Wellness Blog

"Wellness is not the absence of illness but the presence of purpose in life; satisfying work and play, joyful relationships, a healthy body and environment— and happiness"

BLOOM receives pair of grants

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A pair of recently awarded grants has fortified BLOOM Collaborative’s efforts of using arts as a way to grow, heal and connect with others.

William M. and Frances Schuster Fund of the Erie Community Foundation

BLOOM was the recipient of nearly $5,000 from the endowment established by the late William Schuster, a fund series that has contributed nearly $1 million to Erie nonprofits since it began in 2000.

BLOOM will use the $4,732 it received from the Schuster endowment for art supplies and instructor fees.

The fund was established in 1998 by Schuster, the founder of Warren Radio, who left the $1.2 million endowment fund with the Erie Community Foundation. This year, thirteen local nonprofits collectively received $50,891 in funds.

Erie Arts and Culture

Thanks to a $2,500 contribution from Erie Arts and Culture, BLOOM will add two new collaborators— Family Services of Northwest Pennsylvania and the Sight Center of Northwest Pennsylvania—and expand its Community Arts Outreach Program (CAOP).

CAOP fills a large service gap due to the absence of low-cost studio arts programs for underserved populations in the Erie Region. With the new partnerships, the project will stress inclusion in the arts for disabled and underserved individuals as well as mark the first arts program for young adult clients of the Sight Center.

Grants from Erie Arts and Culture helped fund the successful CAOP pilot in 2013 and 2014. Now, BLOOM will expand the program by making use of the newly opened Blossom’s Clay Studio, the area’s largest ceramic arts space. The barrier-free and handicap accessible studio will introduce the arts to those who have little or no experience due to their disabilities.

BLOOM received the grant check when Erie Arts and Culture presented more than $124,000 to Erie County nonprofits for arts, culture and heritage-related projects during a March 4 presentation at an Erie BayHawks game (below).

Programs at BLOOM focus on arts that foster growth, creativity and learning, making the lives of participants, their families and our community more vibrant, meaningful and self-sustaining.

Above: From left, Joe Cuneo, Stairways marketing/communications specialist, Amanda Brown Sissem, Erie Arts and Culture executive director, and Jim Riley, Erie Arts and Culture Board Chair.

Support Stairways with a Smile

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Did you know that while shopping on Amazon you can designate Stairways Behavioral Health as your charity of choice? And the best part is that this designation is free.

AmazonSmile will then donate a small percentage of each purchase to the charity of your choice.

One-hundred percent of the donation amount generated from your eligible purchase on AmazonSmile will be donated. The donation amounts generated by your purchases are combined with the donation amounts from all other customers that selected the same organization.

Tens of millions of products on AmazonSmile are eligible for donations. You will see eligible products marked “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on their product detail pages.

Remember all those nickels, dimes and quarters add up quick just like in your change jar!

As always, proceeds will go directly to helping our clients.

Click here to support Stairways with a Smile

Boards of directors approve resolution to affiliate Dickinson Center Inc. with Journey Health System

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Boards of Directors for both Journey Health System and Dickinson Center, Inc. have mutually approved a resolution to strategically align Dickinson Center, Inc. with Journey Health System. The other affiliates include Beacon Light Behavioral Health System, Beacon Light Adult Residential Services, Stairways Behavioral Health and Forest Warren Mental Wellness Association.

The next step in the process involves both organizations working with legal counsel to finalize the detailed plans of the affiliation, and submitting a copy of the affiliation agreement for approval by the Pennsylvania State Attorney General.

Through affiliation, Dickinson Center, Inc. will integrate the areas of finance, information technology and human resources among others. As with the other affiliates, Dickinson Center, Inc. will continue to maintain local governance and all daily operations of its programs and services and retain its name and community identity.

This affiliation expands upon an already successful partnership that both Dickinson Center, Inc. and Beacon Light have enjoyed in Elk County for many years.

Dickinson Center, Inc. a non-profit organization providing behavioral health, intellectual disabilities, and children's prevention services in rural Northwestern PA. Dickinson Center, Inc. is recognized as one of the leading rural behavioral health providers in Northwestern Pennsylvania, and has evolved into an organization with approximately 200 employees operating in Elk, Cameron, Potter, McKean, Forest, Warren, Jefferson, and Clearfield counties.

To learn more about Dickinson, visit its website at www.dickinsoncenter.org

15 graduate from Stairways' financial education class

Monday, January 18, 2016

Another group of individuals are well on their way to financial stability, having recently graduated from Stairways Behavioral Health’s Financial Education and Savings Program.

The Financial Education and Savings Program (FESP) is a 12-week course designed to promote responsible use of money and informed financial decisions.

Students are incentivized with the offer of dollar-for-dollar matches to those who graduate, identify a savings goal and reach $500 in savings through participation in the program. Funds from Stairways as well as past grants from United Way of Erie County, GECAC, Erie Community Foundation, Corry Community Foundation and PNC Bank have matched a total of $55,938 saved by clients.

In December, a class of 15 completed the course and is currently saving in hopes of reaching their goal of matching funds.

FESP is offered in the spring and fall during two-hour weekly sessions in a classroom format.

Class topics include understanding the meaning of a budget, income sources, document management, banking and credit. All students have a case manager to monitor how they manage personal finances.

Stairways established FESP to help mentally ill, mostly low-income individuals gain control over such an important part of their lives.

With savings and matching funds thanks to grants, students have been able to pay for home improvements, medical expenses, utilities, auto and home purchases, continuing education, rent and trips among many other things.

Since the class’ inception in 2007, 190 students have graduated from the program, 75 percent of whom were able to collect a combined $111,876 from savings and matches.

Stairways spreads holiday cheer

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Spreading some cheer to clients and their families is at the top of Stairways Behavioral Health’s wish list this holiday season.

And Stairways did its best to see this wish come true by holding a Thanksgiving dinner in November for clients and an employee gift drive for children of clients in December.

The Zukor Club played gracious host to a Thanksgiving dinner to remember for nearly 100 clients Nov. 24. Club members and Stairways staff helped dole out all the Thanksgiving staples and the fixings—as well as seconds and desserts— to a dining room full of smiling faces and full stomachs.

In addition to the donating its dining room and kitchen space, the Zukor Club also made a $500 contribution to Stairways’ Personal Care Home.

Stairways staff took up the giving mantle by holding a gift drive for children of Blended Case Management clients. Staff members picked clean a tree of 88 angel tags representing the names of children and young adults in need of holiday gifts.

Each tag included the name of a child, their age and ideas for gifts to help make their holiday more memorable.

The same objective was in the minds of Stairways Blended Case Managers, who helped distribute 127 boxed Christmas dinners to clients.

BCM Team Supervisor Kevin McCaslin organizes the drive each year that sees the Second Harvest Food Bank donate meals to clients. Stairways unloads, packs and delivers the food to clients in need to make for a hearty holiday feast.

Stairways is grateful for the generosity of everyone who participated their time and resources to make this holiday season special.

In addition to the dinner, the food and gift drive, Stairways staff is helping to collect and donate warm clothes for the Mental Health Association’s Warming Center throughout this winter. Please remember to bring your clean and gently used donations and place them in the marked collection bins at 2185 W. 8th St. or at BLOOM Collaborative, 138 E. 26th St.

Meadville staff volunteer, 'Make a Difference'

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Staff members of Stairways Behavioral Health’s Meadville Outpatient clinic decided to make a difference on a recent frigid Saturday by taking part in a daylong United Way of Western Crawford County event.

Oct. 17 marked the 20th year for Make a Difference Day, an annual event for volunteers to collaborate on community projects and come together to care for neighbors in need of a helping hand.

Meadville crisis supervisor Jeanine Lyons, registered nurse Jane Burrows, therapist Tanya Reynolds and crisis specialist Dan Foltz, along with family members and friends, were among 750 volunteers working on more than 100 service projects throughout western Crawford County.

The Stairways team pitched in by performing yard cleanup in anticipation of the winter for an elderly couple and helped move another senior couple from their home to an apartment.

Lyons called the day rewarding, despite having to share it with the first snowfall of the year.

“It was fun working together with such a caring and fun team and it was nice to be able to help some people in the community,” she said.

Stairways represented at regional suicide conference

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Service providers, mental health professionals and those personally affected recently joined together to help shine a light on a topic that is ignored all too often.

The Erie County Suicide Task Force, a consortium of professionals, survivors and families working to prevent suicide in the community, held its second annual conference at the Ambassador Banquet and Conference Center Sept. 30. Task force members in attendance included staff of Stairways Behavioral Health, a sponsor of the event which brought in an audience in excess of 300 people.

As part of their position on the task force, Jana Zybowski, Kelly Roberts and Rashell Ulrich of Stairways’ Blended Case Management (BCM) program were active in helping assemble this year’s conference.

The conference was broken down into morning and afternoon workshops and included presentations and displays by the sponsoring organizations.

The morning workshop consisted of a panel discussion on the topic of suicide survivors and presentations on children, trauma and evidence-based suicide intervention. Following a lunch that included introductions and recognitions, attendees also heard presentations on the topics of the biology of suicide and took part in a second workshop that included addresses on crisis intervention and suicide and the elderly.

Zybowski, Roberts and Ulrich all described as eye-opening the presentation that highlighted the role biology and physical irregularities play in suicide. The research that was presented pointed to mitochondrial imbalances and cerebral folate deficiency (CFD) as factors that could influence suicide.

“Looking at the biology of suicide is what was really of interest to me,” Zybowski said. “There isn’t much that is known about it yet because the research is new, but if it is able to pinpoint the physiological components and say that suicide isn’t just about being depressed, it could change the way we look at suicide.”

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) was a key sponsor of the event and is a funder of much of research on suicide. Ulrich is a main volunteer for the local AFSP chapter and helped facilitate its involvement in the conference.

“There isn’t always a lot of funding there yet for much of what we saw but a lot of the research at the conference came from what the AFSP was able to fund,” she said.

Experts on the issue of suicide, including researchers from education institutions such as the University of Pittsburgh and Mercyhurst University as well as those from service providers, such as Safe Harbor Behavioral Health and the Warren Psychiatric Institute presented on the topic. Advocacy organizations, including American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Boots on the Ground, a group dedicated to the issue of suicide and veterans, also served as presenters.

Participants of the conference also had the opportunity to receive education credit hours.

In Erie as well as statewide, the prevalence of suicide is staggering. According to the AFSP, suicide is the 11th-leading cause of death in Pennsylvania. Among children ages 10-14, it is the leading cause of death, and ranks as the second-leading cause for persons between the ages of 15 and 34.

The task force began in 2010 when the Erie County Department of Health conducted a needs assessment that revealed Erie and its surrounding counties needed to build a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention, policy, awareness and education. The team now consists of more than 30 members, including professionals in the mental health field.

Roberts noted the mission of the task force being consistent with the work of Stairways.

“We heard a lot about the primary issues that contribute to suicide, like housing and other things, things that BCM already does that are so central to the issue,” Roberts said. “This is really in step with what Stairways is undertaking.”

BLOOM director uses art to honor, support veterans

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

BLOOM Collaborative Director Lee Steadman launched a crowdfunding project benefiting veterans in healing arts programs by creating a chalk drawing with the help of wounded veterans during Celebrate Erie’s Chalk Walk.

The 30-foot-long creation graced State Street as a reminder and tribute to those who have died as a result of their service during the yearly art competition Aug. 18-21.

In conjunction with Pa. Sen. Sean Wiley’s office, BLOOM is raising funds to offer arts therapy classes for veterans. Funding for the campaign supports the purchase of art materials for classes such as drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture, fused glass, crafts, yoga and movement.

Donate by visiting https://www.crowdrise.com/bloomhealingarts/fundraiser/stairways. Every $10 that is donated provides one class for a veteran.

BLOOM’s healing arts programs are for anyone who might be experiencing difficulty—or for any or all who would like to explore and express themselves through the healing and metamorphic power of art and creativity.

Above: Artwork as appearing at the 2015 Celebrate Erie Chalk Walk
Below: Artists and veterans collaborate on their work during the Chalk Walk


BLOOM hosts German Cultural Society of Erie

Monday, August 24, 2015

German Cultural Society

The German Cultural Society of Erie said “Danka Schoen” to BLOOM Collaborative when it held its June meeting at the holistic art and wellnesscenter the evening of June 11.

Some 75 club members experienced BLOOM’s artistic zeitgeist by creating fused-glass dreamcatchers and touring its 4-acre campus. The club also presented BLOOM director Lee Steadman with a token of their appreciation for playing host in the form of a donation.

Right: Wayne Koble, Stairways Board treasurer and German Cultural Society member, presents a check to Lee Steadman, Director, BLOOM Collaborative.

Garden bears fruit and lessons at Gage House

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Clients of Stairways Behavioral Health’s Gage House are learning how sowing healthy seeds yields a bountiful and healthy harvest.

In June, Gage House residents got their hands dirty by planting and nurturing a vegetable garden. Now they are seeing the fruits of their labor in the budding foliage emerging at the 1813 Holland St. site that provides treatment and support to persons struggling with both substance abuse and mental illness. Gage House is a partnership of Stairways and LECOM Health Systems, formerly Millcreek Community Hospital.

Utilizing the Stairways Client Wellness Fund to purchase seeds, equipment and tools needed to start a garden from scratch, Gage House residents planted tomatoes, beans, squash, peppers and carrots to consume and enjoy.

The Client Wellness Fund is an effort by Stairways to promote personal wellness among clients by providing them with sneakers, fitness memberships, nutrition services and other healthy living items.

The garden provides an opportunity for the residents to participate in nutrition learning, relaxation, leisure and sober recreation, Gage House Program Supervisor Sarah Parton said.

“The garden is something that we thought would be a peaceful activity that we could take pride in creating,” Parton said. “It is something I had heard about and wanted to do and I think has been a great experience for everyone here.”

In addition, the patch will also teach skills in time management, leadership and responsibility. But the garden’s crops that will be used in salads and snacks figure to be its most tangible and satisfying return, Parton said.

“It’s so exciting to watch the garden grow and produce delicious food that we can enjoy.”



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