Serving the Intellectual and Developmental Disability Community in Denver Part One
This two-part series will feature 11 of the 2020 mill levy-funded community initiatives highlighting their success and flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rocky Mountain Human Services (RMHS) provides mill levy funding for organizations that provide unique services and resources to Denver residents. In 2020, there were 27 of these external initiatives, which received nearly $2.9 million in mill levy funding. The projects were diverse in scope and purpose and helped to fill critical gaps in services for Denver residents with developmental delays or disabilities. What follows are profiles of some of those valued partners.
Jovial Concepts cultivates life and work skills through garden-based programming. The program supports students with I/DD foster independent living skills through gardening and cooking activities. Jovial teaches students gardening along with valuable life skills such as meal preparation, volunteer gardening and online learning.
The staff at Jovial Concepts made programming changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jovial canceled in-person cooking activities but continued to host volunteers to tend to the gardens by enacting restrictions intended to keep everyone safe and healthy. Volunteer groups were restricted so that only those who live together would work near one another. To further reduce risk, Jovial implemented safe practices and guidelines which include social distancing, wearing masks, sanitizing tools after use, assigning tools to students and assigning gloves. Jovial Concepts staff also worked with Financial Health Institute to move some classes online to help maintain connection and learning with the Denver residents involved in their program.
Financial Health Institute
Financial Health Institute (FHI) teaches financial health and provides employment training to students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, case managers and parents. FHI teaches valuable skills that last beyond employment in a variety of courses offered to the community. FHI creates and shares its interactive, blended learning curriculum through its ResourceAbility Online Learning Environment.
FHI collaborated with mill levy partners Access Gallery and Jovial Concepts to create blended learning content online. FHI used its design expertise to help the organizations create learning curriculums in order to ensure that Denver residents continued to have access to learning opportunities. With access to a full resource library and support of staff, FHI helped many organizations and people transition online for safer learning.
Connect Us fosters social inclusion, supports friendship-building and teaches leadership skills for youth. The program brings children of all backgrounds together to build skills so that young people learn how to express their feelings through play. The program offers opportunities for children to learn through the powerful language of play, creating teachable moments and problem-solving skills.
The framework that Connect Us uses empowers kids to learn from peers through activities that are facilitated by adults. The program uses experiential learning to build problem solving skills and help children understand each other. Children receive lessons about inclusivity and tolerance so they can work as a team.
This year, Connect Us staff worked diligently to ensure safety while continuing to provide an opportunity for play. Children played together outdoors at a safe physical distance. Everyone wore a mask and used hand sanitizer when doing activities. The protocols were adjusted due to COVID-19, but the focus remained the same.
Passport to Independence (ACEConnect)