Many CFI employees are on the front lines, providing critical care in the safest way possible to the people we serve during the COVID-19 public health emergency. In this series, we talk to several of our Unsung Heroes who often work behind the scenes.

Jessica Ardellini

Jessica is a L.I.F.E. Services manager.

TELL US WHAT PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING COVID-19?

Making phone calls to find out from our staff who had been out of state and informing them they have to be quarantine for 1-2 weeks; providing client services with one-third of our staff while trying to calm the fears of our staff who were at work about their safety and well-being, while also personally having those concerns, and being extremely concerned for the clients we serve as they are some of the most vulnerable, especially in a time like this. One of the biggest challenges has been to stay up to date with the latest information (which seems to be changing every hour) and then making sure we communicate all the information accurately with our staff, some who were in the building and some who were quarantined at home, answering questions that they have, hoping that we’re answering their questions correctly, and ultimately not knowing what the future holds, but trying to reassure their fears at the same time.

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING DURING THIS CRISIS?

Our team, as during most times of crisis, has really come together and supported one another implicitly and unconditionally. It has been inspiring to watch our management team work together during this time to support our staff and each other. It is also really amazing to see how all our staff have seemed to maintain a positive, hard-working, let’s-just-do-whatever-we-need-to-do attitude. I love my team of people.

WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU?

This experience has taught me, although I already knew it, what an amazing team of people I work with. There have been many, many, many late night and weekend phone calls to make plans, discuss concerns, and make sure we all have the information we need. This experience has also taught me what true dedication looks like and the ability to find opportunity in a highly unusual, stressful, and unchartered situation.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?

To relieve stress, I typically spend time with my family, go out with my friends, I love to read for myself and with my kiddos, have a glass of wine or 2, or go shopping. I’ve had to adjust some of my stress relievers throughout this whole mess…online shopping works too, face-time/video chats with friends and grandparents, my 6-year-old daughter and I are making our way through The Chronicles of Narnia, I have definitely had a glass of wine or 2, and I’m getting to spend a lot of time with my husband and 3 kids (which definitely relieves stress, but can also add to it sometimes.


Katerine Cardenas Guevara

Katerine is a bilingual service coordinator for our Birth to Three program. Learn how she meets the challenges of taking care of her families during this crisis.

TELL US WHAT PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING COVID-19?

I think it is a privilege to be able to work from home. Our manager and IT have made this transition possible with all the technical support with need for it. However, all the transition has a challenge, and I think for me it has been learning to use the new technology and procedures as fast as possible.

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING DURING THIS CRISIS?

The biggest reward is to still be able to provide services to our families and help them to navigate this difficult situation. It is very rewarding  to see how happy and thankful our families and kids are when B-3 make contact with them.  

WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU?

I have learned that being flexible and adapt to the new process is the key to adjust and cope with the challenges that a pandemic can bring to us. Also, that we are not alone, there are always people there to provide support.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?

Spend time with my family is the best for me. Use my breaks to play with my 2-year-old or dance has helped me a lot. Also talked with coworkers has been very helpful.

 


Carrie Cianciola

Carrie is a manager for our Birth to Three program.

TELL US WHAT PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING COVID-19?

Working from home has been a challenge — trying to get our work done in new and different ways leads to a sense of disorganization.  New processes and procedures need to be put in place quickly, and it seems, almost daily.  It is a new way of doing things, and can be mentally draining.

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING DURING THIS CRISIS?

We continue to connect with our families and provide some sense of stability for them during these uncertain times.  It is so good to see the smiling faces of the parents and children through video conferencing . . . to know that they are doing OK.

WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU?

That if you have a great team, you can make it through anything.  I am so thankful for our amazing team and the support that we have from our manager, JC  (Juan Carlos Chang Shik)!   

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?

I’ve enjoyed working on puzzles with my daughter while watching some of my favorite movies.  We’re also determined to play every game we own . . . which is about 49 total!!


Lisa Dehn

Lisa is a L.I.F.E. Services RN.

TELL US WHAT PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING COVID-19?

Changing work areas suddenly; Providing information regarding items that I am just learning about; Assisting in ensuring participants have what they need with sudden decisions to keep participants home.

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING DURING THIS CRISIS?

Seeing staff come together to cover for participant care in ways that they would not normally do. Seeing staff take it on themselves in getting items done that in our normal routine we would not be able to do due to participant care.

WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU?

Flexibility is key to working in areas. Being forthright in what knowledge I have even if others are not happy with the resulting answer, because at times even medical professionals are getting the same
information as the general public.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?

Take walks, make bad jokes, or sing off key! 


Emma Erickson

Emma is a physical therapist service for our Birth to Three program. Learn how she meets the challenges of taking care of her families during this crisis.

TELL US WHAT PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING COVID-19?

It has been a challenge figuring out how to adapt from hands-on treatment and engagement with others to being able to only communicate electronically. This applies both to the families I provide services for in the B-3 program and my B-3 team members.    

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING DURING THIS CRISIS?

The rewards while working now are seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces through video chatting and being able to offer support and a virtual shoulder to lean on for the parents struggling through this time. I also have come to appreciate how amazing the B-3 team is as they have been supporting not only the families we serve but also each other.

WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU?

This experience has taught me the importance of adaptability and having the support of a solid team. We have had to adapt how we do things almost daily to keep servicing our families during these times. The B-3 team has been very supportive of one another to help everyone make it through this. 

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?

I’ve been spending a lot of quality time with my dog, petting her, walking her and grooming her. She seems to be enjoying me home!

WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU?

This experience has taught me to be more mindful and aware of my surroundings. Before I was unaware how many objects I touch that so many others do, such as door handles. Now I more conscience of what I am touching or what I am surrounded by. 

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?

To relieve stress I do at home yoga and exercise and household DIY projects.

 


Rotal Ealy-Lockett

Rotal is a driver for our Pediatric Skilled Nursing program.

TELL US WHAT PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING COVID-19?

Just trying to provide for me and my family; make a living.

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING DURING THIS CRISIS?

I’m grateful that I’m still able to work, even if it’s part time hours.

WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU?

We’ve got to take it seriously — protect yourself and do what they tell you to do.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?

I try to watch movies, do family activities (he has five kids, two 13-year-old daughters, a 12-year-old son, a 7-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old daughter).

 


Jennifer Fojtik

Jennifer is a case manager for MCFI's L.I.F.E. Services department.

TELL US WHAT PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING COVID-19?

Having my temperature taken each day and having to wear a mask when we delivered Meals on Wheels (fogged up my glasses!) But lived through it thus far!

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING DURING THIS CRISIS?

Got caught up on updating my client contact list, cleaning out curriculum files I have, and just having the time to learn myAvatar (our new electronic health care records system). Of course, we cleaned our campus thoroughly as well!

WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU?

We can get through anything if we all work together. You can’t get angry or upset at things for we’re all in the same boat.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?

Mainly listen to my music and, luckily, most of the time, I was alone in my office so if I started singing. I wasn’t
bothering anyone! I also walked whenever I could. At home, I worked on various craft projects and my Word Search game, and, each Saturday, jam with my husband on our ukuleles!

 


Sarah Foley

Sarah is a consultant for First Person Care, who helps people enrolled in the Wisconsin IRIS Program so they can remain independent in their own home.

TELL US WHAT PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES YOU ARE FACING DURING COVID-19?

Professional challenges are that I do not have immediate access to resources like I would at our campus, but our team has done an amazing job of using technology to bridge that gap and get us resources as quickly/easily as possible.

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING DURING THIS CRISIS?

Hearing from my clients that they appreciate me reaching out and checking on them and how much they appreciate that someone is looking out for them.

WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU?

A pandemic is a terrible thing, but there are good people in the world who work hard to try to make it easier/safer on people, and in a way that provides a sort of sense of community.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?

Spend time outside, whether it’s taking my laptop with me to do work or at the end of the day spending a little time in nature. It’s very grounding for me.

 


Zach Keller

Zach is a case manager for MCFI's L.I.F.E. Services department

TELL US WHAT PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING COVID-19?

A professional challenge that I have faced during Covid-19 would be the transition from being outside of Main Campus for my outings to being indoors all day.

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING DURING THIS CRISIS?

Knowing I am making an impact with Meals On Wheels and being able to deliver meals to those in needs.

WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU?

This experience has taught me to be aware of my surroundings, make sure to keep healthy lifestyles and to always put on a smile through the tough times.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?

What I like to do to relieve stress is going for a walk or socializing with others.

 


Megan Kohlenberg

Megan a special educator for our Birth to Three program. Learn how she meets the challenges of taking care of her families during this crisis.

TELL US WHAT PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING COVID-19?

The challenges faced by staff, myself included,  are central to all COVID issues; threat to family, community, and health care system.

We are one of four operable B23 Programs in Milwaukee County currently, and, due to the daily, dire and unrelenting efforts of our staff, we have continued to support families in the “pipeline” including new referrals, heavily relying on core staff with technical expertise using an over-the-phone strategy.  JC Chang Shik,  our leader, displays a herculean effort daily, including the weekends!

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING DURING THIS CRISIS?

For me personally, the COVID challenges have been offset by my awesome colleagues and their unrelenting vigilance to do all and everything necessary to provide families with assurances and re-assurances that when this is over, we can support them once again in their learning pursuits in a healthy and robust edu-econ environment, and get back to what we value as a program-hands-on, face to face contact.


Ali Lueck

Ali is a lead therapist in our Birth to Three program.

TELL US WHAT PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING COVID-19?

In Birth to Three, we have been challenged with how to continue to support the families that we serve but maintain the safety of our families and our team members.  We have been challenged by Milwaukee County canceling in-home visits, but we have persevered as a team to develop a new model of service provision to support our families during this difficult time.  We have been providing support to our families through video and phone visits as primary service providers and service coordinators.  We have developed ways to complete screens of new children, complete intakes with new families, initiate Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs), performed IFSP reviews, and primary service provider visits.  We are also working on a plan to complete initial evaluations through video visits with some members of our team. Our team has worked amazingly well together to make sure that we are supported during these difficult times professionally and personally.  It has been difficult to learn a whole new way of doing things but every person on our team has stepped up and accepted this challenge. 

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING DURING THIS CRISIS?

It has been incredibly rewarding to be a life-line to families during this time.  I personally have assisted with families getting necessary medical supplies that are delayed in shipping, food bank information, formula, and medical testing.  I have been a resource to our families helping to distribute factual information about the COVID-19 Pandemic and bust rumors or false information that they might have been told to also help to keep them safe during this traumatic time.  Also, I have been rewarded by working with the B-3 team that I am privileged to work with; everyone has stepped up to the challenge to support our families and each other. We have even been supporting each other with activities to keep ourselves sane during the isolating time-such as on-line Zumba classes, painting classes, phone calls, and video chats with each other.

WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU?

This experience has taught me that tough times do not last but tough teams do.  They are the ones that will make the difference in stressful times.    

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?

I have been painting and creating wood sign crafts.


Ann Nesbitt

Ann is a behavioral health technician at one of CFI’s community-based residential facilities.

TELL US WHAT PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING COVID-19?

There have been many professional challenges our direct care staff have endured in the last few weeks. The most challenging is convincing our clients of the seriousness of this COVID-19 pandemic. Their lives have been disrupted, as well as our staff.

In addition to our regular shift duties (meals, medication, and frequent education in personal hygiene, soiled laundry, and monitoring client’s mental and physical health), we have been asked to do food/supply inventory every shift. We continue to sanitize the house four times per shift for the safety of clients and staff. We are trying our best to provide the safest environment for our clients by serving meals to two to three clients at a table, in shifts. We are practicing social distancing, proper handwashing and dishwashing and monitoring temperatures daily.

Supervisors on site at the group homes are ensuring clients do not go out in the community, and are doing personal client shopping in addition to their own list of duties and meetings.

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING DURING THIS CRISIS?

Working with staff that speak their concerns for themselves and for our clients.  Our full-time staff on the front lines are perplexed by all this too. We continue to pull together and work as a team.

WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU?

This experience has taught me that we need to be more prepared, and that no one was prepared. But we are doing our best with what we have.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?

I can't wait to get home. Binge Netflix and rest. MUSIC!


Michelle Niedfeldt

Michelle is a manager of clinical services at one of our Crisis Resource Centers, a 24/7 program for people experiencing a mental health crisis.

TELL US WHAT PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING COVID-19?

The crisis has brought about many challenges that, I don’t believe, anyone was adequately prepared for.  At the CRC, we need to make sure we are keeping our staff safe, while continuing to serve the community through mental health treatment.  At times, it has felt very stressful trying to come up with new procedures to ensure safety of both staff and clients. 

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING DURING THIS CRISIS?

I have continued to be impressed by the loyalty and teamwork this has brought out in our CRC family.  Our staff is generally a close-knit team and has a great attitude; however, they daily make me feel proud of their attitude toward this pandemic.  We are blessed with a team who continues to give their all to help a vulnerable population and really take care of each other.  During this time of social isolation, we are counting on each other for strength and in-person social interaction. 

WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU?

I think it’s too early to answer this question yet – we are all continuing to learn and grow in uncharted territory!

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?

It’s important to stay grounded during this time and not swept into fear and panic.  For me, my faith in God is my source of strength.  Staying connected to church family via videos and phone calls has made it seem less isolating.  I also have a very supportive husband, Roy, and a very selfish cat, Igor, who both bring me joy. 


Mary Rogowski

Mary is the LIFE Services associate director.

TELL US WHAT PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING COVID-19?

Any and ever challenge from making last minutes calls to disinfecting an entire building was faced head on by the entire L.I.F.E Services teams at both locations. Challenges are what we do best!

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING DURING THIS CRISIS?

Working side by side with our L.I.F.E. Team! They knocked it out of the park!

WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU?

Anything is possible!

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?

Communicate with all our team members!!!

 


Tammy Sieglaff

Tammy is an occupational therapist for our Birth to Three program. Learn how she meets the challenges of taking care of her families during this crisis.

TELL US WHAT PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING COVID-19?

The biggest challenge has been not seeing our families face to face to connect with them. It is also been a learning curve on how to do things over the phone and via video chat and capture that in our documentation.

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING DURING THIS CRISIS?

It has been rewarding for me to see how well our team is coming together to help each other and our families in new ways. It has also been wonderful since we have started the video chats/phone calls to reconnect and be able to check in with families in this way, to know they are OK. Helping them if they are struggling through this is very rewarding.

WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU?

I’ve learned we are all stronger than we believed, and if you care and are passionate, we can find ways to keep in touch and connect. I also have become aware of more resources than I was previously aware.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?

Getting outside and taking walks has helped with that, as well as connecting with people via phone and chats to stay in touch.

 


Tara Vermandere

Tara is lead client coordinator in L.I.F.E. Services, who with others on her team, helped us keep our commitment to deliver meals to members of the community who are homebound and relying on us for their meals.

TELL US WHAT PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING COVID-19?

The hardest professional challenge I believe is still to come. The program
closing has unregulated individuals that are so routine-oriented and focused, that when the individuals return, I believe it will be a challenge to regain
regulation for many people.

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING DURING THIS CRISIS?

The reward working in the office during the crisis is being able to have the time to organize and clean spaces that are not on the regular itinerary of everyday work.

WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU?

This experience has taught me to be more mindful and aware of my surroundings. Before I was unaware how many objects I touch that so many others do, such as door handles. Now I more conscience of what I am touching or what I am surrounded by. 

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?

To relieve stress I do at home yoga and exercise and household DIY projects.

 


Christine Witter

Christine is a special educator for our Birth to Three program. Learn how she meets the challenges of taking care of her families during this crisis.

TELL US WHAT PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING COVID-19?

I was brand new to MCFI when we got the work-from-home order, so it’s been challenging to still be in training and feel like I’m contributing enough to a team full of very hard workers. It’s also hard not to see families and get to go into the homes which is the best part of the job.

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING DURING THIS CRISIS?

I’m glad we still get to work with families even if it’s just over the phone or video chat for now. We can still give suggestions and resources and still provide some connection during this scary time filled with social isolation.  

WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU?

Flexibility and not to be afraid of approaching things in a new way.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?

I’ve been trying to spend as much outside time as possible with my husband and two little boys.

 


FOOD SERVICE

Food Service workers continued to prepare meals for the community’s most at-risk families during this crisis. Read below to see how this group if weathering the storm.

TELL US WHAT PROFESSIONAL CHALLENGES YOU FACED DURING COVID-19?

Lots of stress, weight loss, heavy work load, kitchen boss yells a little more, lots of phone calls to answer and deal with.

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING DURING THIS CRISIS?

Weight loss, not bored, able to pay bills, keeps us out of trouble, keeps us out of our houses. 

WHAT HAS THIS EXPERIENCE TAUGHT YOU?

Be prepared for the unexpected, patience, stock your TP and water often, save money, the importance of having an emergency fund.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?

Pray, dance, drink tequila, hang out with my kids.


PERSONAL CARE WORKERS

MCFI Home Care caregivers are continuing to provide essential, quality cares during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Without these caregivers on the front line of the crisis, many of our clients would need to be moved to hospitals to receive the appropriate level of cares. Right now, hospitals are experiencing a high intake of patients. Our clients are among some of the most vulnerable populations. Thanks to the dedicated caregivers, our clients are able to remain safely in their homes.

We applaud our caregivers for their ability to adapt quickly and efficiently in this time of crisis. They are utilizing every safety precaution while navigating the worldwide PPE shortage. Again, we’d like to give our utmost thanks to all of our caregivers. Without them, MCFI Home Care would not be able to operate.