Easterseals Michigan Adult Services Clinical Supervisor Jennifer Wright is pictured with two chinchillas she adopted. Easterseals requested that employees and people it serves share “silver linings” they’ve found during the pandemic.

Easterseals Michigan Adult Services Clinical Supervisor Jennifer Wright is pictured with two chinchillas she adopted. Easterseals requested that employees and people it serves share “silver linings” they’ve found during the pandemic.

Photo provided by Amanda Klingbail


Easterseals Michigan shares ‘silver linings’ found during the pandemic

By: Mark Vest | Metro | Published April 29, 2021

 Easterseals Michigan Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer Regan Goldberg is pictured with her two daughters. For some, spending more time with family has been one of the positives that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Easterseals Michigan Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer Regan Goldberg is pictured with her two daughters. For some, spending more time with family has been one of the positives that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo provided by Amanda Klingbail

METRO DETROIT — For more than a year, people from around the world have been inundated with negative news stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Easterseals Michigan recently proved that things haven’t been all bad all the time for everybody, as the nonprofit organization asked its employees and the people it serves to share the ‘silver linings’ they have found amidst the crisis.

Heather Cruz is the director of access and intake for Easterseals, which provides services to help children and adults with disabilities and/or special needs.

She elaborated on the nonprofit’s campaign to find positives, even when situations seem “overwhelming.”

“This past year has weighed heavy on everyone, no matter what our circumstances are,” said Cruz, who resides in Clarkston. “People have experienced many setbacks, so we are encouraging people to shift the narrative and begin to think about positives, as well. Not just for the people we serve, but our employees.”

The mental health impacts that have resulted from COVID-19 did not come as a surprise to Easterseals Chief Medical Officer Jeffrey Guina.

“I’m a psychiatrist and addiction medicine physician,” said Guina, who has been with Easterseals since 2019. “And so, since the beginning of COVID last March, my initial fear was, ‘This is (going to) have big mental health impacts.’ … When things are shut down, when people lose their jobs, when people are afraid, when people are losing loved ones, it’s a recipe for disaster. … I think it’s really important for me, personally, and for other people, that we’re trying to look for those silver linings, look for things to be grateful for and feel positive about.”

Even without a pandemic, life can be challenging for some of the people that Easterseals serves, but discovering positives can go a long way toward creating a healthier mental outlook.

“The people receiving mental health services with us, a lot (of) them have started to develop their creative side with hobbies, such as arts and crafts, writing poetry, which is very therapeutic, (and) learning and customizing their own recipes,” Cruz said. “One cool story that we love is that a person we serve told us that she created a gratitude wall in the dining room, where they added sticky notes with things that they’re grateful for. We love the story because it’s a great way to remind yourself of the positives in your life.”

From Guina’s perspective, the Easterseals’ campaign can also help its employees improve interactions with people they serve.

“I think it helps our staff and the people we serve alike because so much of what we tend to focus on during appointments or encounters are the negative, things that aren’t going well,” he said. “I think sometimes the people we serve expect that’s all we care about, that they bring in kind of their list of the things that have gone wrong since the last time we saw them. I think it can be really great for them and a good reminder for us to not just focus on the limitations people are facing, but the strengths that they have, and not just the tragedies, but the triumphs, too.”

Guina shared his personal silver lining.

“Mine is easy — it’s family,” he said. “Going from being in the office 50, 60, 70, 80 hours a week, and now mostly being (at) home and my kids doing a lot of their school, if not all of their school, from home — being able to have lunches together and family dinners, play games, go on bike rides, and all those things. I think it brought my family together during a difficult time.”

Cruz has worked for Easterseals for approximately a year and a half. She said it has been a blend between working at home and in the office for employees.

Since the pandemic began, pets have been a source of smiles for her, as well as her co-workers.

“I realized with my fellow employees that a lot (of) them adopted furry animals, furry family members,” Cruz said. “On Zoom, I’ve loved getting the opportunity to see my co-workers’ pets. … I noticed with one of them, the dog’s name is Daisy — I can call Daisy, and she’ll look for me.”

Seeing each other’s “furry family” isn’t the only way Cruz and her co-workers have utilized Zoom during the pandemic.

“We did a bridal shower for one of our employees over Zoom,” she said. “We didn’t expect it to be so fun, but we had a great time and came up with games you could do virtually. Thinking about these positive moments have helped us kind (of) come together and embrace the resilience we’ve come up with over the last year.”

The Easterseals’ campaign has also given Cruz a chance to reflect on a couple of her own silver linings.

“Early in the pandemic, my daughters and I decided to adopt a new cat named Peek-a-boo,” she said. “She’s pretty quirky, clumsy and sneezes a lot, but she loves us. … And then last spring, we were trying to decide how we could spend family time together. … We bought a pop-up camper. … We’ve had numerous camping trips and enjoyed great adventures.”

Despite silver linings being the primary theme of the Easterseals’ campaign, Cruz understands that facing challenges is a reality of life.

She suggested a way to try to find balance.

“At the end of the day, talk with maybe your family over dinner, or take a personal inventory,” Cruz said. “We’re calling it the roses and thorns of the day. Your thorns would be the tough moments. It’s important to recognize the challenging moments in a day.”

As for the roses, Cruz said those would be the good moments.

“They might be small moments where you felt grateful or happy,” she said. “It’s really important to focus on those moments, too. The idea is you can’t have one without the other. We think it’s a wonderful way to talk about gratitude and silver linings.”

Aside from thinking of silver linings, there is another step those struggling with mental health issues can take.

“If you feel like you need support, or if you notice a loved one has become detached or they’re not themselves, reaching out to Easterseals is a great step,” Cruz said. “People can visit our website at easterseals.com/michigan. On there, we have a free mental health checkup people can take, where they can chat with us on our website.”

Easterseals recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, and Cruz discussed some of the services the nonprofit provides.

“We’re proud to be providing services for adults and families with behavioral health needs such as anxiety, depression, autism and substance use disorders,” she said. “We have a wide range of services, such as therapy, psychiatry, peer services, (Applied Behavior Analysis) group therapy and more. During the pandemic, we’ve learned to provide many services by telehealth, but we also consistently have provided in-person services.”

Easterseals Michigan has locations in Southfield, Auburn Hills, Center Line, Waterford, Pontiac, Grand Rapids and Flint. It can be reached via phone at 800-75-SEALS.

Easterseals shared silver linings it has received from other employees, as well, along with people it serves.