The Gift of Pancakes

Executive Director John Stauffer talks about the Gift of Rotary Pancakes

By John Stauffer, Executive Director of Helping Hands Respite Care and East Lansing Rotarian

East Lansing Rotary Pancakes in the Park is one of the things I look forward to every year. As a person who has spent most of their life in the marketing arena, and loves people, Pancakes in the Park is just a comfortable and enjoyable event for me. This year was special because the efforts of the committee included several new elements to the Pancakes event. If I were to summarize the committee’s work it would be simple.

Less work, more money, great job!

It is because of more than money that I stand before you today. In an effort to honor the “Service to Community” piece of Rotary, the Pancakes in the Park committee suggested this year to give a portion of the proceeds to a couple of the non-profits that they have associated themselves with in the past.

Helping Hands Respite Care, a non-profit that I have the honor of being the director for, was the recipient of a $2,500 check from the proceeds of the pancake event. We were given the opportunity to sell tickets, advertise the event on our website, and push the event to our friends on Facebook, and have a presence at the actual event. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process. The committee invited me as the director of Helping Hands to be present at meetings prior to the event to share ideas and information as it pertained to advertising, promotion and the selling of tickets. It made the Pancakes event much more personal for me this year.

The Gift of Rotary Pancakes

Last week I walked in to the regular Rotary meeting and Amy (club treasurer) quietly handed me a check for $2,500, the commitment to Helping Hands that our club had made at the beginning of this process. The check was quietly folded and placed in my shirt pocket. It appeared uneventful, but it was anything but. I had a tear in my eye because of what that check represented. It was the culmination of a collaboration between the two organizations of which I am most proud to be a member.

This check represented the congruence of value and service between our two agencies – I believe everyone in this room is here because they see Rotary as a way to exponentially expand the things that we believe in and leverage the good work we want to see accomplished locally and globally. The check in my breast pocket last week was an acknowledgment from an agency I proudly serve, to an agency I proudly represent. An acknowledgment that you believe in the work we do.

Cathy Zell (president-elect) asked that I share a little about how our agency has or intends to use the funds received. What I say to you today is the fact that you entrusted the funds to our use without first requiring or directing what the use of the funds would be is so much more important than what we actually did do with those dollars. Thank you so much for your belief in Helping Hands, and for those of you who just have to know your funds are being utilized – they are being used to help us grow a new program at Helping Hands Respite Care where we use paid interns from MSU, students majoring in Kinesiology, Nursing, Family Studies, Social Work, Pre-Med and Psychology, to work directly in our programs and in the family’s homes of those we serve.

Helping to fund a program that will ultimately facilitate helping even more families who desperately need respite (a short break) from the intense responsibility of being fully present 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for their loved one with a disability or failing health. For me…that is the Gift of Pancakes this year!

Kathryn Green Named as Child In-Home Supervisor

Kethryn Green, new Child In-Home supervisor at Helping Hands Respite Care

Reviewing the reasons why Kathryn Green is a great candidate for a supervisor’s position, it became clear she was the best choice for Child In-Home Supervisor. In her 2+ years at Helping Hands Respite Care there has been no employee who has racked up more positive attention,  been named Employee of the Month numerous times, and rapidly advanced from caregiver, to team leader, to assistant supervisor, and now supervisor.

“When you see great talent found in Kathryn Green it is an easy choice to take advantage of the energy, willingness to learn and to grow,” shared Executive Director John Stauffer.

“I am committed to supporting our Child In-Home families in the best way possible while also helping our caregivers remain up to speed and accountable to their important responsibilities,” said Kathryn.

What happened to Nicole?

Some may be asking what happened to our previous Child In-Home Supervisor, Nicole Holbrook. The reason for her departure was precipitated by an escalating family situation. Like many families that we help, Nicole was called to provide regular care for an aging family member.

While her title and responsibilities to the organization may have changed, we are pleased to have Nicole available to our families specifically for the purposes of availing themselves of family counseling services.

BBT Program Move from Gier Center to Beekman Center

Program Move - BBT will be at the Beekman Center instead of the Gier Community Center

Announcing Program Move: The Breaking Barriers Today (BBT) program is moving from Gier Community Center back to the Beekman Center. Effective 9/1/17, the transition of the Breaking Barriers Today program will be complete. We are sad to lose access to such a wonderful facility at Gier. Unfortunately, we simply could not see the path towards growing the program to serve more of the families with an adult child aging-out of the school district sponsored programs.  Although the need is there, the perception of this program as competition rather than an alternate option conspired against getting the expected referrals to grow the program.

The bright side is that the proximity to the Beekman Center and Heartwood School students/families should yield more referrals into our modified Breaking Barriers Today program and the Respite House weekend respite program. Going forward the Breaking Barriers Today program will primarily be an after school program.

With new leadership (read about new supervisor) and enthusiasm for our re-defined BBT program we have great hopes for growth in this program.

The Ability Experience and Helping Hands Respite Care

Ability Experience bike riders lined up in front of Helping Hands for a reception line

On July 30th  The Ability Experience happened in East Lansing as 37 hot and sweaty young men converged on Helping Hands Respite Care for a special visit.  These men, all part of a national fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, competed to be selected to be part of what some might consider 50 plus days of torture.  They hoped to be chosen to be part of an amazing, life-changing journey, aptly called the Journey of Hope.  It is all part of the fraternity’s national charitable fund-raising organization The Ability Experience event where three teams of riders are assembled to participate in a cross-country fund-raising bike rides. There are three routes planned across country – a northern route, mid- of the country route, and the southern route. They all begin in major west coast cities and end in Washington DC.  Each man selected to participate is responsible for raising the funds to cover the cost of their participation in a national cross-country bike ride, to train in preparation for the ride, and to assist in fund-raising.

For the past three years, Helping Hands Respite Care has been one of the friendship visit stops of the Journey of Hope riders.  Friendship stops are planned for the riders so that they may meet and engage with people with disabilities served by a variety of organizations.  You see, the mission of The Ability Experience is to not only raise funds to be granted to nonprofits like Helping Hands, but also to create a generation of future leaders who will have a greater understanding, compassion, and connection with people with disabilities. Helping the riders understand that while the people they meet on their journey may have disabilities – they also have many abilities!

Hosting the Ability Experience riders has become an event that we look forward to each year.

The Ability Experience games include Giant  Jenga. Two riders and Bob Sr. and Jr. Matheson took a chance with the game.

The past two years we have taken the community picnic to the next level by planning fun, interactive games for the riders to participate in with some of our clients and family members.  This year our “Ability Games” included the popular water-balloon human bowling pins, giant jenga, an old-fashion hula-hoop competition, pool noodle javelin throwing, flying discs, and corn-hole bean bag toss.

Putting on this community picnic and games is an effort that is largely accomplished by the administrative team of Helping Hands Respite Care.  Leading the charge in planning, set-up, and even game creation is our leader and executive director, John Stauffer.  Also at work before, during and after were:  Office Administrator Janette Lauzon (plus her team of young men that came to help set-up and clean-up); Scheduler Rhonda Mliakoff who joined in the food prep and cooking duties along with Adult Day Services Nurse Jane Rogers; Adult In-Home Supervisor Jeff Nunham and his wife Karen focused on the grills, cooking, and keeping the food line supplied; Consultant Katie Donovan provided some shade as she stuffed her 20×10 foot tent in her little Chevy and convinced the East Lansing Rotary Club to lend us two other smaller tents; and ADS program Team Leader Jeff Gindlesberger showed up early to help with set-up and clean-up.

Volunteers for Ability Experience Community Picnic

Volunteers included Connie Tubbs who arrived early to help with food prep; Bill Bartilson once again came prepared to create music and public address system for us; and Board Member Jane Beaudoin stepped up to fill a critical need for the riders….the Beaudoins convinced their condo association to allow the riders to bunk at the community building and pool overnight. Once the guys arrived it was clear that there was not enough room so Jane and Gary Beaudoin opened their home for more of the riders.

We had clients join in the fun from our Adult Day Services program, Kate’s Memory Café regulars, our Child-In Home program, and Adult-In Home.  Some care-providers who were on-duty providing respite care made sure to come and join in along with their care partner.  Several Board Members and donors also arrived for the picnic and festivities.

While we put on this event with the skinniest of budgets, and tax our hard-working team to get it all done, we find it to be so richly rewarding in those little moments where we interact with the riders, or have a moment to enjoy the company of client/families/friends in a social setting. This is an event that pays dividends of the heart.  To all of those who lent a hand to make this event happen …we are so grateful!



Capacity Grant from Our Community Foundation

Our Community Foundation fundamentally changes Annual Grant-Making Process to include capacity grantLogo for Our Community Foundation. Helping Hands Respite Care a grateful recipient of this change.

In a dramatic shift towards helping local nonprofits to build capacity and make major impacts in their respective service areas, Our Community Foundation, formerly known as Capital Region Community Foundation, re-defined and rolled out a new grant process this spring.  Helping Hands Respite Care received one of many $1000 Assessment/Audit Grants to help local nonprofit organizations narrow their focus and determine whether they would make application for a capacity grant or an impact grant.

Helping Hands was given the opportunity for an assessment by an organization well-versed in nonprofit structure and challenges.  The result of the assessment included a recommendation for both Board Training and assistance with our next Five Year Strategic Planning Process.  That recommendation and proposal for service was rolled into a Capacity Grant.  Additionally, Our Community Foundation searched out local agencies ready for assistance on Fund Development and created a fast track to a training opportunity with the Benevon for Sustainable Fund Raising organization.  After filling out a pre-application, Helping Hands was invited to include Benevon Training and Support as part of the Capacity Grant.

Timing of the next available Benevon Training which was scheduled for mid-June in Dearborn, was tight, but once we got the grant approval for the training – work began in earnest to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.  Helping Hands was selected as one of five local nonprofits that demonstrated their readiness to take advantage of the capacity grant and the resources made available from Our Community Foundation.  “The hard work of the past six years is beginning to pay-off, shared Helping Hands leader John Stauffer. It is an honor to be perceived as at the tipping point of success by the community foundation.  The help comes at just the right time as we forecast no end in sight for the growing need for the respite services provided by our organization to the community covering Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties.”

Kevin Bush – New BBT Supervisor

Kevin Bush, new BBT Supervisor

Meet Kevin Bush Who Changed Jobs as a Child Advocate to Supervise the BBT Program

We are thrilled to have Kevin Bush join our administrative team.  Kevin graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelors in Psychology. He recently worked at St. Vincent Catholic Charities as a Child Advocate it its Children’s Home program.  The children in residence at the Children’s Home are in the Foster Care system and came to the program with high needs for emotional healing.  Kevin’s gentle but firm manner combined with his educational experience make him a highly prized employee.

“We are blessed to have Kevin join our team and look forward to the imprint he will have on the Breaking Barriers Today program as supervisor, and his Team Lead position for the Respite House program,” shared Executive Director John Stauffer.

“I have a passion for leading and taking care of people who are vulnerable and may need encouragement to grow and learn, “shared Kevin. “This choice to help children came out of a college intern experience where I worked one-on-one with a child in an Adolescent Diversion Program. I found the close contact meaningful and it was a real boost to see progress.  I am excited to get started at Helping Hands Respite Care because I feel like I will have the opportunity to know and feel the effects of making a difference in the lives of the children in our care.”

Newly married, Kevin and his wife Stephanie are enjoying making a life in a home on the west side of Lansing in a rural setting close to the Woldumar Nature Center.