Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Staff Spotlight: Meet Clarissa Miller

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Clarissa with friend Tara and boyfriend Arlen

On October 25th this past year, we had the pleasure of welcoming Clarissa Miller to our staff. As an AmeriCorps Vista Resource and Data Development volunteer, Clarissa will be with us for twelve months. She is currently a sophomore at Florida Gulf Coast University, majoring in Social Work while in the Honor’s program.

Clarissa hails from Oswego, NY but happily moved to southwest Florida where she has lived since high school. Her immediate goal, after receiving her bachelor’s degree, is to work in elementary education while completing her master’s degree. Once that goal is achieved, she is open to whatever opportunities may present themselves. Her hope is to establish her own non-profit organization one day. She is therefore grateful for the opportunity of working alongside our staff to learn firsthand what work is entailed in growing such an organization.

On a personal level, some of Clarissa’s interest was sparked by having a brother on the autism spectrum. This gives her a heightened sense of the need for support in this population. Because of this, she started “Active Minds” at FGCU which is a mental health advocacy club for college students.

Clarissa is also part of Project Help in Naples where she is currently training to be a crisis helpline volunteer. Currently, however, her focus is her service to AmeriCorps and Protected Harbor, where she is working to help clients improve their financial stability, as well as making them aware of available housing and program resources.

Clarissa has little free time, but when she does, she enjoys playing the guitar, singing, dancing, and playing with her cat Piper. She also loves to spend time with her boyfriend Arlen, at the beach, and walking in parks. When asked about her favorite Bible verse, her response was John 1:16 “Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given”.

Behind the Smiles: Meet Ken

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Ken is one of the more recent arrivals at Protected Harbor. He joined us in August 2020 after living in a group home in Michigan, where the weather in winter is definitely not as balmy as Florida!

Since arriving, Ken has adjusted well to his surroundings and new roommates but particularly enjoys the privacy of having his own room and bathroom. He is an enthusiastic participant in all things sports-related and will try anything at least once, including baseball, basketball, bowling, golf, and vigorous walks with others. Mosaic art, STARability opportunities, and shopping trips with the staff have also become favorite activities.

Ken is very proud of having been a member of the Boy Scouts in his youth, which allowed him opportunities to participate in sports activities and socialize. His move to Protected Harbor has proven to be a huge success. He and fellow resident, Dennis have become best friends and his new home with us has given Ken the extra impetus to become more involved in social activities, studying, reading the Bible, and generating genuine smiles from those around him.

A year into his new beginning, Ken has settled in and considers Protected Harbor his true home. We are blessed to have him in the family!

Marketing Committee Member Spotlight: Marissa Godlewski

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Marissa, Kamil and Coco

We are very blessed at Protected Harbor to have an eclectic group of people who are Board Members, Friends of the Board, volunteers, members of our staff, committee members, educators, and much more.

All of these people contribute using their backgrounds, their life experiences, and their professional titles. They all work together with joy, serving the residents in this ministry, whose appreciation is evident in their smiles.

Our latest addition to the Marketing Committee is Marissa Godlewski. She came to us last year in May after moving with her family from New York City. Relocating to Florida, Marissa joined Gulf Bay Group of Companies, a real estate development company, as a Principal overseeing administration and operations. Before this, Marissa worked for the Colgate-Palmolive Company in numerous management positions both in North America and Europe. Prior to Colgate-Palmolive, Marissa worked in Digital Marketing at Bloomberg Businessweek and The New York Times. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Cornell University.

Marissa was introduced to Protected Harbor by her mother Tanya Croy, and her brother Nicholas Ferrao who both serve on the Board.  Marissa’s goal is to help to implement more efficient, robust marketing strategies and tactics that will attract increased awareness of Protected Harbor.

While adjusting to life in Southwest Florida, Marissa enjoys spending time with her husband, Kamil, and their two-year-old daughter. Outdoor activities not easily available in New York like swimming, walking the beach, and visiting the zoo year-round are also great fun for the family.

Marissa’s focus in life is exemplified by her favorite Bible verse: “Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage and do it.” Ezra 10:4

Behind the Smiles: Meet Crystal

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We love highlighting our wonderful residents! Crystal is one of those people whose infectious smile becomes immediately contagious. You may even have seen her sweet face on some of our marketing pieces.

Crystal came to live at Protected Harbor after her family met some of the residents of PH while attending the same church. It was a divine connection. Crystal’s mom needed an emergency placement for her having recently been made aware she would not survive a fatal illness. Our staff, fully aware of Crystal’s circumstances promised that when the time came, Crystal would have a home at Protected Harbor.

Nearly three years ago Crystal settled easily into what is now her permanent home where she feels stimulated, protected, and loved, surrounded by her new “brothers and sisters” as she affectionately refers to them. She doesn’t isolate herself, rather she participates in all the activities enthusiastically with the other residents. Her love of music and dancing is obvious, but she also loves sports and participates in golf, basketball, and bowling. A more recently acquired hobby has been her mosaics class. Despite this, she still enjoys having her private space, her own bedroom, desk, and TV.

Crystal’s demeanor which exudes optimism comes from her reliance on her Creator who has never abandoned her. Living at Protected Harbor has become simply an added miracle in her life, and she is continually thankful for that. As you can see from the photos, her smile is living proof!

Committee Member Spotlight: Meet Cindy Weiner

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Cindy Weiner recently joined the Marketing Committee for Protected Harbor. Her professional expertise will be a true asset as we continue to expand our outreach and increase public awareness of our mission.

She was introduced to PH by her neighbor and friend Joe Gandolfo. Joe serves on our Board and he invited Cindy and her husband, Buzz to our recent Olympics event in which residents competed in games to win medals. By volunteering, they were able to interact personally with the residents; a rewarding experience for all.

Cindy and Buzz have been married six years, she has two stepchildren and five grandchildren. She keeps active playing golf and traveling with Buzz in their RV. She also volunteers with the Parkinson’s Association of SWFL.

Cindy comes to us with an extraordinary background in communication, having run several radio stations in Rochester NY, Albuquerque NM, Las Vegas, and Kansas City. She began working in sales, eventually moving up to management. In each of the above locations, she successfully elevated the radio stations from mediocrity to excellence.

After her radio career, she began working for the Children’s Miracle Network helping them raise money for 160,000 non-profit children’s hospitals by using her background in radio to accomplish the task. They did radiothons, broadcasting live from various hospitals, something she would like to see replicated at Protected Harbor.

Her interest in working with Protected Harbor was inspired by the manner in which our organization impacts individuals on a personal level and that it is being done locally. She loves the smiles on the faces of the residents and understands the comfort and relief of their parents who no longer need to worry about their adult child’s future care. We are thankful for her expertise and her willingness to share it with us to help us grow.

Staff Spotlight: Meet Pete and Cindy Garritt

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We are pleased to announce Pete and Cindy Garritt have joined our team of Direct Support Professionals serving residents in Protected Harbor II. They learned about our ministry from former staff members Kim and Suzy Brooks during a small group meeting at Kings Church in Lakeland, FL.

Another couple in that same small group, Debbie and Pat Kappenman also helped pique their interest when they too began working with Protected Harbor. Cindy had shared with them that she missed the special needs community, especially after her special needs son Duncan passed away. Cindy had recently retired from her career as a flight attendant, so the convergence of circumstances became God’s way of answering her prayers.

Cindy and Pete previously lived in Denver, where Pete, who has a law degree and a Master’s in public administration, worked for the City and County of Denver in the Human Resources division. During that same period, Cindy, who has a Master’s Degree in communication, worked with Walmart, opening new stores and coordinating all the media for the new store managers.

Their eclectic backgrounds serve them well in their work at Protected Harbor, but their biggest contribution is their intimate and personal understanding of the resident’s struggles. Having had their own son go through the same challenges, they understand that it can take a person with special needs a little longer to communicate, or to accomplish a task and to understand that all victories, even little ones are actually big ones!

The Garritts want to emphasize for the residents that this is their home, the place where they can flourish and live without judgment. “I want to make the environment as comforting, loving, and as fun as possible.” Cindy recently said. They both hope to help the residents discover more of what they can do, rather than what they can’t do.

During their free time, Cindy and Pete enjoy visiting and spending time with their daughter Lydia as much as possible. Pete enjoys gardening, while Cindy loves renovating. They recently bought a house after having moved to Florida, and the renovations are a fun challenge for her. They also enjoy traveling and exploring previously unknown areas of Florida.

Pete and Cindy each have personal, favorite verses that help guide their lives. Cindy loves John 7 and the message about how God has chosen us, how He will find us and how we can run to His arms. Pete loves 1 Corinthians 15, which ends with this verse: “therefore my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” We are blessed the Lord continues to draw devoted couples like the Garritts to Protected Harbor.

Behind the Smiles: Meet Deb

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Deb moved into Protected Harbor in July of 2019. Before that she lived in a group home in Texas, so she had no prior connection or even awareness of our existence. Since arriving in her new home, she has adjusted well to her new lifestyle which provides greater independence plus innumerable chances for friendships, activities, and socialization.

Deb’s daily schedule begins with a large cup of coffee and some quiet time, reading, and prayer. She loves animals, cats in particular, so much of her interest revolves around the care of domesticated animals and researching wildlife. In fact, she wishes she could volunteer at an animal shelter.

Protected Harbor has made Deb feel wanted and cared for. In her own words: Living here “gives me a sense of wellbeing, comfort and I feel safe. It is like God giving me a hug”. Those words can only come from a genuinely thankful heart.

Despite her disabilities, Deb has an interesting resume which includes having attended college for two years and studying French for four years. While at Protected Harbor she will be able to continue her academic pursuits using many of the opportunities offered at the house. Other major goals in her life are learning more about Jesus and how to live a healthy life.

Board Member Spotlight: Meet Alyssa Hayes

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Board member Alyssa Hayes joined Protected Harbor eight years ago. Among the many gifts and services she has contributed to our mission, her skills in speech pathology have greatly enhanced the communication needs and struggles of various residents. Recently, she has conducted weekly training sessions with two of our men, and has often said that working with them brings her nothing but joy and fulfillment.

When Alyssa was growing up, a friend’s sister suffered from Cerebral Palsy. Alyssa witnessed her family take care of all her needs well into adulthood. They used pictures to help her communicate which made such a deep impression on Alyssa that it became the impetus and inspiration for becoming a Speech Pathologist.  Her childhood experience created a true passion for the communication needs of people with special needs and their overall independence. Alyssa believes strongly in building independence and believing that if they can, they will.

Alyssa is proud to have spent the last 28 years as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). Her career spans various professional positions in acute care, rehab, private therapy, and public education. Currently employed by Collier County Public Schools, Alyssa works with students PreK-5th grade. This population has varying degrees of cognitive, physical and language skills such as Autism, Developmental Delays, Epilepsy, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, hearing impairments, Angelman’s Syndrome, and DiGeorge Syndrome. She is trained to use pictures, communication devices, and sign language to facilitate communication. She is a part of a team to address essential skills such as feeding and swallowing. In addition, Alyssa also serves students with speech delays or disorders affecting the correct pronunciation of speech sounds, while others need help understanding the meaning and use of language to succeed academically. She is trained in Orton Gillingham and enjoys working with students with Dyslexia.

Alyssa is a single mother of three boys: twins aged twenty-two as well as a seventeen-year-old. She has lovingly nurtured and watched her boys develop into well-adjusted young men. She is very grateful and credits a deep faith in God for this accomplishment. In addition to her service to others, Alyssa enjoys cooking for her boys and indulging her passion for gardening.

In her own words, Alyssa has expressed what it has meant to work with Protected Harbor: “PH residents have blessed me over the years with countless smiles, prayers, laughs, and stories. They all show such perseverance and grit overcoming their weaknesses and shining in their strengths. They bring such joy to my life. My prayer is that PH will continue to grow and serve many others in the future”.

She clings to the promise of Romans 8:28 that God works for our good. He works for “the good of those who love Him”. If you love God, you can trust that He is working for your good….He loves you and when we love people, we seek their welfare.

Romans 8:28 “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Behind the Smiles: Meet Tiffany

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Tiffany is a well-rounded creative young lady, whether it be expressed through music or art. She has a meticulous eye for detail which became obvious once she began experimenting with small pieces of colored glass while creating her first mosaic piece. Her artistic skills caught the eyes of her fellow residents who lavish her with praise and accolades once they see her completed work. This is also true when she plays the Indian flute. What she struggles to express verbally, can be easily understood through her artistic expression.

Tiffany loves to read and learn. In addition to her involvement with the regular training programs offered, she is teaching herself the Japanese system of writing using Chinese characters known as “kanji”. This is an obvious transition for her, as she can use her innate artistic abilities to design perfectly crafted characters while being amazingly able to remember what each one of them means. Along with kanji, she is fascinated by Japanese culture, literature, and art.

When not involved in didactic activities, she loves being outdoors. Tiffany is an avid bicyclist who has been known to take seven to twelve-mile rides alongside staff and peers. Her favorite local trail is the John Yarbrough Linear Park, a short distance from one of our homes. She also enjoys walking and working out to guided video sessions. Maintaining good health is obviously important to her.

Animals find a sensitive friend in Tiffany. She enjoys the beauty of creation and has a special soft spot in her heart for its many creatures. In fact, she rides horses as part of the Special Equestrians program offered to our residents, loves visiting the zoo with her grandmother, and keeps track of the many small animals that saunter around our grounds. Tiffany is often found sitting on a bench by our nearby lake surrounded by and enjoying the beauty of nature.

Above her desk, she has a note that reads: “Remember to Pray. It is the most important skill of all”. We are honored to have Tiffany as a member of our Protected Harbor family and be a part of her growth as she develops her many skills. We are also encouraged by her willingness to be involved in spiritual activities as she grows in her faith.

Behind the Smiles: Meet Cleo

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Cleo thinks of herself as our “party girl”. Behind her smile is a woman always ready to try something new and who can find fun in the most mundane aspects of daily life. Cleo’s parents, George and Athena Pappas played a central role in creating the idea for and the actual building of Protected Harbor’s first group home where Cleo has been living. She proudly thinks of it as the home her daddy built for her.

Cleo is a big fan of old movies and fantasizes about being part of the drama and romance portrayed in old Hollywood classics. It is no surprise  that she loves dressing up as if going out for a night on the town, wearing a pair of earrings from her extensive collection. The highlight of any holiday is anticipating a trip back home, allowing her the opportunity to take her parents out to dinner.

Cleo also loves to read, learn and interact with others. During the week she attends training classes that help her with stress management techniques. She also participates in do-it-yourself experiments and projects, learning money and math skills, and reading books.

Dinner time each night is her opportunity to engage the other residents in conversation and rehash the day’s events while joking and chatting about the activities planned for the next day. She is certainly in her element enjoying good food, good friends, and good conversation!

One of the Bible verses Cleo keeps on her bulletin board reads: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly” (I Peter 4:8).  In every way she can, Cleo seeks to live this verse out daily. She is passionate, sensitive, friendly, welcoming, and contagiously happy with the good life God has given her.