Posted by Sara Freedman

One of the biggest aspects of the CHAI Works program is volunteering. Together, our participants and staff contribute more than 500 hours/week of service to more than 20 community partner nonprofit organizations throughout Greater Boston. Not only does our partnership with these organizations allow our participants to be social activists and lead meaningful lives, but it also provides vital services and contributions to better the organizations and increases social awareness in the community about adults with disabilities through inclusion.

The mission of the CHAI Works program is to create meaningful and fulfilling opportunities for individuals with disabilities to lead productive and integrated lives in their communities, and to increase feelings of self-worth and confidence. We achieve this mission through a variety of opportunities, including employment, volunteering, health and wellness, recreation, enrichment, and community experience.

As the assistant director of CHAI Works, I spend a lot of time scheduling volunteer opportunities with our current community partners, as well as reaching out to new organizations that could become potential new partners. Sometimes these efforts are met with resistance by organizations that are not familiar with our program and they are hesitant about whether we will actually benefit their organization. However, once we have our foot in the door and start with an organization, they are amazed by how productive, hard-working, and friendly our group is. Oftentimes, community partners who thought they could only use our services occasionally or once a week end up requesting our services on a regular basis, even multiple times a week! This is a testament to the dedication of our participants and staff. As one participant said, "To show we care, we arrive at each volunteer site with enthusiastic and positive attitudes!"

I recently received a thank you from one of the organizations we partner with, the Home for Little Wanderers. The director of volunteer and community outreach, Colleen Fitzpatrick, wrote, "As a result of [CHAI Works] enthusiasm and diligent efforts, we will be able to meet our production deadline and mail out invitations for an upcoming spring fundraiser. Many thanks for all of your efforts in coordinating such a dedicated and hard-working group of people." When I shared this thank you with the group, one participant responded, "I feel grateful for what I have. I feel helpful for providing a service for those in need." Another participant mentioned, "Volunteering at organizations like the Home makes me feel confident because the work I do builds my people and job skills." The comments from both our participants and our community partner highlight the symbiotic relationship that these partnerships result in for both JF&CS and all of our community partners.

Sara Freedman joined the CHAI Works staff in 2006 as an intern, and has been with the program in a variety of roles ever since. She has a degree in human development and psychological services, as well as psychology, from Northwestern University. Sara enjoys scrapbooking, hiking, baking, travelling, and being a Boston sports fan enthusiast!