CULLMAN, Ala. – Flourish of Cullman, which seeks to help people with developmental barriers to employment find ways to work and move toward independent lives, was enjoying a lively 2020 when COVID appeared and everything changed.
Director Melissa Dew shared, “2020 started out with a bang. We had the roaring 2020s bingo and dinner at Goat Island ‘speakeasy.’ It was a great event; we sold about 175 tickets and raised a little over $7,000.
“Then COVID hit. We had to cancel our annual golf tournament ‘Putting for Independence.’ This was a big hit for us, because we use our fundraising money to pay for all our insurance for us to operate and building fund for the independent living apartment.
“We had to purchase thermometers, masks, hand sanitizer, HIPAA-compliant Zoom subscription and many other things adding up to about $3,000.
“In March, we closed due to COVID and the Stay at Home Order, and finally came back to the office in May. We were one of the lucky ones; we were able to participate in the PPP loan (program) to help us stay afloat. When we opened back up in May, we did everything virtually through Zoom.
“June, we started back with socials in open air places like the parks. We practiced social distancing, and everyone wore a mask. We continued that way till October. At that time, we had a participant and team member that came down with COVID. The team member recovered with mild symptoms.
“Participant Robert Squires is currently still in the hospital recovering. We have been doing ‘get well’ cards from the community to help him to see we are all pulling for him to get well.”
Reaching out to the community
Dew said, “We organized 48 hours of caring for CRMC, feeding ICU staff day and night for 48 hours. We also prepared large snack baskets for every nurses’ station at CRMC. We are so thankful for everything they do, and we wanted to do something to help, so, you know in the South when you cannot do anything else, you feed people!
“We started transition classes for county schools in October, and it has been a real struggle due to COVID.”
Flourish clients working in the community
Dew told The Tribune, “We did not let COVID-19 slow us down as far as the individuals we serve! We have served 69 individuals through life coaching social interaction, job coaching, and have employed 18 individuals all over Cullman. We have placed individuals at TJ Maxx, REHAU, Wal-Mart, Applebee’s, Arby’s.”
Anna Hagood proved what Flourish’s clients can do when, after several monthly awards, she was named Employee of the Year at the Alabama Highway 157 Arby’s in Cullman. According to Flourish, her boss said, “She has perfect attendance, and always has a positive attitude. She goes above and beyond to help her team, especially new hires, and is always willing to go the extra mile.”
Credit to the team
Dew shared, “We are so proud of our team at Flourish. They are so amazing, always coming up with new ingenious ways to deliver services and make an impact in our community. We have added two amazing new team members that will add further expertise to further the success of the community we serve. Our board of directors are amazing and have went above and beyond to support our mission in the community.”
Looking forward to 2021
Dew concluded, “2021, here we come! Increasing jobs in our community and continuing to show Cullman that individuals with differing abilities are functioning members of society and accord the same dignity and respect of other individuals in our community.”
Dew wrote, “Flourish core values are we believe that individuals with differing abilities are primarily individuals deserving of dignity and respect. They can create and develop their own vision and dreams for their lives. They can learn how to manage their own home life. They can perform actual jobs with competitive pay and how to be social among friends within social settings.”
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