  On behalf of everyone at Venture, I’d like to thank every direct support professional for their commitment.  The care we provide wouldn’t be possible without your dedication and compassion.