Looking out for members in western NY
By SHERRY HALBROOK
As New York City and the downstate region bore the brunt of the COVID-19 onslaught, PEF leaders upstate watched closely and learned. As the pandemic spread upstate, they applied those lessons to protect their members.
PEF Region 1 Coordinator Michele Silsby was glad to have the able help of her members, and especially that of Stephanie McLean-Beathley, council leader of PEF Division 167 at the Western NY Developmental Disabilities Services Office and Western NY Children’s Psychiatric Center, who had already ordered masks for her members.
“I’ve been doing all of this while I’m still on leave from surgery,” Silsby said. “Thankfully, we have some terrific division leaders in Region 1. I’m impressed with Claudia Ames-Smith in Division 196 at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center because she’s new, but she’s really taking hold. And I’m very blessed to have Stephanie because when I ask for her help, I never have to look back and check to make sure things are getting done. I know everything will be fine.”
McLean-Beathley said she was particularly concerned about protecting members working in the 92 group homes serving individuals with disabilities, since the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities was not able to get enough masks and other personal protective equipment to them immediately as the virus started to spread.
Starting her efforts quickly in March, McLean-Beathley said she has been able to distribute at least 900 masks to members.
“We’ve gone out very early in the morning to worksite parking lots and handed out masks to members,” she said.
Where did she get the masks? Her division bought some, members donated cloth masks that they and their families made, and recently PEF President Wayne Spence and PEF’s Membership Benefits Program supplied more. They visited Regions 1 and 3 in late June to meet with members from many agencies and help distribute the PPE.
Silsby said she was glad to recognize members from so many agencies at the three Region 1 locations that Spence met with members. “I saw members from the state Labor Department, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Institute, Buffalo Psychiatric Center and West Seneca Children’s Psychiatric Center, the Office of Temporary Disability Determinations, OPWDD, Taxation and Finance, and Collins, Wende and Attica Correctional Facilities, and the Office of General Services.”
Silsby and McLean-Beathley said they have mainly focused on reaching out to members and council leaders to find out what their concerns are and if PEF can help.
They said the pandemic has created many new challenges for members and their PEF divisions.
“This is a time for all of our leaders to show up and stand up,” McLean-Beathley said. “I think everybody has been doing all they can, and I know that I still have many more things I need to do.”