The uncertainty of the last few years was very challenging for our about 1,400 program participants and residents. The global pandemic severely impacted our service areas of New York and New Jersey. We had to find new ways to keep those we support safe, and just as critically, keep them engaged in their communities. Many individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities suffer from social isolation in “normal” conditions, so during quarantines and social distancing regulations it was crucial to find new forms of connection.
I am so proud and grateful to our teams who, while facing the challenges caused by the pandemic themselves, continued to find creative and unique ways to incorporate our person-centered model of support to each individual and find ways to engage them in their communities. It is with that partnership between CFS staff and participant in mind that I am pleased to share with you our 2021-2022 Annual Report, Building Dreams Together.
Just like you and I, everyone in our residences and programs are unique, and have their own goals and things they want out of life. And just like you and I, they obtain fulfillment by achieving those goals, and satisfaction in changing them as their lives evolve. With the realities of COVID constantly changing, so did the wants and needs of our participants. And we responded by pivoting to virtual supports, then slowly incorporating in-person gatherings and programs as our participants advocated for more time together.
The stories we’ve chosen to share are just a few of the collaborative dreams our staff and participants have built together over the last year. There are 1,400 stories like these throughout New York and New Jersey of individuals achieving successes in their lives in difficult circumstances. I am grateful to our community of supporters – families, Board Members, business partners, and donors – who help make these inspiring stories possible.
Being with CFS I have accomplished so many things that I didn’t think I would have a chance to. I’ve become a mother of two, live on my own, and have been able to take many classes. Accomplishing my goals has helped me embrace the person that I am.
– Danielle Elliot, CFS Participant
Emmanuella: From Kicking and Screaming to Acing It!
When Emmanuella first came to CFS, she was a shy nineteen-year old who had been living at Kings County Hospital for almost a year since she didn’t have a home to return to.
As our program staff got to know her, they saw that Emmanuella was smart, articulate, and ambitious. Her wish? Her own place one day. But she was nervous — about using public transportation, doing things on her own.
Karene Griffith, Assistant Director at CFS, said, “I figured the first step on that journey would be developing independence and skills. She pushed back and went kicking and screaming! But with constant encouragement, and challenging her to keep trying, she rose to the occasion and has ever since.”
Through CFS’s Supported Employment Program (SEMP), Emmanuella practiced interviewing, and prepared for a job. When a position opened at TJ Maxx, she aced the interview. She immediately acclimated to the job, and has learned everything in the store.
She has been in our SEMP program for five years, and at TJ Maxx for four years. During the pandemic, Emmanuella remained consistent in her work, and in fact, has taken on many new duties. She handles accessories, makeup, shoes, and knows how to oversee all aspects of the store.
As for living on her own: she’s on the journey. She has her own bedroom in a 2-bedroom apartment she shares with house mates. And she now laughs at her initial concerns! Adept with all public transportation, Emmanuella is completely confident and comfortable. We are so proud of her!
Leading the Way With Kevin’s Walking Club
In the summer of 2021, more than a year into COVID, everyone in New York was ready to get out of their houses and explore their communities again. It was then that Kevin, who has been receiving support from The Center for Family Support for many years, started walking around New York City with other participants taking nature walks. Now, Kevin is the leader of the Walking Club, planning where to go and organizing the trips with the help of Yolanda, one of the CFS staff who support Kevin.
“We’ve walked around all around Central Park, Riverbank State Park, and downtown,” Kevin said. On each walk, Kevin leads 6-10 CFS Community and Day Habilitation participants on walks for up to an hour, ensuring everyone is comfortable with the pace. As a native New Yorker, sometimes the walks bring up old memories for Kevin. “On one of our walks, I saw the carousel in Central Park. I used to go on it when I was little when I was in camp.”
“Kevin and I will pinpoint specific parts of where we’re going that we can stop by and talk about a little bit. The carousel was one of the biggest things for him,” said Yolanda.
“I’ve been very happy that Kevin is hosting the walks – it’s good for him. When he’s leading the group, he’s more active and having lots of fun,” Yolanda explained.
Kevin is looking forward to planning many more trips, including one to the beach at Coney Island this summer, and growing as a leader. “His next goal is to speak to the group while he’s leading the walk,” said Yolanda. “We’re going to visit each location before we go with the group and find three to four things that he likes so we can type something up about each thing, so he can talk to the group about it and have more interaction with each other and make it more interesting.”
Covid Won’t Stop Elisanta From Graduating
Elisanta Medina Has Always Aspired to Further Her Education
While the last couple of years has closed doors for many, Elisanta Medina, CFS Community Habilitation and ISS Service Recipient, has taken this time to build upon a dream.
Prior to the pandemic, Elisanta was studying at her local library in the hopes of obtaining a GED Diploma. But COVID-19 struck and the library doors closed. Elisanta was undeterred. She researched and enrolled herself in an online GED course offered by the Stanford Career Institute. She was determined, persistent, and a true motivation to others around her.
Even while working towards her dream of a GED diploma, she has continued to work on her wellness through the CFS Virtual Supports program, a curriculum of wellness workshops. Elisanta’s commitment to herself to work on her financial, social, mental and physical wellness has never wavered. Through today, she continues to work on herself and connect with peers.
Now everyone at CFS and especially Elisanta is awaiting the exciting day when Elisanta will graduate with her GED Diploma — scheduled for this Spring!
Elisanta has said that she feels terrific because she knows she is smart and capable of achieving all her goals! It has been inspiring to see her flourish through these trying circumstances. She is a shining star, and we applaud her unshakeable commitment to improving her life, on her terms!
Keith Myer Takes Charge!
It’s Saturday, 12:30 in the afternoon, and you’re in Chuck E Cheese’s. You’re surrounded by singing robots, a bunch of beeping video games, and more children than you can count. But you feel right at home. You are Keith Myer.
Keith Myer is a young man with an infectious smile and an eye for detail. He has been living at the Center for Family Support NJ’s Somerset Group home since 2012 and attending our agency’s Hillsborough Autism Satellite Day Program since 2017. Keith pushed for this move on his own after hearing that our programs offered people help finding work.
Work has always been important to Keith. He is a caring person, and a family man at heart. For years, Keith has prioritized generosity towards his loved ones such as his mom. He always felt that finding a job would give him the ability to do that even more.
In addition to attending the recreational and educational activities offered at our Day Program, Keith poured hours of time and energy into attending our Pre-Vocational Skills classes. Once he felt ready, he approached our job development team with a clear vision in mind. He wanted to work where it would be active, he wanted to work where people were having fun, and if possible, he wanted to work with video games.
In the spring of 2021 Keith went on many interviews and nailed every single one! Then, he was offered a position that checked all his boxes: Game attendant at Chuck E Cheese’s!
Since Keith’s hiring, he has thrived at his job. He is proactive; if he sees something needs to be done, he takes care of it. He shares the pride he has in his job with everyone he comes across. So much so that Keith’s stories have inspired other people in the program to want jobs and follow in his footsteps.
Keith has taken charge of the vision he has for his life. He loves his home, his friends, and his career. His joyous outlook on life has inspired everyone around him. We are fortunate to have him as a member of the CFS Family.
Fiscal Year 2022 (7/1/2021-6/30/2022)
Total number served
Number in NY Residences
Number in NY Community Programs
Number in SDS
Number in NJ Residences
Number in NJ Day Program
Total number of DSP hours
Number of CFS Staff
Number of CFS DSPs
Fiscal Year 2022 (7/1/2021-6/30/2022)