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2023 Annual Report

people and families served

towns represented

children served by youth residential programs

mental health sessions provided across programs

Who is RFK Community Alliance

Life isn’t always fair. And some people face major challenges that they shouldn’t need to navigate alone. We believe that every person has value and deserves dignity.

We provide high-quality, individualized care and support to people and families of all ages who are facing complicated challenges.

We empower people to set their own goals and provide opportunities to build the skills necessary to achieve them. We listen and encourage. We nurture strengths, determination, and resilience.

No two programs are the same, but the way we approach the care and services we provide is consistent and evaluated often.

A Note from Leadership

Friends,
It’s been a busy year with so much to share. We legally and publicly came together as the RFK Community Alliance, connecting two historic organizations. We put the worst of the pandemic behind us.

Our team members and program participants alike have continued to show strength and determination, while also leaving space for fun and humor too. And we are immensely proud to have brought on Jessica Pepple (she/her), Chief Diversity and Culture Officer, to further connect our team members and programs with each other and the resources we all need to be a diverse, inclusive, welcoming, and equitable environment for everyone.

With Deep Gratitude,

Michael W. Ames, PhD (he/him), President and CEO

Jim Geraghty (he/him), Board Chair

A Note from Michael and Jim

President & CEO and Board Chair

Friends,

It’s been a busy year with so much to share. We legally and publicly came together as the RFK Community Alliance, connecting two historic organizations. We put the worst of the pandemic behind us. Our team members and program participants alike have continued to show strength and determination, while also leaving space for fun and humor too. And we are immensely proud to have brought on Jessica Pepple (she/her), Chief Diversity and Culture Officer, to further connect our team members and programs with each other and the resources we all need to be a diverse, inclusive, welcoming, and equitable environment for everyone.

Whether it was at program celebrations, graduation ceremonies, family meetings, the Conroy Speakers Series, golf tournaments, or the Embracing the Legacy celebration, we enjoyed coming together in-person with many of you again this past year. There is something truly unique about being side-by-side after so much time away.

Looking ahead, we are pleased to share that we are coming together as an organization through a thorough strategic planning process that will culminate in a multi-year plan for the organization. Many of you have been engaged in some way in that process and when the report is ready, we will certainly share it with you.

With Deep Gratitude,

Michael W. Ames, PhD (he/him), President and CEO
Jim Geraghty
(he/him), Board Chair

2023 Highlights

We grew our staff with new programming: Extending our DDAP program, Achievment in Motion (AIM) provides mentorship and coaching to youth previously involved in the juvenile justice system who have successfully completed the short-term Detention Diversion Advocacy Program but will benefit from continued support.

The Young Adult Supported Living Program (YASL) supports young adults (18-22) with housing, case management, and experiential learning as they graduate from foster care.

We completed a merger between two historic organizations, Doctor Franklin Perkins School and Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, and came together with a new brand.

We prioritized team member professional development. Over 400 team members took classes and trainings. 97% of staff were very satisfied or satisfied with each training offered. 82% of staff reported their knowledge and skills increased as a result of training.

Program participants ventured out more and gathered together again as Covid-19 receded.

We completed an extensive assessment that led to hiring an executive level position to further deepen our diversity, belonging, inclusion, and equity work across the organization.

Doctor Franklin Perkins Middle School, Hope House, and the Janeway Education Center addition were all completed on the Main Street Lancaster campus.

8 programs were re-accredited, to glowing reviews.

Building on previous year investments in electronic record systems and data analysis, data dashboards are used across our programs to inform operations and provide insights for effectiveness.

Our Programs

Adult Services

We returned to full-time, in-person vocational services for both day and residential adults. We brought back field trips, including a trip to the WooSox and a trip to the theater. The Main Street Clinton Craft Shop re-opened.


By the numbers:

  • 87 adults participated in programming, 25 of whom are residential.

  • 79% increase in the number of hours worked this year as compared to the previous year.

  • 96% of Adult Services family members felt like a partner in their loved one’s care.

Adoption

Bright Futures Adoption Center continued to promote connections between birth parents, children, and adoptive families, both in 1:1 get-togethers and at annual events, including the summer picnic and mid-winter social, both back in-person after a pandemic break. Many families come to the events year after year and in so doing normalize for their children their experience of living in an open adoption where they have access to both of their families.


By the numbers:

  • Matched 21 adoptive families with 23 children living in foster care.

  • Trained 40 families seeking to adopt children in foster care.

  • Participated in creating open adoptions for 7 infants.

  • Wrote 224 child and family assessments for MA Department of Children and Families to help children achieve permanency.

Behavioral Health

In order to provide consistency of clinical services across our many programs and services, Dianne Walsh was promoted from Director of The Center for Behavioral Health to Vice President of Clinical Services. She will continue to oversee the Center, while also collaborating with clinicians across the agency. We returned to Leominster, Clinton and Nashoba schools again this past year, serving children during the school day. We’re so grateful to have received significant funding from UMASS Memorial HealthAlliance Clinton Hospital and Reliant Foundation to support our behavioral health services for children in our Lancaster Center and within the local public schools we serve.

By the numbers:

  • 7,500 mental health sessions were provided across all programs.

  • 276 children and adults were served by the Center for Behavioral Health.

  • From a survey of the Center for Behavioral Health clients, 97% are satisfied with the services they receive from the Center for Behavioral Health.

Community Services

COASA (Children of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse) held its week-long summer camp in August for the first time in 3-years. 11 campers attended. Camp activities included supportive education and group counseling, resilience building experiences, social skills building, strengths-based activities, and creative opportunities utilizing art, music, writing, rock-climbing, swimming, meditation exercises, fun physical fitness groups, and yoga.

The Detention Diversion Advocacy Program (DDAP) served 64 youth statewide in Suffolk and Hampden Counties, with numbers increasing as the courts emerge from pandemic slowdowns. DDAP youth received a variety of services in addition to mentoring and legal assistance, including behavioral health treatment, employment services, educational services, anger management assistance, housing services, and more.

Youth who have successfully completed DDAP in Hampden County can now be referred for longer-term supports and services through Achievement in Motion (AIM)

Legacy Mentoring, which serves youth at risk of, or already affected by commercial sexual exploitation, has seen increased need and been part of many success stories this year. The program served 45 youth last year, a 72% increase from the previous year. Several young people graduated from the program with one accepted into a human services college program and another moving into independent living.

Legacy Mentoring youth received a variety of services in addition to mentoring, including behavioral health treatment, housing services, health support, transportation support, direct financial assistance, employment services, and more.

Rein in a Dream (RIAD) provided equine- and animal-assisted therapy, job-skills development, and clinical services to 112 people. 55% of the lessons given were for horsemanship, and RIAD participants were split almost equally between community members and individuals in our schools and residential programs.

Another new program, Young Adult Supported Living (YASL), began providing housing, case management, and experiential learning to young adults who don’t have access to housing or support.

Donor Spotlight

When Linda Williams (she/her) considered joining a nonprofit board, she required two things: that the mission resonated and that the connection was personal. She found both when she joined the then-RFK Children’s Action Corps board in 2013. Now, as a board member of RFK Community Alliance and the parent of a student at Doctor Franklin Perkins School (DFPS), Linda brings a valuable perspective to the agency.

Linda grew up on a farm. Her mother passed away when she was two and her father, who balanced farming and working for the US Postal Service, raised her and her sister, who has developmental disabilities. At a time when it was completely acceptable for a widower to pass on parenting duties, her father embraced the role. He modeled giving without expecting anything in return throughout his lifetime. And when she came out to him in her 30’s, he was completely accepting, saying he’d known she was gay since she was a teenager and was waiting for her to be comfortable sharing this with him.

Linda adopted one of her two sons from the foster care system in another state. Before he came to DFPS, she didn’t think he had hope. And she believed that hope was the missing element that contributed to a lack of engagement and not having a way forward. As a board member, she looks at our core values and mission and how that translates to what’s happening with Linda Williams, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Donor Spotlight her son day to day. Of RFK Community Alliance’s core values, she connects most to “Hope.” It’s unique and it’s the key to unlocking lots of doors, she believes, and has done so for her son.

Since 2008, Linda has worked in various capacities at Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts (BCBS), a leading healthcare insurer, serving as their Chief Risk & Audit Executive since 2017. One of the company’s strategic pillars focuses on community and service. It’s been a key pillar and a commitment that she describes as woven into the fabric of BCBS. As an example, each year, the company holds a service day when it shuts down and employees go out into the community to work on a variety of projects. Several years ago, Linda worked on a team that helped rebuild a local ball field after the Western Massachusetts tornado. BCBS also contributes financially to nonprofits across the state, including sponsoring the RFK Community Alliance Embracing the Legacy gala and Fairway for Kids golf tournament, both at a significant level.

Linda feels very fortunate to be a part of the organization and this board. She is proud to see how we are embracing diversity and inclusion work and the leadership shown by Dr. Ames. “Through sharing we learn, and this organization is not afraid to learn,” she commented. We are grateful for Linda’s many contributions to making RFK Community Alliance a stronger and better organization.

Sophia's Story

Sophia, a Doctor Franklin Perkins School (DFPS) Senior, shared these words with the audience at the annual Embracing the Legacy celebration at the JFK Library. Sophia, we stand in awe of you! Thank you for sharing your story.

I am honored to share with you how this school has helped shape who I am today. When I first arrived at the program, I felt very alone and didn’t have anyone to rely on. I was new, scared, and anxious, and I was making a lot of mistakes. I struggled making good decisions, had a lot of self-doubt, and I lacked confidence. At that time, I didn’t see a path to a future that held happiness and belief in myself. With time, I have learned that mistakes are where growth happens. Sooner than later, these lessons led me to a path that wasn’t straight but was crooked with possibilities. In my journey I struggled seeing my self-worth (self-love) and understanding that making mistakes was ok. I struggled to see my capabilities and the opportunities that I had in my future. It wasn’t until my junior year that I learned to love and value myself with the help of staff members. They started to help me understand and recognize that mistakes were soon to be opportunities in my future. Even though I lacked hope and confidence, my self-worth grew with the support of the school.

I started to accept that it was ok to make mistakes and that it was ok to not have the best day or week. I eventually saw that I needed to believe in myself and love myself for who I am. I now see that I have the capability to take on challenges and the ability to learn from my mistakes, which greatly helped me shift my mindset. I now can see that my past mistakes helped me create the person I am today. I personally think that everyone has a light that shines within them and can have an impact on themselves and those around them. So next time you look in the mirror, enjoy the person who is looking back at you.

CTA
Spotlight

Linda Alger

Linda Alger’s name is practically synonymous with the legacy Perkins organization. Since 1991, Linda has directed adult services programming. Her steadfast management of the program and commitment to meeting the individual needs of each adult resident has supported a really unique program that allows adults with developmental disabilities to flourish in environments that uniquely support them and allow them a healthy social circle and opportunities to build knowledge and skills, as well as earn income from a job. Through the years, Linda oversaw the expansion to the Barlow Center in Clinton as the program grew. And her belief in the importance of meaningful work paid at a fair wage led to her building a robust vocational program for both day and residential participants at Barlow. She also advocated for the importance of allowing the adults living at Perkins to age in the only place they’d ever known to be home. And in collaboration with others, Davis Manor Assisted Living was created to do just that on the Main Street Lancaster Campus.

The program participants and their families, not to mention the Adult Services’ team members, are sad to see her go. However, everyone is grateful for the opportunity to have been impacted by her leadership and the personal relationships she built with each person. Linda is set to retire at the end of June. In her next chapter, she is excited to do more traveling and camping with her wife, Nancy, with whom she has been together for 40 years. They already have their Salisbury Beach and Charleston trips planned…and more in the works. Linda, we hope you have the greatest adventures ahead! We are beyond grateful for your service.

Executive Team

Michael W. Ames, PhD (he/him)
President and CEO

David Libby, MS, MBA (he/him)
Chief Financial Officer

Derek Padon (he/him)
Senior Vice President of Human Resources

Jessica Pepple, EdS, MBA (she/her)
Chief Diversity and Culture Officer


Felicia Riffelmacher, MBA, CFRE (she/her)
Senior Vice President of Advancement

Tracy Tallman (she/her)
Chief of Staff


Cindy M. Wing, MEd (she/her)
Chief Operating Officer


Steven D. Young (he/him)
Senior Vice President of Facilities & Technology

Thank You to

OUR DONORS

LEFT COLUMN
Health eVillages
The Progin Foundation
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Rodman For Kids
TramutoPorter Foundation


BENFACTORS ($10,000-$24,999)
Anonymous
American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Mary and John J. Boyle, III
Emma and Daniel Carpenter
Castle Creek Capital
DCU for Kids

RIGHT COLUMN
Health eVillages
The Progin Foundation
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Rodman For Kids
TramutoPorter Foundation


BENFACTORS ($10,000-$24,999)
Anonymous
American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Mary and John J. Boyle, III
Emma and Daniel Carpenter
Castle Creek Capital
DCU for Kids

Thank you for being part of our amazing community.

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Financials

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