Microsoft Gives Friendship House Automation Inspiration

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
North Jersey Friendship House
City & State:
New Jersey
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

Our Mission is to maximize the independence and community living skills of persons experiencing severe and persistent mental illness, in order to reduce unnecessary hospitalization, secure other health and welfare services, as required by each individual referred to Friendship House for treatment, and to render this assistance voluntarily in a safe, comfortable environment.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

Over the past three years, with the help of Microsoft and, we have made leaps and bounds at Friendship House throughout our entire agency. Friendship House is a non-profit agency located in Hackensack, New Jersey. We help adults with mental illness and other disabilities reach their highest level of social, personal and vocational potential. We are a partial care program offering prevocational and vocational rehabilitation, job coaching and supportive employment and being able to incorporate computer usage and skill development is really helping us grow!

We have begun to ensure that everyone at Friendship House has computer access whether it is through a new computer (of these we have a few), a rebuilt computer or a thin client. Thanks to the donated Microsoft Office suite, we are well on the way to automating most processes at Friendship House without purchasing any other vendor’s software. Computers have now become a way of life here at Friendship House.

This is so significant because in order to operate, we need to keep our operational spending down and maximize our funds for our Vocational Programs.

We brought desk-top publishing in house as a cost saving measure. This was before anyone knew the “Power of Publisher”. The Agency directive was to “buy a newsletter program”. In looking at our Office suite, we realized we had Publisher right at our fingertips. The beauty of this is all the skills learned in any Microsoft program are transferable. In no time, we had published our first newsletter and converted all our brochures to Publisher. This enables us to minimize printing quantities and make changes on-demand. We are focusing on branding and public relations and Publisher has helped us to make this possible. Since that time, we have created countless other publications from invitations to business cards; from our letterhead and envelopes to personalized thank you notes. To further our branding and sharing of agency information, we have developed a slide show using PowerPoint. We were also able to provide the Agency Management with professional Organization Charts courtesy of PowerPoint.

Due to certain auditing and accreditation requirements, each Client’s attendance is a manual document contained in his/her chart. In addition, we now use Excel to capture daily attendance for the entire agency. Each counselor has their own attendance workbook which is now linked to a summary that provides great analytical data for the Executive staff. The information is electronically passed to our accounting department to prepare billing and to provide Level of Service reports to the New Jersey Department of Vocational Rehabilitation as a requirement for one of our programs.

Since this is a prevocational training program, we converted our Clients’ payroll from handwritten worksheets to Excel as well. We have imbedded calculations and rounding formulas to follow the Department of Labor requirements for our special wage certificate. Excel made this all possible!!!

Our evacuation maps needed to be updated and the original copies were no longer available. We looked for a program to help fill this need and again, there would have been a financial commitment to new software. We had an idea. Why not use Excel to remake the maps. The column and rows can mimic graph paper and we were able to replicate the building design, add the evacuation routes and no need for another program!!! This has taught us all that the possibilities are endless!!!

Perhaps, our greatest accomplishment of all is the conversion of an antiquated clerical program to a computer lab offering our Clients Windows XP, Word and Excel groups to build the computer skills of individuals with disabilities. We start a new cycle each quarter and Clients can elect to attend these groups as part of their rehabilitation. It has given these individuals the hope of learning up-to-date software and transferable skills so when they are ready to work out in the community, they are REALLY ready. This has built confidence and given purpose to some of our Clients who never even used a computer before. They are excited to attend these groups and see what new skill they can work on. Attending these groups each week gives the Clients practice time and as we all know “practice makes perfect” or “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. You can really see that the skills are transferring as they practice the concepts they have learned in Excel and Word. Our Clinical Director states: “The computer lab has given Clients the opportunity to explore and develop skills they may not otherwise have access to. The computer lab has been a wonderful avenue for several of our clients. We have seen an increase in self esteem which in turn has increased motivation to learn more. It offers our clients a sense of accomplishment and empowers them to want to grow and take the next step towards greater independent functioning.”

Additional automation was realized by the use of the functions in Outlook for scheduling meetings, maintaining contacts, and setting up distribution lists as well as Front Page which is our conduit for making changes to our web site. Again, it was easy for us to learn html code through Front Page.

This donated software has helped to revolutionize the way we work, think and provide services to the Mental Health Community. Thank you Microsoft and

Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery