John Milewski was the 2014 recipient of the Edward Frampton Self-Determination Award at BFAIR's annual meeting.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The power of positive thinking was in full force on Friday morning at BFAIR's annual breakfast meeting.
Berkshire Family and Individual Resources Inc. has history of looking at issues from a different perspective: Seeing the brain-injured and developmentally disabled it serves not as problems to be treated but people with potential.
Keynote speaker Daniel Tomasulo told the more than 100 gathered at the Williams Inn that it was a matter of seeing the glass as always full — even if half of it was air.
"We're here because our ancestors were negative thinkers," he said. The brain tends to default to the negative as a survival mechanism, "but we're living in the most peaceful time and we're living longer and better than 10,000 years ago."
Tomasulo holds a doctorate in psychology and is the first licensed psychologist and psychodramatist to graduate from the Master of Applied Positive Psychology Program at the University of Pennsylvania.
The brain can be trained in positive interactions, he said, that can relieve depression and other mental health problems: "We're trying to move from what's wrong to what's strong."
"Our preception gets locked into a way of seeing that might not be the only way of seeing things," Tomasulo said. Half of person's happiness is genetically endowed, he continued, while 10 percent is material and 40 percent is achieved through actions.
The actions are key - from focusing on good things, to expressing gratitude, to calming meditation.
Instead of focusing on the chaotic or bad things in your day, think of three good things that happened, he said. That changes your remembrance of the past as well as affecting the present, and trains the brain to seek the positive rather than the negative.
"Look for good stuff in your head, it's already there," he told the crowd.
BFAIR members and partners may not have to do much to get to a positive level, said Tomasulo, after watching the presentations of awards and speakers.
"You're already doing it," he said. "Watching this was extraordinary."
BFAIR is marking 20 years since its incorporation, a figure that Executive Director Executive Director Rich Weisenflue didn't realize until noting the number on the framed pictures of BFAIR clients and staff used as table centerpieces.
"I go back years now, 1999-2000, I couldn't imagine what BFAIR has accomplished," he said. "I never would have envisioned it."
The agency has gone from serving North Adams, some of Pittsfield and the surrounding communities to stretching past Great Barrington and into Southern Vermont as well as pockets in Greenfield and Springfield.
"We now reach over 435," he said. "That grows eah year, our staff has grown to 200 and with the program opening in Pittsfield, we will have over 200 staff. It's remarkable that as the years go on, there's always something new that seems to happen."
BFAIR's newest service is a residential home in Pittsfield for four brain-injured women who have spent years in a nursing homes and will now have a home to call their own.
A major part of BFAIR's efforts is in matching clients with employers through Arcadia Employment Services to provide some 200 people with a chance to learn skills and pride of accomplishment.
For Advanced Flexible Composites of Adams, there also was an element of pride in being this year's Employer of the Year.
"It's been a banner year, but nothing means more to us than this award today," said Michael Baker, vice president of sales and marketing of the family-owned Illinois company.
"It means so much because there's the dollars and cents of business," he said. "This tells me that AFC is doing the right thing."
Also recognized were:
John Milewski, who was presented with the Edward Frampton Self-Determination Award. Milewski has been with BFAIR for 15 years and recently has made strides in taking better care of his health and in his coping skills. He works in maintenance through Arcadia at a variety of settings.
Linda Cunningham, who was presented the Board of Directors Award. Cunningham has worked for BFAIR for 20 years and is a program coordinator in residential services. She was recognized for going above and beyond in setting the tone for her staff and advocating for those under her care.
Jessenya Rodriguez, who was presented the George A. Crosby Memorial Award for "going the extra mile" for residents. She has been working in residential department for three year and currently works at the Kemp Avenue residence.
The entire staff of 37 Elm St., Adams, received the Armand Quintal Memorial Award for their teamwork, dedication, advocacy and humor in the face of adversity.
Also recognized for years of service:
Five years: Sue Brooks, Eric Denette, Justin McCarthy, Kevin Niccoli, Missy Robare, Tyler Roberts and Carol Thorner; 10 years, Deb DiDonna, Kristen Wampler and Kathy McKeever; 15 years, Kris Neep and the late Kathy Phillips; 20 years, Shirley Martin; and 25 years, John Arasimowicz and Michelle Crockwell.
Earning Level II staff certificates were Sue Brooks, John Carrier, Kellyn Desanty, Liz Figueroa, Missy Krok, Jamie Liporace, Nancy Torres and Mary Underwood.
Earning Management Training Program certificates were Kelly Brennan, Sue Brooks, Angela Choquette, Jen Lesnick, John Little, Amanda McBee, Teresa McBee, Jasmine Rivera, Jason Skalski and Tina Suess.
Greylock Federal Credit Union wast the breakfast sponsor.
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