The individuals served by Evergreen have now been sheltering in place for more than two months. As all of you know by now, staying home is tough, but Evergreen has a lot for which to be thankful.

The precautions Evergreen took early on have largely kept COVID-19 out of our homes and facilities in all states where we provide services except Louisiana. More than two months into the fight, just 22 of the nearly 2,000 staff members at Evergreen have tested positive for COVID-19.

We serve more than 1,100 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Thirty have contracted COVID-19, and as of today, twenty-five have recovered. Three are still recovering, and tragically, two have passed away.

We are devastated by this loss, and it is why we are being overly conservative with our plans to reopen our programs and end the shelter-in-place directives in our homes.  We want to do everything possible to protect the people we care for and love.

The past few months have been some of the most difficult ever experienced for all of us at Evergreen. This unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us physically, mentally and emotionally for a length of time longer than we anticipated. We understand the toll that staying at home is taking on those we serve, on the staff members who care for them, and on the loved ones who want to visit. Even if we can’t open back up just yet, we know that we all need something to look forward to right now. That’s why Evergreen has developed a reopening task force, consisting of staff members in the states where we provide services.

The reopening taskforce will create a plan for how to safely reopen Evergreen’s programs, allow those we serve to leave their community homes, and ensure that visitors can safely see their loved ones. Our decisions will be based on directives from each of the states where we provide services and on the most recent data and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. As soon as this plan is finalized, we plan to publish it on our website and share it with you.

Now, for some much-needed good news. Many of you have asked about when and if we were going to reschedule our much-loved annual Celebrity Waiter Dinner in Shreveport, Louisiana. This is our largest fundraiser and truthfully, we need funds more than ever.

We are excited to announce that we are going to host this event virtually, which means anyone can attend. If you have friends or family who you’d like to get involved in our mission to serve, provide for and champion individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, our virtual Celebrity Waiter Dinner Event will be a perfect opportunity to introduce them to our organization.

The rescheduled event is on Thursday, June 25 at 6 pm Central Time. We will send registration information and more details next week.

Evergreen is also excited to announce that the face masks created and sold by our HEAVENDROPt social enterprise have received so many orders that we’ve decided to add additional designs. Based on feedback from our board members and customers, we will be creating one version that will loop behind the ears and another version with a break-away clasp. The current version ties. We will update you when pre-orders are available.

To our residential families and guardians, we know how difficult it is to be apart from your loved one. And to our families that rely on our day services, we recognize how disappointing it is that your loved one is not able to attend the enriching programs they depend on.

Thank you for your continued support and understanding during these uncertain times. We want to reassure you that our dedicated team is working hard to keep those we serve safe and engaged.

Our direct support staff members have made remarkable progress in our homes, utilizing e-learning and finding creative and new recreational and physical activities.

But normalcy will return, even if it may look different than that which we are accustomed. Our highest priority is keeping those we serve and our staff members safe, and we will continue to update you as changes develop.

With Gratitude,
Sue Buchholtz