Choices 2020 Spring Special Edition Acts of Kindness

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Choices Spring 2020 Newsletter

Special Edition - Acts of Kindness

community options logo

Community Options believes in the dignity of every person, and in the freedom of all people to experience the highest degree of self-determination. Embracing this philosophy, Community Options provides housing and employment supports to people with disabilities. #AllItTakes

HEROES WORK HERE!!!! Acts Of Kindness

highlighting the extraordinary efforts and care our Direct Support Professionals have shown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Message from The President and CEO

Community Options Employs Heroes

Beneficence means “the doing of good.” We never wrote that requirement in any job description or hired anyone with the assumption that they were heroes. Now, in the midst of this trying time, we have learned that it is the most common attribute of every person who works at Community Options. It is especially true for those who come to the homes every day to support and defend the individuals in Community Options’ care. They remain the most vulnerable Americans in danger of being attacked by the invisible enemy.

I am so proud to recognize and thank all of our caregivers for their phenomenal work. Professional staff like Benson Edeogu, originally from Nigeria, and now a Sayreville, New Jersey resident is one of countless examples. In 2015 Benson began his Community Options’ career as a Direct Support Professional, was later promoted to Assistant Manager, and is currently a Program Manager in Kendall Park. Benson is a recently married father who happens to share the same decade of birth with me. After contracting COVID-19, he was treated at home and because of his age, remained there for three weeks. He has now returned. Benson is a hero. Kathryn Bryant, Executive Director of Middlesex, said, “Benson has developed great bonds with our individuals and he always treats them like family. He is a true pleasure to work with and is a most welcomed addition to our management team.”

Thank you to Benson and all the staff who are tremendous heroes for those in need. You are all very special and we will make sure that you are remembered as integral members of the Community Options family.
Warmest regards,

Robert Stack Signature

Robert Stack
President & CEO
Community Options, Inc.

COVID-19 Relief Campaign

Over the last few weeks we have identified and applied for over 40 grants from foundations or United Way locations in several cities in which we have services. So far, we have been awarded seven grants in 4 states totaling $120,000. We continue to contact United Way offices as well as other community foundations in every city we are located.

We thank Oceanfirst Foundation in New Jersey, Frederick, Maryland Community Foundation, The United Way of Amarillo & Canyon, The Kessler Foundation, San Antonio Area Foundation, The United Way of Gloucester County, New Jersey, Haldeman Ford, and the Brooklyn Community Foundation for their generosity.

We have begun a COVID-19 appeal and raised $53,000 from charitable families and donors. This will help us cover our increase in expenses and reduced revenue. The appeal is being done online and via telephone. We’re very thankful for our generous donors and our wonderful callers who have been initiating the outreach.

COVID-19 Touches Community Options, Inc.

COVID-19 has touched Community Options in many ways. From staff, to the people we support, over 50 have been affected.

To date, 24 individuals across 4 states who are supported by Community Options, have tested positive for COVID-19. Sadly, of those 24, two passed away. We will hold memorials at a time deemed appropriate.

In addition, 39 Community Options’ staff have tested positive. And many of those 39 have heroically returned to work after completing the mandated 14-day quarantine.

We pray and hope that everyone affected in the Community Options’ family recover. We also send our thoughts and prayers to the staff and families of the two people who passed away.

We greatly appreciate our direct care staff and especially the staff who have been working in a home where a staff or person we support has tested positive.

Community Options’ direct care staff truly define the term “HERO”.


Ruth Yekeson - Direct Support Professional

Ruth Yekeson - Direct Support Professional

Ruth Yekeson from Bucks County, Pennsylvania Stepping up at Every Opportunity

Ruth Yekeson is being honored as Bucks County’s Direct Support Professional Hero. Ruth is strong, dedicated, and fearless when it comes to her job and supporting those with whom she works. When the home in which Ruth works had a positive case of COVID-19, Ruth was the sole Direct Support Professional willing to work without any hesitation. She wasn’t weary of this challenge and she proved that she’s a leader within Community Options. Ruth came to work every day to provide the necessary support to both individuals while they were recovering. She always ensured they were constantly hydrated, well nourished, and checked on multiple times throughout her shifts. Their health and safety always came first. No matter what, everyone could count on Ruth. She provided daily reports of the progress being made at the home and informed her co-workers of these developments. Ruth exhibits the true meaning of passion and care. She’s an inspiration to all and deserves full recognition for the unbelievable leadership shown throughout this unprecedented time.

Community Options is beyond grateful to have someone like Ruth caring for the individuals on a daily basis. We’ll continue showing this appreciation for Ruth as our Direct Support Professional Hero! Read Article.

Nysheema Epps, Bryant DeShields, and Jerome White from Burlington, New Jersey Excel During COVID-19 Recovery

Nysheema Epps, Bryant DeShields, and Jerome White from Burlington, NJ donning their own personal protective equipment.

Nysheema Epps, Bryant DeShields, and Jerome White from Burlington, NJ donning their own personal protective equipment.

On March 23, 2020, Nysheema, Bryant, and Jerome, the staff in Burlington, New Jersey shined as one of our residents in Florence, New Jersey was taken to the emergency room with a temperature of 103. He was assessed and diagnosed with pneumonia and immediately hospitalized. During the initial assessment, COVID–19 testing was performed, but after two weeks the test came back inconclusive due to an insufficient sample. During this time, he was isolated in a hospital without anyone who knew him. He is on the autism spectrum and has limited ability to communicate and convey his needs. This caused added stress and anxiety. He underwent a second test for COVID-19 which unfortunately came back positive.

Finally, the hospital determined he was safe enough to return to his home and self-isolate however, due to the level of direct supports he required, the medical team at the hospital determined we needed complete hazmat attire in order to work with him. The team spent nearly seven days looking for gowns, face shields, N94 masks and other protective gear without luck. The team never lost hope and with some innovation and determination, created their own personal protective equipment consisting of paint suits, swim goggles, rubber gloves, and blue surgical masks. The hospital finally agreed to discharge due to the team’s valiant efforts. The individual has been home recovering and is very happy. These true heroes were willing to do all it takes during this very difficult and stressful time. Read Article.

Brooke Smith, the new Administrative Assistant in Washington, PA at her sewing machine sewing masks

Thank you Brooke Smith from Washington, Pennsylvania!

We would like to offer a great thank you to Brooke Smith, the new Administrative Assistant in Washington, PA. After the Governor’s order and our significant lack of PPE, Brooke went to Walmart to see if she could find bandanas to make masks. The next morning, she came into work with her sewing machine, 40 swatches of pre-cut fabric, black hair scrunchies which she used in lieu of elastic, and began making masks for all of our Direct Support Professionals. We cannot thank her enough for her dedication and ingenuity. The Washington, PA region now has a sufficient number of masks.

Thank you Brooke! Read Article.

Perriaye Powe Standing Out in Chattanooga

Perriaye Powe - Direct Support Professional

Perriaye Powe - Direct Support Professional

There is an old adage that says trouble comes in threes. Although we are only a few months into 2020, we have already seen flooding, COVID-19, and tornado disasters. These events have affected the people we support in one way or another. However, Direct Support Professional Perriaye Powe has refused to let these challenges disrupt the excellent care she provides to the people we support. She is bold, passionate, accountable and she continues to shower our individuals with kindness during these times.

On April 12, 2020, Perriaye was working a 16-hour shift from 8am-12am. During the last hour of her shift, a tornado was scheduled to touch down and it was essential that shelter was sought. Due to the weather, her relief staff was unable to reach the home due to the damage in the area. Perriaye not only provided direct support to an individual who is both non-verbal and wheelchair bound, she was also on the phone allaying the fears of her distressed coworker who was caught in the storm. She was able to comfort the person supported as well as calm her relief staff enough to drive back home safely after the traumatic experience. By the time support was able to reach the home, Perriaye worked 24 hours straight. Based on her collected disposition, you would never have known it. Her calm and cool demeanor is evident regardless of the challenges she faces on a given day.

Thank you Perriaye, for all you do! Read Article.

Amber Staten - Senior Direct Support Professional

Amber Staten - Senior Direct Support Professional

Amber Staten in Arizona doing an Amazing Job

Although the Greater Phoenix region has had many shining stars throughout this unprecedented time, the new Senior DSP for the Darrow Home, Amber Staten, has shown very brightly.

Amber has only been with Community Options since the end of February 2020. She recently moved to Tempe, AZ from a small town in Missouri and has stepped right in to the COMOP family. She has established wonderful relationships with the ladies at the Darrow Home and has worked very hard with them to adjust to their “new lifestyle” throughout this pandemic. She has dedicated her time to helping the individuals adjust to the extreme changes to their routine and most recently, Easter without their families.

Amber worked with the ladies to paint pictures, made each a special Easter basket, prepared a home-cooked Easter dinner, and coordinated an Easter Egg Hunt. The ladies and their parents were very appreciative of Amber’s efforts to ensure they had a special Easter holiday since their families were unable to visit with them in person.

Thank you Amber. You are very appreciated! Read Article.

Nasima Madbouhi’s Leadership in Utah

Nasima Madbouhi - Senior Direct Support Professional

Nasima Madbouhi - Senior Direct Support Professional

During these turbulent times, the individuals in our care seek the stability provided by the heroes that work for Community Options. In Utah, many of the individuals have found their stability in Nasima Madbouhi. She has always had the attributes of a hero, which are further exemplified throughout these unprecedented times.

Beyond the earthquakes, shortage of supplies, and a potential lethal virus, Nasima is charged with the care of highly unpredictable individuals. Despite these unique situations, Nasima cultivates a culture of calm. She creates this culture by maintaining her emotions, confidently and accurately preparing for any situation, and never letting those in her care “fall through the cracks”. The individuals in her care and the administrative staff know they can rely on her, as evidenced by her actions.

Nasima made 72-hour kits before any stay at home orders were instituted. Further, she created normalcy by planning a safe Easter celebration and maintaining a daily routine. Watching Nasima create stability in these ways is nothing short of miraculous. There have been no extreme moments of crisis and the individuals maintain the same standard of living they have always enjoyed while in her care. Nasima is truly an example for us to follow and Utah is lucky to have her. Read Article

Fredricka Cross and Willisha Ewing Show Their Dedication in Dallas, Texas

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fredricka and Willisha, as well as all staff, have been encouraging, stepped up when needed, and haven’t missed a beat.

When the staff was confronted by a person we support because they were upset about not being able to maintain their normal routine, the staff stepped up immediately without being asked and found ways to maintain as much normalcy in their routines as possible while also reassuring the supported person that all would be okay.

One staff has a family member in Michigan that has COVID-19, but you would never know because she is always displaying an upbeat, positive attitude while on the job. She continuously provides reassurance and encouragement to the people we support.

Fredricka and Willisha recognize how important it is to stay positive with the individuals and that their morale is easily picked up on. The staff have even said that they feel the safest during this time when working in the group homes because of the proactive measures that have been taken to keep our staff and the people we support safe.

We continue to be humbled in Dallas, as well as all regions, at the acts of kindness, dedication, and bravery that our Direct Support Professionals are showing through all of this. It is truly heartwarming to see them all come together to keep the homes staffed and the people we support engaged and active, while still taking care of their own families. We are forever grateful for each of them! See Article.

4 people two holding signs Cheering On Lexington Hospital Columbia, SC

Sending Support to our friends at the Lexington Hospital

In Columbia, South Carolina, the people we support were determined to come up with an act of kindness to show their support during this difficult time. After many great ideas, they decided to show their appreciation for employees at the Lexington Hospital.

Everyone made signs and gathered outside of the hospital. As the workers were heading home from their shifts, they were surprised to hear loud cheers accompanied by all of the signs and support.

The event was very much appreciated by the hospital staff and the people we support had a great time. Read More.

Evelyn from New York City who is our Traumatic Brain Injury Service Coordinator sewed masks for the people we support.

Evelyn from New York City who is our Traumatic Brain Injury Service Coordinator sewed masks for the people we support.

Evelyn Rivera Putting a Hobby to Great Use!

Evelyn Rivera from New York City is an avid sewer who loves helping others. When it became clear that there were staff and individuals supported by Community Options who needed masks, she knew what she was going to do!

She made them and gave them to all who needed them. Thanks so much, Evelyn, for going above and beyond! Read More.

Leadership Personified by Latoya Scott in New York City

Christian, John, Latoya, and Anthony in the kitchen of a home in NYC

Christian, John, Latoya, and Anthony

Being in a crisis situation can reveal a lot about someone. Some people only tend to think about themselves while conversely, others thrive by putting the wellbeing of others above themselves.

Latoya Scott, Sr. DSP in NYC, is one of those brave souls who showed her true nature in fulfilling her duties during the COVID-19 pandemic. While she was already dedicated to providing the best possible service, she went above and beyond to provide the best quality of care to those we support during this period of uncertainty. Although she has a small child at home, she sacrificed her free time with her family to pick up additional shifts. She has brought a calming presence to the house. When the individuals are asking questions and are panicking by what they see and hear in the news, she goes deep in her heart to find the right words to reassure them. In addition, if she feels that more is needed, she is quick to reach out to other members of the team to make sure that the individuals remain safe both physically and mentally. While others may think that Latoya is just doing her job, the individuals and management in NYC know that she is a true hero worthy of recognition and celebration! Read More.

Be strong and courageous and other encouraging messages written with chalk on driveway.

Amber Marinier, Rebecca Hammond, and Catalina Achica go the Extra Mile in Tucson, Arizona

We have some truly amazing staff in Tucson, Arizona. The three ladies that live at our Copperhead group home have had some challenging situations during this time. The staff continue to keep the individuals engaged by doing special projects and coming up with personal encouraging words about themselves as well as for others. Amber Marinier, Rebecca Hammond, and Catalina Achica have been going above and beyond to ensure they are staying safe and healthy. They have been inspiring by helping them overcome their frustrations and anxiety. We appreciate all of our staff and these three have been exceptional. View Article.

Ijeoma Obidegwu Donates Masks in Maryland

We would like to offer a great thank you to Ijeoma Obidegwu, one of our new Direct Care Staff in Maryland. She wanted to contribute to the cause by donating her own homemade masks. We cannot thank her enough for being so thoughtful. Thank you Ijeoma! Read Article.

Leon Howze as Well as Other Staff go Above and Beyond in Syracuse

A woman standing with Leon Howze As we experience a “different normal” amid the COVID-19 virus, there are times of worry, frustration, and uncertainty. Do we have enough healthy staff to care for the individuals? Do we have enough PPE? Will the individuals and staff become ill? When can we get back to the way life was? Amongst all this worry, there has been an overwhelming number of acts of kindness displayed in our programs and community.

The staff at Community Options in Syracuse have not only come to work but come to work with an attitude of, “We’ve got this”! They are covering for their sick or quarantined co-workers with no complaints. They are providing innovative in-home activities to keep everyone engaged. Staff spent a week making masks for each one of the individuals and their staff. We are providing trainings and meetings virtually and despite an early learning curve, we made it work and staff have ultimately embraced the concept.

One employee who has gone above and beyond is Leon Howze, who has been working whenever and wherever, regardless of the circumstances. Leon has even been working in a home that was under quarantine.

In a time when things seem bleak, there is that bright spot that is the caring and compassion of the people that surround us. Stay healthy! Read Article.

Sandra Granado Setting an Example for Everyone in Las Cruces, New Mexico

Let me tell you about Sandra Granado! She is a hero in our Las Cruces, New Mexico region. She always keeps the individuals involved and active, she makes them feel comfortable, and treats them with respect often going above and beyond in any given situation. During this difficult time due to COVID-19, she continues to keep the individuals’ days active and interesting. They partake in baking, cooking, spa and beauty days, music and dancing, as well as taking walks around their property. Sandra is an asset to COI. The individuals love her and so do the staff! Read Article.

Shana Owens Shining in South Carolina

Shana Owens, a relatively new staff who works in the Summerville, South Carolina region, was recently promoted to a new position as a lead staff due to her amazing work ethic and passion for helping the people supported by Community Options. She is passionate about all aspects of her job but especially loves helping the girls she supports at her house cook and clean. She is famous for the delicious banana bread pudding that she makes with them.

She has gone above and beyond during this difficult time and we’re very grateful! Read Article.

Saleh Hussien holding an award for 'Employee of the month'

Saleh Hussien, a Hero in Santa Fe, New Mexico

The definition of the word hero brings one name to mind and his name is Saleh Hussien. Saleh is an amazing man who has committed himself to Community Options and the residents for over 11 years. He has taken every change in stride and with class. He exemplifies the message that our founder Robert Stack has wanted us to take with us daily when providing services to our community. “We believe in the dignity of every person, and in the freedom of all people to experience the highest degree of self-determination”. He personifies that message daily in the care he provides to each and every person in our care. He is the front line. He is the face that champions what a Community Options HERO truly is. Read Article.

Community Options Enterprises Staff Transitions to COI Residential Hero

Nijah Bishop

Nijah Bishop joined Community Options Enterprises as a DSP at our Princeton Daily Plan in 2017. On March 17th, the COE day programs were instructed to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nijah was given the option to continue working within one of the residences that Community Options owns and operates. Nijah agreed and has continued to come into work every day without fail, even when three individuals have tested positive for COVID-19. Their positive diagnoses did not change her attitude or willingness to support the individuals served or the staff within the home. She continues to follow the necessary safety measures and assists the individuals with their daily needs as they quarantine at home. Nijah is a true hero and one that Community Options truly appreciates for her hard work and dedication to the individuals we support and the mission of the organization. Read Article.

A Letter of Gratitude

I just wanted to take the time to reflect on the last several years since my son Robbie entered the facility.

It has truly been a blessing for us to have Robbie in Community Options, and as I have stated many times before Community Options is the best facility Robbie has ever lived in. My expectations have been not only met, but surpassed.

Robbie has stated to me how much he loves his home, and how he feels safe and secure, and most of all he is healthy and happy, which means the world to me. I don’t have to go to work and worry, I know my son is safe, I know he is well taken care of.

The staff at Perigon, are truly amazing. They each possess a unique quality, and working together they blend their love, and care, and compassion to each and every one of the men there. They are professional, they are a very dedicated crew at Perigon, and it shows in the high level of care they give each of them men. I have the up most respect for the staff, and they will never know just how grateful I am.

This COVID 19 Pandemic has been extremely difficult for everyone, emotionally and physically. Being apart from family can be devastating, especially when your son does not fully understand the reasons behind trying to keep him safe.

During these trying times, I have never not even once doubted the safety of my son, nor his health. Because I know, the staff are there, and they are going to make every effort to ensure Robbie stays well. And that alone would be sufficient, and acceptable. However, I want you to know YOUR staff went above and beyond, what is required of them today when they brought my son Robbie by my house for a drive by visit.

Just to see my son, to see his smile, and to hear his voice, meant the WORLD to me. This is what I mean when I say they show an abundance of love and compassion. I am and will always be indebted to Community Options and their staff, EXPECIALLY the staff at Perigon. They are the best, and they are the “REAL ANGELS” among us!

Thank you for all you do for my son Robbie!

Theresa Patterson


Alberto Garcia - New Jersey

Alberto was born in Puerto Rico on October 10, 1959. He was a twin, and the youngest of five siblings, Alfredo, Louis, David, and Maria. He was predeceased by both of his parents. Alberto attended special education classes and speech therapy at Passaic High School where he eventually graduated. Alberto lived with his mother before her passing. He then lived in Florida with his sister Maria and later moved to NJ to live with his brother, Alfredo. In 2006, Alberto moved into a COI residence in Wayne, NJ and attended a COI day program. He later moved to Middlesex County to live at the New Road group home in 2013.

Alberto was kind and full of love. Anyone who met him could not help but smile. He loved his family and always asked about them. He remembered most of the people he met, even if he didn’t remember their names. He would refer to the females as Bibi and the males as Brian. Alberto was very honest, and if he did not like something or someone, he was very outspoken about it. Alberto enjoyed going out in the community and meeting different people. He loved water and always asked to go to a pool or to the beach. He always enjoyed the annual COI holiday party and the Middlesex/ Monmouth County Beach Picnic held every summer. Alberto loved going out to eat and was a big NY Giants fan. He enjoyed watching the Super Bowl, even if the Giants didn’t make it. Alberto’s passing is a huge loss to COI and our community. He will be missed.

Alberto Garcia - New Jersey

George Souders - New Jersey

George Souders - New Jersey

George was born in Camden, NJ on August 19, 1973. He is survived by both of his parents, maternal grandmother and two sisters. George moved into the COI New Road group home in April 2019 from Burlington County. George was full of spirit and cared deeply about his family. George had a plan for his life and wanted to eventually live on his own with minimal supports. George was a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan and loved the game of football. George overcame multiple obstacles throughout his life, but he always had a smile on his face. He did not know what it meant to be shy and loved talking to anyone who would listen. During his time with COI, George developed friendships with not only his housemates, but with individuals from two other homes in our region. They bonded through their love of football, even if they did not like the same team, (Giants vs. Eagles). We are sad that his time with us was short, but we are grateful for the time we did have with him. He will be missed.

Margaret Grier - New Jersey

Margaret was born on January 4, 1941. Margaret joined the Community Options family in April 2019. Before coming to Community Options, Margaret lived in institutions, including an inappropriate placement at Ancora Psychiatric Hospital. She felt much more content and safer during the final years of her life with Community Options. Margaret was an excellent self-advocate; she was always quick to express her opinions. She was also an advocate for self-care. She loved trying out new lotions and perfumes, and always looked forward to getting her nails done or to having staff comb her long hair. She had a sweet disposition, loved to engage others in conversion, and was a great story-teller. Margaret did not like to be woken up early or to be rushed. She loved watching Protestant church services on television, attending cook-outs, eating cheeseburgers and taking walks. Margaret will greatly be missed by everyone, especially her staff and peers.

Thomas O'Brien - New Jersey

Thomas was born on January 3, 1945. Thomas has lived in Community Options residences since November, 2018. Though Thomas had many physical limitations, he always worked hard to stay positive and healthy. He enjoyed going to the mall and parks. Prior to his retirement, Thomas worked for the Developmental Disabilities Association of New Jersey. Before he began to need to use a wheelchair, Thomas enjoyed bowling and miniature golf. Thomas was a Catholic. He loved interacting with the staff and his peers, who will miss him dearly.