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Catholic Residential Services evolves to meet client needs

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

By Mike Dyer

ARCHDIOCESE — The list of developments and new features that Catholic Residential Services has added over the past two years is truly overwhelming. What’s even more impressive is the fact that the agency continues to constantly evolve to meet the needs of its clients.

Catholic Residential Services is a much different agency than in the recent past, said Bob Kraft, president of the agency’s board of directors.

“Two years ago, it seemed as if we were living hand-to-mouth, with every broken faucet another crisis, and frankly, not very good communications with stakeholders, specifically the families of our clients,” explained Kraft, who has been on the board for about five years and has served as president since the beginning of 2009.
 

Catholic Residential Services
Catholic Residential Services clients and staff members enjoy a visit to Ripley Aquarium of the Smokies during a trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn. (Courtesy photo)

But those days are over.
 
More dedicated management, smarter use of resources, stronger commitment to the clients and better communication are just some of the factors that have led to a great deal of success recently, according to Kraft.

“We have a lot to celebrate,” he said. “But we also have a lot more we want to do.”
 
Downtown-based Catholic Residential Services is a non-profit agency dedicated to helping further the spiritual, moral, intellectual and physical development of people identified as being developmentally disabled.
 
The agency provides its clients with living arrangements and services and helps them to achieve a maximum level of independence within the Cincinnati community. It has been providing residential support and services for individuals since 1992.
 
Kraft gives a significant amount of credit to the recent efforts of Peggy Fryer and Amy Linz, both of whom are co-executive directors of the agency and also sisters-in-law. Since being hired in August 2008, Fryer and Linz have helped to spearhead several projects geared toward helping clients become more involved in the community.
 
“I would say with everything we do we look to see if that really is going to benefit the client,” said Fryer, who along with Linz, is a member of Guardian Angels Parish in Mt. Washington. “Our focus is certainly client-centered.”

In addition to adults, the agency also provides services to school-age children living with their families, as well as teenagers transitioning out of high school. Fryer said that in mid-March the agency served 38 individuals total. “Our emphasis is certainly not on quantity, but quality,” Fryer said.
 
That quality of living has definitely been a focus the past two years. Fryer said the agency lives out the call of the Gospel and emphasizes that every individual is equal under the eyes of God.
 
This faith-filled attitude is also evident in other areas, including how the agency helped move eight men into newer homes in Evendale and Cheviot. It also personalized each individual’s living space through grants from the Foundation for the Challenged.
 
When people move into other houses, Kraft said those residences often feature better facilities, such as full wheelchair access, newer appliances, more modern bathrooms, nicer furniture, single-floor living (in most cases) and improved transit access.
 
The agency also developed a healthy diet and exercise program and increased the ratio of staff to individuals in order to provide more individualized service. In addition, three new vans were purchased to make transportation easier for clients to reach their destination for various activities. Bekah Wilson has also been hired as activity coordinator and is in charge of organizing activities so clients can be more active in the community.
 
“We strongly feel that our responsibility to our clients extends far beyond mere food, shelter and medical care,” Kraft said. “We want our clients to participate in the community as much as possible, and this new position will allow us to enrich our clients’ lives even more.”

“I think the reason that we started placing a focus on doing activities and being involved in the community is that we want to be constantly improving,” Wilson said. “We know that we provide excellent care for our clients, but so do a lot of other agencies. Rather than being content with that, we wanted to give our clients something extra. Without the foundation that everyone in the office provides, we wouldn’t be able to offer the community events and activities.”
 
Besides Special Olympics bowling and basketball, clients may go fishing and hiking, or to the ballet, circus, movies, festivals, Reds games, the Cincinnati Museum Center, Mass or church events.
 
“They also give back to the community by volunteering at the SPCA and making blankets for Project Linus,” Fryer said.
 
There has been a significant emphasis on fitness and healthy living, so the agency has partnered with the Carl Lindner YMCA to develop a water fitness program and adaptive Jazzercise for the clients. It has collaborated with Mother of Mercy and St. Xavier high school on various activities.

Another new development is the ability to offer some clients out-of-town trips. Nine women will be going to Orlando at the end of this month for a vacation. The agency also gave some clients the opportunity travel to Disney World and Gatlinburg, Tenn., in 2009. Fryer said sometimes it’s the first vacation clients have ever taken.
 
Kraft said the board had often discussed such goals as better transportation, more activities for clients and increased fundraising, “but it was only under the leadership of Peggy and Amy that we’ve been able to accomplish some of these goals.”
 
That leadership has also brought a strong chemistry among the staff at Catholic Residential Services that provides a very comfortable environment, according to Wilson.
 
“I have taken the residents to different community functions, but I think something that really makes a difference is that it’s not just me; everyone in our office has been attending these events,” Wilson said. “Everything is a team effort.”
 
Upcoming events for the agency include its fourth annual Derby, Drinks and Dancing fundraiser, scheduled for May 1 at the 20th Century Theater at Oakley Square. For more information about Catholic Residential Services, call 513-784-0400.

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