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Hope Notes Online, Winter/Spring 2020

A Message from Villa Leadership

Being the Hope.

Fear of COVID-19 and uncertainty about the future has meant many people seeking more support from their community. Disrupted routines, not knowing how to access child care so they can go to work, wondering if they can go to work, and not being able to pick up the groceries needed because the shelves are empty … all can cause excessive anxiety and stress. This is serious.

For those members of our community who have needed desperately to talk to someone during this crisis, the Villa has been there in NEW ways. In this issue, we are proud to share with you how we’ve emerged as an important community resource in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and our local response. We’ll introduce you to Hope Place, a brand new Villa program that has jumped to the forefront of care in the last few weeks. We’ll show you how the Villa has remained steadfast in the midst of the current health climate; and we’ll say goodbye to one of our campus residents, Sage, with a bit of sadness, but a lot of Hope, as he successfully discharges from our Raise the Age and Work Based Learning Programs. Life goes on, and the Villa remains an ever-constant beacon for our community. Thank you for your loyal support!

Dawn and Christina signatures

Hope in the midst of the storm

On February 11, you may have seen television news coverage of the grand opening and ribbon cutting for our new psychiatric diversion program, HOPE PLACE. Once its doors opened, the new peer-run Living Room Program, staffed by our own Certified Peer Support Specialists,  began welcoming members of our community of all ages, who sometimes just needed someone to talk to. Visitors to Hope Place are not called clients; but, rather, guests.

The ribbon cutting for Hope Place
The ribbon cutting for Hope Place was attended by many community leaders, including Monroe County Commissioner of Health, Dr Michael Mendoza. Here, he looks on as Hope Place Program Manager Destiny Brown-Hernandez makes opening remarks.

Then, with the sudden impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hope Place went through a transformation. “Our activity increased four-fold,” said Sherrill, one of the Peer Support Specialists, in an interview today.  “It’s toward the end of the month; people with little children are out of food stamps, and low on supplies. Some were without disinfectants.” Hope Place became, in essence, a triage center for our community, delivering canned food, personal items, cleaning supplies, and – yes – toilet paper directly to people’s homes.

Sherrill recounted a delivery to a woman in her late seventies last evening. It was getting late, and the woman had been afraid to venture to a grocery store and face exposure to the virus. “She waited up for us,” Sherrill said, “and was so grateful. When we left, she called after us, ‘Be safe, stay healthy!’ It makes it all worth it.”

The current health crisis has given the Villa unique insight on different ways to put our mission into action.

Our mission: 
Villa of Hope partners with individuals, families and communities to Rebuild relationships, Recover potential, and Renew hope for the future.

Enacting each of part of that mission – but especially, Renewing hope for the future  – may seem like a tall order in the current health climate. As an essential business in our community, we have, once again, risen to this challenge.

As soon as area businesses began to close, we recognized that managing the health crisis, and the uncertainty and mental health impact it would have, were areas we knew something about. We made a call to the  Monroe County Health Department and we offered help with the COVID-19 Hotline they were setting up; this call led to their request for assistance actually managing the incoming calls; which then evolved into full-fledged volunteer mobilization from the Villa. Within 24 hours, we had trained 38 Villa staff to handle the overload of calls coming in to the County each day.

COVID 19 Clinic HoursThe Villa’s Community Programs also continue to serve our individuals, youth, and families. Director of Community Services, Megan O’Donnell, puts it this way: “For us, it’s business as usual; but virtually!” Community based social workers and case managers are working remotely. They are completing most visits via phone, but some face to face visits when necessary, stepping up their precautions and social distancing.

Our Behavioral Health Clinic remains open, conducting all appointments via Telehealth, and having staff available at the clinic Monday through Friday, 8am to 4pm.

Farewell to our friend Sage

Even in the midst of great uncertainty, Villa youth make us proud.

Sage, a young man who is preparing to successfully discharge from the Villa’s Raise the Age and Work Based Learning programs, has a big vision for his future. He says in ten years from now, he will be an entrepreneur, owner of a booming online clothing business, and an investor in the stock market!

“When I first came to the Villa, though,” says Sage, “I was the opposite. I was robbing and getting into trouble. I had violated probation. I almost ended up in jail in New York City, but I had an attorney who negotiated for me to come here instead.”


The Villa has made all the difference for Sage. He says the two most helpful components of his stay at the Villa have been his introduction to work and a work ethic; and the family therapy he and his family have been able to accomplish. “My family life is better,” he says, “and I know now we’ll be able to get along.” He has gained valuable problem-solving skills with the help of a Villa Family Therapist, to help him live together with his Mom, siblings, and her boyfriend and his children; a large extended household of ten. “Plus three dogs,” he adds.

Sage and fellow resident, Alan, outside of Apex Cottage

Sage and fellow resident, Alan, outside of Apex Cottage

For the young man who had been ready to drop out of 10th grade when he came to the Villa, Sage has made impressive strides. He had applied himself in his studies at Villa of Hope School, as well as his Work Based Learning internships. He started off working in Facility Operations, shoveling snow and helping with maintenance. He enjoyed shopping for work clothes; then began to hone his interview skills, and shopped for interview clothes.

“Sage is a cool dude, “ says LeVar Sanders, Director of Work Based Learning. “He has strong relationships on campus with staff and youth. He’s very big on respect; and that will take him far.”

Lead Youth Care Professional, Shaundrana “Nay” Dean also has praise for his progress. “Sage has really improved in taking direction,” she says, and notes he has especially acquired a new respect for women. She is confident that his new-found skills in understanding finances, taxes, checking and savings accounts – as well as his own personal goals – will keep him on the right track as he makes his way in the world. “He’s ready,” she says.

Sage with his Advocate and Lead Youth Care Professional, Shaundrana “Nay” Dean
Sage discusses plans for his future with his Advocate and Lead Youth Care Professional, Shaundrana “Nay” Dean

Sage moved from his on-campus internship to an interview with Champs Sports; and he got the job! He had retained the position, with glowing reviews, until the recent community health situation forced them to close for a period of time. He had done a lot of ordering, measuring people’s feet, and recommending shoes, which solidified his interest in the clothing industry.

Sage is proud of his progress, and views leaving the Villa as bittersweet. “It made a difference for me,” he says, “and I’m a grateful person.”

Posted on April 16, 2020. Categorized as .

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