Close up of international business team showing unity with putting their hands together on top of each other. Concept of teamwork, top view

More Than a Team

By Tinu Ogunkoya

When you think of a “great team,” what does that look like to you? Is it the strong person-to-person dynamics, the complementary skillsets, the high level of productivity? For me, it’s the cohesiveness and harmony, the mutual respect, the shared vision, and so much more.

As the new director of a seasoned team, starting in the middle of a global pandemic, I was nervous. I had no idea what to expect or what I was walking into; I didn’t know how I would be received or how my new colleagues would adapt to the change. To my pleasant surprise, both my initial impression of my new team and their acceptance of me as director were positive. The first few weeks were a series of Zoom meetings with lots of smiling, inquisitive faces, coupled with a few corny jokes and ice breakers. As the days became weeks and weeks turned into months, my overall impressions remained consistent. In fact, it was apparent that my team had worked together for so many years that they were a fun, happy, functional family. I figured, however, as my dad would say, that “character is like smoke, you can’t hide it, it oozes out.” It was only a matter of time before the honeymoon phase would end and I would get a clearer picture, right? Wrong.

Fast forward to Tuesday February 2, 2021 – JCS’ first COVID vaccine clinic. It was my first time meeting most of my team in-person as we came together to ensure that the individuals we serve successfully received their first vaccine dose. As we took our rightful positions and worked the clinic, I carefully observed each team member. I stood in awe of how fiercely and efficiently they worked – running through the parking lot in 40-degree weather, writing people’s names down to ensure the clinic ran smoothly and people could stay in their warm cars without losing their place in line. And then the grace they showed each individual. Their interactions were not just about assisting clients into the building, sitting with them, and consoling them as they received their shot … but about the conversations they had, the jokes they told, the horseplay of exchanging snowballs once back outside, and the sounds of laughter that followed. I vividly remember one of our case managers joking with one of our clients as she and the direct care staff slowly walked him into the building. Realizing that his shoelace was untied, the case manager, without missing a beat, lowered herself to the floor and tied the shoelace.

The passion, compassion, and energy my team brought to the clinic, working tirelessly to ensure its success, brought tears to my eyes. It was clear that they were willing to do anything, that their jobs weren’t mere paychecks, it was who they were. It was exactly the type of team I did not realize I needed. It humbled me. For the first time, I saw clearly the team that had been entrusted to me and I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

The Support Services of Individuals with Disabilities (SSID) team is comprised of professionals who have dedicated their lives to the advancement of humanity. To us, there are no disabilities, just differing abilities. To us, working with this population is our calling. We take the time to build and sustain relationships. We are passionate, not perfect. What we do is our way of life.

Through Jewish Community Services (JCS), we provide this population of whom we care so much a wide array of services, including:

  • Counseling
  • Case management
  • Residential services in one of our community homes
  • Supported living services in their own homes (instruction in independent living skills, personal assistance, supervision, emergency monitoring, behavioral consultation, advocacy, and assistance with long term planning for both individuals and their families)
  • Career Services (career exploration, job readiness, job development, and job maintenance)

The mission of our programs is to provide high-quality residential and supported living services to enable people with differing abilities to live, learn, work, and otherwise participate as full members of their Jewish and general communities. We are dedicated to ensuring that our clients have the same opportunities that are open to other community members; that is, the ability and support to live a dignified lifestyle, with opportunities for growth, friendship, recreation, and choice.

So, whether you were referred to JCS or are looking for services for yourself, your relative, or a friend, we’re here for you and we want to be an integral member of your team. Let’s answer your questions; give us a call at 410-466-9200 or email us at info@jcsbaltimore.org.

Tinu Ogunkoya is the Director of Support Services for Individuals with Disabilities at Jewish Community Services

JCS is a comprehensive human services organization providing a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.

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