Capital City Mechanical & Electrical, Inc. Lunch & Learn

At first blush, Capital City Mechanical & Electrical, Inc. might seem like an odd choice for an outing. This company has offices in an industrial park from which they dispatch employees who install and repair HVAC and electrical systems, usually on large scale projects. When we first asked if we could visit, our contact at the company - Holli Ingles - didn't know what a two hour visit would look like, but she was open to the idea and so we scheduled it. Two months after the initial contact with Holli at a Gwinnett Chamber Business After Hours at Medieval Times a group of 11 people from Hi-Hope showed up at Capital City's main office in Norcross and a marvelous experience began. We got a full tour of the facility, a demonstration on how HVAC and electrical systems work, some safety advice with regard to things like fuse boxes and then everyone sat down for a fantastic lunch from Panera Bread provided by Capital City. We wrapped things up with a quick game of Bingo to win some Capital City swag.

The outing wasn't complicated or difficult to plan, but it made a difference. In a small way it broadened some horizons, developed some new relationships and imparted a few lessons. That is what matters. To quote Laura Ingalls Wilder, "it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all."

A Thank You Letter

By Nick Reynolds (Volunteer Coordinator)

I got a letter in the mail from a group of students from Greater Atlanta Christian School (GACS). You can see the letter in the image, but in essence, it was thanking me and some of our individuals for showing them a good time and "letting" them volunteer with us. You see, a group of students and parents came to Hi-Hope on April 21st and threw a Country Western Hoedown for our folks, complete with decorations, apple bobbing, temporary tattoos, crafts, country music and dancing. For a solid 2 hours, we rock n' rolled in the Lowry Building and it was all thanks to these amazing kids and their chaperones from GACS. And yet, here they are sending me messages like "thank you for everything you do," "thank you so, so, so much for letting us come and create the party. I had so much fun. Thanks for having us," and "thank you for making the difference you do!" Wow.

I will take a little credit for coordinating the dance - getting the space ready, letting folks know when and where it would happen, putting together the playlist, etc. - but that really doesn't take much. Still, it really made my day to get this letter, to be recognized for playing the very small role that I played in this whole thing. Now I want to flip the script and turn the attention to the school. What and amazing place! They do stuff like this for us at least twice a year and it is always a huge, over the top, memorable event. If they do a dance, they do it all the way. If they do crafting, it is crafting to the max with snacks and music (and they always bring a sugar free option so no one is left out). They are outgoing, engaging, social, kindhearted, and smart. It is a joy to work with the school. So, it is just icing on the proverbial cake - a very, very big cake - when they follow up a great volunteer event by sending a "thank you" note. 

I will wrap this post up by focusing on a message in the bottom left-hand corner. It says, "thank you so much for giving us the honor of working with such wonderful people! Tell Betty her best friends love her and we'll never forget her." Betty came in my office as I was reading this and I showed her that message. She looked at me and said, "THOSE KIDS ARE SOOOOO SWEET!"

Transitioning: Moving to Life After High School

On Thursday, May 11, 2017 Hi-Hope is hosting a FREE training called "Where Do We Go From Here?" that focuses on preparation for the transition from high school for individuals with disabilities. The training - presented by Parent to Parent of Georgia and the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services - teaches the "keys to successful transition, the role of the school in transition planning and things to consider when planning your child's transition to adulthood." This is all great stuff, but it might help to really explain what is meant by "transition" as it is the focus of this program.

The transition planning process is intended to help youth currently receiving special education services and their families in planning life goals after high school. The plan can help the student prepare for things like independent living, employment, and further education once they leave high school.

Parent to Parent of Georgia has a ton of great information about this process on their website (, but here are few key points that they highlight:

  1. The transition planning process should include an assessment of the child's skills and interests and an identification of agencies that may provide or pay for transition services.
  2. The transition plan is part of the child's IEP and should be reviewed and revised at least once a year.
  3. Students with disabilities are eligible to remain in public school until they turn 22 or they receive a high school diploma (each school system has a written policy with the specifics and you should be aware of these details).
  4. When your child turns 18, all rights, including educational rights, transfer to him or her (there is a lot that comes with this transfer of rights and preparation is necessary).
  5. When your child graduates with a diploma or exits school at age 22, the school should provide a Summary of Performance (SOP) to help determine your child's future plans.

One of the best tips for handling the transition process is to begin planning as early as possible. Waiting until middle school or high school to get "on track" - especially for something like the regular high school diploma - is NOT advised. That being said, the free training being offered next month might be the perfect time and place to get started. And if you have already begun the planning process, come by for a refresher or to learn something new. Together we can figure out "where do we go from here?"

The importance of communication

Hi-Hope supports an individual named Ember who has a hearing impairment and uses sign language. She experiences understandable frustration when she is unable to be understood and so it was a very, very welcomed surprise when we discovered that our new intern from Troy University is fluent in sign language. We paired our intern with Ember's group and they immediately gravitated to one another - communicating with familiar signs and learning new ones as well as developing an understanding of some signs that are unique to Ember. Perhaps the most telling thing about the whole interaction is the way that they both seem to light up in each other's presence. Both Ember and our intern were visibly happy they went through some American Sign Language flash cards. Furthermore, this educational opportunity turned personal as Ember shared photographs of her family members - a display of trust that really got to the heart of our intern.

All of this gives one the opportunity to reflect on the importance of communication and the ability and right to be "heard." The ability to express one's basic needs as well as their wants and desires is essential to participating in the human experience. Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger is quoted as stating, "one of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood." That is why really delving into effective communication with Ember is so important - it is more than just relaying messages. It is about friendship, it is about trust, it is about dreams and hopes and ambitions. Conceptual artist John Baldessari stated that "it is human desire to be understood." And so we appreciate our intern helping Ember fulfill a basic desire and extend an invitation to anyone who is familiar with sign language, other languages or alternate forms of communication (for example, speech generating devices (SGDs) or augmentative and alternative communication systems (AACs)) to set up a time to visit Hi-Hope and bring the simple pleasures of effective communication to one of our individuals.

Employees of the Year

A few weeks ago - in the midst of creating the new website - Hi-Hope held a staff development day and announced our Employees of the Year in various categories, including the overall winner. Below is the list of these folks who have had a huge impact on Hi-Hope this year. These individuals are known for their willingness to help, their creativity, their positive attitude, their dedication, their focus on our mission, and their teamwork. So, without further adieu:

  1. The Management Employee of the the Year is none other than Carol Steier who has been shepherding us through the renovation process here at Hi-Hope and at all the group homes. Final stretch, Carol!
  2. The Residential Employee of the Year is Folashade Oluranti, a dedicated employee who makes her location a true "home" in every sense of the word.
  3. The Day Services Employee of the Year is Pamela Griffith, a 15 year employee known for her creativity and artistic endeavors.
  4. The Administrative Employee of the Year is Manuel Espinoza who you might recognize from the profile we ran on him a few months back. Manny is pretty much "the man!"
  5. And the Overall Employee of the Year is the great, the fantastic, the big-hearted Dominick McAfee who is the first residential staff member to win our highest honor. Dominick pretty much does it all and always, always with a positive attitude.

If you happen to cross paths with these heroes of Hi-Hope, pat them on the back, shake their hand, congratulate them, wish them well and thank them for all they have done and continue to do. Hi-Hope runs on the work and dedication of people like our employees of the year.