Coronavirus Update - 3/30/2020

With Appreciation: Sharing Gratitude in This Moment

By Chris McCann, Chief Executive Officer 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc.

Is it possible that one of the most enduring things to come out of the current health crisis may be our reawakened appreciation for the everyday acts of kindness and extraordinary selflessness of others? I sure hope so.

Gratitude is such a powerful thing and something that is solidly in our control during a time when so much feels out of our control.

Whether it’s the brave health care workers on the front lines of this battle, the clerks who are stocking shelves so we can continue to buy groceries, the neighbor who calls at noon each day just to check in on us, or the friend who sends us a thoughtful care package, this challenging moment in the world provides an incredible opportunity for all of us to say, “thank you.”

This has been on my mind a lot lately and probably on yours, too. These are just a few of the ways you might consider sharing your appreciation of others in the days ahead:
• Tomorrow is National Doctors’ Day, a great opportunity to say “thank you” to your own doctor and other health care workers
• Send a virtual cup of coffee to a valued co-worker
• Express your gratitude for your local heroes who are keeping us safe by sharing their story with us on Facebook and Twitter and using #LocalHero
• Leave an “I appreciate you” note on the door for the mailman or delivery person
• In my family, we’ve started a daily group text in which each of us list five things that we are grateful for. The lists we all come up with range from heartwarming to hilarious and we’ve found it to be a great way to feel connected each day.

Expressing gratitude not only makes us feel great, but it contributes to our health and well-being – something that is more important than ever for all of us.

Stay well and stay connected.

Coronavirus Update - 3/26/2020

COMMUNITY DURING A CRISIS

By Jennifer Carpenter Low and Devon McCann

 

In these unprecedented times, we are all seeking a greater sense of connectedness; despite the challenges we face, this health crisis offers a unique opportunity to support one another more than ever before. Smile Farms Inc. is approaching the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with transparency, vulnerability, and honesty. We are unwavering in our commitment to improve employment, vocational, and educational opportunities for people with disabilities. These rewarding experiences allow Smile Farmers to gain the satisfaction of mastering new skills, while contributing to their team and community.

Our Community

We want to ensure our community is aware of what we are doing to be solution focused during this time of uncertainty. Acting with an abundance of caution, the top priority is to ensure all members remain safe from the virus. Our extraordinary partners took immediate actions to protect the Smile Farms community’s safety. This includes, but is not limited to, suspending employment and vocational activities to support social distancing advisories as well as visitation to Smile Farms program sites. Given the current state of the economy, our hardworking participants are facing an uncertain future. Smile Farms is committed to supporting our Farmers when they can return to the workforce.

Our Team

Beyond prioritizing immediate safety from this pandemic, we acknowledge the rollercoaster of emotions and potential anxiety that comes with an unprecedented crisis. Like many others in this moment, we are missing a sense of human connection – an element at the heart of Smile Farms’ mission. We are grateful for the ability to accomplish work remotely and are learning that what holds a virtual workplace together is the trust and respect our team has for one another. We have found creative ways of staying connected to each other and community – we will continue to reach out to supporters, partners, and volunteers to check-in and offer support.

Our Supporters

We gain strength from the health and well-being of our community and as such, made the difficult but necessary decision to postpone the 5th Anniversary Benefit from April 28, 2020 to November 13, 2020. We look forward to gathering together at Gustavino’s in NYC to celebrate with partners and distinguished guests. The newly designed Smile Farms website and social media platforms are among the powerful ways we are maintaining communication about events, programs, and updates in this time of crisis. A responsive community spirit is at the heart of Smile Farms. It is an extension of our signature philanthropic partnership with 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc., sharing in the company's vision to inspire more human expression, connection, and celebration.

Looking to the Future

As we navigate the new normal, Smile Farms is turning to where it all began – a community who makes all we do possible. We have confidence in the Smile Farms Network and team to adapt and move forward, creating more opportunities for people with disabilities to work and learn. From the committed leadership of our Board of Directors to unwavering support from donors – the Smile Farms community is willing and able to push ahead.

We wish you and your loved ones good health and well-being.

Stay safe,

Jennifer Low & Devon McCann

 

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Jennifer Carpenter Low is Vice President of Smile Farms, Inc. She leads the development and execution of Smile Farms’ vision and strategy. Jennifer brings 27 years of experience in the nonprofit sector serving in program, development, and executive roles working with local, national, and international organizations.

Devon McCann is a member of the McCann Family, who founded Smile Farms. She is proud of the work the organization has done to provide meaningful opportunities and purpose for people with disabilities. Devon is an Associate at Orr Group, a nonprofit consulting firm providing strategy leadership, fundraising, campaign, and events expertise.

ABOUT SMILE FARMS INC.

At Smile Farms Inc., we create meaningful employment, vocational, and development opportunities for people with disabilities at farms, urban gardens, and greenhouses in their local communities. These rewarding experiences allow them to gain the satisfaction of mastering new skills, while contributing to their team and community. www.smilefarms.org

Coronavirus Update - 3/25/2020

Four Essential Tips for Working From Home

By Nicole DiGiose, Content Specialist 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc.

Whether you’re working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic or you’re a full-time freelancer, remote work has its challenges. If you’re new to working from home, these essential tips can help you stay productive while maintaining a healthy work/life balance.  

Create a Home Office 

Being successful in a home office starts with creating a space that promotes efficiency. It’s important to develop a work area free of distraction and noises. It also helps to make sure you’re comfortable in the chair and at the desk you’ll be working from, as you’ll be there for multiple hours. 

Set an Alarm 

Keep your morning routine. Whether it’s exercising, cooking breakfast, or sipping coffee while reading the paper, prepare yourself for the day ahead. To stay focused, do everything you’d do before showing up at the office, including waking up on time and wearing presentable clothes. 

Stick to a Schedule 

You’re your own personal manager when working remotely. Without in-person meetings to break up your day, you can become distracted or burn out. To stay on schedule, plan out what you’ll do over the course of the day. It helps to create a list or an online calendar of tasks to tell you when to shift gears. 

Take Breaks 

Be aware of your company’s policy on break times and take them, just as if you were in the office. Don’t cheat yourself short of breaks, especially during your lunch hour. Stretch, move, and get some fresh air for a mental reset. This will ensure you’re productive upon returning to your work. 

If you’re feeling cooped up during this time, make sure you stay connected with loved ones.  Consider visiting online gift collections from companies like Goodsey.

 

 

Coronavirus Update - 3/24/2020

A Tool for Assessing the New Normal
By Jim McCann, Smile Farms Chairman

As we begin to look ahead past the immediate health emergency, we may find that in our professional and private lives it may help to think about the impact of the virus on a grid. Short vs. long-term impact on one axis, small vs. large effects on the other. In times like these, where the future feels uncertain, this can help make sense of how much or how little our lives are being transformed.


As one small example: I think about one impact from 9/11 that still influences me 19 years later. As someone who uses public transportation, if I’m getting ready to go into Manhattan in the morning and I have to wear a suit, I usually opt for nice looking soft-soled shoes rather than wearing my best leather-soled shoes. The thought being: if I’m at Penn Station and something happens, can I move quickly enough in the shoes I’m wearing? Can I get to somebody in need? Can I intercede in the event of an emergency? I don’t want to worry about maintain my grip on the floor with a pair of fancy shoes. The impact on my thinking has been long-term, though the importance/impact of shoes is relatively low.


Today, I think about my close relationships. My son, James, came over to pick up something the other day and he brought along his son, Kurt. It happened to be Kurt’s second birthday. Obviously, the party was cancelled but it was so good to see him. When I opened the back door, Kurt, 30 feet away, yelled “Papa!” and started waiving. I wonder what Kurt was thinking when grandma and Papa didn’t rush over as they normally would to give him a hug. Hopefully, these changes are short-term – but who knows what effects may linger.


Or take the education sector. As my friends Heather Hartnett and Gil Messer pointed out at a breakfast event just as this crisis was coming into view: does this change how we value college now? If you’re paying full-price for an on-campus experience, does the value of that diminish as you now are moved to online courses? Will this give a boost to online universities like Sebastian Thrun’s Udacity? Again, hard to predict.

Coronavirus Update - 3/23/2020

This Time It’s Different — Technology Makes Us Less Isolated

By Jim McCann, Smile Farms Chairman


If there is one silver lining to this fast-unfolding crisis, it has been remaining in close contact with my immediate family. I am lucky in that my three grown children and grandchildren are all (relatively) nearby. Over the last four or five days, I’ve had many more conversations than usual with my son-in-law, my daughter, and my two sons. Even while I worry about what they’re feeling – anxiety, fear of the unknown – all this contact has made me feel better. Today, I suggested that we have a daily conference call for the four of us. We first tried it this morning. We talked about real things. It was reassuring and, I think, healthy. I heard their concerns, and we talked about problems and solutions, namely, what to do if someone gets sick.


I suggested previously that you think about the people in your life you want to connect with – or even connect with on a more regular basis – and divide them into four groups: friends, family, coworkers and neighbors. I urged you to develop a contact plan and get into the habit of checking in on a regular basis, for your benefit and theirs.


I also would encourage you to use the amazing new communication technologies available today – Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. – to create regular group conversations among your family or specific groups of friends. If you have older folks in your circles who have never embraced a technology like that, you can provide a real service, a gift: Call them and walk them through setting it up. It will change their lives. In these anxious times, it’s more important than ever that they can see familiar faces as well.

Coronavirus Update - 3/20/2020

A Suggestion For Staying Connected

By Jim McCann, Smile Farms Chairman

Against the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak, I’ve had several conversations with friends that were deeper, more emotional, and more honest than I can remember having had in the months that proceeded. The steps we take to keep ourselves safe – whether isolating or breaking up our normal routines – can also exacerbate our feelings of loneliness, even fear. Knowing we’re all experiencing these feelings in different ways is all the more reason to make the effort to connect. Here’s what I would suggest.

Jot down a list of people – even just three, four, or five – under the following headings: friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. Develop a contact plan for the days and weeks ahead for those you should be reaching out to on a more regular basis. It could be an aunt who lives alone, or far away, that is taking this outbreak especially hard. It could be an older neighbor, or a couple that just moved in nearby, who may be isolating as a precaution and may need help or just company. Some you may want to contact every day, some every week. These need not be long conversations – they can even be emails or tags on social media.

What I know is that this will make them feel better — and you, too. I certainly felt this with the friends I spoke to recently. They felt an empathetic release, and I did too. You’ll offer comfort to these friends, coworkers and relatives, and you may find benefit and greater intimacy that will, one day, pay dividends. At the end of this period – and rest assured, it will end – you will emerge with more, deeper, and better relationships.

Coronavirus Update - 3/19/2020

How to Talk with Young People About Coronavirus

Information about Coronavirus seems to spread faster than the virus itself, and young people may have questions. The key? Focus on keeping it simple, age-appropriate and honest. Below is a partial list of expert suggestions about how to guide these discussions.

Learning at Home

The Coronavirus pandemic has created challenges for families across the country. As more and more schools close, requiring young people to remain at home in an effort to promote self-distancing, parents and caregivers are looking for ways to support the educational needs and development of those in their care. Many schools have provided distance-learning programs and resources to help students achieve academic progress from home. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to check the information provided by local school districts to determine what steps should be taken to stay on top of their children’s education.

For those interested in additional information, activities, programs, and social-emotional learning (SEL) resources, below is a partial list of online programs and courses. Select recommendations are paid programs for parents and caregivers who would like to invest in more long-term support. 

 
Scholastic Learn At Home Program
: An activity portal of free daily courses for kids

Mystery Science: Free Science lessons for students in kindergarten to 5th grade

Hippocampus.org: 7,000 free videos across 13 subject areas 

Mindfulness Resources for Teens: Techniques for developing the skills to be present and aware every day
15 Mindfulness and Relaxation Apps for Kids with Anxiety
: Technological solutions that support addressing and overcoming stress and anxiety 

Emotional ABCs: Social-emotional learning resources and programs
GoNoodle
: Movement and mindfulness videos created by child development experts
30 Emotional Health Activities
: A month-long calendar of daily activities that's free to download and use
Online Museum Tours
: Free virtual trips to famous artworks and artifacts from around the globe
Free Art Lessons
: You Tube-based art classes

 

Stay Positive – We Are All in this Together

How parents and caregivers respond to the Coronavirus pandemic will have a powerful impact on our young people and communities. This is a time to support one another with grace and compassion and we hope some of these resources may help. If there is anything else that the Smile Farms team can do, please do not hesitate to ask. We will do our best to support you!

 

 

Coronavirus Update - 3/16/2020

Dear Friends,

Like you, we are grappling with a new reality this week. COVID-19 has had a sudden and unprecedented impact on our community, and Smile Farms is working diligently to adapt to the current climate. In the immediacy, we have decided to postpone our 5th Anniversary Spring Benefit, originally scheduled for April 28th at Guastavino’s in Manhattan. We look forward to celebrating with you once these challenging times have passed, and will reach out once a new date has been secured.

Rest assured, we will continue to fulfill our mission of creating employment, vocational, and educational opportunities for people with different abilities, regardless of circumstances. For now, please know that the health and safety of our community and supporters is our primary focus. Please consider connecting with us on our social media channels, so that we may all hold one another up through the uncertain days ahead.

Should you have any questions or if we may be of assistance to you during this time, please do not hesitate to contact me at jlow@smilefarms.org.

Stay Well,

Jennifer Low
Smile Farms Vice President