Guest Columnist: Vanessa Whitman | New Maryland Day Learning Center Under Construction - Penn-Mar

Guest Columnist: Vanessa Whitman | New Maryland Day Learning Center Under Construction

Posted on May 14, 2019

By Vanessa Whitman, Director of Maryland Services, Penn-Mar Human Services

Walking through the doors of Penn-Mar’s Far Hills Day Learning Center in New Freedom, PA is such an uplifting experience. This amazing space was officially opened last June to much fanfare and was so unlike the vast open spaces that defined the sheltered workshop environment of not so long ago.

Vibrant colors and customized room settings are what give this facility a contagious energy, incorporating a mix of contemporary spaces for team members, conference rooms and offices, and smaller areas for a gym, individual training rooms, a shop area, and computerized classrooms.

For concentrated learning, there are uniquely designed spaces where music and art therapists can work with small groups of people, and a welcoming kitchen and dining area that has become a popular place to socialize and recharge.

I was privileged to be part of the Day Learning Center’s transformation process (“my baby”), but convinced I could never handle a project of that magnitude again.

Well, never say never!

In my new job as Director of Maryland Services, I have been asked to assist with the restructuring of Penn-Mar’s Maryland Line Day Program on Freeland Road. As I write this, construction on the physical space has already begun. Over the next four months we will be completely gutting the first floor area to transform it into a mirror image of our fabulous Far Hills facility.

This innovative design will help us streamline the flow of our programming and, as we have already seen at Far Hills, allow our individuals to be much more engaged in each day’s activities.

There have also been other changes to our Day programming that go beyond its physical space. When I started my new position here in November, we had over 40 team members reporting to one supervisor. To streamline responsibilities and build better relationships with our staff, we have since hired more program managers, reducing the caseloads down to 6-10 people, and adding direct contact responsibility for the individuals’ families.

We also restructured the Maryland residential program. Previously we had a Quality Coordinator responsible for anything related to our individuals, and a Program Manager who handled all the staffing in the community homes, some with a caseload of 10 homes.

Again, looking to streamline task responsibilities and add efficiencies, we hired new residential managers to decrease each managers caseload to 6 houses with responsibility for overseeing all of the issues related to their community homes.

Our Quality Coordinators now have more of an agency-wide role to support and enhance the quality and operations of all the Maryland services.

Over the next four months there will be predictable stress as the Maryland Day Program construction work gains full speed. But we’re excited about taking on this complete culture revamp.

The Maryland Line Church next store is allowing us to use their parking lot and building as a meeting hub for some 50 of our team members and individuals who will use the facility as a departure point for their all-day community activities.

For those individuals who do not go out into the community and need more direct care, we are temporarily using Penn-Mar’s headquarters conference room with access to our lunch room and specialized bathroom facilities.

I have seen a lot of innovation in the 12 years I have been with Penn-Mar, yet one thing remains constant: we continue to be innovating on the cutting edge, providing programs and services that enhance the lives of the individuals we support. The latest changes in our Maryland programs are on schedule to once again deliver on that promise.

Translate »