The past year changed each of us. The challenges called us to question, to reevaluate, to adapt. While 2020 wasn’t easy—and self-reflection leading to change requires effort—I see many positive developments. Many of us have refined our priorities, developed greater resilience, and exhibited compassion.
Just as the year led individuals to question and to change, organizations grappled with those same struggles. l am grateful and humbled by the way clients, supporters, and staff at Easterseals DC MD VA came together to tackle the challenges and devise creative and effective solutions. The pandemic and the social unrest during 2020 caused us to reflect anew on the evolving needs of the community and our strengths.
This soul-searching process:
- Validated the critical importance of our Vision—“Easterseals creates a hopeful, inclusive community where all people realize their potential and live meaningful lives.” 2020 proved that a community cannot survive when some members are excluded or live without hope;
- Focused our future growth on areas of greatest need including (1) improving the quality and accessibility of early education, (2) employment services, and (3) expansion of mental health care services;
- Produced important innovations to meet immediate community needs safely; and
- Reinforced the importance of having a sustainable organization that can weather difficult times.
When the pandemic shut down our normal operations, we knew that the needs of our clients did not go away, but in many ways became more critical. By April, Easterseals had developed new partnerships and was delivering food, PPE, medical supplies, diapers, and wipes to our most vulnerable families, and the team keeps those deliveries going every week! But even more importantly, as we connected with our families through these deliveries, drive-bys, zoom and telephone calls, we understood that we are really delivering HOPE.
Other times hope starts with the recognition that “I have a voice” and “what I want matters.” One of Easterseals greatest contributions is helping individuals build on their own strengths.
Sometimes hope means knowing that others are in the same boat and hearing their ideas. We recognized that within our organization and through our partnerships, we have a real brain trust. The entire staff joined together to create our Candid Conversations webinars on vital topics like: Talking to Our Children About Racism, Ensuring Your Child Stays On-Track During COVID-19, Disability Employment, and Addressing the Mental Health Crisis in the Age of COVID. Replays of these fascinating sessions are available here.
And sometimes hope means just having fun. While we won’t have large, in-person celebrations for a while, we have come up with new ways to connect and to garner support for our programs. Early in 2021, Bright Stars Bedtime Stories Presented by M&T Bank will raise vital funds for Easterseals services and bring joy to thousands of children with disabilities and those from low-income, military, and first responder families. Participants will be able to log-in to hear celebrities and other special guests read specially selected books.
The challenges call to mind the inspirational words of a great American. In his famous I Have a Dream speech, Dr. Martin Luther King called on us to “hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” As we start 2021, I look back with gratitude to the generous supporters who have enabled us to achieve so much—thank you! And I look forward with optimism to the potential of the new year—a time of health, renewed connections, and continued innovation and commitment so that we deliver the hopeful and inclusive community of Easterseals’ Vision.
Wishing all a happy and healthy New Year,
President & CEO