How can companies help their employees thrive in times of crisis? For Nonotuck Resource Associates, the answer has been to fall back on its values of honoring family and the role of caregiving.
“Nonotuck is a community made up of families — the families of the people we serve, the families of our caregivers, and the families of our staff,” says George Fleischner, Nonotuck president and CEO. “Nonotuck is honored to be named a ‘Top Place to Work’ by the Boston Globe, and this honor would not be possible without our Nonotuck families. Family is at the center of all we do.”
Through shared living, adult family care, and day services programs, Nonotuck offers people with a wide range of disabilities the environments, support, and resources they need to live full and vibrant lives.
Though more than 2.6 million women have had to leave the U.S. workforce since March — in addition to 1.7 million men — Nonotuck employees have not been faced with that hardship. Despite the physical closure of 13 of its offices, Nonotuck has seamlessly continued services. Employees at every level have worked to support each other and keep operations flowing smoothly.
Nonotuck caregivers have gone above and beyond to create a sense of love and normalcy in their homes.
Nonotuck leadership regularly discusses how to support parents and caregivers with loved ones needing care at home, how to separate work life and home life and have a semblance of balance during this time, and how to train managers to be attentive to signs of overwhelm or depression in staff.
Program directors stop meetings just to ask, “How are you and your family really doing?” Nonotuck care managers have creatively constructed ways to show up for the families in the agency. The executive team has poured over agency practices to ensure the greatest precautions are in place for the safety of the Nonotuck community.
“We have seen people caring for one another in every single format and witnessed the light which comes from it,” says Karina Swenson, Nonotuck’s vice president of human resources.
Family is not only at the center of the services Nonotuck provides, but also part of the organization’s workplace culture. That was true long before the pandemic. Sandy Deare-Robinson, assistant program director for Nonotuck’s Community Based Day Services, says working at Nonotuck allows her the flexibility she needs to be a successful working mother.
“I began to work at Nonotuck 14 years ago, which allowed me to raise my children the best I can without missing a beat,” she says. “I am so appreciative for a job that has allowed me to parent my kids while being a full-time employee.”
Though Nonotuck has always provided its employees with the flexibility they need to thrive at home and at work, the COVID-19 pandemic brought those values to the forefront.
“Caregiving is an honored role at the heart of Nonotuck, and flex schedules are embedded in our culture,” says Swenson.
During the pandemic, the organization has embraced the culture of acceptance and honoring family that has long been in place.
“Our colleagues are now in our homes, seeing us muting our laptops to beg our peanut butter-smudged children to have appropriate classroom behavior and stop sharing their sandwich with the dog,” says Swenson. “This is as vulnerable as it gets. As we move through this shared experience, our staff have embraced one another with the same compassion in which we approach the homes we serve.”
Nonotuck Resource Associates was incorporated in 1972 by a group of parents whose children were in an institution. They worked with legislators to create the first congregate group residence for children with developmental disabilities in the state of Massachusetts.
In 1987, Fleischner transitioned the organization from group homes to shared living. Shared living brings together an individual, a couple or a family in the community with a person with a disability to share their lives in an authentic, loving, and respectful relationship of mutual dependence.
Nonotuck began offering adult family care (AFC) services in 2006. AFC keeps families together by helping people with disabilities stay with an immediate or extended family member.
Beside her role as an assistant program director, Deare-Robinson is also a shared living provider for Nonotuck. “I have had the pleasure of sharing my life with Amanda for the past 11 years,” she says. “Nonotuck has been more than just a job—it has turned into family.” (Dear-Robinson is pictured at right, with Amanda.)
Nonotuck’s values of authenticity, mutuality of love and respect, interdependence, and vulnerability are woven into the way that it supports its employees. Deare-Robinson says Fleischner and the executive team make it clear they also care deeply for Nonotuck employees, providing great health insurance and benefits, including annual salary increases and a profit-sharing plan, but also looking at the bigger picture.
“They care about the work environment,” she says. “They make it conducive for everyone to work in an environment that’s healthy and productive.”
“It is our belief that the people that work at Nontouck are a gift,” Fleischner says, “so it is our responsibility to thank them for that gift by treating them as best we can.”
Click here to learn more about life as a Nonotuck employee and current openings.
This article appeared online in The Globe. You can see it here.
Learn how Nonotuck developed a love-based ideology of care. We started our shared living program as an alternative to group homes for people with disabilities. Instead, Shared Living creates genuine life transformation for people with disabilities, as well as families and communities. The true power of caregiving is found through hospitality, authenticity, and love.