News and inspirational stories
News and inspirational stories
Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn
COVID-19 Coronavirus Updates
Inside People Inc.:
A Message to our Community

At People Inc., the health and safety of the people we support and all of our staff are the highest priority during the COVID-19 pandemic. As this crisis continues, it presents unique challenges for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, special needs, their families and older adults. I want to reassure you that People Inc. is here for the thousands of people we support year-round. We continue to take steps to minimize the impact of this unprecedented health crisis and also develop initiatives to help manage some of these challenges.
We continue to be grateful for our Emergency Preparedness Team and the People Inc. Telemedicine Program, two pre-existing initiatives that have been instrumental in providing a structure that allows us to take action quickly, respond to changes and help manage this crisis.
Staff members have been provided with guidelines and required to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) appropriate to their responsibilities. Our agency is following strategies and protocols provided by the Centers for Disease Control on how to make the most efficient use of PPE.
I’m so proud of our Direct Support Professionals who are serving as frontline staff – they are so caring, dedicated, creative and willing to have flexible schedules – I consider them heroes.
A third letter to families is available on our agency website in both English and Spanish, explaining some of the precautions People Inc. is taking during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Our agency continues to band together during this incredibly challenging time. Over the last couple of months, we have also been uplifted. Please take some time to review the stories in this e-newsletter for some updates on what has been happening within our agency.
We have learned that by working together, we can accomplish so much.
Be well and safe,
Rhonda Frederick
President and CEO, People Inc.
Phone Lines and Email Provide Information
To assist people supported through People Inc. and their families, a dedicated phone line and email is available to share information and have questions addressed related to COVID-19 Coronavirus:
Phone: 716.817.7445
Additionally, an Advocacy Phone Line is available for people we support to ask non-emergency questions, share what is on their minds and receive support. It can be reached at 716.322.7070. Messages are monitored from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Face Mask Donations Needed
As People Inc. continues to provide services*, there are thousands of people the agency supports and staff who can benefit from fabric masks. People Inc. is engaging with the community on mask donations, in order to provide as much support as we can to everyone. If you or someone you know creates cloth masks or has a supply of other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), consider supporting People Inc.
All donations are being coordinated centrally through the People Inc. Foundation. For questions or more information, email
All contributions are greatly appreciated!
*We continue to observe CDC and Department of Health guidance.
Join our Team:
We’re here for you NOW

Bring your “people skills” to People Inc., where you can support those with developmental disabilities or other special needs to develop life skills and achieve their goals. Check out this feature on WGRZ-TV Channel 2, where Matthew D. Iwanski-Jackson, director of Talent Acquisition, was interviewed. People Inc. is looking for compassionate, patient people to join our team as direct support professionals to work in agency group homes. Full time, part time and temporary positions are available with evening, overnight
or weekend shifts. Requirements include: 18 years or older; valid driver’s license that meets
agency policy; high school diploma or GED preferred, but not required. No experience necessary and People Inc. offers comprehensive paid training. Excellent benefits include: Paid time off, Health/Dental/Vision Plans, tuition reimbursement, employee perks and discounts, 401(k) plan
and much more. To apply or to view all employment openings, go to the People Inc. Careers page or call 716.322.7050 for more information.
Assistance Provided for Group Home
Grocery Shopping

To help minimize community contact, People Inc. created “PeopleCart” to support residential staff for grocery shopping. A separate group of designated shoppers safely grocery shop based on lists provided by the sites. With no entry, they deliver to doors of People Inc. residences. We’re grateful to the staff who are doing the shopping!

Encouragement, Inspiration and Ideas
In these challenging times, things are changing daily. As social distancing continues, check out
these amazing examples of dedication, commitment and empathy. At People Inc., we are getting
through this together.
Learn from a Mom and a
Direct Support Professional

Two Stories were recently featured on WKBW-TV Channel 7. Pause a moment to view these:
Passionate mom Jolene Baller found a unique way to stay connected with her son, Joseph, who lives at a People Inc. group home in Buffalo, NY. Check out this very moving story.
A virtual tour of a People Inc. group home in Buffalo’s Elmwood Village was featured. Adaia Wheeler, senior residential supervisor, shared some of the precautions being taken during these challenging times. Learn more.
Pictured L-R: Alicia Kilger, job coach in the People Inc. Vocational Program, visits with Doug Szafranski, Supported Employment Program participant and employee of Tops Friendly Markets.
Meet the People We Support: Doug Szafranski
Doug Szafranski exemplifies the goal of what the
People Inc. Supported Employment Program
offers: an opportunity for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to learn job skills to secure and maintain employment. Through the program, he is employed at the Tops Friendly Markets on Main Street in Amherst, NY, as a cart associate. Already a conscientious worker, Doug is even busier now working many hours collecting carts from the parking lot and doing the important work of sanitizing them. Doug shared, “I am happy to be working currently at Tops and hope that I am able to work through this entire pandemic.”
A job coach works as the liaison between the employer and the employee, focusing on job-readiness and addressing any concerns. Alicia Kilger is Doug’s job coach and is very committed to the people she supports. At least weekly, she is still visiting the workplace for each of the people she supports. Providing factual information on methods to stay safe is one of the ways Alicia has adapted how she supports participants during this tumultuous time.
Thank you to the team at Tops for their support, and most of all Doug.
Staying Creative During Difficult Times
Seven people live at one of the People Inc. group homes in Rochester, NY. Although they know that COVID-19 has made a lot of people sick, they don’t always understand why they are no longer attending their day programs, going to the movies or to work. Like the rest of the world, they must stay inside their home – a challenging situation for both staff and residents.
Nitkita Cowart, five-year veteran and team leader at the house, created a schedule that replicates Day Habilitation Program times and activities, with a focus on staying healthy.
The group follows an exercise routine and enjoys a healthy lunch. Every day brings something new and exciting, including projects and activities based on learning and maintaining new skills and routines that can remain with the residents for a lifetime. Staff are even tapping into their areas of expertise, teaching the residents specialty “classes,” like gardening, woodworking and beading, among others.
Some recent and upcoming activities include: canvas painting, Bingo, inspiration boards, computer activities, flash cards and more. Most days end with music and line dancing that promotes appropriate social distancing.
Nitkita says, “While we understand the seriousness of this crisis, we don’t have to stop living and growing. We just have to be creative, stay healthy, say a prayer and have fun.”
Pesci’s Pizza & Wings Delivers to Two
People Inc. Group Homes
Thank you to Pesci's Pizza & Wings for doing their part to help others during the pandemic. Earlier this month, they delivered over 70 free pizzas to local organizations, including staff and residents at two of People Inc. group homes in Clarence and East Amherst, NY.
“We were able to put smiles on many faces, as we surprised people with just showing up,” said Jim Dickey, owner of Pesci’s Pizza. “Two of our former employees work for People Inc. Plus, my mom is retired, but spent 40 years working in that field, including her last 10 in a group home. So, it was an easy decision to choose People Inc.”
The people from one of the group homes shared this about the surprise delivery: “The pizza was so good. It was a nice surprise,” and “The cheese pizza was the best!” Amy Hill, senior residential supervisor, added, “It’s a very generous thing that Pesci’s is doing. The staff and the ladies who live in the group home all appreciate the very kind gesture.”
Putting Paint and Brushes to Good Use
Being creative is important during this time of crisis. While the People Inc. Arts Experience Day Habilitation is temporarily closed, staff members have loaned supplies to some agency group homes. People who live in one of the Amherst residences put paint and brushes to good use! Jennifer, Matthew and Stacie are keeping busy, creating a beautiful mural in their basement. They are looking forward to even more art projects and crafts!

Senior Companion Volunteers Reach Out
Like so many, older adults are experiencing the effects of this pandemic as it is recommended to shelter in place. Thankfully, some of the People Inc. Senior Companion volunteers continue to reach out to recipients of the program with old-fashioned telephone calls and virtual visits. Senior Companion Volunteer Shirley Duncan (top right photo) has talked everyday with Essie Scales (pictured bottom), a recipient of the program. Essie misses getting out of the house and the comfort of talking with someone helps. They were very excited to video chat. Shirley wasn’t sure if they would be able to figure it out, but they continue to visit virtually on a daily basis. This companionship has definitely been a success!
RESOURCES: Helpful information to Lend Support
Fun Activities from Lothlorien Therapeutic Riding Center
Lothlorien Therapeutic Riding Center, an affiliate of People Inc., has lots of fun resources on their website. The materials include photos and videos of the horses and barn cats, activity pages and games! To learn more, go to
Established in 1983, Lothlorien Therapeutic Riding Center, Inc.
is a non-profit, therapeutic horseback riding facility providing horsemanship and horseback riding opportunities for people with cognitive, physical, emotional and learning disabilities. Lothlorien delivers therapeutic equine services with the help of specially-trained instructors, 200 volunteers
and two staff. Located at a 10-acre facility outside the Village of East Aurora, NY, Lothlorien is the longest-running therapeutic program in Western New York, serving ages three and up.

Taking Care of Your Mental Health
During this challenging time, the health of everyone is paramount. While physical health is essential, mental wellness is equally important. Various resources are available on the Coronavirus section of the People Inc. website. Plus, below are some tips.
  • Arm yourself with the right information by using credible resources. Social media is full of misinformation. Sharing the facts about COVID-19 and understanding the actual risk to yourself, and people you care about, can make an outbreak less stressful. When you share accurate information about COVID-19, you can help make people feel less stressed.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including social media.
    Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take hygiene-related precautions.
  • Stick to a daily routine.
  • Be kind to yourself. Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate.
    Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid
    alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy. Get safely outside in nature and avoid crowds.
  • Talk about how you’re feeling. Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
Make a Difference
Your year-round donations are greatly appreciated, especially during this challenging time. You can help assist People Inc. to ensure that people with developmental disabilities, special needs and older adults receive the support they need. Make your contribution today.
Serving the community
Due to COVID-19’s impact, Deaf Access Services, an affiliate of People Inc., is supporting the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community across Western New York and beyond.
Deaf Access Services recently partnered with Convo, a
deaf-owned company that develops Video Relay Services (VRS) technologies that allow Video Phone (VP) conversations for American Sign Language (ASL) users. Deaf Access Services worked with Convo to show support to the Deaf Community and reassure them that during this difficult time, when many are faced with needing to quarantine at home or in facilities, communication access is still available. Devices provided by Deaf Access Services will allow Deaf people to still maintain contact with friends and families, while also having access to VP and Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) for communication with on-site medical personnel, when needed. Learn more in this story and video.
In addition to providing American Sign Language interpreters for Erie County, Niagara County and City of Buffalo press conferences, Deaf Access Services has been in the news advocating for people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Learn more from these news stories:
To learn more about services, contact Stacey Allen at
The following is a collection of news stories that include information from People Inc. and agency representatives.
“Amherst Police to use video remote sign language interpreters to communicate with the deaf:”
Deaf Access Services, an affiliate of People Inc., included. WBFO 88.7, February 6, 2020.
powered by emma