On Thursday, October 29, supporters and staff of HopeWell gathered online for our second annual gala celebration, “When I Think of Home.” Featuring video testimonials from the Commonwealth’s Secretary of Health and Human Service MaryLou Sudders, City Year Senior Vice President and Dean Charlie Rose, and our family of clinicians, foster parents, and caregivers, the event was an inspiring glimpse into the support HopeWell provides year round to children, youth, and adults in need.
It also showed why our caring and committed staff engages in the work, even when doing so in the midst of a pandemic has meant putting their lives on the line: Since March, 36 members of the HopeWell family—staff, foster parents, foster youth and adults we serve—have contracted COVID-19. Thankfully, all have survived.
“Our residential care for adults with intellectual disabilities never closed. They were required to bunker down in some cases for two weeks at a time away from their families and exposing themselves to the virus,” HopeWell President and CEO Shaheer Mustafa explained. “Day programs closed, requiring 24/7 care for the adults and our incredible staff stepped up to meet the challenge.”
Why? Because the work matters and HopeWell staff, foster parents, and caregivers are passionate about the work.
“I feel like some people don’t understand (differently-abled adults) so they treat them differently when they’re human and they should be treated equally,” said Direct Support Professional Wakeelaa Evan, who is drawn to her work because her younger brother lives with a disability.
HopeWell Board Member Anthony Britt, who was adopted from the foster care system, explained that his commitment to HopeWell was deeply personal. “I think it’s really important to have a safe and caring home as a foundation,” Britt said. “And then it’s equally important to have an organization like HopeWell that helps connect kids to opportunities.”
Those connections and opportunities are impossible to offer without support. HopeWell Board Chair Jim McDaniel, whose involvement with HopeWell spans four decades, talked about HopeWell’s “strong collaboration” with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. “Never has that collaboration been more critical than during this pandemic,” he said, in his introduction of Sec. Sudders.
Sec. Sudders recalled that she had been an emancipated youth and said that growing up she knew what it was like to “have a loving, stable, wonderful home” and what it felt like when it was gone.
There were “no adults for me to rely on,” Sudders said, adding that she was plagued with worry and uncertainty every day. As a result, she knows firsthand just how much the support HopeWell provides to children and youth in need of a home “matters” and never more so than during the pandemic.
“The pandemic has revealed fundamental injustice in our world, marginalized communities bear the brunt of community suffering and this unfortunate reality has played out with all of those that we serve,” said Mustafa. “But at Hopewell we take pride in being forward looking. We’re guided by our vision for a better future and to make lasting change, hope needs to be paired with meaningful action.”
This includes programming and policy work such as My First Place™ that supports young adults transitioning out of foster care.
“We’re in the midst of a prolonged crisis the likes of which we’ve never seen before,” added Mustafa. “The Chinese character for crisis is actually two characters, danger and opportunity. HopeWell has confronted the danger and we’re leaning into the opportunity. What stands before us is a chance to reimagine what’s possible for all of those that we serve.”
None of this is possible without your support, and When I Think of Home raised funds for our services, which include intensive foster care placements, programs for young adults transitioning out of foster care, and residential support services for differently-abled adults.
Thank you to everyone who attended! If you didn’t get a chance to watch, you can still see When I Think of Home on our YouTube channel. For those who’d still like to support our work, you can still donate here.