As I write this letter, the weather is beautiful outside, we have enjoyed celebrating Juneteenth and we are about to celebrate the Fourth of July – two holidays that commemorate freedom and independence in America. At Lifeworks, there is a lively enthusiasm as our individuals and families embark on summer vacations and head off to summer camps. We are also thrilled to be moving forward as an agency.
We are reviving programs from our past and launching new programs and activities. Everyone at Lifeworks is excited to see the return to day programs for so many, as well as strong participation in our social and recreation programs. The many garden beds at our residences, funded by the Forsberg Beautification Program, are blooming, as are plans for Lifeworks to open our 20th house in the next year in conjunction with our partners from DDS.
We have also launched many capital improvements in our programs. Thanks to the wonderful support from our donors and astute financial planning by our board, as well as our financial and program leaders, a major $2 million capital improvement plan that began last fall is well underway and will continue through summer 2024. So far, Lifeworks has completed renovations at 789 Clapboardtree St. of our kitchen in the Jane Smith Community Room, and the café in our Day Habilitation Program, which will be dedicated the “Mercedes Warren Bistro” in July. I encourage you to stop by for a great cup of coffee.
Outside, the new walkway at the Day Hab is designed to improve entryway safety. Next up are a new patio outside the Jane Smith Community Room and a new walkway connecting the community room to our gardens in the rear of the building. These upgrades, inside and outside, increase the accessibility and safety of our property and amenities, as we welcome back many of the people we support at the Abel Therapeutic Center.
Many of our residences are also getting facelifts. Projects include renovating at least five bathrooms; installing a new kitchen in Sharon; a new porch, fire escape, walkway and landscaping at Howard Avenue; new flooring in Attleboro; a new roof at South Street; and repainting of our High Street home in Westwood. Many other small projects are also in the works. These projects bring vibrancy to and lift the spirit at our homes and reflect our dedication to their residents and the communities in which they’re located.
Our Day Services program in West Roxbury has refurbished two rooms to add new programming space and allow for expansion, while in Norwood we have updated the carpeting in the entire program. All these improvements signify that, while we faced numerous challenges in recent years, our commitment to the mission of advocacy, empowerment and opportunity is as strong as ever. Every day our amazing staff perform duties and bring ideas that enhance the lives of those we support. We are excited to watch our programs return to the size and scope that they once were.
We know that we still have many challenges still to tackle through advocacy. As a member of the Arc of Massachusetts, we need to advocate and represent those individuals who are still waiting to return to programs. We must remain committed to advocating for equitable reimbursement rates to our programs that will allow us to continue to advance the compensation levels and benefits for our staff and help stabilize our workforce. Lifeworks has made great progress in hiring, reducing our vacancies by 50% over the past year, but we still have a long way to go. Our ability to hire more staff will allow us to bring back people who need our services.
On May 11, we held our signature fundraising event for the first time in four years. The Empower Celebration drew over 275 people who participated in a wonderful evening of great food, inspiration and fundraising. I invite you to go to our event webpage, www.lifeworksarc.org/empower-celebration, to check out the videos that were shared that night, view photos and more. Heather Hegedus, the former Boston 25 news anchor, was an outstanding emcee and led a wonderful roundtable discussion with Cindy Wadon and Kevin Murphy, participant and coach, respectively, in our sports programs. So many great moments were shared, and we truly saw this event as kickoff to our plans to move forward as an agency and bring everyone back together.
Next up, in September we will be bringing back our Lifeworks Employment Services banquet, honoring the successes and accomplishments of the people served in our employment programs in West Roxbury and Norwood.
Through the summer and fall of 2023, please join us in making a difference each and every day in the lives of the people served by Lifeworks. Come to an event, suggest companies that could hire the people we support, volunteer in one of our programs, or just keep helping us spread the mission and joy of Lifeworks. All of this is so important. Thank you for all that you do on behalf of the 2,300 people whose lives we touch.