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Onsite ServicesAutism Day Habilitation | Community Based Day Supports | Employment Services | Wellness | What's Happening in 2023 | Meet Our Staff

An Update from Advocates Life Skills and Learning Center

We ended 2022 with a big bang! As you read through this newsletter, you will learn about the wonderful activities and programming that occurred here in Ashland and in our community. However, it was a tough end of year, with COVID hitting us worse than we have seen. With 19 staff and 16 individuals positive between Thanksgiving and the New Year, we are glad that we utilized an extra day for families and staff to rest and continued deep disinfections of the site. Thankfully, all are recovered.


We welcomed ten more friends back into programming at the end of 2022! We also welcomed a few new staff, including a part-time on staff Occupational Therapist, Julie Savoyski. Julie will be spending time focusing on training staff in our Autism areas, building our assistive technology programming for CBDS/Employment and Day Hab, as well as working closely with clinical services. She comes to us with many years of Day Hab experience.

Steve, Colleen, and Kathy are gearing up for CBDS and Employment programming licensure and certification. They are working hard to ensure that everything is in place for our continued success.

MassHealth eligibility redeterminations will begin in April. You will find more information later in the newsletter, andwe will be sending emails with more details about the process. If you have any questions, please reach out to Stephen Robery, Director of Operations. Please also stay tuned for updates to our COVID policies in the coming month.

Stay well!



Elizabeth Bardasz
Vice President of Developmental and Brain Injury Day Services


Onsite Services

Update brought to you by Bedford Saforo, Charlene Thomas, Crystal Rice, & Devon Brown, Day Hab Managers

Lots of laughter occurred during our Spirit Week festivities which included Wear Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness, Celebrate your Culture Day, Halloween, Holiday Who-be Whatee (dress in green or your best grinch attire), Dreaming of a White Christmas (wear your pjs!), Crazy Sweater Day, and Channel your Flannel day! Prizes were awarded to the most spirited!

We have also enjoyed theme weeks including Road Trip USA, Dr. Suess, Dinosaurs, American Presidents, Weather, Warner Brothers, and Willy Wonka. During these weeks, we work on group projects and arts and crafts, with lots of learning along the way! We created stained glass soldiers, 3D popcorn buckets, and button flags. We also learned about exciting topics like service animals and Arlington National Cemetery.


Groups are also spending time in the gym using exercise equipment or playing games such as cornhole, adapted basketball, or bowling. Aerobics and dance groups are also very popular! Our weekly building-wide game of walkie-talkie Bingo is still a huge hit! Jeopardy! is another favorite activity.

In food-oriented groups such as Cooking Around the World and Interactions with Food, we use our imaginations as well as our senses to learn about countries such as Jamaica, America, and Spain and Haiti. We practice words in each language, learn interesting facts, and play traditional games while exploring their delicious cuisines.


Autism Day Habilitation

Update brought to you by Zachary Condon, Autism Day Hab Manager

While it may be cold outside, that has not stopped the Autism Day Program from enjoying the holiday season. Thanksgiving found us all taking a moment to appreciate each other and enjoy a big, delicious turkey meal. We spent the week leading up to the big feast doing projects like pumpkin tie dye shirts, while expressing everything that we are thankful for in our lives (family is a big one).

In our cooking group, our friends continue to develop independent living skills. We see an audition for Top Chef in our future! Our rooms became a frosty wonderland as we decorated for the winter holidays. The festivities continued into our Spirit Week, that saw us wearing our ugliest Christmas sweaters and best Grinch attire.

In other exciting news, we have started volunteering with Meals on Wheels again, which has taught us that taking a little time to help others is a rewarding experience. Every Friday morning, after we get our blood pumping in the gym, we head out to the Ashland Senior Center to pick up the food. We share the responsibilities and take turns delivering the food to each home. We have met some amazing people who are grateful for our hard work. Riding around, listening to music, and delivering meals is not a bad way to spend a morning!


Community Based Day Supports

Update brought to you by Eric Dwinnells, Senior Case Manager

This fall, CBDS hosted a Halloween carnival for the whole building including games that we built our selves such as ring toss, knock-‘em-down clowns, and a boneyard scavenger hunt! On our annual trip to Salem, we were welcomed by the pink-clad Good Witch of Salem. We enjoyed visiting the tourist shops and seeing where parts of the original Hocus Pocus were filmed. In addition to the seasonal fun, we have been keeping up our normal routine of visiting local shops, libraries, going for walks in the park (in nice weather of course), and occasionally bowling or playing games at Dave and Busters.


We continue our volunteer work at Meals on Wheels, The Framingham Food Pantry, The MetroWest Humane Society, and Project Just Because and are reaching out to other organizations for new opportunities. Through our partnership with The Weston Library, we enjoy fun and educational programming. Activities include making no-sew blankets and learning about snowflakes and then creating our own snow globes.

Our mask project will have a second gallery show at the Weston Library! The Ashland Library has also expressed interest in showing our mask projects in their gallery. Stay tuned for more details!


Employment Services

Update brought to you by Colleen Graham, Employment Program Manager


Paula has been with employment services for many years, having successfully held a long-term job in the school system. After 10 years of work, she lost her job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the loss of her job was difficult, Paula turned it into an opportunity to try something new and shared that she wanted to work at a Price Chopper or Ocean State Job Lot. Paula’s positive attitude helped her get her current position at Ocean State Job Lot, where she is thriving.

Starting her new job last May was both an exciting and nervous time for Paula, as it was very different from her past work. She has built a successful career using her natural visual skills and many new skills she has learned on the job. Paula is also bilingual and welcomes and assists customers who speak Portuguese.

For her outstanding work, Paula was awarded an employee of the month certificate! Barbara, the assistant manager, shared that she’s seen Paula grow from a shy and uncertain employee to an outgoing, confident, and valued member of the staff.



Emily has turned volunteer experience with dogs and other animals into a paying job working with canines at Wagtime in Westborough! At Wagtime, Emily cares for the animals, feeds them, and helps them get exercise. She’s spending her days surrounded by dogs, which she loves. “This is my dream job. I couldn’t be happier,” Emily said.

Before starting at Wagtime, Emily worked at a rescue organization for Golden Retrievers in Hudson. She also has experiencing working with horses at a facility in New Hampshire and working as a dog sitter. A few years ago, she attended summer camp at a veterinary college on Prince Edward Island in Canada, where she learned about animal science. Emily also has a degree from Quinsigamond Community College.



Update brought to you by Scott Finan, Rehab Aide

With the help of program room staff, our nurses, and the therapy team, we strive to make sure all our friends understand the importance of healthy living and wellness. A major component of healthy living is physical fitness. Our friends enjoy working on their fitness through group yoga, aerobics, going for walks, and doing one-on-one workouts in the therapy room. Through our activity schedule, we focus on nutrition by watching healthy recipe videos, and learning about the benefits of fruits and vegetables, the importance of nutrients, and how our bodies break down food for energy.

There are many elements of wellness, and our activity schedule does a great job addressing them. We also learn about science experiments, different occupations, ways to be creative, and how to interact with each other positively. Every Friday, our nursing team leads a fun and interactive healthy living group focused on various wellness-related topics to improve our mental and physical health.


What's Happening in 2023

Across day services, staff will continue to incorporate fun and creative themes of the week into their daily programming. Starting off in January 2023, we have all new themes and words such as Amazing Birds, My Country/Soldiers, Ocean Animals, Spies, Roaring 20’s, Hollywood, Favorite Authors, Broadway, and more, all with exciting new activities. We will continue to build our programs by welcoming new friends, and we are excited to start at a few new volunteer sites.  

The Breakfast Table Segment is a new program designed by our Rehab Aide, Scott, for the 2023 Activity Schedule. The videos featured in this segment show us healthy breakfast ideas and help us learn about the history of our favorite breakfast foods. As we all know, a big key to a nutritious diet is to start each day with a well-balanced breakfast.

In the therapy room, Scott provides one-on-one exercise programs focused on strength training and flexibility. Another big focus is helping our individuals use the sit to stand machine, which gives many folks a chance to get out of their wheelchairs and work on weight bearing exercises. Participants say they enjoy it because it gives them a great stretch and boosts their self-confidence. In the future, we hope to implement more group exercise programs focused on sports like volleyball, basketball, and soccer, as well as general fitness movements. 


Meet Our Staff

Amanda Molina | Case Manager

How long have you been at Advocates?
I have been at Advocates for two years.

What brings you joy at work?
Laughing with my clients.

What is one thing many people don't know about you?
One thing many people don't know about me is that I love gnomes.

Who inspires you at work?
My clients always willing to try new things even if it's a little difficult at first.


Bethany Wilson | Case Manager

How long have you been at Advocates?
Since 2008.

What brings you joy at work?
To provide a safe happy place for our friends to spend their day! To teach and encourage them to attain success in their work, I love to see their smiles and hear their laughter. I love to bring dignity to their personal needs and watch them learn to trust me.

What is one thing many people don't know about you?
That I love to act in the theatre, and play piano and sing. Also I love old abandoned properties that I can investigate on foot and on screen.

What superpower would you like to have?
The ability to know how people feel and what they need so I could attend to that feeling or need, instead of guess.