By Chris Barlow
Providing services for families in need since 1934, Easterseals of Southeast Wisconsin gives out happiness in full doses.
As America’s largest nonprofit health care organization, Easterseals is committed to the comprehensive health and wellness of the more than 1.5 million people it serves each year. They are prepared to respond to the needs of the one-in-four Americans living with disability today and provide a variety of outcomes-based services.
The Adult Day Care facility, located at 7111 W. Center St. is only one of many services and facilities that Easterseals of Southeast Wisconsin is involved in. The organization provides direct care, education, and intervention services for approximately 1,500 individuals and their families last year in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington, Racine, and Kenosha Counties.
At Tosa’s adult day care program, they cater to about 45 adults daily. To get an adult involved, folks reach out to ES to see if the center can accommodate their loved ones. There are even grants that are available for those that need monetary assistance.
“Every day is a favorite moment for us,” said Dominque Garner, Supervisor of the Easterseals Adult Day Care Center in Wauwatosa. “When our participants come through the door, they make you smile. There is never a dull moment at our Wauwatosa site.”
In addition to the day care, Easterseals operate a children’s day camp at Wil-o-Way Underwood site that hosts disadvantaged youth from all over SE Wisconsin. Easterseals Southeast Wisconsin also provides a Summer Respite Camp for children, teens, and young adults ages 7-21 of varying ability levels. Trained staff provide a safe and supportive environment for all of our campers.
“At camp, participants have opportunities to build social skills, explore their individual interests and talents, make friends, and experience being a part of the community,” Tabitha Whitmer Administrative Coordinator said. “This summer campers especially enjoyed time on the playground, going hiking through the park, and time in the pool.”
Other programs under the SE Easterseals umbrella include inclusive childcare, medical rehabilitation and autism services for young children and their families, job training and coaching, employment placement and transportation services for adults with disabilities, (including veterans), and employment opportunities for older adults.
“One of the most impactful programs we have is Safe Babies, Healthy Families,” Community Engagement Manager Stacy Alauf said. “It’s a program that helps people with specialized care and can help someone who is prenatal, all the way through toddlers who are five years old.”
This program is an education-based curriculum that helps people raise a healthy baby. It connects them with applicable resources and gives them guidelines to follow.
“Our vision is to create a community that promotes health, happiness, independence and safety by providing individuals with disabilities increased opportunities for access, inclusion and choice,” states the Easterseals website.
Improving Quality of Life
As an example of the quality of life that ES provides, getting out in the community and enjoying a range of activities is a primary form of entertainment for all of the attendees. Recently they have been able to enjoy a day out sailing on Lake Michigan, taken in some movies, and will go for frequent walks.
“We ask our participants what they would like to do for activities, and we try to accommodate those requests,” Director Dominque Garner said. “They really look forward to our outings and getting out in the community, because often this is an alternative to sitting at home. They look forward to coming here Monday through Friday. They really do.”
None of these programs can operate effectively without volunteers. To bring people into the fold, Easterseals brought in Stacy Alauf to help take their volunteer staffing to another level. If you are interested in volunteering, you can contact Alauf directly or check out the organization’s website.
“After a volunteer has expressed an interest, a background check is done and then we discuss where they might like to be placed,” Alauf said. “For example, if we have a volunteer that enjoys art, we would set up a program that would bring art to our day care facilities.”
They also rely on donations from community members for handling the needs of the care centers. They recently had a gazebo donated and had two volunteers come and put it together. They make requests for things they need by posting on social media and the community often steps in quickly. “We put the need for a gazebo on Facebook, and someone had one for us in under an hour,” Alauf said, smiling at the success.
Thanks to the work of dedicated staff and volunteers like Stacy Alauf and Dominique Gardner, the work of Easterseals continues to offer a positive impact for those in need in southeastern Wisconsin and across the country.