The Studio Blog Archive

A few posts we've written over the years


Volunteering in a Time of Social Distancing

Top 7 Ways to Safely Volunteer for Rainbows

 

As Rainbows’ Volunteer Coordinator, I am simply amazed at the generosity and commitment I have witnessed over the last several months from individuals and groups wanting to volunteer for Rainbows in any way possible. 

When we realized we needed masks to help keep our staff and children safe, people from all over the community volunteered and made over 300 masks.  When our 48th Birthday celebration pivoted to a virtual celebration, a 4H group volunteered to make decorations and hung them for everyone to see at the entrance to Kids’ Point.  When our Pre-K students were ready to graduate, two photographers volunteered and captured photos of the ceremony. When we needed hand sanitizer for our direct service providers, employees from Stearman Grill and Sunflower Bank stepped up to fill almost 400 small bottles from the bulk donation by Boothill Distillery in Dodge City.

Volunteers from LifePoint Church Youth Group embraced the challenge of sharing a fun activity with Rainbows’ children without face-to-face interaction.  These 9-11 year olds wore masks and socially distanced while creating a sidewalk liquid chalk art project in the basement of their church.  The project was delivered to our Early Education and Child Care children who spent an entire morning painting masterpieces in the backyard.

And when this year’s Peter Hampel’s Luau was canceled due to the unprecedented circumstances, the Hampel family and Hampel Oil organization began to look for other ways to give back to Rainbows.

Four generations of Hampels spent a hot August morning at Rainbows’ Kids’ Point helping to beautify the campus. They moved a mountain of mulch, pulled weeds, removed dead trees and brought smiles to little faces watching from classroom windows. In this short video, they talked about their commitment to Rainbows and why they volunteered.

While we are not yet ready to welcome volunteers back into the classrooms, there are many opportunities for you and your group to volunteer and support our children with special needs and their families in our community:

•    Organize a supply drive for children’s books, craft supplies or children and infant toothbrushes.
•    Sew cot sheets or blankets.
•    Make thank you cards or other craft projects.
•    Stain fencing and benches.
•    Landscaping.
•    Support Rainbows with a financial gift.
•    Check out Rainbows’ Wish List at https://rainbowsunited.org/wishlist.

For more information, please contact Melani Kliewer at mkliewer@rui.org.
 

Children’s Mental Health

Building Social and Emotional Skills at Home
Children's Mental Health

Children learn through a variety of methods. We know it is important to teach children not only at daycare, preschool, and school, but also at home. Often from a very young age we work with children on learning the ABCs and counting. We also teach our children social and emotional skills at home from a young age, like saying please and thank you, and sharing toys with others. 

It is so important to continue teaching children social and emotional skills as they develop. However, teaching social and emotional skills doesn’t have to be formal with your children. Often times children learn social and emotional skills through play. Here are some ways to help your child develop social and emotional skills through play at home. 

The first easy way to teach social skills is to just play with your children. Indulge their interests, get down on their level and play with them. This will help to strengthen the bond that you have with your children. 

You can help your child follow directions through play by building with blocks together, take turns instructing each other on what to build next.  “Simon Says” is a great way to help practice following directions, but again make sure children have a turn to be “Simon”. Letting your child be in control during play can also build the child’s self-esteem. 

To build self-regulation and help with impulse control, you can play Red Light/Green Light, everyone must stop when “Red Light” is yelled out, and can move again with “Green Light” is yelled. By listening for the words and responding with their bodies children can connect that they are in charge of their body and their physical actions. 

To help children build their emotional regulation skills you can play a variety of games including match games, which are widely available. Encourage your child when they don’t get a match by saying “we can try again” or “good try”. Praise your child for handling the disappointment appropriately. Celebrate turn taking with “You did a great job waiting your turn”. 

Two other games that work well for emotional regulation are the board game “Sorry,” and the card game “Uno.” Both are great tools for slightly older kids to learn how to manage disappointment appropriately. When you experience disappointment in the game, model for your children how to handle it. Point out that you might be frustrated, but that you remain hopeful for the next game. 

By Alice Boutz, LMSW, Mental Health Specialist

Celebrate and Refocus

Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow

 

With a theme of looking forward and refocusing on our mission, the annual State of the Agency was delivered virtually to Rainbows’ employees during All-Staff Inservice. A series of 10 virtual meetings were held throughout Monday and Tuesday, August 3 and 4, with President Deb Voth addressing each group and answering questions. Board members Gail Johnson, Board Treasurer, and Jim Walters, Incoming Board Chair both spoke to the group through pre-recorded video. Additional training and activities for departments were planned during other parts of the week.

The theme propelled employees to “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” and looking ahead to a new normal. “We’re not sure what tomorrow will be like. But we do know tomorrow will come,” said Deb. “This isn’t an end, it’s a beginning.” 

She gave employees an invitation to adapt and look for opportunities to improve, move forward and be better than before. “We’re not looking to go back to the way things were before. We’re looking forward to tomorrow for more successes and accountability,” said Deb.

Accomplishments 
Highlights over the past fiscal year included:
-    Technology up and running. Having myEvolv in place allowed us to move to remote work quickly.
-    Strategic Plan continues to progress, while more than 50% of our items have been completed or are in progress. It is now time for us to refocus our attention back on it. A pandemic was not in the original plan.
-    Camp Woodchuck adapted to our Summer Woodchuck Adventure and served 58 children in their homes
-    In September Lindsay Smith joined our Executive Leadership Team as Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Finance
-    Volunteers
o    Ambassador Program kicked off with 2 trainings and more than 15 volunteers
o    Provided handmade masks for our staff
-    Legislative: Leadership
o    tiny-k Infant/Toddler funding increased 
o    No increase in funding for HCBS for our Family Support Services 
o    Deb met with Governor Kelly in July along with other InterHab Board Members
o    Enhanced rates through the CARES Act are now possible 
-    Fundraising
o    Vice President of Development Angela Kessler along with Major Gifts Officer Katie Fitch did a great year of fundraising for Rainbows even though events for 2020 have changed significantly
o    Textron Aviation Wings for Dreams: $2.7 million net
    Provides support for Mental Health Programs
o    Virtual 45th Annual Blarney Breakfast: $56,000 even though we went virtual less than a week before. 
o    Fashion Passion will take place in November 2021
o    Hampel Luau is canceled for 2020 due to the pandemic
-    Facilities
o    Response to COVID-19: Hand sanitizer stations at entrances, classrooms. Germ foggers, extra cleaning in bathrooms, increased cleaning throughout buildings daily.
o    Kids’ Point: New paint inside, conference room and office built; we need repairs of external walls and replace rocks
o    Kids’ Cove: Rod iron fence will be replaced, concrete pad for handicapped basketball hoop and ramp for stage by volunteer donor
o    New paper dispensers in bathrooms, both locations – cost savings with new vendor
o    Continued need for parking lot repairs and resurfacing, seeking bids
o    New used truck for Gordon replaces 15-year-old van that no longer went in reverse and had almost 300,000 miles 
-    Board of Directors remains strong and supportive
-    2019 Prism Award winner
o    Christi Hutto, Connecting Point Program Assistant
-    InterHab Award winners:
o    Outstanding Youth Winner: Dylan Schneider
o    President’s Award: Debbie Mai, Vice President of Programs and Services
-    Excellence in Health Care, Wichita Business Journal
o    Lynlea Southards, Family Support Services Coordinator
-    Budget FY21
o    Ended the year strong
o    Budget for 2021 is solid, $11.5 million

Gail Johnson, Board Treasurer, congratulated staff on a successful fiscal year and announced that the final payment of debt was made. He encouraged staff to continue to be diligent in managing resources and documenting for services. 

Better than before
As the focus shifted to “Tomorrow – it’s going to be better than before,” Deb shared the following quote from Brene’ Brown: 
o    “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it's having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it's our greatest measure of courage.”

Deb challenged everyone to be courageous in moving forward: To move from the state of survival as staff have navigated to remote work and taking care of children and families well to refocusing on Rainbows’ mission. “What we thought would be just a few weeks has brought us to where we are today and the opportunities before us,” said Deb. “We will continue to move forward with courage and strength.”

Rainbows is now providing Infant/Toddler Services in Sumner County. Building this new program fit with our Strategic Plan and has provided opportunities for staff to collaborate. Congratulations to Katie Bally, speech/language pathologist, who will be the Coordinator for the program. Paco Price is assisting with startup and training.

Rainbows has worked hard to apply for every grant and funding source available during this time. Additional opportunities are in progress and will continue to be sought out.

In June 2022 Rainbows will be 50 years old. Our committees are dreaming of ways we might want to honor Rainbows’ history and celebrate all that has happened in 50 years. Rainbows’ staff and the community will be a part of that. 

Deb stressed, “It’s not “Business as Usual” it’s “Business as Unusual” and we’re going to need EVERYONE to do their part, to do their job, to document so we can bill for services, to see the needs of families and meet them consistently with excellence.

We need to work smart and keep everyone safe. To be vigilant with our sanitizing, protect yourself and others by wearing a mask in our public areas.”

Leadership staff will keep evaluating when to go face-to-face with therapy services. A transition to delivering those services in homes will be implemented. Safety of our staff, families and your families is of our greatest concern.

A reminder of our four major Strategic Plan priorities was shared:
a.    Champion children with special needs
b.    Develop diverse funding streams
c.    Promote talent development
d.    Build internal and external communication.
“We’re going to have these priorities in front of us as we step into tomorrow,” said Deb.

A challenge to keep the Rainbows’ promise of “doing things the Rainbows’ way” was provided through video by Incoming Chair Jim Walters. Jim congratulated staff for continuing to provide quality services and thanked them for their commitment and personal accountability demonstrated during this time. He shared the Board of Directors’ commitment to the agency and their confidence in the leadership team.

Employment milestones
Staff celebrating employment milestones were recognized in various ways during the week. Awards will be mailed to one and five year honorees. Those celebrating for 10 years and more will be honored in October during the Board sponsored 10:15+ Club event. 

One year Anniversaries:
Madelyn Beck, Kelly Clevenger, Jewel Cussaac, Kimberly Donell, Carmen Dorton, Christina Eakes, Gabriel Espinoza, Molly Farley, Katherine Fitch, Kristen Fralin, Christina Greenwood, Mary Greenwood, Carlis Hawkins, Angel Ingram-Clark, Madison Jacobs, Janelle Jeffrey, Emily Jensby, Tre’Zure Jobe, Emilee Johnson, Gay Kimble, Zachary Knopp, Karastene Koepplin Markham, Taylor Kubas, Dakota Lauer, DaRaynna Lawson, Ryan Lewis, Shannon Long, Brittany Ly, Hailey Martinez, Ruth Mote, Latisha Newman, Ariel Nothern, Haily O’Donnell, Hunter Pranion, Angie Quillen, Tyler Richards, Amber Rosenthal, Jennifer Simons, Lindsay Smith, Melissa Smitherman, Lynlea Southards, Christopher Spencer, Rebecca Spencer, Kelsea Steinbacher, LaShawn Stevenson, Leah Stewart, Cara Stinnett, Gerardo Treto, Clare Van Zelfden, Nhung Vuong, Patrick Washington, Dayton Watkins, Dana Welch, Olivia Welch, Peyton Wheeler, Julie Williams, Stacey Williams, Haily Wilson, Nora Wilson, and Macy Wyant.

Those honored for five years are Stephanie Castillo, Lindsay Coffee, Michelle Croomes, Jamee Funk, Tiffany Rima, Tiffany Sallee, Ragan Snyder-Smith, and John Safford III.

Fifteen year employees are Jane Eby and Elizabeth Watkins.

Twenty year honorees are Wesley Cantrell, Yolanda Castillo, Kerri Dixon, Amy Foster, Rossana Gonzales, and Brenda Marr.

Celebrating 25 years with Rainbows are Tina Beems and Paco Price. Pam Chiles and Dawna Weed will be honored for 30 years.

Events concluded with a live question and answer time with each online group. Other announcements and trainings took place throughout the week.

Essential Services Continue During COVID-19

Rainbows Brings Summer Camp Experience into the Home
Summer Camp during COVID-19 pandemic

All over the world, summer camps and other programs made a significant pivot due to COVID-19. Some programs canceled and some went virtual. For Rainbows’ children with special needs and their families, summer camp is not only a fun-filled time of activities and growth, it is a necessity that allows parents to work, attend classes and take care of others in the home.  

Rainbows’ Camp Woodchuck Summer Day Program typically serves 115 school-aged children with special needs by providing a summer camp experience that children and youth are unable to get anywhere else due to their unique individual needs.  

Rainbows’ summer program provides not only a memorable experience but also a safe experience for the “campers”. “Even though it was different this year, the highlight is that we had another successful Camp,” said Camp Director Tiffany Graf.  “We continued to serve families. That is our main goal and we succeeded.”

Because Camp could not bring groups of vulnerable individuals together in the common spaces at Rainbows’ Kids’ Cove facility this year did not mean that Camp would not take place.  “As always our team worked together to make it happen,” said Tiffany. “It took everyone on our team plus some others. Once the decision was made to take Camp to individual family homes, we had about 2 weeks to transition Camp Woodchuck to Woodchuck Adventure 2020, an in-home summer program. We knew we could do this because we provide services in the family home year round. This pivot would combine our Camp and in-home program in a special way for several weeks to meet family needs.”

“By reaching out to families about the new option, Lynlea Southards and I were able to strengthen relationships with families and gain a greater understanding of their needs during this unique time,” said Tiffany. “As needs were identified, Family Support Services team members worked to secure funding; Human Resources helped with hiring; and many other people helped or offered to help from all departments. It was pretty awesome.”

The summer staff were specially trained to meet the challenges of Camp in the family home during the pandemic. Health and safety, emergency procedures, behavior training, HIPPA, technology and CPR certification were among the many classes each staff member completed before the summer services began.

“In order to create this new Camp experience, we had to be creative, think outside of the box and try new things we had never tried before,” said Tiffany. Staff members at Kids’ Cove gathered supplies such as scissors, crayons, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners and construction paper. They made a schedule of activities and put them on a Google drive set up after a brainstorming collaboration with our Marketing Department. This allowed in-home staff to access videos and special activities designed specifically for them. They posted a supply list and instructions for campers to make things like sensory items, slime, dough, bubbles and chalk. Once supplies were gathered, an assembly line was used to make the packets which were then picked up by the in-home staff on Friday afternoon or Monday morning.

Camp Woodchuck special events are a favorite part every summer.  “This year Tiffany Sallee came in and used all her talents to make sure the special events happened,” said Tiffany. “She collected pictures and videos from the in-home staff that they uploaded to the Google drive for Rainbows’ Marketing Assistant Isaac Penner to create a presentation of the results to share.” 

For the Fashion Show, staff captured pictures of the kids’ outfits that they decided to wear. “We usually go to Goodwill and pick out something, but this year the kids got to shop in the closets in their own homes. They modeled ties, fancy shirts, feathers and bling and favorite sports team jerseys.”

For the Talent Show, staff helped the kids decide what their talent would be. Some kids danced, break danced, sang, played an instrument, made smoothies, showed a talented smile and much more. 

For the Art Show, we provided each child a canvas and paint. The in-home staff helped the kids find their creative side. Tiffany S. asked them to think outside the box, and boy did they! Some kids painted the canvas and added beads, drew art which was then glued to a canvas, or added feathers to create their masterpieces.
 
“Tiffany S. and Isaac worked very closely together to make this all come together,” said Tiffany. “Tiffany S. gathered and oversaw everything, and then Isaac did Isaac and made GREAT VIDEOS. He edited, added graphics and sound and made the videos look professional. This took a lot of time and it truly paid off. This was amazing.”

Woodchuck Adventure 2020 was truly an adventure serving 58 children with special needs and their families and providing stability as well as memories for a lifetime during a summer of COVID-19 uncertainty.