As I sit to write an update on how Covid-19 has impacted our agency, I am struck, first, by how it all began. I look back to March 12, 2020—a normal day and everyone moving around our community without a care in the world. On Friday, March 13, 2020, everything changed.
When the pandemic broke out worldwide and made its way to the United States in early March, every service we provide at The Arc changed in an instant. By Monday, March 16, we were no longer providing child care, after school services for youth, day services in the community, or employment exploration opportunities. Our thrift stored closed and our headquarters became a base location supporting our Community Living Services, which now had to operate 24/7 to support 119 people with I/DD. All the employees from our Meaningful Day program moved over to our residential homes and began supporting people who were sheltering in place. Employment staff continued to support people with jobs, but our employment connections initiative was put on hold. Many people receiving Personal Supports in their own homes also pushed pause on their service delivery.
All this disruption happened in an instant and changed all of us forever.
We adapted quickly. Our Direct Support Professionals stepped up to ensure everyone in our homes was cared for, and they continued to check in on people living in their family homes. Our office staff went into high gear securing food for our homes and coordinating deliveries of supplies. Volunteers pitched in to make and deliver meals. Many good-hearted people donated PPE, hand sanitizer, and money to help us meet the growing needs we faced when supplies became hard to procure. I was humbled by the outpouring of support from complete strangers at this critical time.
In early April, Covid-19 hit our homes. If only one home had been affected, that would have been challenge enough. Unfortunately, residents and staff in 13 of our 35 homes were impacted. Sadly, we lost three people we support and one employee to this nasty virus.
With each newly infected home, my heart would skip a beat, but I knew our team was dedicated and effective. Everyone had a role and efficiently addressed the changing needs of care in a time of Covid-19. By mid-June, our outbreak was over and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. But one week later, Covid-19 made its way back into one of our homes and our headquarters. My first thought was, “not again.” However, this is the nature of Covid-19 and we must stay vigilant for the foreseeable future.
As I look back at the last four months, I’m heartened by all the good that has come our way during a time when there wasn’t much to be cheerful about. Our community has truly rallied in support of our work. I am immensely proud of all our employees, but especially those who continue to stay in this fight with us, working in Covid-19 positive homes, taking on extra shifts, and making sure the people we support maintain some semblance of normalcy during challenging days. I’m proud of our leadership team who has stepped up to lend a hand wherever needed, all while balancing their regular job duties. I’m also proud of the many generous donors who supported us financially during this pandemic. Finally, I’m immensely thankful to our board for offering their support and giving us guidance to keep 481 people employed even though we have taken a huge financial loss.
I can’t say we are out of the woods yet, but I know that we will persevere as we continue to find our “new normal” at The Arc Montgomery County.