We as an agency have been hard at work to ensure that we are able to best serve our consumers in the midst of COVID-19. Through these unprecedented times, we have taken thoughtful measures to not only ensure the safety of our staff and consumers, but also to ease the mental and emotional toll of quarantine to the best of our abilities.
We would also like to take time to celebrate members of our team and our community who have stepped up and gone above and beyond in support of our mission.
Cleaning Up COVID-19
Our janitorial team has been working tirelessly to ensure that COVID-19 is stopped in its tracks! Through the use of industrial sanitation super-sprayers, our team has been able to combat germs in hard-to-reach and often overlooked places.
Our team has gone out with these sprayers to every one of our locations at least twice a week—every week, and to properly sanitize all of our vehicles every day.
On top of all of their cleaning efforts internally, our janitorial team has also been a fantastic help to the many municipal buildings throughout Trenton and the rest of Mercer County!
They have been out on the front lines, helping the State to remain safe while essential work needs to be done. We are very proud to have a team so committed to combating this disease.
Building Our Team in the Age of Social Distance
While many businesses and agencies have had to close their doors and pause their work, The Arc Mercer has been fortunate enough to be able to remain open. In fact, we have found ourselves needing to resume hiring in order to ensure our ability to fully support our consumers.
We began by converting all of our in-person interviews to video conferences and phone interviews. Once we were able to select candidates that way, we had to address the issue of bringing them in for onboarding and training.
We completely rearranged the way in which we have been bringing trainees into the building, training them and eventually sending them out into our Group Homes.
Every trainee coming into our headquarters is met by our HR team and undergoes temperature checks, symptom checks, pulse/oximeter readings and a Contact Tracing questionnaire. They are permitted past the entryway only after they meet all of our requirements.
We also downsized all of our training and onboarding groups. We are permitting no more than six people in a group at a time and utilizing our spaces to effectively implement social distancing and ensure they remain six feet apart from one another at all times.
Our training department has completely reinvented our CPR and first aid training to ensure there is no need for trainees to come into close contact with one another. Pool noodles have been used to replace arms when learning how to properly bandage wounds, while CPR mannequins have been used in place of physical demonstrations for back blows and other life saving techniques.
Additionally, we have postponed any training that takes place inside of our Group Homes until after trainees undergo and receive results for COVID-19 testing. We are taking no risks when it comes to the health of our consumers.
Celebrating Our Staff at The Arc Mercer
While we recognize the immense dedication of our staff, we also recognize that even heroes need a break and some time to relax. So, we have started morale-raising initiatives for our team to give them things to look forward to, and rewards that they deserve.
Twice a week, we hold “Heroes’ Luncheons” for our team where we offer free themed lunches that go above and beyond the usual Café menu. From apple-stuffed pork loin, to shrimp cocktail—we really want this to be a treat for our staff and appreciate having this opportunity to celebrate them.
And it’s not just about the food!
Additionally, we have been offering bonuses for staff members who do not take sick time during this pandemic. However, we recognize the toll that this can take on staff—especially those working longer hours and heavier workloads. So, we have also begun scheduling “respite days” for our staff to get an additional day off without having to sacrifice their bonuses. This is mutually beneficial because it also allows the agency to proactively plan for whomever is scheduled to be out for any given day.
In comparison to the work all of the members of The Arc Mercer team put in every single day, we know that these are small repayments. We know that stepping out of one’s comfort zone is not something that is easily done and our team has been willing to do it every single day. We hope that every member knows that they are an extremely valuable asset and that no job is too small—they are all heroes.
Recognizing COVID-19 Heroes
This pandemic has certainly brought out the best in some folks and we always think that those who go above and beyond deserve recognition. We have been compiling lists of Heroes both internal and external to the agency. While we plan on having a celebration once this is all over, we wanted to take this opportunity to give a big “THANK YOU” to everyone who has shown us support, donated PPE and cleaning supplies, come in to help us when we need it, and have simply been wonderful.
Meet Some of Our Heroes:
• Mayor Reed Guscoria for his ongoing support and for securing 500 medical gowns for the agency.
• Commercial Supply’s A. Rosen for their commitment to staying engaged throughout this pandemic and reaching out whenever they receive difficult-to-find items such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant, masks, etc.
• Rap’s Pharmacy for helping us secure PPE and supplies.
• Harry’s Pharmacy for helping us secure PPE and supplies.
• Robert Wood Johnson for helping us get all of our staff and consumers proactively tested for COVID and for facilitating retests.
• Mayor David Fried for getting us gowns and helping us coordinate the acquisition of masks. He has been extremely supportive and has checked in every day to ensure that we have all of the resources we need.
• Tom Buffuto, Executive Director of The Arc of New Jersey. The Arc of New Jersey has been a champion of advocacy for The Arc Mercer and all other Arcs across the state in pushing for comprehensive legislation that was inclusive to the community we serve. They have also helped us secure necessary PPE.
• Connie Silakowski for making and donating hundreds of cloth masks to our staff and consumers.
• Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo for helping us to get state support for the funding of our programs during closures.
• Eye to Eye’s Ming for donating 135 masks.
• Westside Pharmacy’s Bob for donating 20 gowns to the agency.
• Harry’s Pharmacy for helping us secure PPE and supplies.
• Sue Sienkiewicz, R.N. for donating her time to help us conduct antibody testing.
• Michelle Fiori, R.N. for donating her time to help us conduct antibody testing.
• Heather Larovere from the Ewing Department of Health for immediately putting us into contact with the township infectious disease nurse when we had a medical emergency.
• Workplace Central’s B. Smith for keeping an eye out for PPE and supplies for us and making our agency a priority when sending out notice.
• Michael Briehler, President of PEAC Gym for donating gallons of hand sanitizer to us right before the COVID outbreak.
• Hannah Ferraro for sewing and donating cloth gowns to the agency.
• Sourland Mountain Spirits’ Ray Disch and Jessica DiDonato for donating a case of hand sanitizer.
• Ewing, Hamilton, and Prospect Heights Fire Departments for helping us with our Birthday Caravans—making them bigger and better than ever!
• Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Hamilton’s Lauren Stabinski for donating small and medium nitrile gloves, face shields, and N95 masks.
• Joey and Mercer Masks for making and donating 300 cloth masks for us.
We would also like to give thanks to all health care professionals for their unwavering effort to the fight against COVID. We know that you all have been fighting hard since Day One which can be challenging in such unprecedented times. Health care professionals save lives every day in ways that we cannot begin to explain nor imagine.
And so we say, “Thank You” to every first responder and other essential personnel who have gone above and beyond to ensure the safety of our communities. Your dedication has not gone unnoticed.