2018 Paid Holidays

posted Nov 21, 2017, 9:40 AM by Andrew Drewnowski   [ updated Dec 4, 2017, 1:16 PM ]


 ServiceNet acknowledges and honors diversity.  Please be aware of holidays celebrated by staff for various religious and cultural traditions when scheduling meetings or events. 

NEW YEAR'S DAY                                                             MONDAY, JANUARY 1ST  

MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY                                            MONDAY, JANUARY 15TH

PRESIDENTS’ DAY                                                            MONDAY, FEBRUARY 19TH             

PATRIOTS’ DAY                                                                  MONDAY, APRIL 16TH

MEMORIAL DAY                                                                 MONDAY, MAY 28TH   

INDEPENDENCE DAY                                                       WEDNESDAY, JULY 4TH  

LABOR DAY                                                                        MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3RD   

COLUMBUS DAY                                                                MONDAY, OCTOBER 8TH   

VETERANS’ DAY                                                                SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 11TH 


THANKSGIVING DAY                                                      THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 22ND   

DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING                                          FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 23RD   

CHRISTMAS DAY                                                             TUESDAY, DECEMBER 25th                                                        

*FLOATER DAY (1)                                                            Awarded 7/1/2018 (or date of hire) use by 6/30/2019                                 

*Holidays must be used within:   UAW/AFSCME 60 days         SEIU 30 days 

*Holiday’s noted in bold are paid at time and a half.

Early November 2017 ServiceNotes

posted Nov 1, 2017, 1:45 PM by Andrew Drewnowski   [ updated Nov 1, 2017, 1:46 PM ]


If you did not receive the issue in your email, fill out the form below:

Jenny Schreiber, Chief Financial Officer, was awarded the Excellence in Administration & Finance Award by ABH

posted Oct 27, 2017, 8:18 AM by Andrew Drewnowski   [ updated Oct 27, 2017, 8:19 AM ]

Jenny Schreiber has been with ServiceNet since 2003 as our Chief Financial Officer. She oversees the work of our Fiscal Services department, and assures that our financial house is in solid order. In fact, during Jenny’s 14-year tenure, we have had only one audit finding, which was a minor technicality at that. Our auditors commend us on this accomplishment every year, and comment on how extraordinary it is.

As a member of our senior team, Jenny brings her extensive knowledge and keen intelligence to our discussions—offering her expertise in financial analysis, her broad view of Massachusetts and federal funding agencies, and her personal commitment to ServiceNet’s mission and strategic goals. She sounds cautionary notes as needed, and always with her dry sense of humor well intact.

One of the things we especially appreciate about Jenny is her enthusiasm and passion for facilitating the smooth opening of new programs and community services. She makes it possible for us to be highly responsive to our funders, which is key to our success.

Jenny also educates our leaders and program managers throughout the organization on financial matters, through both her group presentations and 1-1 sessions.  Reaching people where they are on the financial curve, she helps them understand figures as an essential part of their program planning and program evaluation.  She helps financial information come alive for all of us, and supports our continuing growth as an agency with her own entrepreneurial energy. 

Early October 2017 ServiceNotes

posted Oct 4, 2017, 1:35 PM by Andrew Drewnowski   [ updated Oct 12, 2017, 11:31 AM ]

Click Here for the Latest Issue of ServiceNotes

If you did not receive the issue in your email, fill out the form below:

Late September 2017 ServiceNotes

posted Sep 20, 2017, 12:52 PM by Andrew Drewnowski

Click Here for the Latest Issue of ServiceNotes

If you did not receive the issue in your email, fill out the form below:

Early September 2017 ServiceNotes

posted Sep 6, 2017, 11:37 AM by Andrew Drewnowski   [ updated Sep 6, 2017, 11:38 AM ]

Click Here for the Latest Issue of ServiceNotes

If you did not receive the issue in your email, fill out the form below:

New York Times Article about Prospect Meadow Farm Participant

posted Sep 6, 2017, 9:18 AM by Andrew Drewnowski   [ updated Sep 6, 2017, 9:22 AM ]




AUG. 31, 2017


How do you write about the happy life you hope for your child to have when you have a hard time picturing it yourself?

 For 18 years, I’ve dreaded the yearly ritual of writing a “vision statement” for an Individualized Education Plan, or I.E.P., for our son, Ethan. He has autism and, as any parent of a child with significant special needs knows, the yearly team meeting to develop the I.E.P. can be emotional and fraught. For us it has felt, at times, like an annual adjustment of expectations downward. In theory, the vision statement is a lovely idea — an opportunity for parents to articulate the optimistic future they envision for their child five years down the road. In reality, as Ethan grew up and his limitations — cognitive and behavioral — became clearer, I found it harder every year to write the short paragraph. We came to see he couldn’t live independently, get married, work in a job without support — but if those are the givens, what does a hopeful future look like?

This year, as Ethan turned 21 and completed his final year in the school system, he shocked us by writing his own vision statement. Reading his words made me realize how wrong I’d been for years, trying to articulate what my son’s future should look like.

While Ethan was still in elementary school, our vision statements included the same wish list I imagine every parent of a child with autism probably has: better communication, fewer meltdowns, more independence. When he was 12, I got more pragmatic, “We wonder if Ethan’s love of farm machinery might one day become an employment opportunity.” At 13, after a successful stint in the middle school chorus, I wrote, “Ethan would like a future in music, perhaps as a professional singer?” At that point Ethan was still working on using a Kleenex to blow his nose. A future as a singer was far-fetched, I knew, but I wrote it as a way of saying: Ethan does have abilities. We’re serious about developing them.

This is the great challenge parents face in these yearly meetings: You’re fighting for teachers to help your child work toward a future that, with every year, feels as if it’s growing narrower and bleaker. When it’s clear he’ll never understand money well enough to make change, you cross off the possibility of working in any retail job. When he can’t stop rubbing his nose or touching his mouth at work, all food service opportunities dissolve as well. When his self-talk disturbs the nursing home residents where he genuinely likes volunteering, another door closes.

 Even as Ethan bombed out at one job after another, he stayed true to his passions: music, farm equipment, collecting business cards. Oblivious to what looked to us like a frightening and empty future, he was fairly cheerful on a day-to-day basis. If anything, one of his problems on job sites was his failed attempts at jokes and “too much silliness.”

 In desperation, we signed Ethan up to work at a local farm that specializes in employing young adults with disabilities assuming it would go the way the others have. He’d be interested at first, then bored, and then — because he was bored — silly and unsafe around the equipment in a way that would get him removed from the program. It was his pattern and if there’s anything we’ve learned, autistic kids love repeating their patterns.

What we wrote for his vision statement that year reflects our rock-bottom expectations: “We hope that Ethan can remain with this program for the year.”

Then he surprised us. He worked there for a month and we got no phone calls.

After six months, we got a jolly report. “He’s fun! And a pretty good worker for about one to two hours a day.” After a year, we were told he’d made it onto a landscaping crew. “What do you do on the crew?” we asked.

“Stuff,” Ethan said and listed a few machines we assumed he was watching other people operate. He could mow a lawn, we knew, but he couldn’t use a leaf blower. Or a weed whacker. We’ve lived with Ethan for 21 years. We know his limitations.

 At our last I.E.P. meeting a representative from the farm came and read a report from Ethan’s “Crew Captain.” We heard that, indeed, Ethan was operating those machines, safely and effectively, along with this final line: “Ethan makes us laugh every day.”

I could hardly believe it. I stole a look at his dad and smiled.

This meeting fell at a particularly demanding time in my life and I’d arrived without writing a vision statement ahead of time. When I started to apologize, the vocational coordinator — a young woman who’d struggled for four years to find a job placement for Ethan — held up her hand. “It’s fine. Ethan wrote his own this year.” https://static01.nyt.com/images/2017/08/30/well/family/well-family-ethan2/well-family-ethan2-master675.jpgApparently he’d dictated it to her on a recent visit to the farm. A few minutes later, he read it aloud:

“After I graduate from high school I plan to work at Prospect Meadow Farm until I retire and live at home with my family as long as I can. I’d like to keep taking classes at Berkshire Hills Music Academy. For fun, I want to play Special Olympics basketball, go to our cabin in Vermont and the shore in New Jersey, mow lawns, and collect business cards. My goals for the future are to take the PVTA bus into town to make purchases, and someday learn how to drive a zero-turn lawn mower.”

For a full five seconds after he finished, no one said anything. I looked across the table at his speech therapist who had known him since he was 14 years old. She had tears in her eyes. I did, too.

Not simply because Ethan had articulated his own entirely reasonable vision statement, but because it incorporated every aspect of his present life that brings him joy. After years of fabricating visions for a future we never honestly thought possible, Ethan was offering one that was both optimistic and breathtakingly simple: I want my life to keep looking the way it does now.

I wish I could tell other parents at the start of their journey what it’s taken me two decades to learn. First, that your child may continue to grow and change and, even at the age of 21, may surprise you by doing things you never thought possible. Second, that in the end, success won’t be measured by academic performance or job placement. It will have more to do with accumulating small pleasures and filling your life with those. I don’t know why it never occurred to me: Your future should look like the best parts of your present.

Cammie McGovern is the author of four books for children and young adults, all of which feature characters with disabilities.


posted Sep 6, 2017, 9:05 AM by Andrew Drewnowski

Logan Katz, 18 months old, knows how to get what he wants as he finishes his bowl of applesauce and rubs his chest with one open palm. His gesture is intentional, and firm. It means “please” in sign language and lets his teacher, Malka Coburn, at The Smith College Center for Early Childhood Education in Northampton, know he wants more.

When she delivers, he digs in, scooping the food into his mouth with his pointer finger before picking up a spoon nearby.

Logan is sitting at a table with half a dozen other babies during snack time at the day care center and the three teachers in this classroom are using American Sign Language to communicate with the children. Some understand the signs but don’t produce them. Others use dozens of them before any verbal language develops, says Coburn.

“Logan, do you want more water?” Coburn holds up three fingers and makes a motion with her hand like she is drinking.

He ignores her this time; his full attention is still on the applesauce.

Another baby, sitting in a highchair across the table, holds her hand up in the air and moves it up and down like she is milking a cow. “Are you thinking about milk?” Coburn asks. “We can get you some milk.”

Early expression

None of these children, all under 20 months old, has a hearing problem, but sign language is routine here where babies are exposed to signs at as early as 8 weeks old. It is a method used by many educators and parents to give babies a tool to express what they want before they learn to speak, Coburn says.

“It definitely reduces some frustration,” for them.

When the babies need a diaper change, some Smith teachers will sign “change.” If it is playtime, they might sign “play,” but most often the gestures have to do with food, like “more” and “milk.”

“It helps them clue into what is coming,” Coburn said.

Not long after Logan’s parents Matt and Kelly Katz of Belchertown enrolled him in Smith’s program at 10 months old, he began using the sign for please at home when he wanted more of his favorite food: blueberries.

“I still remember when he first started doing it,” Matt Katz said. “That was a really special moment for us. It wasn’t quite like his first step, but it was definitely one of those milestones, like ‘holy crap, this little boy can actually communicate something to me.’ ”

His sign language vocabulary kept growing. At night when he was tired, he would let his mother know he was ready for bed by signing for milk.

When the family went on a plane trip, he signed “thank you” to the flight attendants, a gesture which looks like he is blowing a kiss.

Now Logan can speak about 30 words, says Katz.

He and his wife have no way of telling whether signing hastened his language development, they say, but they’re glad he learned it. “Most people tend to think it is pretty sweet and cute,” Katz says.

Bridging a gap

Some educators, though, think that there are practical reasons for parents to sign with their babies.

Developmental specialists and speech pathologists at the area state-funded REACH program regularly use sign language to help children achieve early communication milestones, according to Michael Hutton-Woodland, director of the REACH Early Intervention program. The program works with infants and toddlers, birth through age 3, who have developmental delays or medical complications from birth.

“Baby sign language is a way to bring the power of expression to kids,” said Sally Rice, a REACH speech and language pathologist.

Speech delays are some of the most common developmental delays and the struggles that come with them can be eased by learning a few simple signs, she says.

The precise, quick movements of articulating speech are pretty challenging, she points out, and the motor skills required for sign language are less complex.

“I am creating another avenue for expression until the child’s motor system can handle talking,” she said. “I am helping to give parents the power of communication that makes sense for the family.”

Babies can understand concepts long before they have the ability to express them verbally, she says, so sign language can bridge the gap.

Proud moments

Sheryl White of Boston, who travels throughout New England teaching sign language to babies and parents, believes that not only does it help babies speak sooner, it promotes literacy. “They have an easier time with reading and writing later on,” she said.

White, who has a degree in psychology and is self-trained in sign language, was at the Emily Williston Memorial Library in Easthampton recently conducting a workshop. She regularly visits libraries and schools throughout the state and gives private consultations with parents through her business Baby Kneads.

White says she started signing with her own babies in the 1990s. Most people hadn’t heard of the practice then, she says, and thought she was odd.

She was motivated to learn signing when her youngest child, Rachel, a colicky baby, was 3 weeks old. Rachel cried incessantly, White says, and she was willing to try anything to communicate with her infant.

Since then, White has seen the popularity of baby sign language take off. The Forbes Library in Northampton has at least 15 books on the topic as well as a number of DVDs. And day care programs, like Smith’s, that teach signing are common.

One parent who attended White’s Easthampton workshop, Maria Moreno, sat on the floor with her 4-month-old, William, the baby’s eyes fixed on White who was blowing bubbles.

As she blew them, she made the sign for the word bubble — a circle with her thumb and pointer finger.

She leaned in close to William’s face, saying the word as she signed it.

The bubbles floated into the air before popping on William’s cheeks. He squirmed and grinned.

“Do you want ‘more ’” White asked as she held her fingers together in front of his face.

Sometimes, she says, she helps babies along by moving their hands into the right positions. They will often start to understand the signs weeks before they can replicate them.

It’s good for their self-esteem,” she said. “The first time they show you a sign, they can be very proud.”

Frustration avoided

A Northampton couple, Dina Levi and Allie Robbin, used signs like “more” and “milk” routinely soon after their daughter Ezra Robbins Levi was born. They also introduced “help,” which Ezra used when she had trouble opening up her baby gate.

“It was just nice to feel like she was at least a little empowered,” Levi said.

The family had seen friends use sign language with their babies when they lived in the Bay Area in California and were convinced that it worked.

Erza began speaking at around 1, her parents’ say, and these days is a talkative 2½- year-old.

Though Ezra no longer uses any of the signs, her parents say they are glad she had them when she needed them.

“It helped us avoid, I think, a lot of the frustrations,” Levi said.

Lisa Spear can be reached at lspear@gazettenet.com.

By Lisa Spear, Staff Writer

Daily Hampshire Gazette

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Legislators Visit West Boylston Enrichment Center

posted Aug 22, 2017, 12:54 PM by Andrew Drewnowski

Worcester-area state legislators, Senator Harriett Chandler and Representative James O'Day, visited ServiceNet's new Enrichment Center in West Boylston on Wednesday, August 16th, to learn about the program and meet with staff and program participants.


From left to right (standing):


Ellen Werner (Director of Operations, ServiceNet Enrichment Centers),  Dylan Zukowski (Program Director, West Boylston Enrichment Center), Senator Harriett Chandler, State Representative James O'Day,  Sue Stubbs (CEO, ServiceNet), Bill Benson (Government Relations Coordinator, ServiceNet)


(Seated): Lori Holden (program participant, West Boylston Enrichment Center)

Late August 2017 ServiceNotes

posted Aug 16, 2017, 10:33 AM by Andrew Drewnowski

Click Here for the Latest Issue of ServiceNotes

If you did not receive the issue in your email, fill out the form below:

1-10 of 157