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Lancaster, Pa 17602
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SACA News

SACA’s NCEPS leads the way in children’s health and safety during COVID

COVID 19 has created a completely new normal.  In the matter of a few weeks, almost every way we socialize and create community locally changed dramatically. While many human services organizations, including SACA, have been creative in addressing community issues, the fact remains that some community safeguards for children and those in crisis no longer exist.

SACA is proud of its work as a community leader in the education and prevention services arena. These topics include hard conversations, but our children deserve no less. The first step to keeping our community and children safe is knowing the signs and knowing what you can do to help.

This is why we are one of four leading human service organizations strategically partnering with Standing Together, a partnership dedicated to protecting our children during COVID-19.

Standing Togetheris collaboration with Safe Communities, Joining Forces for Children, SACA’s Nuestra Clinica Education & Prevention Services (NCEPS) and Penn Medicine LGH to bring awareness to issues of COVID-19 illness, mental health, and abuse and neglect during the pandemic, specifically for children. The coalition works together to spread awareness through social media, partnerships with other local agencies, printed flyers, and workshops offered by Safe Communities.

You can do your part by learning about and looking for the signs of children in need.

Slowing the Spread of COVID-19
Slowing the spread of COVID-19 starts with the practice of healthy habits: frequent hand-washing, trying not to touch our faces, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, wearing a face mask when out in public, covering a cough or sneeze with our elbow, and following good social distancing when in public. When we all do are part, we help keep our community healthy and safe.

Protecting our Children’s Mental Health 
36% of students surveyed reported feeling sad or depressed most days in the past 12 months. Children may need to talk to mental health professionals if: they are experiencing increased sadness or worry; they are over or under eating or sleeping; they have become angry or aggressive toward others; or they are acting much younger than their age. We can help our children during stressful times by reassuring them that their feelings are normal, teaching them coping techniques, actively listening to our children and their concerns, surrounding ourselves and them with positive people, and taking care of our own physical and mental health.

Protecting Children of Addiction from Abuse or Neglect 
Standing Together is also active in addressing mental health and abuse issues facing children in Lancaster County.  A pandemic makes identifying and seeking help for children very complicated. At-risk children are often identified for help by neighbors, community leaders, educators, and healthcare providers. Shelter at home orders and home schooling make finding and helping these children a tricky matter. It is estimated that 1 in 5 children live in a home with some suffering from substance use disorder. Children of addiction are 2-3 times more likely to experience abuse or neglect.

Learn more about the sign of abuse or neglect here. If you suspect abuse or neglect or know of any children in need of help, please call ChildLine at 1-800-662-HELP.

Protecting our Children from Sexual Abuse 
1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused. Children are now in limited contact with teachers, pastors, nurses, program directors, and others who could help them. Signs of sexual abuse include: unexplained changes in behavior including outbursts of anger, aggression, depression, withdrawal, hurting themselves, fear of a specific person, sexualized behavior with other children or adults, expressing a desire to kill themselves or someone else, loss of appetite, poor sleep, and constant anxiety.

Questions that show we care include: You look really sad. Is there anything I can do to help? Is somebody hurting you or making you feel uncomfortable? If you need to talk to someone, I’m here. 

If you suspect sexual abuse, call the ChildLine at 1.800.932.0313.

SACA will always rise to meet the needs of our residents: from STI testing and clinical management to addiction to food insecurity.  I encourage you, if you have not done so recently, to visit our website and learn more about our services and programs.

Tec Centro Graduates Celebrate their Success

In the corporate world, there are rarely celebrations about community. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to come back to SACA; it’s one of the reasons I wanted to come back to Lancaster. Last night’s Tec Centro graduation was a perfect example of how a community comes together to celebrate.

Even during a global pandemic, students forged through with their studies, and our educators and leadership at Tec Centro did everything they could to support them. While graduation was in the parking lot, with social distancing, masks, and elbow bumps, the joy was palpable. Both students and their family members beamed with joy.

They were proud. And they should be. Each student worked hard and learned valuable skills for their future. In total 151 students have graduated from Tec Centro programs this school year. These programs include GED (16), CNA (26), Dental Assistant (13), Medical Assistant (7), Phlebotomy (20), Culinary Arts (17), Building Maintenance (15), Forklift (35), and Welding (2).

In a time when we’re worried about the future, these students see something bright ahead for themselves. They’ve worked hard and deserved this moment of celebration.

More than 50 students attended our split graduation ceremony on Thursday in-person. We were also privileged to hear from the Acting Deputy Secretary from the Department of Human Services, Tara Williams. She spoke poignantly about how outstanding our graduates’ achievements are and how important they will be to our community’s future. I whole-heartedly agree.

There is still more work to do. Tec Centro classes continue in a hybrid model this summer and 85 students still need to complete trainings put on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions. While we celebrate, we also look forward to the work ahead.

Tec Centro’s students represent what is best in our community: perseverance, ingenuity, and dedication. Moments like graduation give me excitement to face the upcoming challenges – thrilling and wonderful challenges that, in their solution, will make our community stronger and better. I look forward to celebrating those solutions with just as much joy.

 

-Jose R Lopez
President, SACA and SACA Development

Introducing Jose R Lopez

On July 13th, the Boards of SACA and SACA Development will welcome Jose R Lopez into the newly created position of President of SACA and SACA Development. Carlos Graupera, founder of SACA, will assume the position of Chief Executive Officer of SACA and SACA Development.

“Jose is at heart a Lancaster native, and that’s exactly what we need as SACA heads into the future. He understands our community because he’s part of our community. Beyond that, Jose brings new capabilities to the table and an exciting vision for the future. He will enable SACA to continue to make progress, and he understands the value of our shared goal of empowering the community we serve and of which we are a part,” says Carlos Graupera, Founder, SACA.

The President of SACA will ensure that all operations and fundraising are effectively implemented across all segments of the organization. The President of SACA will report to the Chief Executive Officer and work collaboratively with the Board of Directors in leading SACA and SACA Development Corporation to deliver on its long-term vision.  Furthermore, the President will be responsible for all day-to-day operations.

“SACA is at its heart a local Lancaster County business, so it has very specific and unique needs as an organization. It is essential that SACA’s President have outstanding professional qualifications and experience; it is just as vital that the individual possess an understanding and connection to the community. We are fortunate and excited to have Mr. Lopez as our incoming President, not only because of his proven track record of professional accomplishments at a high level, but also because of his long-standing ties to and understanding of SACA’s target population,” says Angel Torres, SACA Board Chair.

Jose spent his youth in the southeast neighborhood of the city, very close to SACA’s Pershing Avenue facility. When his family first moved to Lancaster City, settling on Green Street, it was SACA that provided instrumental support in navigating local food programs, school district requirements, and helping to acclimate his family.

Jose, the second youngest of 10 children, is the first in his family to attend college. He credits that achievement with the tremendous services and connections his family received from SACA. As a young adult, he sat as a Board Member for SACA Development, ultimately serving as President and CEO. While Jose and his wife eventually moved out of Lancaster County, Lancaster City has always held a warm place in their hearts.

“I am excited to return to re-engage within the Lancaster community. Lancaster has changed in many positive ways since I left in 2002. In assuming this position, I bring a strong work ethic, experience in corporate management, and my in- epth knowledge of real estate development, valuation and marketing. I am thrilled to be able to put these skills to work in this new role at SACA,” Mr. Lopez remarks.

Mr. Lopez is passionate about community development and stewardship. He brings to SACA and SACA Development his extensive experience facilitating organizations and public meetings for large projects. His executive leadership includes chairing boards, managing collateral risk for a $1.3 billion financial institution, and appraising top-tier assets nationally and internationally.



Listen to Mr. Lopez’s first interview with WLCH below.
Recorded July 8, 2020.

Better Healthcare for the Black Community

Dear Members, Friends, and Supporters of the SACA Family,

We have always believed that when the Latino community thrives, the whole community thrives. There is an uncomfortable truth behind our mission – our black and brown community needs special help because they face unique and often greater challenges. Sadly, COVID-19 and other recent events have turned out to be cases in point for this.

Diseases don’t discriminate, but our care, protection and preparation does. Amidst the pandemic, we have seen that black and brown people have contracted and are dying of COVID at a higher rate than other ethnic groups nationwide. Yet there is nothing unusual about blackor brown bodies – no predisposition to the disease, no issues of cleanliness, and no weakness in the immune system. Rather, our black and brown communities are underfunded, under-resourced and undereducated, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, their lack of privilege has become especially apparent:

Too often, this is how racism affects our community – not through intention, but through ignorance and entitlement. Governments and other organizations simply do not think to address the racism that puts Latinos and African Americans (Black) and other People of Color in situationsthat make them more likely to get sick or that makes them less likely to get the care and attention they need once they are sick.

But COVID is not the only danger that the black and brown community faces. Even without the current pandemic, black and brown people suffer from another public health crisis – racism. The recent deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, to name a few, have reminded us that too many Black and Brown people in our community suffer from police brutality, and the death of Ahmaud Arbery shows us how racist assumptions can kill. Moments like this remind us of why we strive to serve the underserved. Too many black and brown people can’t breathe – whether from COVID or police brutality – and we need to address their needs, to fight for them.

As Martin Luther King wrote from his Birmingham jail cell in 1963, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

The way we structure opportunity matters. SACA was founded to end the cycle of poverty and provide community resources and services to a community marginalized and left out. We cannot solve every problem, but we know that after COVID there will be jobs that are not coming back and people in our community who will be suffering medically from the aftereffects of COVID. Our work will be more important than ever, and we ask that you consider supporting our mission to serve those most marginalized in our community with a charitable gift.

Jaqueline Fisher, MHSA, ICADC, CAAP, CCPG
Executive Director  Spanish American Civic Association
Director of Behavioral Health Nuestra Clinica

SACA Reopens

We have exciting news! Today, SACA re-opened its physical doors to our community. It has been a tough few months, and we have had to navigate many obstacles. At long last, our team is healthy and ready to again serve our community in person. We all have greatly missed the chance for face-to-face connections with our neighbors, friends, and clients.

On March 17 we officially closed our doors; this was shortly before the state issued Stay at Home Orders for Lancaster County. At that time, we went online with the services we were able to offer, found creative ways to bring meals to those hungry and sheltered at home, and continued with those programs that did not involve face-to-face interaction. We are proud of the creativity, support, and dedication of our staff.

On March 23, Tec Centro, our workforce development center, started online learning for its adult clients. Tec Centro students faced many challenges: some lacked a home computer and high speed-internet; many had to cope with assisting their children with their school work and care for other family members; others found using the technology challenging; and many dealt with financial hardships caused by lack of work and the constraints of shelter-at-home rules. We anticipate that 500 candidates will need Tec Centro services between now and the end of the Summer, and that number will continue to grow in the Fall as many in our community need employment services. Tec Centro will open for services on June 9.

Opening for Nuestra Clinica Education & Prevention Services (NCEPS) in the Yellow Phase will require, as with all PA services, the wearing of masks, fever screenings, shortness of breath and cough assessments, and appointments by schedule only. Transportation needed for in-person medical and social services appointments will be provided via a bus pass or by the case manager, offices without the capacity for 6-foot distancing have put in place sneeze guards for the protection of both clients and staff. In-office appointments will be reduced to half percent capacity. Masks will be provided if the client does not present with one. NCEPS is eager to return to their important work in our community as one of the only independent HIV/AIDs, Hep C, and sexually transmitted disease clinics in Lancaster County.

Community Meals will continue with “Grab & Go” meals (one hot and one cold meal handed out together) in the yellow phase. Unfortunately, our Senior Center will need to remain closed until our partnering agencies outline their facility social distancing requirements for seniors.

Outpatient Behavioral Health Services will see patients by appointment only. We can allow for no more than six clients in the building at a time and our providers will continue with tele-health visits when appropriate.

Residential Services are and will remain open with PPE and screenings taking place daily staff and clients will use masks and social distancing.

WLCH Radio Centro will continue their fine work on air: informing our community of the new, developing, and changing information as we continue our journey to green.

We are prepared and optimistic to meet the new health guidelines. As you can imagine, COVID-19 and the stay-at-home order has impacted our budget. Not only have operations that brought revenue into SACA sharply declined, additional services and supplies had to be purchased. We have sought to provide for more cleaning staff, supplies, medical products, and the increased need for computers by our home learners.

If your situation allows, donations are greatly welcomed, appreciated, and valued at this time and will immediately be put to use. Your continued support allows SACA to provide services, equipment, and support to those most marginalized and at risk in our community.

Donate Here. 

Tec Centro & SACA on the forefront of employment needs

Last week, we shared with you a story of one of our recent graduates, a medical assistant working for a local healthcare provider. She was so thrilled to enter the medical field and honored to share her path to a career with you. Unfortunately, the day after my letter appeared her hours were drastically reduced.   This is a common story for many. However, Latinos are losing work and wages due to COVID-19 at a higher rate than others, while also remaining at a higher risk of exposure to the disease than non-Latinos.

Tec Centro is primarily a second chance system for many people. One of the strengths of Tec Centro is that you can come back to the platform and get help over and over again. We are continuously improving our graduates and through them, our community. In fact, many clients come back for more services as their skill level improves and use our services several times. Take the students who come first for ESL courses, then we get them a job, and eventually, they come back for training for a higher paying, more fulfilling job. This is what we do.  In the months ahead, we anticipate many in the community will need our services more than ever before.

As business and community leaders, we want you to know that we are here to be your partner and resource. Our doors may physically be closed now to the public, but our services continue with the same passion, vigor, and commitment as always. We have just moved to a virtual platform for communication and engagement. Last week, we hosted a town hall meeting to engage our business community in dialogue; asking them how we can best meet their needs as our community transitions from red to yellow and then to green. We were excited to hear about career opportunities at your organizations.

We consider all of you to be a part of the SACA family, and we believe we are all working to overcome this crisis together. At this time, we need your donations and support more than ever before. The Latino community has been one of the communities hit hardest by COVID-19, and Tec Centro is one of few organizations geared directly toward their specific needs at this time. If you can, we encourage you to donate to SACA and Tec Centro or to see if there are placement options at your organizations for recent Tec Centro graduates. As always, do not hesitate to contact me if we can help in any way.

Recovery and Mentorship during COVID-19

We have decided to take advantage of shelter at home orders to introduce you to some of our team members and services. One of our champions is Nelson Caldero, Clinical Supervisor at La Casa – our all-male, bilingual, residential half way house facility – currently serving 23 adults with alcohol and drug addiction problems. Nelson was hired as its first Clinical Supervisor in 2017, when La Casa opened its doors.

Nelson is also one of our many success stories: he initially came to Nuestra Clinica Residential in 2006 as a court ordered client convicted on drug procession charges. “I had a drug problem and that was the reason I was living the way I was living. The judge said to me, you can go to jail or you can go to rehab,” Nelson explains.

Nelson grew up in the projects of Puerto Rico. At 26, his family sent him to live with an uncle in Bethlehem, PA, hoping he would find a better future there. When Nelson moved to Bethlehem, he got two jobs – one as a forklift driver and another in a meat packing facility. He got married and started a family. However, once in Pennsylvania, Nelson started using hard drugs (cocaine and heroine) for the first time.

“SACA saved my life,” Nelson says. While spending 3 ½ years in Recovery House at SACA, he took on leadership roles in-house. His leadership skills and intellect were quickly noticed by the house staff, and during his recovery he went from resident manager to house manager to assistant counselor. The only thing that stopped Nelson’s further advancement was the lack of a college degree.

Today, Nelson is a proud parent, a graduate of Drexel University with a Bachelor of Sciences in Behavioral Health Counseling, and a certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor specializing in recovery. Under the shelter at home order, Nelson and his staff are working creatively to manage 18 live-in residents aged 25-51 who are not allowed to leave the house. To help his clients cope, Nelson explains, “We are offering more frequent group and individual therapy sessions and meeting several times a day which helps the clients feel more comfortable doing it, since there is more flexibility in the schedule. We meet with all the residents in the morning and then we send them to the gym in the basement where we have a small recreational area so they can have some physical activity. We have even hosted some pool and domino tournaments” , with the resident living and receiving treatment.

“We know that anxiety levels are high. An addict is a compulsive person. Some residents are concerned what will happen when the shelter at home is lifted. Some worry ‘Will there be a job for me later?’ It’s especially hard because they can’t have family visits now.” Nelson is also witnessing some positive behavior under the shelter at home order: “The residents get along better. Some of our residents have social problems and do not like to socialize with other people. Now our residents see other people’s behavior and they can learn from it.”

All are welcome at La Casa, but the target population is Hispanic. Here we operate as a family: relationships and respect are foundationally important. It is also the only bilingual house of its nature in south-central Pennsylvania. Nelson leverages a shared Latino culture to help his clients beat addiction whether he is talking one-on-one with a client or in a group setting. “ I use the language and culture that the residents feel comfortable using so they can open up to me. We need residents to share their emotions and talk about the trauma of addiction. We need to engage them to share with us. Culture plays a big part if our daily life from our meals, a house specialty of pork chops with white rice and beans, to our killer domino tournaments. For many Latinos, dominos was a family game of their childhood.” We also serve alternate meals that are culturally appropriate for all.

Thank you for reading Nelson’s story. We keep looking for ways to do better, serve more, and meet the needs of our community in this changing environment. Nelson and the rest of our team are committed to working to improve and assist our community in times of calm and in times of crisis, and we are all so grateful to the friends of SACA who help us do our work with their generous donations.

WLCH Radio Centro Volunteers keep with info & music flowing

“I don’t do it for the glory. I do it for the music,” says DJ Poli (Hipólito Maldonado), one of WLCH Radio Centro’s volunteer on-air personalities. “Presenting the music to people and crafting their listening experience is what I love to do.

The music is euphoric. The music gets people excited.” DJ Poli and the 9 other DJs who craft the daily listening experience at Radio Centro are all volunteers. WLCH Radio Centro is SACA’s public radio station that can be heard in Lancaster and York. Our volunteers give their time and talent to entertain those who tune in, sharing a diverse and eclectic range of Latin music: from Salsa to Mundofonias (world music), Reggaeton to Jassarama (Latin Jazz). Nearly all have been with the station for over 19 years.

In addition to music, WLCH-FM produces Café con Leche, an informational morning news and interview program that is considered a staple of the local listening community. Café con Leche has been interviewing local health care professionals and public officials to keep the community updated on the latest guidelines and precautions about COVID-19. The show’s host, Hector Valdez, encourages listeners to call in and ask questions of professionals and public officials about the virus. In the words of Valdez: “WLCH-FM cares for the welfare and wellbeing of our community. For that reason we have a responsibility and commitment to our radio listeners. Because of them we’re able to come in daily to inform, educate and entertain.”

Interviews during the pandemic have occurred by phone and have included important community leaders, such as: Mayor Danene Sorace; attorney Rebecca Stavish speaking on the IRS stimulus checks; and Dr. Johanan Vidal Phelan and Dr. Damaris Rau talking about options for childcare and updates on the School District of Lancaster, respectively.

For Valdez, the listeners are the show and their questions have prompted several impactful moments during programming. “One of the most impactful moments,” he begins “was nothearing from a loyal listener. Later I found out they had passed away from coronavirus.” WLCH-FM listeners are our extended family. “[It is a reminder of why I do this,] that’s why I care for our
community!”

Now more than ever, sharing helpful information in both English and Spanish for our multi-lingual community is critical. We have been running Public Service Announcements in Spanish throughout our general programming to educate our listeners about effective hand washing, practicing social distancing, and finding and wearing facial masks. WLCH-FM is also covering the disparate health and economic impact that COVID-19 is having on communities of color and immigrant communities.

When the stay at home order was placed due to COVID-19, it was important to Station Manager Claudia
Galdámez that Radio Centro remain on the air, providing the latest news and information to the Hispanic Communities in Lancaster and York: “Our goal is to make sure every listening family has the latest
information about keeping their families safe and complying with state and local guidelines about COVID 19. We are also dispelling false information and rumors about the virus that have been circulating through the community.”

WLCH programming is so much more than music. Radio Centro has become an important vehicle for bridging communities across ethnic, social, economic, cultural and language barriers. We pride ourselves on sharing the voice of the community. We are pleased to bridge the gap that exists between the Latino community and government, the human service community, the health system, schools and employers.

“Our team of dedicated volunteer DJs has been working very hard, providing 24-hour programming of news, information, and cultural entertainment during the COVID-19 emergency to the Communities of Lancaster and York,” Galdamez says about staying on air.

For our DJs, their radio shows provide a sense of consistency when their “day jobs” have dried up. Many have been furloughed, and music gigs have been canceled during the pandemic. With these uncertainties, they are unsure about the future. “Even through this virus, we need to continue to listen to music,” DJ Poli tells me when asked for his advice to listeners. “Music is life. Don’t ever shut the music off. It will keep us dancing.”

WLCH Radio Centro is vital in the fabric of communication throughout our community. Its programming blends vital information and music to provide an experience for our listeners that is lively and engaging. Listeners of WLCH often spend 9.2 hours per day with the station turned on. It is in times such as these that we realize the true value in communication and connectivity. We are proud to have Radio Centro keeping us informed and connected during these unprecedented times.

Counseling & Telemedicine During COVID-19

In 2001, SACA began offering drug and alcohol counseling. Like many of our services under a shelter at home order, this has also dramatically changed. Let me introduce Victor Rivera.

When you ask Victor why he became a drug and alcohol addiction counselor, he will tell you: “I am grateful to have the opportunity to work with people. I love to help people out.” Mr. Rivera joined the professional staff of SACA as a Counselor in 2017. Victor used to work with his patients face-to-face at the Nuestra Clinica, 545 Pershing Avenue. Now, under Pennsylvania’s shelter-at-home orders, his days are filled with telemed visits with clients battling drug and alcohol addiction.

His path to SACA has not been an easy one. Mr. Rivera will tell you himself: “I am an ex-addict. I was an addict since I was 14 years old. I joined the Army trying to get a better life. However, in the Army I found a different scenario. Things got worse for me with a combination of alcohol and
drugs.” To beat his addiction, Victor admitted himself to an inpatient facility for a year. After successfully completing the program, Victor joined the professional staff of the program as a counselor.

In 2015, Victor moved from Puerto Rico with his wife and family in 2015 for opportunity and a better life. Prior to joining the staff, Victor worked pro bono on the streets of Lancaster counseling addicts. His background makes Victor exceptional at his job because he understands from first-hand experience the life challenges of his patients.

Mr. Rivera talks about the importance of understanding an addicts’ culture. “It is more than just speaking Spanish…I understand the addicts’ Latin culture. It is a challenge to have people change their habits without an understanding of family and culture. Every addict gets started and stays addicted for a different reason. SACA is the only institution in South-central Pennsylvania with full-time professional Spanish speaking counselors, and our services are necessary and in high demand.

“No one was prepared for shelter-at-home,” says Victor, “Some of my clients have managed well, and for some it is a challenge. There are clients that I need to spend more than a normal 55-minute session with. There are other clients that I need to talk to more frequently during the week. And I find that I need to push my clients to open up to me more over the phone than I would need to in person” Like many on the SACA staff Mr. Rivera has risen to the challenge of caring for his patients during the shelter-at-home order. On March 18, SACA launched telemed which allows Victor to work with his patients remotely. As Victor explains, “telemed is a great tool if you know what to do with it.” It is difficult to see a bright side to our current situation, but Victor has found it: “This situation has given us an extra tool to work with our clients. This is especially helpful for working with those clients who have been legally referred to me for addition counseling. Telemed has provided a unique opportunity because our clients are sitting at home, and since there is nowhere else to go, we have their full attention.”

In the program clients have goals. Goals always include learning how to live a clean life, and depending on the individual, goals can include overcoming legal challenges, obtaining an education, or finding a good job. During each session with his clients, Victor discusses these goals: “I tell my clients the biggest mistake they can make is going back to their old lives. Their old lives are the main reason they are in the situation they are in today – emotionally, physically, and psychologically.”

When asked how things will be when the shelter at home order is lifted, Victor commented “I am a person of faith. You have to have faith and in the middle of this situation to sit down, do an inner inspection of yourself and move forward with your family to try to be a better person.” In the meantime, Victor has been passing his free time at home reading, recently completing Grace over the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illnessby Matthew Stanford. The book explains how the word of god resolves itself over the affliction of people suffering.

Serving 600 Meals a Week

In the midst of our second month of sheltering at home, the food needs of our community are at an all-time high. SACA’s Community Meals Program used to serve 100 meals per day. These lunches and dinners on weekdays and dinners on Saturdays were hot meals in our Senior Center. In addition to serving seniors breakfast and mid-day meals, our Centro Hispano serves as a community hub – a place where people can go for programs or services they need, even if it is just companionship.

Now, the Community Meals program has shifted to Grab & Go meals and our individuals in need have expanded – it’s the young and old, the unemployed, and the retired. It’s now 1,000 meals per week. To be blunt, COVID-19 has challenged us in scale and delivery as our community’s needs have changed, but we have risen to the challenge. We are humbled and proud to continue to fill a vital need for our community.

Life is different now, but we have been reminiscing about what Centro Hispano looked like before COVID-19. We used to see seniors come by not just to eat but to nourish their souls through camaraderie and companionship. The senior men would wear suits and black fedoras to impress the ladies. As they ate breakfast and lunch, they would play dominoes with each other. There would be music and laughter and kisses on the cheek. We miss seeing our community: hearing about their grandchildren, holding their hands, helping them with paperwork and shopping lists, laughing at their stories. We were proud to tell our donors that their funds went toward feeding and building a community.

But we have come to accept a new reality: our space sits empty and quiet now. We greet those in need of food assistance at our door because we are unable to allow our diners to enter the building. A staff member hands a paper bag with food to a neighbor in need through a small opening in the door, gloved hand touching gloved hand, masks covering once-smiling faces. Our diners eat away from each other now – no conversations over lunch, no laughter together. Still, we are focused on doing the best we can for our community.

There is another big way our program has changed. Prior to COVID 19, we typically served 600 meals a week; now, we serve nearly 1,000. For SACA, the market experience has always been different. When you are shopping for hundreds, you need to buy in bulk! And with economic uncertainty and layoffs abounding, there are even more needy members of our community to feed. We thought we would share our supermarket list with you all, to let you know what your donations go toward. Here is an idea of what we buy every week:

100 loaves of bread
6 gallons of mayonnaise
30 pounds of cheese
30 pounds of turkey
30 pounds of bologna
40 pounds of ham
50 pounds of pasta
900 juice boxes
900 fruit cups and/or fresh fruit pieces 900 bags of chips and/or pretzels
900 granola bars
50 pounds of hamburger meat
10 pounds of onions
5 pounds of tomatoes
10 pounds of chili beans
20 pounds of green peppers
50 pounds of potatoes
80 dozen eggs
20 pounds of chicken
10 pounds of carrots
900 fork, spoon, and napkin packets
900 4 oz. Styrofoam cups and lids
450 6 oz. Styrofoam cups and lids
900 paper lunch bags
1000 plastic sandwich bags

As social distancing and stay at home orders continue and our local unemployment numbers skyrocket, our community is to struggling to eat. Even as the needy members of our community question if their next paycheck will come or if their children can return to school, we want them to know that food will still be in their fridges, that their families will not go hungry.

SACA Program Updates April 6, 2020

In times of crisis, SACA, like other human service agencies, is continuing to provide life-sustaining services to those who would not otherwise be served.

Centro Hispano’s Community Meals Program now provides 2 meals, 6 days a week in a “brown bag grab & go”. We are grateful for the cooperation and support we have received from the Central PA Food Bank and the Lancaster County Office of Aging to keep the food flowing. The program provides an average of 200 meals per day (and growing) as this pandemic situation continues.

Tec Centro, our workforce development center, has transitioned to offering classes online. This is a short-term solution since many of the classes involve hands-on modeling and in-person internships. Limited case management for job seekers and career navigation services for the students are now offered over the phone and virtually.

Nuestra Clinica Behavioral Health is grateful to our state agencies and managed care organizations for allowing a temporary change in the manner that services are provided. Therapeutic services continue and mental health counseling is still open for new and existing clients. We are treating approximately 200 clients per week.

Our drug and alcohol program continues to serve clients with Medications Assisted Treatment. Approximately 50 clients are seen weekly, and counseling sessions continue for 60 to 80 clients weekly. Both of SACA’s residential programs Nuestra Clinica Residencial (NCR) and La Casa Halfway House continue to operate at full capacity with additional safe guards added to protect both clients and staff.

WLCH Radio Centro continues on air, providing essential information to our listening audience during the crisis. Be sure to tune in to 91.3FM Lancaster/100.3FM York.

A Day in the Life at SACA with Jacqueline Fisher

We are proud of our SACA employees because they always rise to the occasion. Right now, in the midst of our pandemic, our essential employees are on the front lines bringing their determination and compassion to their work. We want to let you know what a day in the life at SACA looks like for those employees right now. Our executive director is excited to share her day with you.

 

Name Jacqueline Fisher
Tenure 14 years at SACA
Education Master of Human Services Administration, Lincoln University, Philadelphia
Areas of Expertise Management, Procedures, Supervision, Substance Abuse, Detoxification Process, Mental Health, Claims-Medical Insurance, and Clinical Care, and Crisis Management
Experience 20+ years of leadership within the social and human services industries
Hobbies Swimming, reading, gardening
4:30 AM The sun isn’t up yet, but it’s still time to rise and shine…and shower.
5:00 AM I prepare coffee, turn on the news, and respond to emails that came in last night.
6:00 AM I receive my first call of the day. It’s from our psychiatrist to go over the tele-health appointments scheduled for the day. By 6:30, I have put the client list together and emailed it back to the psychiatrist. Our clients are in need of this service especially with the anxiety of the unknown factors surrounding COVID 19.
6:45 AM I make breakfast for my son, and leave it out with a note to remind him to get online for school by 9am. I walk out the door to (physically) go to work. I always have coffee in transit and the caffeine starts to hit me half way there. I listen to Elvis Duran on 96.9 on my drive, his morning “phone tap” all makes me laugh before the seriousness of the day sets in.

I receive a call while driving, and I answer it with my hands-free headset. It’s from an employee who has tested positive for COVID-19 and needs medical supplies. She’s anxious as she has been in quarantine for 14 days already and now her husband is positive as well. She has a lot of chest pain and is coughing a ton. I console and support her, and I do my best to comfort her over the phone; I reroute to drop off supplies at her house. At 7:40, I finally enter our residential facility.

7:45 AM I open more emails and check my voicemail.
8:00 AM I listen in on a COVID-19 telehealth conference with our insurance company. I need to know what help we can offer to our employees and clients, and this is the best way for me to get that information.
8:45 AM I receive a text from our kitchen – they need lids for our Community Meals food distribution. It’s normal for us to bring meals to the community, but with this pandemic, we need to bring even more than we ever expected, and we’re constantly running through supplies. I email them the order and requisition information for the lids.
9:00 AM I drive to the kitchen on Pershing Ave. While driving, I call my son at home to make sure he’s online taking his classes. Adjusting to this crisis has been hard on all of us, but I’m so proud of how he’s adjusting to learning remotely. He misses gym, and his friends. Also while driving, I interview and accept a client for our residential program.
9:28 AM Most of my day is spent on the phone, especially in our socially distant world. I start by calling a pharmacy regarding a client’s medication. I hop onto a human resources conference call. I take a call from our mental health unit: they’re fielding calls from new clients requesting treatment. We’re working to schedule telehealth appointments for everyone who needs help. I talk with our COO about staffing patterns.

Finally, I participate in a conference on bridge payments during COVID-19. Insurance will estimate payments going forward which will help to keep services running. During the call, I receive separate call from our mental health therapist with questions on COVID-19. All in all, seven calls in two and a half hours.

12:00 PM I’m off the phone and the computer for the first time all day! I return to the kitchen to speak to our staff about community meals. Times are tough, so we are all trying to step up and do what we can to support members of our community who are struggling with underemployment and unemployment.
12:30 PM I drive to all three of our locations to speak to our volunteers and staff. Their support and time is invaluable, so I want to thank them in person – from a safe distance, of course. I am so proud of and thankful for them.
12:50 PM I’m back in the office, and I sit down to brainstorm a plan to continue Community Meals. There is a lot of demand because of COVID-19, so I create a plan to schedule meal prep with alternate volunteers, and I schedule transportation of frozen meals to seniors.
1:10 PM We are low on staff during the pandemic at NCR. I drive to our residential facility to admit a client myself. I complete the intake process and notify their insurance carrier.
2:30 PM I order food for residential facilities for the weekend and holiday.
3:00 PM More phone time! I do numerous conference calls with SACA leadership on various topics including: HR, payroll, and crisis management updates.
4:30 PM I leave for home. While driving, I take a phone call and screen a new client for admission at our residential facility.
5:15 PM I arrive home, and begin homework review with my son. This new math – it’s always a challenge.  I prepare dinner for my son, husband, and elderly mother. Tonight, we’re having stuffed shells. A favorite for all!
6:00 PM I receive a call from one of our clients who was in crisis on the streets. He called from outside of Allentown and was afraid he was going to overdose. I talked him through his feelings, got the address, and immediately arranged transportation and treatment for him at Lehigh Center for Recovery. Once medically stable, he will be eligible to enter his second phase of treatment at our residential facility.
6:25 PM I receive a call from our Senior Center’s cook. She is calling off sick. I make arrangements for coverage and wish her a speedy recovery. This will impact our Community Meals program, but her health comes first.

Shortly after, I receive another call from a staff member with concerns about the COVID-19 crisis. He is worried that his coming and going to work puts him at risk. I explained that utilizing social distancing, and using a mask and gloves while commuting lessens the risk. All staff have their temperatures taken upon arrival to the facility daily. All residents at the facility have and remain symptom free for over a month. We are working safely, but if there is ever a time that he should feel that he is not able to work, I will support him, and lessen the fear of job loss for the employee as I can.

8:00 PM I check my emails…again, and schedule my conference calls for tomorrow. With that done, I finally begin to complete some of my take-home work, including a review of physical charts for a licensing audit of our halfway house and outpatient mental health.
10:15 PM I take another shower and say my prayers. I find comfort in the words of the bible tonight. It was Proverbs 12:25, (NIV) “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up”.
11:00 PM I go to bed with hopes of the morning burning bright.

SACA’s employees work tirelessly for the health and well-being of our local community. As you can see, Jacqueline leads by example. It is through leadership like hers, and the rest of the SACA team, that SACA will continue to succeed through this crisis.

Tec Centro Graduates on the front lines of COVID-19

For over 40 years, SACA has been improving the lives of the most marginalized in our community. Tec Centro, SACA’s workforce development center, empowers our community through language development, basic adult education, bilingual skills training, and job readiness and placement.Now our graduates are not only improving their own lives, but also giving back to the community during this time of crisis. There are many stories of their compassion and caring, and today, I want to share the story of one of our recent healthcare professional graduates who is working in the community right now: Rosie*.

Rosie is a 2020 Tec Centro program graduate employed in one of our local hospitals, and a mother of two. She completed Tec Centro’s Physician Office Assistant (POA) program just this winter, and now is busy protecting us all from the dangers of coronavirus.

“I feel Tec Centro prepared me well for what I am experiencing,” Rosie said. “During my classes, I worked on a hands-on project studying pandemics and epidemics – basically studying how these things can spread very fast.” Her education at Tec Centro prepared Rosie well for the heightened environment she’s now facing at work and laid a strong foundation to help her protect her own health and safety.

Rosie’s life at home has changed the most though: “Our days are stressful, and with the novel coronavirus, that stress often follows me home. When I get home, I must care for my clothes and scrubs in a very particular way to avoid infecting my family. I have had to explain to my kids that I cannot touch them until I have taken care of my clothes and showered. For my children, it is hard to explain that there is a serious virus going on out there.” However, Rosie’s children are learning to live with this new reality. “I explained to my kids ‘that mommy is at work to help people stay healthy, but that means that I can’t always hug you the minute I return from work.”

Still, through everything, Rosie has kept a positive attitude: “Everyone at work has high hopes; we stick together and hope we will all get through this together. Our main thing now is to be there for everyone. We are lucky to have the specialized skills to help our community in this time of need, and we feel it is our responsibility to use those skills to help. We are here dealing with the coronavirus first-hand. For some, it is just a virus, but for us it is more than that. We need to be the support for our patients now, especially since they cannot have family visits.”

Rosie is going above and beyond with her work, but Tec Centro prepared her for that.  She came to Tec Centro after her maternity leave with her second child.  “Tec Centro was a great opportunity for me,” says Rosie. “I hope that others would take advantage of the opportunities offered there.  I am nervous to see what the future holds for us.  How long will things be shut down and people be without jobs? I feel secure in my job.”

Tec Centro offers healthcare training for adult learners at very little cost to them. Tec Centro helps them become certified medical assistants, medical assistants, physician office assistants, dental assistants, and phlebotomy assistants. Currently, students in these programs are completing their class work remotely, but so much of their learning needs to be hands-on. We look forward to re-opening our program, but for now, I am proud of how our students and teachers are doing their best to carry on.

The Physician Office Assistant program consists of a total of 332 hours of training. This fast-paced course is taught in strategic partnership with HACC. It includes 172 hours of classroom/lab instruction and concludes with 160 hours of unpaid clinical practicum experience. Our graduates value the course because it introduces them to the allied health field, medical terminology and disease, anatomy and physiology, and medical and clinical labs. It also teaches them the communication, ethics, and professional skills they need in their new roles.

Tec Centro absorbs over 90% of the cost of each student’s training, taking on a cost $3,387 per student in the program. In contrast, our students pay is $50 (plus the cost of books and uniforms). By limiting student costs without compromising on quality, Tec Centro is able to train great healthcare professionals.

Like our Tec Centro graduates on the front lines, we hope you and your family stay safe and healthy. Whether it is through programs like our Community Meals Grab & Go program or sharing important information on WLCH Radio Centro throughout the day, we at SACA are always focused on doing what is best for everyone in our community. Lancaster is our home and we are proud to support the vulnerable members of our community who need us the most during this unprecedented time.