• Brandy O'Brien

BETTER TOGETHER: Pyramid Member Enjoys Interacting with Community, Volunteering

Updated: Aug 15, 2019

Eli sits at a rectangular table next to a peach-painted concrete wall in a classroom. He’s dressed in a plain t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. In one hand, he holds a red marker. With the other, he shapes, pinches, and creates piles of sand in a portable tray. Spread on the table around him are coloring sheets of outlined drawings covered in red ink. An oversized Connect Four game board is set up across from him. Other members and staff

sit near him, but he pays little attention to them and their conversations. The 43-year-old nonverbal member keeps to himself, but appears content.


Eli adds filling material to a box at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts in Hatfield.

Despite appearances, Eli regularly interacts with the community and enjoys volunteering.


Since Eli began attending Pyramid’s day habilitation program in Springfield, Massachusetts roughly a year ago, he’s discovered new interests and has proven he can

contribute to society; that is in large part to the staff and enhanced staff who regularly interact with him. So far, Eli has found he enjoys gardening and packing boxes at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts in Hatfield.


“He likes to go out. He likes to ride in the van. He likes to be engaged. He likes to do tactile things,” said Brad Pellissier, Pyramid project director. “So, we thought it would be worth a try to see how he did going out and doing various activities.


“One of the challenges we face in working with people who have very limited communication ability is frequently we’ll introduce them to new experiences and it’s almost like a trial and error system,” Brad said.


Through trial and error, his team found the Holyoke, Massachusetts native likes to carry things out to the assorted gardens around the building at 60 Brookdale Drive. He’ll help move stuff around as he likes to feel textures. Eli will also observe as others work on the gardens.


The staff then decided to introduce him to volunteer work. Since there is already a program in place to allow Pyramid members to help out at the food bank, personnel thought it might be a good fit. They were right and he visits the organization with three to four other members a couple of times a month for a few hours. He’s been going for approximately six months.


“Eli is always excited to go an is fond of adding filler material to make sure food is safely packed,” said Raquel Rivera, a life skills support professional.


Brad said these experiences not only benefit Eli, but the community around him.

“When you see someone, you see the differences. When you meet someone, you see the

similarities,” Brad said. “These are opportunities for our members to meet the world in a natural environment. We’re building a community that’s accepting.” #bettertogetherviability

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