Welcome to Humans of JF&CS! Periodically, we will be featuring two different staff members to highlight the amazing work they do.
Behind our 40+ programs are compassionate, committed, and dedicated staff who care deeply about our mission and our agency. With this broad range of programs comes a team of staff members with diverse interests, passions, and skills, who all share a deep commitment to improve people's lives. We hope these staff spotlights give you a taste of the incredible individuals behind our services and a sense of the deep compassion and dedication they bring every day.
I think individuals with disabilities are a really marginalized population, but one that doesn't get a lot of publicity, particularly adults. The individuals we serve are really motivated to lead meaningful and productive lives, they just need a little extra help. The fact that this population is rarely talked about or highlighted just motivates me more to help them and work with them to bring their support needs front and center.
In our Clinical Case Management program we work with individuals with mental illness and/or autism spectrum disorders. There are not a lot of public services for individuals with mental illness so I think that's where I have the hardest intakes, but also the greatest successes. We have clients who come to us who have nothing, they've burned all the bridges with their family so they really have no support. One recent success that I can think of is an individual who came to us with a history of depression and anxiety, which had eventually led her to become an alcoholic. She's been sober for over a decade, but she has some medical complications that are still lingering as a result from her alcoholism, and were hindering her from keeping a job. She couldn't fill out any of the benefit applications and her MassHealth insurance had lapsed, so she wasn't able to get the medical care she needed. Working with her clinical case manager, we were able to help her get on food stamps, reinstate her MassHealth and apply for jobs in her neighborhood. I think this is a good example of how some people can look at the food stamp application and think ‘okay, I can do this on my own,' but a lot of our folks can't for a variety of reasons, so it's great when we are able to help them gain that level of independence and find stability in their communities.
Sara Freedman is the Associate Division Director of Individual & Family Support Programs for Services for People with Disabilities.
Ernst Jean Jacques
I am a program coordinator for CHAI Works, which means that I'm responsible for bringing the participants out into the community to do things that you and I do everyday and making sure they are as independent as possible. It feels fulfilling to see them have a good time and to see them feel just like everyone else, it means a lot to me.
I've always been a people person. For a while I thought working with children was what I wanted to do, but it sort of transitioned into working with individuals with special needs. I actually met some of the CHAI Works participants where I was in my last place of work, before I started the job here. They made me feel so welcome, before I was even here, which is what drew me to them and to JF&CS.
I'm grateful for the things that I'm learning from the participants. They are learning from me, but at the same time I'm learning from them about myself. I feel like I can get more out of working with them than they can get from working with me. While that may not be true, I really feel like they can teach me a lot.
Ernst Jean Jacques is a Program Coordinator for CHAI Works.