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Lakeshore Community Services

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Nonprofit and not-for-profit organizations play a vital role in our region by providing critical services that contribute to economic stability and strengthen our community in many ways. Here, Alan Benson, chief executive officer of Lakeshore Community Services, Inc. in Erie, Pennsylvania, discusses the mission and resources provided by LCS as it marks 35 years of operation in 2021.

This December marks a major anniversary for Lakeshore Community Services, Inc. Tell us how the agency got its start.

Lakeshore Community Services was created in December 1986 to provide residential services to individuals with intellectual disabilities. Since that time, the agency has grown extensively to provide a wide variety of comprehensive services for over 700 individuals in Erie, Warren, McKean, Clearfield and Jefferson counties. Programs include Residential Community Homes, Lifesharing, Supported Living, Blended Case Management, Mobile Medication Monitoring, as well as Life Skills, Adult Training and Community Day Programs. We are constantly looking for innovative ways to improve and broaden our services so we partnered with Genoa Pharmacy to provide full pharmacy services in our main office in Erie.

Describe the agency’s mission today.

The mission of Lakeshore Community Services, Inc., is to enhance the ability of persons with mental and physical disabilities to live as independently as possible through the acquisition of skills and utilization of services that promote each individual’s self-direction, personal worth and value. This mission’s concept has not changed since our inception.

Our leadership team is dedicated to compassion-oriented services that allow the people we serve and the staff who work for us to reach for and achieve their personal dreams and aspirations. This is facilitated through the implementation of exemplary quality care and competent fiscal responsibility.

What makes LCS and its team so unique?

As CEO, I am forever amazed at the commitment of all of LCS staff to go the extra mile. Independence is at the heart of our mission and our staff take that mission very seriously. We have a culture of caring here at LCS and, I know everyone says this, but we truly have a family here. Many of our staff have been with us 20-plus years. They care about one another and, in turn, they care deeply about the people we serve. Additionally, all of our programmatic executive- and director-level positions started out in first-line positions in their respective fields. This really allows for informed and compassionate management and care.

How has your organization been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and what is the agency’s outlook for the coming year?

Like most not-for-profits, we were hit hard. However, we were committed to continuity of care and ensuring the health and safety of our consumers, staff and their respective families was paramount. We acquired PPE and established implementation guidelines as well as temperature checks and sanitation mitigation practices before the CDC and state required them. We worked night and day to secure thermometers and other difficult to find supplies; in fact, we helped supply other agencies locally and across  the  state with these rare commodities.

As soon as a vaccine was available, we applied the same  diligence,  and  LCS was the first agency of our kind to host vaccine clinics for our consumers and staff. Very importantly, our staff came up with dozens of  creative  ways  to keep people engaged and calm during the required restrictions. Activities like online yoga, cooking challenges and art contests helped ensure quality of life was impacted minimally. Our dedicated staff has been tireless in mitigating the changing landscape of this pandemic, ensuring the physical health and emotional well-being of the people we serve day in and day out.

For more information, visit www.lakeshorecs.org.