July 2021
Applause, Applause!
FOTB models cheer
Models salute each other after receiving trophies from their modeling coach, Sheree Bynum (r).
Member-Led Fashion Show Wows the Crowd
It was an ambitious undertaking, but Envision members delivered a spectacular online fashion show, "Fashion Outside the Box, on Friday," June 18, to the delight of watch-party audiences throughout the city. Supported by staff and community partners, they modeled beautiful designer gowns provided by Gigi's Closette of Glenview that were altered for them by volunteer seamstress Joyce Greening. Former model Sheree Bynum coached their runway performances and presented each model with trophies that were engraved with each model's name and the sassy mantra she taught them: "I'm beautiful. I'm beautiful. I've got it going on!" Author and motivational speaker Erika Gilchrist moderated the show. Everyone donated their professional services.

You can still read or download a copy of the "Fashion Outside the Box" Program Book and our special supplement, A Community Comes Together.
Phoebe receives trophy
It All Began with Phoebe

The show's origins can be traced back to the Touhy CILA, where fashion maven Phoebe P. resides. Phoebe loves purses and is a whiz at glamorizing denim jackets. Her passion is contagious. Now all of the women in the CILA are sewing, thanks to Envision art consultant Monika Neuland's talent and support.

The Creative Chicago Reuse Exchange (CCRX) donated raw materials for some of the members' creative fashion show projects. Karen and John Cashen were lead sponsors of the inaugural "Fashion Outside the Box." Members had such a great time, they hope it becomes an annual event.
Getting Shaggy with It
Envision members' next big creative project involves Australian wool donated from CCRX and pillows donated from the Art Institute Shop. Members at our Frick Center, 2124 W. 82nd Pl. in Chicago, are giving the heavy, lush pillows more texture and a shag "do" by restyling them with long strips of wool. Don't they look fun?

"At the heart of the Envision Arts Studio Program is the concept that artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities can maintain a disciplined studio practice and artistic independence in a community setting," explained Envision art consultant Monika Neuland.

These art pieces are created in the day programs of Envision Unlimited, which provide an environment to cultivate personal interests and vocational skills. The Envision artist community has made these "Recycloshag" rugs for nearly 20 years.

The rugs and pillows are made from 100% repurposed fiber and thousands of individually tied knots. From shorter pile lengths of 1/2" and 1" to long shag lengths of up to 4" or more, these carpets and pillows are a highly tactile experience for both makers and end-users.
Chicago Art Department logo
The public is invited to see the pillows at Chicago Art Department
1926 So. Halsted St., Chicago
The exhibit opens on Friday, August 13th, at 6 p.m. It closes at the end of August.
Envision Makes Our World a Better Place
Envision's SSH Program Success Leads to Expansion
Counselor writes notes
This month’s “A Better Place” column features Envision Unlimited’s Short-term Stabilization Homes (SSH) program. This program is for individuals with developmental disabilities whose medical needs or behavior are so severe that they are at risk of being placed in a state-operated residential program. They receive the intensive care (one-on-one support) and services they need from a team of medical and behavioral professionals in a small setting rather than a large, more restrictive environment.

The SSH program is designed to stabilize individuals so they can return to their homes without incident. Envision is the only organization in northern Illinois that offers this vital alternative.

“We are very proud that the success of our initial two homes prompted the Illinois Department of Human Services to ask us to expand to four. That's in progress. We recently opened the third home,” Donna Ennis, Division Director of Envision’s Community Living Programs, told us. “Since our SSH program opened, individuals have been referred to Envision from as far north as Rockford and as far south as Carbondale, Illinois.”
Envision has more than 40 staff members supporting the individuals who temporarily reside in these three homes. That includes registered behavioral technicians (RBTs), board-certified behavior analysts (BCBAs), a nurse, qualified intellectual disabilities professionals (QIDPs), house managers, and administrators.

There currently is a waiting list for the SSH program. To qualify, individuals must receive a referral through IDHS. Contact IDHS at: 1-800-843-6154.
Envision Unlimited's Staff Spotlight is on...

Portia Wilkerson
This month, our Employee Spotlight shines on an outstanding member of the SSH team: Direct Service Provider Portia Wilkerson. Portia has worked as a DSP for more than ten years. She joined Envision 10 months ago because it offered an opportunity for career advancement. She will soon begin training to become a Registered Behavior Technician and plans to complete her bachelor's degree next year. She then will continue to graduate school and progress toward becoming a board-certified behavior analyst.

Portia was drawn to the field because she had a nephew who was developmentally disabled. She spent a copious amount of time with him and learned a tremendous amount about caring for that population.

"I rocked at it!" she recalls. "I learned a lot from that experience, and what I learned most is patience."

Portia's nephew passed when he was ten years old, but her love for working with those with developmental disabilities remains. It is evident in the way she performs her job.

Recently, an SSH resident in Portia's care required hospitalization. "Portia was at the hospital every day for three weeks from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.," said her supervisor, Dainnese Rutledge. "She was a voice for the client. She answered questions and was adamant about making sure he received proper care."

We believe Envision has the best caregivers anywhere. Portia is proof and she takes great pride in providing exemplary care. Thank you, Portia. You make us #EnvisionProud!
Envision's New ABA Therapy Program for
Children with Autism Earns BHCOE Accreditation
Congratulations to Envision's ABA Therapy team, led by COO Betty Jackson and Danielle Gender-Walters, Ph.D., for accomplishing a major goal as they begin to roll out the new ABA Therapy program for children between the ages of 2 and 17. They are eligible for full accreditation after one year. The program is now hiring a multilingual staff and recently enrolled its first child.

There is a tremendous demand for ABA Therapy. If you know someone whose child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, visit the department's website page for more information or email them.
BHCOE preliminary accreditation badge
Golf in motion
Sun. Fun. In Motion.
Members from Frick Center enjoy a day on the links every Monday at the South Shore Golf Course. They're participating in a five-week golf clinic.

They say that driving the ball is their biggest challenge. But after they nail the basics, they hope to be skilled enough to enter tournaments and take the fun to the next level.
Can You "30 for 30"?
Tim Smith finishes InMotion
After the pandemic prompted the cancellation of last year's Fifth Third Bike the Drive, our Volunteer of the Year, Tim Smith, suggested a substitute: a month-long all-abilities event in August, so Envision members and supporters could stay fit. Tim named it "InMotion for Envision." To demonstrate his commitment, he hopped on his bike and rode 3,820 miles.

As May approached, it appeared that the city would cancel the event again this year, so we began to plan for "InMotion." This time, we added a peer-to-peer fundraising component: Each participant will commit to exercising 30 minutes for 30 days and form a team that will support their monthlong fitness commitment by chipping in to raise a minimum of $200 for Envision. Those who meet the fitness challenge will be eligible for great prizes.

Then, wouldn't you know it, Bike the Drive came back so we've doubled the fun!

Kick-Off for the 30-day InMotion for Envision Challenge is August 6.
The event culminates with the Fifth Third Bike the Drive on September 5.
Join us! You can sign up here!
Moving on Up!
Envision President and CEO Mark McHugh recently applauded several longtime staff members who are advancing in their careers or into their post-career lives:
CFO Don Kraska retiring, new CFO Bishal Maskey arrives
Don Kraska
Don Kraska, well-known for his financial expertise, attention to detail, and quick wit, announced his retirement plans earlier this year. Don, who has been our CFO for seven years, will wrap up his successful career in financial management in a few months after he executes a smooth transition with our incoming CFO, Bishal Maskey. Don will leave behind lots of friends here at Envision. We hope to stay connected.
Bishal Maskey
We extend a warm welcome to Bishal! This is his first day at Envision. Bishal comes to us from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, where he served more than 24 years in various financial management roles. His most recent title at ELCA was Executive for Strategic Financial Operations.

Bishal holds an MBA from Texas A&M University-Commerce. He graduated cum laude from the University of Maine.
Other Advances
Several exciting management changes went into effect when our fiscal year began on July 1.
While announcing these promotions, CEO Mark McHugh expressed the hope that these management changes–with their corresponding areas of priority–will make Envision Unlimited a better organization for its employees, members, and communities:

Envision Chief Operating Officer Betty Jackson now holds the newly created position of Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer. In this critical new role, Betty will create employee affinity groups; increase diversity, equity, and inclusion within our administrative systems; promote more effective communications across the organization, and develop strong community partnerships.

"DEI has one goal: to ensure that all of our employees feel respected, are treated equally, and are included in decisions that impact the agency. I am excited about this opportunity to create systems that will position Envision Unlimited as the best workplace for all people," Betty told us.

Colleen Rosa is now Senior Vice President of I/DD Services. Formerly our Director of Quality Assurance--a position she also held at Neumann Family Services until our merger in 2018--Colleen is now responsible for the overall administration of our services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Colleen is looking forward to the new responsibilities. "Illinois is on the verge of implementing some really positive changes throughout the IDD service system. It is exciting to be able to lead our talented and innovative IDD team to deliver those changes for the members we serve."

Bianca Barr was promoted from Associate Director of Grants and Planned Giving to Vice President of Institutional Giving. This newly created position reflects the need to increase contributed revenue so that Envision can provide better support services to people with disabilities. Bianca joined us in 2019 after eight years with Access Living. She holds a law degree from Chicago's Loyola University. 

Bianca told the EU Gazette, "This job has a soul. My work is my purpose; I want to make a positive impact on society and humanity. I am also especially passionate about disability work, having grown up with family members with disabilities and having acquired a disability myself during college."
Kenzie Hunt
Within a year of joining Envision as development coordinator, hardworking Kenzie Hunt has earned a well-deserved promotion to Manager, Special Events and Individual Giving. Numerous Envision staff and Board members have marveled at Kenzie's ability to manage complex fundraising events, consistently exceeding their goals. Her most recent feat involved directing seasoned staff members and senior leaders to support our members' flawless fashion show.

Kenzie graduated from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles last year with a bachelor's degree in business administration. She certainly has leveraged those skills for an impressive start to her professional career!
Rob Kowalski
Mark also shared that our Director of Human Resources, Rob Kowalski, plans to retire soon and move to a warmer climate.

Rob has spent the last eight years of his long human resources career at Envision. He has agreed to stay onboard until a successor is named. Rob will be sorely missed.

Enjoy your retirement, Rob. May the sun always shine upon you!
Meet Our New Grants Manager, Matthew Straface
Matthew Straface
Accepting the grants manager position in our Development Department brings Matt back to his hometown after seven years in Los Angeles. While on the West Coast, he worked as a grants specialist at United Way–Los Angeles. Before that, he was an employment specialist at a nonprofit organization that helps individuals experiencing homelessness find employment. He is a 2014 grad of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Matt is as excited to join the Envision team as we are to welcome him!
"Matt was the best candidate because, beyond having the experience and qualifications we were looking for, he also has the attitude and demeanor that make him a great fit for Envision," explained his supervisor, Bianca Barr. "Matt's strong writing skills and warm personality are a powerful combination that will make for strong submissions and good relationships with fellow staff and funders." 

We Have More New Colleagues!

This month, we welcome 17 additional social service professionals into the Envision family, including an impressive number of registered behavior technicians. We're so glad you're here!

LaShawn Bradley, LPN
Robert Frank, BCBA
Babatunde Sowemimo, RSA

Short-Term Stabilization Homes
Angel Brown, RBT
Aujsha Dunlap, RBT
Jade Feemster, RBT
Antoinette Holmes, RBT
Patricia Kennard, RBT
Avaya Knight, RBT
Jonathan Malin, RBT
Kiarah McGee, RBT
Ashley Mister, RBT
Tashianna Ruffin, RBT
Tyla White, RBT

Mental Health
Abigail Riviera (Outreach)
Michelle Ingram (Williams & Colbert)
Briana Halloran (Elston 1)
Good Mood Swings at Envision
During July, National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, we are more likely to hear the message, "You are not alone." With the accelerating stresses in our lives, we need to hear those caring words more than one month of the year.

Introducing our new monthly feature, "Good Mood Swings"--simple tips to help us be more attentive to our mental wellness. Download and share. Someone might need this information!
If you need additional support, don't hesitate to reach out to Envision's mental health professionals. The department's comprehensive services range from therapy and psychosocial rehabilitation, employment assistance, and residential care to psychiatry.
Hear Our Members' VOICES
How do you keep pace with our always-busy Envision members? First, make sure you have a copy of their latest newsletter. The free online publication is always accessible on the home page of our website and within our monthly newsletters, like right here!

Unlimited Voices is the dream child of Envision members. The bi-weekly newsletter is proof-positive that we are fulfilling our mission to promote inclusion and give voice to individuals with disabilities.

Discover Our Story of Resilience
View and download our
2020 Annual Report. 
BHCOE Accreditation
Visit us at envisionunlimited.org