Alvis’ Volunteer Spotlight: Kevin Maas

Q&A Session Celebrating National Volunteer Month #NVM

Why Alvis? 

  • I was drawn to Alvis after my company sponsored the organization as our quarterly non-profit group. I met with Molly shortly after to discuss volunteer opportunities and knew from the get go that Alvis’ mission was one that resonated with me. I love that Alvis is an organization that gives their clients the resources they need to live up the their God given potential. I firmly believe that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their socioeconomic status or the mistakes they have made in their past. Alvis gives their clients the resources and tools they need to succeed and thrive after they have served their time.

What is the impact you can make? 

  • Tutoring Math allows Alvis clients to get one on one or small group attention. The impact of this individual attention can mean the difference between a pass and fail on their GED tests. I leave tutoring every Thursday knowing if I helped them understand just one problem on the exam that it could make the difference between a pass and a fail. A pass opens a whole new set of opportunities for them that will inevitably better their lives. For me, the chance to impact clients by helping them open new doors in their life is the single most rewarding experience I’ve had as a volunteer at any organization.

Importance of volunteer work for the community? 

  • Volunteer work is especially important because it helps us build up the communities in which we live. The old saying goes, a rising tide raises all boats. It’s our duty as members of the Columbus community to do what we can to make sure the rising tide is raising all boats. Our Columbus community is what we make it, and by giving back we can make a huge difference in the lives of our fellow Ohioans. 

Any memorable moment you experienced while working as a volunteer at Alvis that you can share?

  • To be honest every tutoring session is memorable for me. It reminds me that despite a national climate that seems to try to divide us by gender or race or socioeconomic status, we have so much more in common than we do different. We might be doing math problems, but in between we talk about what’s going on in our lives, joke, smile, and laugh. Those small moments are what make my volunteer time special.

Any message you want to send to donors? clients? staff? community?

  • I’ve probably never appropriately praised the staff for all the hard work they do. It’s those folks that do the thankless work day in and day out, so thank you!

Thank you for all you do Kevin!! We all appreciate you!!

Social Work Spotlight: Carolann Gregoire

Carolann Gregoire, CSCC Practicum Coordinator

To continue with our celebration of the social work profession this March, we sat down with Carolann Gregoire, Practicum Coordinator for the Social and Human Services Program at the Columbus State Community College. She has been working as a social worker for decades and has received both her Bachelors and Master’s degrees in Social Work from the University of Kansas, which is her home state. In order to learn more about her work, we did a Q&A session with Carolann! Read on and watch the video series to see what this industry veteran has to say about the ins and outs of her practice!

Trends

You place students in internships. What is the value of practicum?

I work with students before they go into practicum and also while they are in practicum. I would say that one of the biggest challenges that the students experience is not fully understanding what it means actually to work with a client face to face, within an agency structure. That is why we do practicums, because they can have a world of information that they receive in the classroom, which they need and they embrace intellectually, and even on a heart level; but it’s very different than when you are actually in the same room with a client who is sharing their story and looking to you for help. It’s a very humbling experience. If it’s your 1st time in trying to be helpful with a client it takes practice and takes confidence before you feel like that what you know intellectually is something you can translate into practice.

Top 3 Skills

What are the reasons most students select a career in Social Work?

I think Social Workers choose this field in part because of some personal experiences, and it’s important whatever that personal experience is that we have worked with it sufficiently so that we can use it, rather than it using us, and really interfering with the work that we do with clients. So there is a fine line when you feel like you are on the other side of the experience. For me, it was a couple of things that shaped how I looked at the world. Experiences in my life that I had to work with on a heart level before I could really be present with myself and be present for others.

What do you believe to be the Social Workers biggest challenges?

I think for a recent graduate, you need an understanding of how an agency operates and how that impacts what they can actually do with a client. Because when they are in the classroom, it is a lot of information that is very helpful but until you start experiencing it, you don’t fully understand all the different influences that impact what you going get to do with a client. I try to prepare new folks in the field for that thought of “maybe this is not exactly what I thought it was going to be”. There can be barriers to providing good care that come from stigma from society, from lack of funding, lack of resources and I don’t think you really know what that feels like and how it really does impact what you are doing with a client until you are doing it.

Alvis impact in the community

Alvis commends social workers for going above and beyond to help those in need, whether it be through direct support or through providing resources that find solutions to complex problems. Their dedication to bettering their community facilitates healthier relationships, lifestyles, and practices that may not have been a possibility without this aid. Make sure to stay tuned in to our social media and blog this month to see some great interviews with social work leaders in the community offering direct insight on the who’s and what’s of the profession!

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. Our vision is that communities value a person’s potential more than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here.

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month Spotlight


Trip to NY City to see the Yankees

Since March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, we wanted to enter spring with a celebration of those in this community both within Alvis and across the nation. This month of awareness first began in 1987 with President Ronald Reagan; in the ‘70s and ‘80s, our country went through a deinstitutionalization movement that promoted great social change, prompting Americans to provide those with developmental disabilities with the resources for success. Today, over 5 million Americans are estimated to have a developmental disability and this term, as defined by the DD Act, refers to a “severe, chronic disability that occurs before an individual is 22 that is likely to continue indefinitely, and results in substantial functional limitations in three or more areas of major life activity” (NACDD). These areas include self-care, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self-direction, capacity for independent living, and economic self-sufficiency. These conditions typically require the individual to live with assistance, and we commend those who are a part of this community for seeking out the support they need to succeed. 

Though there may be some stigma still surrounding those in the DD community, we at Alvis feel that it is time to blow this stigma out of the water. Through a variety of programs and resources, those in this community are now more equipped than ever to lead healthy lifestyles. Living with developmental disabilities is never a one-size-fits-all experience. Conditions that qualify as a DD can include autism, muscular dystrophy, learning disorders, attention deficit disorder, and many more. You can learn more about these conditions here

This week, we were fortunate to speak with our Managing Director of Developmental Disability services, Sandra Allen. Sandy has been with Alvis for ten years and has used her background in mental health and disability services to work with clients in the Columbus DD community. Through our supported living services to our intermediate care facilities to our Behavior Support Unit, we here at Alvis are committed to improving the lives of those through behavior-based programs so they can become integrated with the community. Our intermediate care facility currently serves 15 individuals and is aimed at equipping clients with the skills and resources to live in the community in a less restrictive environment. This program is based on skill building and has a cognitive focus. Being able to change the thought processes of our clients is the first step to them being able to live a more free, positive lifestyle. From therapy to finance management to medication regulations, our Alvis professionals are there every step of the way. Our supported living program currently serves 44 individuals, and it gives those who are a part of the DD community the ability to live on their own while receiving guidance from our qualified team of DD professionals. We have a couple of individuals in these programs pursuing a college degree, while some are working to receive a GED.  

#DDAwareness19

Though these programs, we have seen our clients hit huge milestones; whether they are riding the bus alone, holding a steady job, or becoming involved in romantic relationships, we are so thankful that we could be a part of their journey to success. In the future, Sandy would love to have volunteers become involved with these programs to help Alvis clients expand their skillsets and add to their activity options. If you or anyone you know might be interested in volunteering to help our DD clients, please contact our Intern and Volunteer Manager at Margaret.Seguin@alvis180.org! 

To be a successful DD professional, Sandy says that those in the field should be dedicated to caring about their clients and be invested in their success. Since this is not the most “cookie cutter” situation, she says that you have to be empathetic to their struggles and be willing to learn how we can make it better for them and the community. The end goal of all DD professionals is to help their clients create a life that they truly want to live and will have fun living. It is extremely important that they invest in their future and that we find out what motivates them. Through a multitude of events like the Harmony Project, Special Olympics, Bingo Night, bible study, and excursions all over the country; our DD professionals are sure to help our clients celebrate their successes, no matter how big or small. They see our clients as family. As Sandy said, “We need to work ourselves out of the job, we want to serve others that need us and celebrate those that don’t  need us anymore”. We thank those like Sandy in this field for all that they do, and celebrate those in the DD community for their commitment to their mission towards a better life.  

The Harmony Project

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective  treatment programs  in Ohio. Our vision is that communities value a person’s potential more than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about  how you can get involved, contact us  here

Social Work Spotlight: Erin Michel

Erin Michel is our Continuous Quality Improvement Director at Alvis

To continue with our celebration of Social Work Month, we got the chance to learn more about the profession in action through a conversation with one of our own, Erin Michel. We are fortunate to have Erin as our Continuous Quality Improvement Director and her background in the field of social work has been a great complement to this position. Though she has now been working as a social worker for close to 8 years, it wasn’t always her dream job. When she was in high school, a career assessment projected social work as her best-fit profession and she laughed at the idea of her being in the field. Today, she now calls social work her home; it is not just a career, it is her life and she was born into the professional values held by those in the industry. 

The culmination of all of her personal experiences ultimately led her to her holding a position here at Alvis in a transition that she described as “synchronous”. Her main task is to mobilize managers around making data-driven decisions; she stated that, “In social work, making decisions from your gut is actually not what you want to do. We want to trust our instincts, but when it comes to client interventions, we want to be acting based on research and evidence proven to create results.” Erin is leading our organization in benchmarking effectiveness measures for our programs and in addition to her assessment of this internal data, her department also surveys clients; they inquire about clients’ experience with the programs and if they are making connections between their learning and its real-life application, creating a feedback loop that promotes our ability to provide person-centered care to them.

She has also seen the value of feedback and collaboration first hand as a board member of the Ohio Counselor Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist (CSWMFT) Board. Here, she created and constructed meetings as a combined board in addition to collaborating with other members to align them to a strategic plan while she served as Chair of the Board last year. She is currently working on making big changes in the area of training supervision, as they have recently been receiving  complex hardship requests: social workers looking to receive their license are having a hard time finding independent social workers to supervise them. She recognizes that this supervision is extremely important as it is the main mechanism for how their scope of the practice is formed and how they learn to be an independent practitioner. Since the board does not typically grant these requests, she is now making it her mission to create smart rules around training supervision before her term ends in October of 2020. Lastly, she also serves on the committee for the Association of Social Work Boards where she supports the organization’s annual education conference that reaches all jurisdictions of the US and Canada. Her involvement in these boards shows her dedication to the field since these licensing boards protect the public from harm.

After spending some time with Alvis, serving some of the most vulnerable and complex populations, she knows that being with the company brings high risks with high rewards. She acknowledges the commitment of her coworkers. Alvis has brought her together with some of the “most powerful social workers and counselors that she has ever met.” The main draw of the profession are these dedicated workers that are committed to the mission and know change is gradual. She says that those who come to Alvis will find resilience and excellent clinical judgement, in addition to an amazing new training platform. New this year, Alvis offers continuing education credits for social workers and in the future, counselors.

Erin Michel

Alvis commends social workers for going above and beyond to help those in need, whether it be through direct support or through providing resources that find solutions to complex problems. Their dedication to bettering their community facilitates healthier relationships, lifestyles, and practices that may not have been a possibility without this aid. Make sure to stay tuned in to our social media and blog this month to see some great interviews with social work leaders in the community offering direct insight on the who’s and what’s of the profession!

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. Our vision is that communities value a person’s potential more than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here.

The Social Work Summary

In our modern society, many people experience a plethora of hardships that can be difficult to tackle alone. These include, but are not limited to, poverty, homelessness, physical or mental illnesses, addiction, and/or developmental disabilities. Individuals who are facing these challenges need to find the right solutions for them. This is where social workers come in! Social workers are highly trained professionals whose goal is to help those in need conquer obstacles and lead them to an overall improved quality of life. There are over half a million social workers currently active across the nation and the number is quickly rising. In fact, social work is one of the fastest growing careers in the U.S. This profession requires knowledge of human behavior and development and how these can affect one’s interaction with social, economic, and behavioral institutions. Through their active role in a client’s life, they can provide counseling and crises management to those who need a helping hand in coping with the stressors of daily life. 

Social workers can be found in a multitude of venues, including right here in our Alvis community. From schools to hospitals to agencies serving those in need, social workers make up the largest group of mental health service providers in the nation. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are more clinically trained social workers than there are psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychiatric nurses combined! This surprising statistic has shed a new light on social work. It is now recognized as one of five core mental health professions by federal law. 

Social work requires a certain level of passion for helping people. Because of this, it is important that those in the profession are more dedicated to the outcome of their work rather than the income that it generates. The contributions they make to the lives of their clients are invaluable, and so being properly trained to provide these services is a must. Typically, social workers have at least a Bachelor’s degree paired with a significant number of fieldwork hours that have been supervised by a practicing social worker licensed for supervision. Those interested in the profession are all working towards a common goal, and do so within one of the specializations within the field. The National Association of Social Workers has identified 11 of these specializations: 1) administration/ supervision, 2) aging, 3) alcohol/ tobacco/ other drugs, 4) child welfare, 5) health, 6) children, adolescents, and young adults, 7) mental health, 8) private practice, 9) school social work, 10) social and economic justice and peace, and 11) social work and the courts. All of these areas can come with varying duties, and can then move into further concentrated categories that help those interested in the profession choose a specific career. Regardless of specialization, most social workers are required to interview clients; facilitate the development of action plans with ample support and assistance; find legal, housing, employment, and transpiration resources in the community that clients can utilize; and provide crisis interventions. 

Experts have identified five important characteristics of a social worker that are characteristic of success: 1) Patience, 2) Perceptiveness, 3) Dependability, 4) Empathy, and 5) Ability to set boundaries. Great time management skills and effective communication skills are essential components of a successful social worker. In a profession where heightened emotions are commonly present, it is extremely important for practicing social workers to be receptive in order to have an insightful, problem-solving conversation with their client. 

As it is for many of those in helping professions, it is extremely important for social workers to practice self-care. Maintaining personal health is not only essential for the well-being of the social worker, but for their clients as well. Stress and burnouts are likely in such a high intensity profession, so the best way to beat job fatigue is to care for one’s own health in the same manner a social worker cares for the health of their clients. 

Alvis commends social workers for going above and beyond to help those in need, whether it is through direct support or by providing resources to find solutions to complex problems. Social workers are dedicated to bettering their community and facilitating healthier relationships, lifestyles, and practices. Without social workers, many people could not resolve their challenges.

As we celebrate Social Work Month, make sure to stay tuned in to our social media and blog to see some great interviews with leaders in the social work community. They will offer direct insight on the specifics of the profession and in the life at Alvis! 

Meanwhile, check out our newest Social Worker Quiz and see how much you know: https://bit.ly/2UqKYnS

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. Our vision is that communities value a person’s potential more than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here.

American Heart Month

As American Heart Month of February comes to an end, we want to share some of what we know and see every day inside and out Alvis. 

American Heart Month was established in 1963 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and first celebrated in February 1964. President Johnson felt strongly about heart disease and believed that United States citizens needed to,  “Give heed to the nationwide problem of the heart and blood-vessel diseases, and to support the programs required to bring about its solution.” Dedicating a month to being aware of cardiovascular diseases provides us all with the opportunity to learn and practice healthier ways caring for ourselves. For more information on American Heart Month, visit this site

Our hearts need just as much, if not more, attention now compared to the time the American Heart Month was established. Roughly every one in four deaths across the U.S. were caused by heart disease in 2015. Across the nation, every 40 seconds, a person has a heart attack. Each minute, someone loses their life as a result of a heart disease-related event. These are staggering statistics and hopefully, raising awareness about the risk factors that cause heart disease can help prevent it in the future. Risk factors include smoking, obesity, diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet and physical inactivity. Some indicators of heart disease include high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol.

What can we do? While we can’t change genetic factors that contribute to heart disease, we do have the power to fight heart disease by changing our habits.  We can turn our lives around and reduce our risk by eating a lower fat diet, committing to getting some exercise every day, quitting smoking, etc. 

Alvis is well-acquainted with turning lives around.  An individual in Alvis’ Recovery Choices program learns to treat their addiction by changing the way they think and changing their behavior. In this way, Alvis provides individuals with the tools they need to be successful in a new beginning. 

Taking better care of our bodies and making a commitment to a healthy lifestyle is good for all of us, whether we are working to overcome addiction or working to lower the risk of heart disease. Interested in learning more? We suggest a visit to www.cdc.gov  

American Heart Month, along with a Valentine’s Day celebration, inspired a motivated team of Alvis staff and clients to hold a special Door Decorating Contest in one of our residential reentry centers. Using a heart theme, participants made beautiful door decorations that reflected the stories of their lives with love and pride. You can see how caring and special it was to have such a fun event. Thank you to Deborah Finnegan, Katelyn McKinley, Lisabeth Shepard, Rebecca Neubig and all participants for making this such a nice event!

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. Our vision is that communities believe a person’s potential is more important than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here

Black History Month Spotlight: Keith Stevens

KeithStevens02 (002)

To continue with our celebration of Black History Month, we are focusing on accomplishments that are not only occurring within the black community, but in the Alvis community as well. Last week, we were fortunate to sit down with Alvis’ board chair and devoted entrepreneur, Keith Stevens. Keith has served on the Alvis board since 2012 and his dedication to philanthropy and out-of-the-box business practices have had a notable effect on those around him since starting his own staffing business in 1992. This Urbana, Ohio native started Proteam Solutions Inc. (PSI), with nothing but $500 and ambition for success. He located his office in a high unemployment area with a mission of helping neighborhood residents find gainful employment. The company grew rapidly once word spread about Keith’s mission. PSI thrived until the 9/11 attacks prompted his business model to pivot, placing more focus on higher end staffing including finance and accounting, human resources, and creative, to name a few.

After maintaining this structure for seven years, PSI was taken by surprise when the 2008 recession struck. It severely impacted their clients’ businesses, thus impacting PSI sales. Though this was a hit to the company’s stability, Keith used this negative event to drive positive change when he made the decision to double down on technology, positioning PSI for the future of the fast-evolving market. Not long after that, PSI, indirectly through partnerships with non-profits and other charitable organizations, was able to continue giving back to the communities where PSI started.

Over the past few years, Keith’s business has continued to develop and evolve, becoming more efficient and successful. After being involved in the day to day operations for so long, he decided it was time to shift his focus to working on the business. Keith elected to implement EOS, the Entrepreneur Operating System. EOS provided PSI with the leadership framework to better manage and grow the business. In turn, EOS has allowed Keith to be less involved in the day-to-day blocking and tackling and more focused on growing the company’s three business lines that include IT Consulting, IT Staffing, and Business Process Outsourcing for non-profits.

PSI’s Business Process Outsourcing provides non-profits with back office support services including Employer-of-Record Payroll services, Accounting and Finance, Technology and Marketing support. Non-profits with budgets of $5,000,000 or less often experience administrative headaches that take time and attention away from delivering on their core mission. PSI helps these organizations remain mission-focused, allowing them to use their resources to achieve better outcomes for those they serve.

Over time, Keith has learned that in business, it is not all about top line growth; it is about the bottom line and spending less than you take in. You must also pay attention to the need to scale and ensure that your infrastructure can handle growth. Most importantly you must “give to get.” Since practicing these positive principles, he has created a company culture that is dedicated to the core values of service and communication. The PSI team is driven to serve, solve, and deliver for every employee, client and the community in order to accelerate their success. Over the past 27 years and through this day, Keith proudly stated that his company has never missed a payroll. This is a statement that would resonate with all entrepreneurs.

Keith became involved with Alvis in the late 1990s when PSI began providing Alvis clients with employment opportunities. He joined the Alvis board formally in 2012 after his board involvement with Community Connection, another non-profit agency.  Community Connection  provided job readiness and related services to individuals with justice involvement who were reentering society.  Community Connection became a part of Alvis in 2012.  When Keith was offered a board position with Alvis, it was an easy yes since he already knew the Alvis mission. He is now in his seventh year on the board. As board chairman, he is focused on facilitating good board governance and collaboration. Keith’s favorite parts about Alvis are the mission, programming, and reputation. The Alvis leadership and staff are passionate and dedicated, achieving results with testimonials to prove it. As a board member, he focuses on strategy and vision, working with his peers to ask questions, test theories, and encourage healthy debate. He plans to continue contributing his time, talent and treasure to Alvis.

After learning about Keith, it is easy to see why he has become so successful. His business savvy is a source of great advice, so read on to see if you can take something new away from his words of wisdom!

Keith on mentorship:

Most great mentors have a mentor of their own that helped to shape them into the successful person that they ultimately turned out to be. For Keith, his business mentor, James Willis, was an African American business owner he first met as a 14-year-old working a paper route. Keith recalled that he would want to avoid going into this customer’s house due to the smell of diapers. One day while passing by the back of the house, he noticed a panel truck on the property with Mr. Willis’ name plastered on the side; he watched this man grow his business over the next seven years to have four locations, placement in retail stores, and a warehouse. Through a friend, Keith got a job working for the company selling beauty supplies for the owners, James, and his brother, Sherman Willis. Through this experience, witnessing a successful black family-owned business; seeing people that he could relate to being so successful gave him “nuggets of wisdom and the ability to imagine it for himself.” He also garners inspiration from others like the entrepreneurs on Shark Tank, and the many local Columbus entrepreneurs like Dawn Dickson and Rachel Freedman.

Keith’s advice for handling criticism:

When it comes to criticism, Keith says that being a good listener is crucial and facilitating an environment that promotes open communication is key to conflict resolution. Irrespective of where someone is in their social strata, constructive criticism can ultimately provide value. Keith’s rule of thumb? Do not respond to strong criticism until 24 hours has passed.

Keith on employee appreciation:

Keith is a huge believer in the strength of Alvis’ team. He says that those on the front line are “where the rubber meets the road” and there is a special concentration on the people and the culture within the Alvis community. He feels that there is great opportunity for Alvis to shine light on the spirit of what they represent, and that Alvis’ core values are key and should drive all hiring and firing decisions. A focus on culture needs to be a priority in all businesses, Alvis included.

Keith’s advice for young professionals:

He had three main pieces of advice for those just entering the workforce: Be respectful, communicate professionally, and don’t be afraid to fight for what you believe. If someone doesn’t initially appreciate your efforts and dedication, over time they can be proven wrong if given the opportunity. You should ultimately use these experiences as fuel, not a reason to stop moving forward.

Keith on discrimination:

Overall, Keith does not feel hindered by the discrimination he has experienced. He encourages those who may experience it to “lean into adversity.” One first-hand example of discrimination Keith experienced was with a client. After bringing in a mostly all-black team of employees to help a shoe warehouse meet their high demands, they found that they were the only people of color among the other employees and the difference was palpable. He feels that the prejudice stemmed from fear; nevertheless, Keith’s team rose above it gained the respect of the client’s team in just a few short months. People of color often know or feel that they have to work twice as hard to prove themselves in society, but that shouldn’t deter them from pursuing their passions.

Presently, Keith is continuing to pursue HIS passion for business and actively volunteers on multiple boards. His most recent endeavor? Becoming the chairman of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce board! We thank Keith so much for the opportunity to sit down and chat about his experiences. We are so thankful we him on our team. To keep up with Keith, be sure to follow him on LinkedIn.

Alvis is a nonprofit human services agency with over 50 years of experience providing highly effective treatment programs in Ohio. Our vision is that communities value a person’s potential more than their past. For more information on how Alvis can help you or to learn more about how you can get involved, contact us here.

Blog post written by Marketing & PR Intern, Paige McKirahan