Coronavirus Update - 6/30/2020
Getting Back to Community - A Note from Jim and Chris
Typically, the Fourth of July is a time of celebration. A time when we all head to the store to stock up on burgers and hot dogs, charcoal and sparklers, and everything in between. It’s a time when we call our families and loved ones, coordinate on who’s bringing what, and double-check that Grandma is making her famous apple pie.
As we continue to navigate reopening measures, we’re entering a new world that will be different from how we’ve lived previously.
Forging a New Set of Traditions
Just as we’re experiencing a different kind of summer, this, too, will be a different kind of Independence Day. While we could choose to focus on what we’ll be missing this year, instead, we plan on embracing a new kind of Fourth of July where we forge a new set of traditions.
While the backyard barbecue will be a little smaller with just our immediate family members, technology can keep us connected to our usual guests.
Additionally, so many of our team members noted how they planned to thank those essential workers that worked – and continue to work – tirelessly throughout this pandemic. Your local grocery store clerk, delivery driver, doctor, nurse, schoolteacher – all of them deserve our gratitude. We join our team in thanking our #localheroes.
We asked some of our team members how they’ll be enjoying this year’s different July Fourth and were delighted to hear how families were at the center of most plans. Shawn from the Digital Marketing team at Harry and David, said he’ll be spending the holiday at the beach with friends, while practicing social distancing, and reflecting on how grateful they are to have each other through these unprecedented times.
Katie, a senior graphic designer for Cheryl’s Cookies, instead opted to head into nature for Independence Day. She’s excited to spend her social distanced getaway hiking, kayaking, and exploring the great outdoors with her husband.
Embrace the Differences
While relaxing this weekend, we hope you take a moment to read our friend, advisor, and Board Member, Adam Hanft’s new column that explores interesting activities and things that have kept him busy during quarantine.
We would also like to take this opportunity to thank Len Elmore for speaking to our team this week. Len is our longest standing Board Member and an expert on matters of race relations. We were deeply moved by his words and continue to be inspired working alongside him.
Like so many milestones this year, the Fourth of July will certainly be different than in prior years. We urge everyone to make it memorable and to embrace those differences so that we treasure this quality time with our loved ones and friends. While we might miss crowds and parades, ultimately, the only thing that truly matters through it all are our friends and family.
Wishing you a safe and happy Fourth,
Jim McCann and Chris McCann
Coronavirus Update - 6/8/2020
Life Challenges - A Note From Jim and Chris
Needless to say, we are living through very difficult, frightening and emotional times. It is only natural for us to feel anxious, upset and angst. We certainly feel it, as do our team members.
We wanted to offer some resources from companies we like, respect and have partnered with, should this be of benefit to you, your family or your communities. Over the last week or so we have spoken to these companies whose businesses offer support and assistance for connection and coping with the life challenges that we are all facing.
We had the fortune of speaking to the founder of Wisdo, Boaz Gaon, and Product Manager, Tali Hollander. We had partnered with Wisdo to develop peer-to-peer support communities through our Connection Communities. These communities, and the Wisdo app, might be of use to you in navigating today’s challenges.
Sometimes professional help may be the best way to cope. This week we reconnected with CEO and Co-founder of Talkspace, Oren Frank and Dr. Neil Leibowitz, the Chief Medical Officer at Talkspace. Talkspace offers online counseling with licensed professionals and also has a blog and resource portal that might prove useful.
We think it’s a sign of strength, not weakness, to access helpful resources.
All the best,
Jim McCann & Chris McCann
Coronavirus Update - 5/14/2020
Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business Interview with Jennifer Low
Jennifer attended New Strategies* in February 2018 and was sponsored by American Express.
Tell us about Smile Farms' mission and scope.
Smile Farms creates meaningful employment, vocational, and educational opportunities for people with disabilities at farms, urban gardens, and greenhouses in their local communities. As we have grown, so has our ambition. We now see the organization emerging not only as a leader in providing solutions for the problem of unemployment among adults with disabilities, but as an anchor for K-12 school-based curriculum and vocational programs. At Smile Farms, we are not only growing plants, but also growing people. The Smile Farms model works because we partner with both non-and for-profit organizations to develop agricultural campuses that meet community needs, while motivating individuals, businesses, and civic organizations. In addition, we generate sustainable revenue to fund our partners’ services. All plants, flowers, and fresh produce grown at the Smile Farms campuses are sold in a variety of venues in the communities where they’re located, used in the kitchens of partner organizations, and/or donated to local nonprofits serving people in need.
You attended New Strategies two years ago when you were associate vice president for fund development at New York City Leadership Academy. What practices/tools from New Strategies have you brought to Smile Farms that have generated results?
First, let me say that the emphasis on relationships was interwoven throughout the fabric of my New Strategies program experience – both from presenters as well as the peers I met. I have taken that with me, and at Smile Farms, relationships are what makes the difference between being in the community and being part of a community.
Probably the top three practices or tools were Steve MacLaughlin’s presentation on using data to increase individual giving. I clearly recall Steve telling us “It’s not about the volume of data, it’s about the value.” He also talked about “delighting donors” and all stakeholders. We’re doing that right now as we navigate this pandemic. In response to requests from our nonprofit partners for ways to keep up morale in residences, vocational, and K-12 education programs, we worked with our signature philanthropic partner to create special videos and posts for Smile Farms.
Leslie Crutchfield’s talk about movement’s truly “moved” me, pun intended. She talked about how movements matter now more than ever. In the spirit of Leslie’s “turning grassroots into gold,” Smile Farms takes a grassroots approach to build stronger, more inclusive workplaces and communities that empower members to collaborate on critical issues by tapping into local resources.
Joe Waters’ discussion on focusing on marketing and media provided timeless counsel: “The nonprofit of the future will focus on marketing and media,” specifically content that drives donations. We are becoming more proficient with generating content and acting like a publisher on social media platforms. We are laser-focused on adding value to our partner and supporter relationships. Based on Joe’s suggestion, we are now publishing more on our blog and in other media forums to increase engagement and to provide more meaningful appreciation to the Smile Farms community.
How has COVID-19 affected Smile Farms?
Our top priority is to ensure all Smile Farms community members remain safe from the virus. In collaboration with our partners, employment, vocational, and other core programmatic activities were suspended as well as all volunteer activations at Smile Farms campuses. We also made the difficult decision to postpone our signature fundraiser from April to November. That event is roughly 35% of our annual unrestricted revenue. There was a 15% reduction to the overall budget, including 25% from program expenses and nonessential events.
How has Smile Farms responded to COVID-19?
We created a Coronavirus Update webpage with creative ideas from our board chairman and others for the community to consider during this time of social distancing. Our donors have created video testimonials that we’ve posted as part of our new communication campaign. Our messaging and call to our supporters is simple: “Thank you for being a part of our Smile Farms community, and what we can do to help?” Further, we have redirected the time we ordinarily would spend to plan our signature fundraiser to other initiatives, delayed payments, and renegotiated better rates for event venues.
Given all the budget changes, how are you feeling about Smile Farms revenue going forward?
Our #1 goal is to serve our Smile Farms community and add value to our partners, so I am optimistic. We continue to seek ways to strengthen the signature philanthropic partnership with 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. The company has supported Smile Farms programs through a combination of philanthropic donations, cause-related marketing promotions, in-kind assistance, and national-level fundraising and promotional activities led by the enterprise’s customers and talented employees. This support – along with our various community partnerships – has been crucial in expanding the mission of Smile Farms and growing the organization from a single greenhouse operation into eight campuses and counting. The Smile Farms community is strong and resilient.
*New Strategies is a four day forum for nonprofit executives. Learn more here.
Coronavirus Update - 4/20/2020
We Fight to Save Every Life Possible
By Dr. George Gubernikoff, MD, NYU Langone Health|NYU Winthrop Hospital
Dr. and Mrs. George Gubernikoff are volunteers and generous supporters of Smile Farms.
I just finished a week as an attending in a Covid ICU and wanted to share some thoughts. Everyone who works in the hospital, puts a mask on, and overcomes their fear is a true hero. I have so much respect for all of them. I rounded in a 16 bed open ICU. When you first gown, glove and walk through the door you are overwhelmed with what confronts you. Armeggedon in real life. Each patients struggle for a breath, life and death. In that room, the nurses, respiratory therapists, medical assistants, proning team, PT, interns, residents, and all other doctors are our true angels. Never before have I been so frightened by what I have witnessed yet so proud to be a doctor. I gave my oath 40 years ago for this. The courage, commitment, and selflessness of all my colleagues has been inspiring. It has been my honor to work with these real heroes. I hope the children of these heroes can recognize how special they are and how lucky they are to have parents they can model themselves to be.
Daily phone calls to loved ones hurts. You feel their fear and their devastation of not being at the bedside. One wife asked to put a phone to her husbands ear to let him know she loves him and they are praying for him.
A victory is extubating a patient and the whole room erupts in applause for even this little victory.
Finally, before pundits, politicians or any blowhard tells you what should be done, come gown in your PPE, walk into this room, see the true struggle on the frontline and then pause and tell me where we go or what is the right decision.
We fight to save every life possible. This is our mission, our hope. We all take a deep breath, walk through the door and fight for each wounded soul and their loved ones.
I hope G-d is watching over us and gives all of us strength.
Coronavirus Update - 4/17/2020
By Julie Mulligan
I just did a post for 1-800 Flowers.com all about The Joy of Coloring. It made me think about how we all need outlets for our emotions. I am a creative person and love to share my passion for creating, with the people in my life, including my brother Kevin. Kevin lives in the IGHL Eastport II house. One of his favorite activities is painting. Many family members have been the recipient of a beautiful original Kevin McCann painting on special occasions!
It is very hard not being able to visit with Kevin, during the quarantine, or to bring him home for a few days. Kevin is lucky that he has a big family with two brothers and two sisters, in-laws, nieces, nephews, great nieces, great nephews and lots of friends that love him and love having him in their lives. It is very important that we all continue to be involved in the day to day as much as possible. And staying involved with a loved one who happens to live in a group home isn’t really any different than staying involved with anyone who you are not currently living with.
One of the first things that I did right after we all started to self-quarantine was to plan a social distance visit to Kevin and drop off a care package of art supplies - easels, canvases, paints, brushes, etc. for him and his housemates. Coincidentally, he surprised my husband and I with one of his latest works - a St. Patrick’s Day themed beauty that he had just finished!
The supplies I included were from Social Artworking. It’s a great site that makes it so easy to order all the supplies you’ll need including instructions and a traceable template. It’s particularly handy when planning a group activity. After choosing a design, enter the number of people who will be participating, and it calculates what you’ll need! I worked with them for a Smile Farms fundraising afternoon of painting and fun. Even though there is a template for those who choose to use it, and there are step by step instruction, you can just let your inner artist shine and express yourself any way you want!
And just like the rest of the world, the McCann Family Easter was via Zoom this year. And again, because the IGHL staff are so caring and dedicated, Kevin can be right there with us - right where he belongs. Now if we can just get him not to answer every single question that someone asks on Zoom - whether they were talking him or not!!
Coronavirus Update - 4/13/2020
These Holidays Are Different: But Let's Make Them Meaningful
By Jim McCann, Smile Farms Chairman
Many of us around the country are concluding our Easter celebrations or are in the midst of Passover. These will have been unique celebrations, with far fewer faces around the table. But we hope you kept traditions alive and have connected with your family and loved ones who couldn’t be there in person. Maybe you extended a few “virtual hugs”, like I did with my grandchildren.
Last week, I suggested we use this Holy Week to renew our faith, our relationships, and our commitment to our values. It’s important that we keep close to these sentiments as we face more weeks of social distancing and disrupted communications.
Traditions old and new
I have been inspired by the kinds of activities people have been able to continue online, and the new digital rituals that have emerged. At our house, my wife, Marylou, always paints Easter eggs with our grandchildren. Obviously, that was not an option for this year. But we did manage to paint alongside our grandchildren on video chat. My friend, the author and entrepreneur Dave Kerpen, convened a digital Seder and kindly extended me an invitation.
We have a choice, to submit to the disappointment or to be agile and adapt our traditions to preserve our memories and those of our families. How have you been able to keep your traditions alive?
What comes next
Over the holidays, we’ve reflected on the truly important people in our lives. Let’s use these next weeks to deepen those connections. If you find yourself under the same roof as older generations, take the time to ask for stories from their pasts. I’m sure you will be moved, surprised, and delighted by the stories you hear. Don’t be afraid to express your feelings and uncertainties on those phone or Facetime calls. Speaking from the heart may inspire your friend or relative to do the same. Stay focused on those traditions and people that matter, and you’ll emerge from this time with deeper, more meaningful relationships than before.
Be prepared for a new normal, even when the worst of the crisis passes. During a Techonomy digital roundtable last week, Sir Martin Sorrell of S4 Capital said he expected a few things. He will be a lot more reluctant to jump back on a plane. He thinks the work from home/office mix will change and that the rush to digitization will move to warp speed. I expect we will all adjust, slowly, in our own ways. But let’s make sure to use that transition to prioritize. Keep focused on what’s important before jumping back into old routines.
Concluding this Holy Week, one of renewal, think about how we spend our time: work, family, friends and community. It’s a tougher question than we may have thought a month ago.
Coronavirus Update - 4/6/2020
A Note From Our Founder, Jim McCann
By Jim and Chris McCann, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc.
We are facing an unprecedented challenge. Our professional and personal lives have been upended. The way we work, study, socialize, worship and more will be different for some time yet. Unlike crises past, this is one that affects every one of our families.
A Time to Reflect
If there is any silver lining to this crisis, it is that we are being pushed into a heightened state of consciousness. I consider this kind of situation a “forcing function”. The term dates to the 19th century, but it’s most often used today, in user experience design, to describe a feature that prevents someone from taking action without giving it their explicit attention.
For me, a forcing function prevents us from us from living our lives on autopilot. By disrupting our normal rhythms, the virus is forcing us all to take a closer look at our lives. Some things that seemed important in our busy daily lives may no longer seem as critical. And now we may see more clearly the people and experiences that deeply matter.
These Holidays Will be Different
We are coming up on two major holidays, Passover and Easter, which will give us all even more opportunity to reflect on the truly important. Most of us will be celebrating differently this year, but it is our responsibility – for our families, the memories of our children and our communities – to make them as meaningful as possible. Look around the table. Encourage everyone to tell a story about a friend or relative who couldn’t attend. Maybe capture those stories on your phone and send them to your loved ones. Or surprise them with a FaceTime call. I am planning to do some combination of the above.
Easter celebrates new beginnings. Passover recalls the suffering of our ancestors and the great fortune of those who survived to keep the faith alive. Let’s think of these times as a forcing function that ask us to renew our faith, our relationships, and our commitment to the values we hold dear.
Anticipating the holidays, I think back to what my parents and grandparents went through in the Great Depression. It taught them the difference between wants and needs. To never lose sight of what matters most. They never forgot the lessons of the past, and instilled them in me and in my brother, Chris, whose focus is devoted to our business and our customers during this difficult moment.
From Chris, CEO
In these trying times, I am so proud of the effort and care our team is exerting. Our management team is devoted to weathering this storm and has been doing a great job attending to the needs of our team members, vendors, communities, and our customers, who are relying on us to express and connect more than ever.
In our family growing up, there were certain relatives we only saw at Easter time, like my Uncle Author and Aunt Laura. I have great memories of those visits. It’s important to make celebratory moments special for our team members, families and communities. As Jim said, these holidays are going to be different but it’s within our power to craft our behaviors to make them meaningful and special. The challenge we face as a company, and a community, is how do we make them meaningful and memorable.
Easter and Passover are a wonderful time for you to reach out to those you miss, care about and hold dear whether by a text, a phone call or an email. These holidays will certainly feel less celebratory than in years past. But we all owe it to ourselves, our communities, our families, and especially our children, to keep our traditions alive – even if we do them a little differently this time.
Wishing you health and safety,
Jim & Chris
Coronavirus Update - 4/3/2020
Looking for creative activities during your time of social distancing? Check out this fun-filled list from our signature philanthropic partner at 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- PBS for Parents: How to Talk to Your Kids about Coronavirus
- NASP: Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource
- ADL: The Coronavirus Surfaces Fear, Stereotypes and Scapegoating
- Child Mind Institute: Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus
- UNICEF: How to Talk to Your Child About Coronavirus Disease 2019
- Harvard Health Publishing: How to Talk to Teens About the New Coronavirus
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Smile Farms Vice President