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Last week, Auberle program participants chalked inspirational messages on sidewalks around the McKeesport campus. (Auberle photo via Facebook)
Despite the hardships everyone is experiencing during the coronavirus pandemic, Auberle’s John Lydon says he’s trying to stay focused on the goodwill that people are showing, and the good deeds that have resulted.
“It seems that everything out there is doom and gloom,” says Lydon, chief executive officer of the non-profit organization that provides a variety of social services to families and communities. “We need to know that there are people persevering.”
Some of the gestures are large, he says, but others are more personal, like the dozen hand-sewn washable face masks that were donated to Auberle by Amanda Huff, a local woman who runs a sewing shop.
To keep up morale, Auberle has been sending email updates to its staff, highlighting positive accomplishments in the midst of the pandemic, particularly in the foster care program.
“Amidst what is overall a tragedy we have had some really neat experiences in foster care,” Lydon says.
Several families have reported that since they’ve been home all day working with the children they’re fostering, they’ve been able to make real breakthroughs, he says. One family reported that the child they’re fostering has just learned to walk, and another reported their foster child has learned to read, Lydon says.
Besides running the largest non-kinship foster care program in Allegheny County, Auberle also operates residential programs and like most such facilities, has experienced a severe shortage of essential health products such as masks and cleaning supplies.
Lydon says the Allegheny County Department of Human Services is helping the agency replenish its stock. DHS also monitors Auberle’s programs and has been doing weekly check-ins with all of the different services Auberle provides, he says.
Every program Auberle provides will remain open in one way or another, Lydon says, and the agency has taken extensive precautions regarding COVID-19.
As many people as possible are working remotely, he says. The number of people allowed inside Auberle facilities at one time is being limited, Lydon says, and staff members have received instructions on how to keep safe and healthy when interacting with guests.
Reminders have been posted around the buildings regarding safety procedures, in accordance with guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some Auberle services, like its semi-independent living and foster care programs, require staff to be on-site. Shifts for the on-site staff have been changed so that every member now works in pairs in order to limit cross-contamination across staff if there is an outbreak of the virus, Lydon says.
Auberle’s homeless shelter and addiction treatment centers are remaining open for in-person visits and staff continue to work despite the potential danger.
Lydon says many of the patients are only part way through their addiction treatment and do not feel comfortable either continuing their counselling online or returning home before they’re fully recovered.
“It says a lot about the quality of our staff and their commitment to our mission that they have chosen to stay on,” Lydon says.
Nick Zurawsky is a freelance writer in Pittsburgh. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published April 08, 2020.