By Megan Kolsch, Quality Improvement Director
I arrived November 30, 2013 to the Day Habilitation Program on Foster Ave in Brooklyn New York expecting to begin a record/chart review and a long day of cross-referencing documentation, interviewing team members, etc., when I saw some unexpected excitement in the multipurpose room. Many of the men and women Human First provides support to were gathered in this room talking with a special visitor. At first, I simply passed by the room, but the smile on this man’s face and the energy within the room stopped me in my tracks.
I began to ask team members, who was this man and why was he here? Many of the staff smiled and informed me that he was “Al the Con- Ed guy.” Al worked at Con-Edison, directly downstairs from the day habilitation program, and over the past years he was a frequent visitor to the program, often invited up to hear the men and women sing and perform.
Today, Al explained, he was to retire from Con-Edison and wanted to say his goodbyes and share how being a part of the individuals’ lives had meant to him. Some of the individuals decided to sing “I believe I can fly…” for him one last time. They sang with passion in their hearts, for Al Russo, a friend who has influenced their lives simply by taking the time on his lunch breaks to walk upstairs to visit the men and women who attend this Day Habilitation program.
After the heartfelt song, Al shook many of the individual’s hands and gave a few hugs. When I introduced myself to him, I thanked him for being so kind and taking the time. He looked at me and said “No, I am the one who would like to say thank you.” In a moment, he shared with me how much visiting had meant to him.
I was so impressed by the participants and the program employees for welcoming Al into their family. Al is a great example of what can come of programs reaching out to members of their community. Al made such a strong connection to the program that participants that he gave us his contact information and promised to stay in touch.
It is important to remember that the relationships we develop with our neighbors enriches the experiences of program participants, the staff and the community. I feel privileged to work at an organization that has embraced this open and accepting attitude towards their community.
Megan Kolsch is the Quality Improvement Director at Human First. Prior to coming to Human First full-time at the beginning of 2013, Megan was the Quality Improvement Director/Assistant QI/Education Director at Family Residences and Essential Enterpises, Inc. in Bethpage, NY.