Friends of PLACES still can order their personalized, engraved pavers, which will become part of the 25th anniversary commemorative walkway at Gascho Gardens, a PLACES Residential Adult Care Facility. Siebenthaler’s designed the walkway and landscape plan shown here.
PLACES needs more donations to support the 25th anniversary commemorative walkway being built by Siebenthaler’s
Siebenthaler’s is designing and building the commemorative walkway at Gascho Gardens – complete with weeping cherry, magnolia, forsythia and other landscaping amenities – in celebration of the 25th anniversary of PLACES. Located on Dayton’s east side, Gascho Gardens evolved from the first PLACES Residential Adult Care Facility in 1988 and today provides a home for 12 residents.
The Siebenthaler’s design features personalized, engraved pavers, which friends of PLACES are ordering to honor family members, loved ones and the people PLACES serves.
PLACES Executive Director Roy Craig
said PLACES is still accepting donations toward the walkway, which will benefit the Heart and Home Legacy Society, the PLACES endowment fund established through The Dayton Foundation.
“We need many more donations to meet our goal of $10,000,” said Roy, who announced the fundraiser at the Holiday Party last December. Friends of PLACES can order a paver and donate to the endowment fund
through the PLACES website or by contacting Kathy Nickell
at PLACES at 937.461.4300.
Supporting the endowment fund will help to protect the future for PLACES residents, clients and tenants and ensure that the quality programs at PLACES remain financially secure. “Our goal is to build our endowment so we can do things that are a little bit nicer for the people we serve,” Roy said.
Walkway will beautify Gascho Gardens
The walkway design is nicer than he ever envisioned, Roy said.
“We’re doing some really neat things with landscaping to improve curb appeal and make it better for our residents,” he said. “It will greatly improve the property.”
To date, project donors range from staff, board members and family members to vendors and funders, such as the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board for Montgomery County. Most supporters have purchased pavers to honor their own family members or residents, Roy said.
The commemorative walkway pleases people like Mark Degnan, one of the first to order a paver to support the endowment fund. Mark is a brother to Chris, a Gascho Gardens resident since 1988. Mark’s paver is engraved in memory of their parents, Kathryn and Joseph Degnan.
“Our parents are no longer with us, but PLACES gave them solace because they knew Chris was somewhere safe, where he could eat and have the basics of life taken care of,” Mark explained. “They were people of deep faith, and they always said it was like ‘divine intervention’ with PLACES. It has been a long journey of ups and downs with Chris’ mental health, and they felt that safety net with PLACES.”
That security has been important to Mark and his four other brothers and one sister, who knew Chris was vulnerable to being victimized when he was living elsewhere.
“Chris had an erratic living situation before PLACES – he never stayed anywhere very long – and we were always worried about his safety if he decided to leave,” Mark said. “We still tell him, ‘You don’t want to be out on the streets. The people at PLACES are looking out for you.’ Everyone at PLACES has always demonstrated a sense of family and caring.”
Mark Degnan: Giving back to PLACES shows appreciation for compassionate care
Mark says ordering a paver is a way for him to give back to PLACES. “It’s not only a lasting physical asset for Gascho Gardens but also an enabler for people to help support PLACES,” he explained.
Mark says Chris will enjoy the walkway whenever he goes outside to say his daily prayers or head to Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church downtown. “Going to church is one thing he has stayed constant on,” Mark said. “Through it all, he’s never lost his deep devotions.”
Work on the walkway will begin in May and should take about a week, weather permitting, Roy said. Siebenthaler’s, a six-generation company providing landscaping services for homes and industries, has a wholesale nursery plus garden centers in Centerville and Beavercreek.
“It’s very fitting that we’re building the walkway at Gascho Gardens, the first Residential Adult Care Facility that we owned and operated,” Roy said. “A few of the original residents are still here because this is stable housing and the best level of care for them.”
That’s true for Chris, says Mark. “That’s the common denominator I have seen: The people at PLACES actually care,” Mark said. “They are just so compassionate. You can tell they really make a difference.”
Order a paver and donate to the endowment fund through the PLACES website or by contacting Kathy Nickell at PLACES at 937.461.4300.
PLACES donor Mark Degnan chose to honor his parents, Kathryn and Joseph Degnan, shown here, with a personalized, engraved paver for the commemorative walkway being built at Gascho Gardens. Mark’s brother Chris has lived at Gascho Gardens since 1988.
Developing the staff at PLACES is a high priority for Shannon Root (center, in purple), the new director for client services at PLACES.
Staff development will continue to improve
quality of care, says Shannon Root,
new director of client services at PLACES
Shannon Root says she felt drawn to work at PLACES after witnessing the staff’s deep commitment to the organization’s vision, mission and values. “A lot of people working in mental health take on a case but forget they’re really working with a person,” she said. “I looked around at other agencies, and none had that same sense of compassion I saw at PLACES, which sees people as a whole and treats them with respect and dignity.”
PLACES Executive Director Roy Craig said he immediately felt that same sense of shared values and hired Shannon as the new director of client services in January.
“She came in with questions about how and why we do what we do, and it was apparent that her client focus was aligned with ours,” he said. “She is bright, motivated, consistent, low-key and very level-headed – things that make good leaders.”
Roy also knew that her experience as the lead case manager for a Housing First program in Washington, D.C., would help PLACES, which expanded its Housing First program with a fourth facility last fall.
“Housing First requires a more measured, more subtle focus on improvement, which can be difficult,” Roy admitted. “But Shannon completely understands our role and how to approach the requirements for keeping people stably housed. And she wants to make sure our staff understand so they can slowly help people make the changes they need to make. That program will improve under her leadership.”
On-site staff training emphasizes clinical practices
Critical to quality of care is staff development, Shannon’s main focus since January, Roy said.
“I made direct care staff my initial priority because without them, we cannot serve our clients,” Shannon explained. “They’re with the residents, clients and tenants every day and need support, guidance and opportunities to improve their skills.”
To do that, Shannon’s held monthly clinical in-service trainings for staff in all three PLACES programs.
“If the staff understands more about what is happening with a client who’s having an outburst, for example, they’ll be able to use different intervention styles and tools to model the right behaviors and provide better care,” she said.
‘Let people lead their own recovery’
Shannon has begun training staff members on motivational interviewing so they can learn to talk to clients and tenants about substances and other issues. “The goal is to increase (clients’) motivation – without telling them what to do – so they can maintain their safety and independence,” she said. “You have to let people lead their own recovery.”
Roy likes that Shannon has tailored her trainings based on PLACES programs – “what we do and need,” he said. “She’s been doing a great job with all the people who report to her directly or indirectly, focusing them on ways they can get better.”
During her trainings, Shannon encourages staff to help residents, clients and tenants recognize their strengths. “Many people we serve have been beaten down, so if we can say, ‘You did a really nice job with this,’ that motivates them to continue using their strengths,” she said.
‘What can we do to make it better?’
Since January, Shannon’s been visiting each Residential Adult Care Facility and Housing First facility to talk to staff members about what’s going well, what’s not going well and how she can best support them in their work.
“We’re also looking at ways to improve the Supportive Living Program based on changes happening in Medicaid,” Roy said. “We’re trying to organize ourselves around smaller caseloads so we can spend more quality time with the people we serve. This includes helping make sure people are stably housed and providing services the rest of the system cannot provide.”
Shannon’s also ensured documentation standards are in compliance, applied a streamlined process to assess client progress and advanced the PLACES quality improvement plan. A new case planning tool lets clients decide what they want to work on.
“Clients like being able to say, ‘I need assistance with this, but not with this,’” Shannon said. “We see more commitment if they identify goals themselves.”
Roy said these are better clinical practices because they’re more objective and measurable. “We’re looking at everything we do from the perspective of our values and asking, ‘What can we do to make it better?’”
Shannon agreed. “We already provide really good services, but how can we improve those to be the best they can be?” she said.
From West to East to Midwest
Shannon has settled in Beavercreek with her husband, Matt, who works at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and their 2-year-old daughter, Emilia. A Montana native who grew up in the mountains, Shannon enjoys hiking and camping – “I’m an outdoors person,” she says – and traveling.
“Dayton has a laid-back community feel, which is really nice since my last job was on the East Coast,” she said. “It’s fun seeing all the revitalization going on here, and all the diversity. Plus, it’s easy to get around.”
Shannon is a licensed independent social worker with a master of social work from Boston University and a bachelor of science in sociology from Montana State University.
PLACES Board of Trustees President Andy Storar said he was energized by the board and staff planning retreat in February, which began positioning PLACES for growth and change.
PLACES board, staff rally around new ideas for future growth
For the first time in the history of PLACES, the entire executive team joined the Board of Trustees for a planning retreat in February that inspired some changes to prepare PLACES for growth. “The outcome was unity – the shared vision of the staff and board was really tremendous,” said Roy Craig, executive director of PLACES.
Roy said the retreat was a first step to help PLACES position itself for growth in areas such as development, programs and quality. “It was nice for staff to learn what’s important to the board – the care of residents, clients, tenants and staff – and for the board to see the competency and longevity of our staff,” he said.
Some changes discussed during the retreat are being presented to the board for final adoption at the May board meeting:
* Use of a consent agenda to streamline meetings. Consent agendas group routine, non-controversial items in a single motion for a vote, allowing more time for substantive discussions. “A consent agenda will allow us to be more strategic as we consider issues critical to the people we serve, and future growth through partnerships and other opportunities,” Roy said.
* Renewed mission, vision and values statements. Board of Trustees President Andy Storar said the review of these statements came at an appropriate time. “People’s understanding of the mentally challenged and chronically homeless has changed over the years, and consequently, our mission, vision and values have to change along with that,” he said.
* Expanded structure for standing committees. Besides the executive committee and finance committee, now there will be a governance committee: one board member to handle board issues such as recruitment, nominations, training, giving and the board calendar. A new development committee will include board members, staff and volunteers focused on fundraising planning, special events and activities.
Eventually there will be an advisory committee – board members, outside volunteers and friends of PLACES – meeting once or twice a year to provide input on the direction of PLACES. Roy said there could be as many as 30 or 40 people on this committee providing “more voices, more representation and more people attracted to the organization.”
Sharing fresh ideas, new perspectives
Andy wholeheartedly supports the new committee structure, the addition of talented non-board members to committees and the new energy sparked by the planning retreat.
“I’ve felt for a long time that the board should have more responsibility, and now we do,” Andy said. “There’s been an attitude change: We are more inquisitive and much more interested in exploring new opportunities. Because our board is now very diverse, we’re hearing a lot of fresh ideas and new perspectives that are generating a lot of discussions around things we could be doing, and things we really need to be doing, such as looking into partnerships and alternative financial arrangements like philanthropy and other types of fundraising.”
That’s important, Andy said, since the time may come when PLACES is not funded primarily with public dollars. “Everyone on the board has a clearer understanding of the challenges we’re facing, so we need to start thinking about some fundamental changes now to become more self-supported,” he said.
Board members at the retreat considered new ideas in light of the PLACES mission, Andy said.
“We continued to ask, ‘How would something like that serve our purpose?’” he said. “If something is not going to improve the lives of the people we serve, then there’s not a lot of sense in doing it. First and foremost must be the continued pursuit of our mission.”
Chris was honored as Resident of the Year at the annual PLACES Recognition Reception in February.
Spotlight on Chris:
PLACES Resident of the Year
Editor’s note: Rondel Richardson, the manager of Randolph House, a PLACES Residential Adult Care Facility, is one of many staff members who supported Chris receiving Resident of the Year at the Recognition Reception in February. Here’s what Rondel wanted to share about Chris, who happens to be deaf and legally blind.
“I chose Chris because he has overcome so many obstacles in addition to his disabilities.
“Before coming to PLACES, Chris had been placed in a few agencies and homes, and all were unsuccessful. He’d even spent time in a nursing home where he slept in a twin bed, even though he is over 6 feet tall and then weighed over 300 pounds. He had no TV or stimulation and received a small glass of water only at mealtimes, even though he suffers with dry mouth.
“When we first met him, he appeared very disheveled in appearance, and reports stated he was very violent and hard to work with. After being mistreated by staff at one of his prior homes, Chris reacted – and had to serve time in prison after being charged with assault.
“At PLACES, our experience with Chris has been much different.
“Since he arrived, he’s been nothing but pleasant and patient with the staff and residents, even though we were strangers who at first did not know sign language. Although he is deaf and legally blind, he has taken the time to teach others how to sign and communicate with him (and chuckles when you can’t). Chris is very helpful around the house and is always ready and willing to do his part.
“Today Chris is employed at MONCO Enterprises and works from 2–8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Chris loves to play cards, listen to music, dance and shop. Chris is full of joy and fun!
“If we had believed the written reports about Chris, we may not have decided to help. I am thankful that PLACES looks at clients as people first. We now have a new family member, a friend, in Chris.”
Spotlight on Sandra: PLACES Supportive Living Program Client of the Year
Editor’s note: Nadine Wysinger, manager of the Supportive Living Program at PLACES, is one of many staff members who supported Sandra receiving Client of the Year at the Recognition Reception in February. Here’s what Nadine wanted to share about Sandra.
“I first met Sandra in March 2010 in the parking lot of Capri Lanes on the first day of the PLACES bowling league. Sandra’s case manager back then had finally convinced Sandra to try to bowl during the tournament. For Sandra, just showing up was a major accomplishment because she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and extreme social anxiety.
“I saw her again the next week when she actually came in, bowled one game, said she needed some air and left. I did not see her again for a few months.
“Since that day, I have had the privilege and pleasure to observe, provide some occasional guidance via two other case managers and give a lot of encouragement to Sandra. She has gone from a very timid person – someone who hardly ever made eye contact – to a woman who is out in the workforce daily.
“She began her journey with much encouragement from her other case manager, Frances. Sandra and Frances spent a great deal of time together doing one-on-one activities, talking and working through Sandra’s anxieties. Sandra took baby steps that finally led to her accepting a volunteer position at the VA Medical Center.
“Setbacks happened during her journey. When Sandra found out that Frances had been promoted and was leaving the Supportive Living Program, she didn’t want to stay unless I would be her case manager. After talking with Sandra, I was able to convince her to give our new case manager, Bridgett Dorman, a chance.
“There were trials and more setbacks, and sometimes Sandra wanted to quit. But with support from Bridgett, Sandra persevered and worked through her disappointments and anxieties. Meanwhile, she went back to school to become a pharmacy technician, lost weight and began going out more on her own, even attending church regularly.
“Whenever I see her in the community, she always has that shy but beautiful smile for me! And when I tell her how proud I am of all her accomplishments, she gives me this look of, ‘Who, me? Are you sure you mean me?’
“Today Sandra is working at the VA Medical Center as a medical assistant and is cross-training as a pharmacy technician.
“If you ever get the chance to meet Sandra, you would have no idea of the road she has traveled to get to where she is today. She is very humble and believes that she has a long way to go but doesn’t seem to realize how amazingly far she has come.”