It has taken some adjustment but residents, staff and programs at the Center for Human Services are doing well since the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders were issued.

CHS Chief Executive Officer Ann Graff said many people are working from home and that the center began planning early for the pandemic.

“The group homes, the staff has really done an excellent job of helping people remain calm, and happy and healthy during this crisis,” she noted. “We started pretty early on with a plan and we are continuing to work on that plan.

“We’re being cautious about when we reopen all of our offices,” she continued. “But things are functioning pretty well. The switchboard remains open so if people need something they can call.”

Graff said the Day Program and the Aquatic Center are closed, but CHS is still offering clients and residents ways to stay busy.  

“Our Employment Services, people are continuing to receive job coaching for employment, if their jobs are open,” she continued.

CHS’s funding sources have allowed it to provide virtual coaching through Facebook and other platforms.

Graff said CHS’s service covers 39 counties.

“We have an excellent group of people and we’ve not had to lay anybody off,” she added. “We’ve got everybody working somewhere.”

Susan Mergen, CHS director of development, said it took much planning but programs are running smoothly.

“We have developed new routines that seem to be working very well,” Mergen said. “The two day programs, The Garlich Center and the Saline County Day Program, moved their programs into the group homes.”

She added work schedules have been adjusted for staff and the staff has been able to provide fun and educational activities for residents. CHS staff are providing cooking classes, arts and crafts projects and exercise and gardening opportunities.

She said at the CHS Harris Center they have kept two classrooms open for parents of 2- and 3-year-olds, who are essential workers.

“So, they have been able to continue with their routine of dropping their children off at the Early Education Center,” she added. “The teachers who aren’t in the classroom are doing some very creative, virtual storytelling and checking in with families.

“They were able to drop off activity bags for their youngsters, so they would have some fun things to do,” she continued. “And, of course keeping the lines of communication open is the key to continuing our high-quality services.”

Mergen said CHS checks in with families through Zoom or by phone calls.

“The home visitors have also used technology to keep the programs going,” Mergen added. “Like most companies and organizations, we’ve adapted to use technology.”

Mergen said in the CHS Community Living department there are 36 individuals that live in seven different group homes.

On Wednesday at the Brown Group Home in Sedalia, six residents were busy playing bingo.

Ashley Atkinson, a support specialist at the Center for Human Services Garlich Activity Center, said adjusting to the stay-at-home orders took time for the residents.

“But they have been adjusting extremely well,” she added. “At this home, it helps a lot, they get to still go walking outside, and they can get fresh air, and to watch the news and play games. They are very involved.”

Atkinson said this week, she will work three days at the Brown Street home.

“Our schedules are all a little different,” she said. “So, we are in different homes throughout the week. And we do all kinds of different games.”

LaQuisha Harris, a program assistant at the Center of Human Services Activity Center in Marshall, was also working at the Brown Home Wednesday. Harris began working for CHS just as the pandemic hit Missouri.

“Actually, I just started (working) March 11,” she noted. “It’s going pretty well. This is one of the homes I’ve been in a lot since I started and I really do like working with the guys and the girls.

“It’s fun, they keep you on your toes,” she continued. “I try to keep things fun and keep them happy. When I come in they are so excited to see me.” 

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Arts & Entertainment Reporter

Faith Bemiss is a reporter for the Sedalia Democrat, covering general assignment, arts, food and entertainment stories. She can be reached at 660-530-0289.

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