The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation is pleased to announce its Community Champions for the fourth quarter of FY14. These employees were nominated by their colleagues and are being recognized for their work with local non-profit organizations, where they donate their time and energy to improve the quality of life for their neighbors. The Champions’ chosen nonprofits will receive a $500 grant from The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation.
Activities Director, CareMeridian
Poppy Pandian and her family make all the difference at their local homeless shelter in Fairfield, California. Every Saturday for the past 3 years, she and her family have purchased food and prepared a meal to feed 40-50 guests, which they serve at their local homeless shelter for lunch.
“The guests like when we cook Indian chicken and rice; it’s a nice change from the usual spaghetti!” Poppy said. “We want to help needy people, and show our kids that this is a good way to give back,” she explains. “We’ve made the Saturday lunch totally our own.”
Poppy also volunteers as a Sunday school teacher at the Christ Church of India in San Jose, CA, where she has been a member for the past 11 years. She teaches Bible study and leads the children’s choir, one of her favorite aspects.
“I like to work with the kids,” she said. “I do it from my heart.”
In addition to her outstanding volunteer work, Poppy goes above and beyond the responsibilities of her position as Activities Coordinator at the CareMeridian Granite Bay facility. In an effort to brighten patient and therapy rooms one day, she contacted her local grocery store and asked if they would consider donating flowers and bouquets that didn’t sell. She explained to the store manager that her critically ill or injured residents love the sight of fresh flowers and how it encourages each patient when they aren’t able to go outside. Poppy not only managed to get flowers for that day, but made an arrangement with the manager to coordinate a routine pickup of all unsold flowers every Friday to decorate facility rooms on a weekly basis, which the patients are incredibly grateful for.
“Poppy goes the extra step to make sure the patient and family members are comfortable and secure,” says Helen Sambernet, Director of Nursing at CareMeridian, Granite Bay. “She shows great concern for the welfare of others and is actively involved in finding solutions to difficult challenges. Poppy is a role model for how all of us should find a way to contribute in a greater way to the community outside of work.”
Government Relations Manager, The MENTOR Network
Jennifer serves as co-chair of the Massachusetts Association of Social Workers Political Action for Candidate Election (PACE) Committee, which endorses and financially contributes to candidates from any party who support the policy agenda of the National Association of Social Workers. A true advocate, Jen works tirelessly to empower social workers and make their voices heard.
Jennifer became involved with the PACE committee during graduate school at Boston College, where she earned her Masters of Social Work. Jennifer’s field placement with PACE allowed her to work on legislative activities such as loan forgiveness for social workers and child welfare issues, and she was hooked. Moved by the work she saw in action, Jennifer continued her involvement and joined the board, where she has served for the past 8 years, co-chairing the committee for 2 years.
As co-chair of the PACE Committee, Jennifer organizes Legislative Education and Advocate Day (LEAD,) one of PACE’s biggest events of the year. LEAD is a conference of social workers, legislators, professors of social work and graduate students who come together with board members for presentations and discussions on current legislation impacting the field of social work in Massachusetts. This spring, Jennifer led a “Lobbying 101” workshop at the conference, presenting ideas and strategies on how to effectively lobby a cause.
“Social workers are often the most direct link between legislators and the individuals affected by the legislation,” Jen said. “It is so important for social workers to have champions in the state house; advocates who will reflect our values and the goals of our profession.”
In addition to her work on the PACE Committee, Jennifer serves on the Board of Aldermen in Melrose, MA, where she helps shape policy that will directly better the lives of her fellow residents. Jen also volunteers as a counselor at Camp Sunshine in Casco, ME, a retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses.
“Jennifer is incredibly civic-minded; she values the importance of community and is motivated by her desire to make a positive impact on those around her,” says Jessica Delacruz, Senior External Affairs Specialist at The MENTOR Network. “Whether through her work in government or her passion for volunteerism, Jennifer is dedicated to being a champion for her professional and personal communities.”
Click here to learn more about the National Association of Social Workers.
Program Director, NeuroRestorative Georgia
Patty has been an active member of the Brain Injury Association of Georgia for over 10 years. Serving on the Board of Directors, Patty facilitates monthly support groups for individuals with brain injury and coordinates the annual Brain Injury Awareness Walk each March.
Patty has been involved in the brain injury support group for the past eight years. She strives to unite the support groups within the state to strengthen the networks for survivors and families, and loves working with the participants.
“The support group keeps people connected, offers help and comfort to survivors, and provides education through guest speakers,” Patty said. “Survivors and their family have a long journey ahead, and we’re here to help.”
In coordinating the Brain Injury Awareness Walk, a record $9,000 was raised last year and the event had more than 250 supporters—the greatest number the event has ever seen. Proceeds from the walk benefit Camp Hardgrove—a camp for adult survivors of brain injury—where Patty also volunteers as a counselor.
“Camp is fun,” she says. “You get to meet survivors from all over the state and assist them with participating in fun activities. It’s very rewarding.”
As Program Director of NeuroRestorative Georgia, Patty motivates brain injury survivors on a daily basis, and was recently named as a NeuroRestorative Hero for her dedication to the families and individuals she works with.
“We’re their home until they get home,” Patty said. “Everyone wants a reason to get up and feel some purpose, and we’re going to help them accomplish that.”
“Patty is a wonderful asset to NeuroRestorative Georgia and the brain injury community,” says Jane Imboden, NeuroRestorative Vice President of Operations for the South East Region. “She is an advocate, a care giver and an exceptional leader; one who truly leads by example. One of her staff members summarized her dedication and leadership by saying ‘In this line of work, you have to have love and patience to make it through the day. Patty helps some of us to find what we did not even know we had.’”
Click here to learn more about the Brain Injury Association of Georgia.
About The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation
The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation is committed to transforming the delivery of human services through the generation of new ideas and best practices. We seek to advance an agenda based on quality, accountability and respect for the individual. The focus of our giving is on organizations that take a fresh look—through research, innovative thinking, direct care and programming—at how people with disabilities and youth and families facing emotional, behavioral and other challenges are cared for in our society. The Foundation also works to expand opportunity for the people we serve through employment and educational support.