Nestled on the corner of South Park Avenue and Columbia Street in the Historic Cobblestone District is an agency born from the realization that few local organizations were servicing individuals with traumatic brain injuries in Western New York.
17 years later, the agency continues to be a support system to individuals with traumatic brain injuries. Thane Shultz, Director of Programs at Allwel, explains under the original name —New Frontiers— the agency exclusively served individuals with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) under the New York State Home & Community Based TBI Medicaid Waiver program.
“NFTBI began providing more and more home care services for persons with chronic disease, Alzheimer’s / dementia, and other disabilities requiring physical and supportive care,” he says. “New Frontiers added a New York City branch, as well as expanded into more traditional home health care services by becoming a Licensed Home Care Services Agency.”
Providing Services during Difficult Times
Traumatic brain injuries are difficult to service; the physical damage may be irreversible, rehabbing is demanding on older patients, and the mental toll on patients and their families can be just as devastating. Fortunately, Allwel supports families through these difficult circumstances.
Thane reveals the kind of stress caused by the aftermath from a traumatic brain injury, “After a stroke, TBI or onset of cognitive impairments, an individual usually must undergo rehabilitation in a facility. Many times, due to a lack of supports in the home, the individual winds up switching from a rehab patient to a long term care resident.”
With the right resources and support system, patients can ultimately regain comfort in the presence of their loved ones. There’s a feeling of peace that enters Allwel’s staff knowing that an individual is comfortable again.
“My favorite times are when we get to put in the right types of support to get mom and dad back home together.” He shares,“It is always an emotional and wonderful day when they get to spend the night under the same roof again.”
Similar in nature, empathy and comfort build the foundation for the services provided in the area for Allwel. Striving to offer the best possible experience for individuals and their families, the agency holds the old adage, ‘home is where the heart is,’ literally.
“We believe the happiest and healthiest people live in their own homes. While understanding that facilities have their role, we work hard to keep people out of nursing homes. At home, people have a lot more independence and make choices based on their preferences. You get to choose what to eat, where to eat and with whom to eat. You also get to choose how your food is made, which we don’t take for granted. In home care, we get to provide one on one care, which we think is way better than having to wait for someone to respond to a call button when you have to go to the bathroom.”
Working in an individual’s home delivers moments of tranquility during chaos, and offers an unique experience for Allwel’s staff:
“We get to see the lives that families have built for themselves,” Thane says. “You get to engage with the client, where they feel the best, and there is so much to talk about. This also really helps with memory care, because when a person forgets what seems like an otherwise treasured memory, we can use old photos or other possessions to remind the client about their past.”
Experiencing “Buffalo’s Renaissance”
While the Cobblestone District boasts an impressive past, it’s still hard to forget that only a few years ago the area was searching for its identity near Buffalo’s Inner Harbor.
“This was quite a quiet block until [Lockhouse Distillery] opened up right next door,” Thane admits. “Now we have a neighbor that is high energy, very innovative and we love having them here —They have great food which we love!”
The Cobblestone District’s growth has also strengthened the relationships between the organizations located within the district, creating a genuine sense of community.
“We love being here in the Cobblestone District,” he exclaims. “There is so much excitement going on and it’s lots of fun to be located here. This is an easy place for our employees to get to, and it’s also easy to find. We love that going to work is like going to a destination, not just a job. The development of the area really drives positive energy and it’s fun to post pictures and support our neighbors on our Facebook page.”
The ‘All’ in Allwel
The right services begin with the people who provide them, and that’s why Allwel takes great pride in the culture it offers its employees, understanding that driven employees will drive change and foster supportive environment for the agency’s individuals. Thane describes the agency’s mentality towards its staff and how it differentiates Allwel from other local agencies:
“What I think sets us apart from them [WNY home care agencies], is that we have an extraordinary focus on our employees. We love to give them the support that they need to feel valued, safe and confident. I like to say that we take care of our caregivers, as much as we expect them to take care of our clients. We love to celebrate their victories, recognize and reward them for their awesome work, and give them access to resources that they may not otherwise have. We figured, hey, we’re a human services agency linking our clients with all the right resources, why not do this for our employees too?”
“Allwel U is a whole curriculum to promote even better caregiving, better self-care, better access to grants and funding for school and a ton more… We know that being a PCA isn’t where everyone wants to stay for their careers, which is why if they give us just a couple of years, we’ll give them the training and education so they are equipped to handle anything they have it in them to do.”
Embracing the community has also given Allwel the opportunity to play an active role in the city it has called home for 17 years. Some of their partnerships and fundraising activities include AIDS Walk Buffalo, Great Strides walk for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Gay 5K during the pride festival, Susan G. Komen 5K to fight breast cancer and the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Disease.
Allwel will be supporting the American Cancer Society and the National MS Society at their fundraisers as well. Thane also mentions Allwel recently had two Rising Stars of Buffalo honored by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for their hard work fundraising for a cure.
“We also have an “adopted a route” for Meals on Wheels of WNY, so every Thursday you can find two Allwel volunteers delivering food to our neighbors in need.”
Anyone interested in learning more about Allwel or support the organization can visit the website here.