It is not every day that you get to be a part of the launch of a brand new service but here at Community Arts Connections (CAC) I have been lucky enough to be part of the process twice. The first was in the summer of 2012 when Community Connections was launched to fill the upstairs space at 985 Elmwood Avenue. The second was April 23rd, with the first day of the aptly named “Encore”. Encore is a respite service, a wraparound program for socialization and leisure; and while I believe the initial seven people who joined us yesterday experienced a leisurely afternoon, the process of getting here was not leisurely.
Building a New Service
It started, as many ideas often do at Community Arts Connection, with post-it notes; a wall of them, in fact. Our director, Kim Rinehart, passed out packs of post-its and wanted all current CAC staff to express every question we had. We did not hold back. Every possible logistical, personal, agency and financial aspect was scrutinized. Who would run the service? Would our shifts change? Would additional trainings be necessary?
These were collected, organized, and discussed. Problems solved and plans made.
The date was set. The materials bought. The room painted.
The call for volunteers went out. The schedule filled up fast. Surprisingly fast given that signing up meant making the commitment to work an eleven hour shift. A week before Encore’s first Monday the calendar was full.
Because the persons attending the Encore service would not be brought home by transportation staff but rather by the Encore staff Sheila Neal at transportation created detailed run sheets for us. Quite a new experience for those of us who have never driven a trans run before. Later we found out Sheila even got behind the wheel herself to drive our planned routes to ensure they were up to her standards. Every person has a right hand side drop off, she had thought of everything.
First Day of Service
The big day arrived and things did not go to plan. People we thought were going to be joining us did not show up. However, if there is one thing we have learned at Community Arts Connection it is that nothing ever goes the way you plan and in order to be successful you must smile and roll with the punches.
In the end it was a wonderful time. We found out what music our new afternoon friends like to listen to, learned people’s favorite foods and films and played games. When I arrived back at CAC there was a sigh of relief, we did it. The new service up and running. And we would do it all over again tomorrow…
Emily Brown is the Creative Arts Coordinator for Dance at Community Arts Connection.