Makor Disability Services’ Essential Workers

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By Michal Stein

For the past two months, America has been tasked with an important assignment: to stay home. As is the case with every crisis, heroes have emerged. Those heroes ran toward the crisis, asking themselves only: How can I be of service to others?

Makor Disability Services witnesses those acts of heroism now; but today, these acts have become daily sacrifices. The organization, formerly known as Women’s League, has serviced individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities for over 40 years, and touches the lives of countless individuals through its myriad programs and 32 residential facilities. It’s no secret that residential group homes — entrusted to care for some of the most at-risk children and adults — have faced enormous challenges and triumphs as of late.

“I’m in awe of our staff members ‘on the ground,’ who never falter in their resolve to serve and protect Makor residents,” says Makor COO Tzally Seewald. “These are our heroes today: our staff who, at great sacrifice to themselves and their families, ask themselves only: how can I help others?”

Many of Makor’s staff members moved out of their own homes and into Makor’s residences for weeks at a time. Many showed up to work 18-hour shifts, day after day. A new normal formed quickly — nurses pulling 12-hour shifts right up until Pesach, quarantining themselves away from their families, and rapidly adapting to new procedures and practices. They are Makor’s residents’ staunchest advocates, fiercely protecting their health like they would their own family members’. They show up to work on the most grueling of days because their work, in the truest sense, saves lives every day.

“The care, expertise, and sheer devotion displayed have been incredible to witness. Our staff members are putting their lives at risk to ensure the health of our residents,” says Elliot Brownstein, CEO of Makor. “It truly is a testimony not only to our own staff, but to the dedication of everyone who works in this field.”

From the onset of the crisis, Makor has scrupulously followed the dictates of both the CDC and OPWDD. There has been no expense spared in regard to precautionary measures or equipment. This equipment is incredibly costly, but of the highest priority. “We have been and continue to take every precaution to ensure the health of each member of the Makor family,” says director of nursing Brocha Leah Mendelowitz. “Everyone on our nursing team has gone above and beyond for our residents, and it shows — not only in the health of our residents, but their happiness as well.”

Makor also assembled a coronavirus task force — a dedicated group of staff who visits each residence to ensure the highest standards are being maintained, social distancing is enforced, and staff is supplied with adequate PPE. This task force is also responsible for conducting thorough staff training for new staff members.

“What has struck me is the incredible display of unity among all of our staff. The managers of each home are working together—sharing resources, advice, and insights,” says Yechiel Davis, director of COVID-19 quality assurance task force. “The result of this is that despite all of the schedule changes and precautionary measures, our staff is working around the clock to keep our residents not only safe, but happy, engaged, and stimulated.”

Every staff member plays an integral role in Makor’s mission: the attending physicians dispensing clear guidance and counsel, the nursing staff working 120-hour weeks, the task force enforcing rigorous standards, the support staff on call at all hours of day and night, the administrative staff ensuring all cogs in the operational wheel run smoothly.

“I’m so grateful to every member of our staff, for pulling through and for stepping up,” says Elliot Brownstein. “Their endless devotion is evident — not only in the safety of the house, but in the environment of the home.”

To learn more, visit MakorDisabilityServices.org.

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