Life-Skills, Inc. welcomes new board members!

Life-Skills, Inc. is pleased to announce three new additions to our organization’s Board of Directors.  We welcome new members:

* Marc Martin – Treasurer
* Kara Westerman
* Sandi Durand

Life-Skills, Inc. is fortunate to have a diverse group of board members and we look forward to working with you and the value your leadership will bring to our organization.

Marc Martin got his undergraduate degree from Southeastern Massachusetts University (SMU) in 1979, and worked for Hewlett Packard in Palo Alto during the early boom times in Silicon Valley.  He moved back east to Rhode Island, got his graduate degree in Ocean Engineering/Acoustics at URI and spent 2 years doing research projects for the navy (mapping the north wall of the Gulf Stream and tracking submarines and torpedoes in the arctic).

Marc then moved to Massachusetts where he worked for two different start-up companies (1 successful) in the semiconductor equipment field (non-contact measurements and x-ray lithography), and ran his own consulting business.  In the early 90’s, Marc began a 20+ year career at Bose Corporation, managing the test group, and retired from there in 2015.

Throughout his career, Marc has been involved in many aspects of running successful businesses (and in some cases, not so successful businesses), and has traveled extensively in his work.  He is presently retired and living in New Hampshire with his wife Janice.  Hobbies include skiing, hiking, chopping down trees for the wood stove, and baking bread and treats for both Janice and his favorite stepson Sean, who is a resident at one of the Life-Skills, Inc. group homes.  Marc joined the board in December 2019.


Kara Westerman has over ten years’ experience working in public education, specifically in the area of Special Education.

Currently, Kara is the Director of Student Services for the Spencer East-Brookfield Regional School District.  She directs and supervises all of the special education programs, services, and personnel in the district.  Before the Director role, she has worked in several different educational capacities, such as; instructional assistant in the area of applied behavioral analysis (ABA), preschool teacher, speech-language-pathologist, and evaluation team chairperson.  The previous school district she worked at was Auburn Public Schools and Worcester Public Schools.

Kara holds two master’s degrees from Worcester State University in Speech-Language Pathology (2012) and Educational Leadership (2016).  Additionally, Kara is completing her Doctorate in Education with a concentration in curriculum and instruction at Capella University.  Kara is also a graduate adjunct professor for American International College in the School of Education.

Kara has lived in Auburn her entire life.  She has twin thirteen-year-old girls.  She has participated on several boards and committees in her home town such as; Parks and Recreation, School Buildings Committee for the new Middle School Project, Keeping Auburn Warm, and a volunteer at the Auburn Senior Center.


Sandi Durand is currently the Director of Operations for the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center.  She has worked with the Health Center for over 16 years, serving a diverse patient population.  She is responsible for organization-wide operational support services.  Sandi is committed to the Health Center mission, which believes that everyone has a right to accessible, high quality, comprehensive, integrated and compassionate health care.  As a community health center, Kennedy CHC serves a patient population that is inclusive and is ethnically, culturally, linguistically diverse and populations with special needs.

Sandi is a member of the Greater Worcester Employment Resource Collaborative, which assists individuals with disabilities re-enter the work force.  She also works with Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission to host student interns to introduce them to a collaborative work environment that is supportive and inviting, teaching basic work ethics, and skills.  She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree from Nichols College, double majoring in Psychology and Social Services.  She completed graduate level certificate in Community Health Center Management from Suffolk University and Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers.

Sandi has dedicated her 30-year career to working in the non-profit sector.  She was the Director of Finance and Administration for the Grafton Job Corps, a residential trade school.  She was responsible for all financial and operational performance of the center.   Prior to that, she was the Regional Director for Fellowship Health Resources, providing residential programs for adults with behavioral health challenges.


It is the mission of Life-Skills, Inc. to provide person-centered supports, services, and advocacy for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and to actively assist them in the pursuit and achievement of their goals and interests while encouraging independence, personal growth, and self-determination to enhance their overall quality of life.

Life-Skills, Inc. is currently seeking new board members!

Life-Skills, Inc. is currently seeking new board members for our organization who are strongly committed to our mission and vision. We are looking for dynamic individuals who can bring an enthusiastic and active approach to our voluntary Board of Directors. Applicants with expertise in the following areas are needed: Corporate Governance, Strategic Planning, Law, Finance, Real Estate, Fundraising, Advocacy, Outreach, Peer Support Groups & more.

Life-Skills, Inc., is a 501c3 accredited non-profit corporation providing a wide variety of services to individuals with intellectual/developmental, physical, and emotional disabilities throughout Central and Western Massachusetts.

Formerly known as Southern Worcester County Rehabilitation Center, Inc., we have served area citizens for over 45 years, and currently offer Residential, Day Habilitation and Community Based Day Support programs in Auburn, Dudley, Fitchburg, Gardner, Greenfield, Lancaster, Leominster, Shrewsbury, Southbridge,
Webster, Winchendon, and Worcester.


* Understand & support the organization’s mission, services, policies and programs.
* Help to promote & enhance Life-Skills, Inc. public profile and network within the business community.
* Ability to attend monthly board meetings.
* Support corporate fundraising activities through donations, participation and activism.
* Oversight, review, and approval of the policies and procedures of Life-Skills, Inc.
* Financial management, including adoption, oversight and approval of the annual budget.
* Actively recruit, orient, and train new board members.
* Term commitment: 3 years.

Expertise in the following areas are needed:

* Law
* Real Estate
* Finance
* Fundraising
* Advocacy
* Corporate Governance, Strategic Planning
* Outreach, networking, peer support groups

Help lead our organization in planning, policy making, and developing financial and community support. You will get to network with other community members, gain experience in non-profit management, build leadership skills, and exercise your creativity while serving this unique population.

This is a great opportunity for professional development and personal growth. Community minded candidates interested in getting involved and helping to build a brighter future for adults with intellectual & developmental disabilities.

Please complete the application and forward to Mike Toomey, Board President at

Board of Directors Application Form

Positive Behavior Supports (PBS) at the Universal Level: Staffing Communication

by Justine McDonald, Positive Behavior Supports Coordinator

Life-Skills, Inc. has implemented Universal Supports at 15 programs (6 Day Habs and 9 Residential sites) thus far!  Part of the implementation phase model that Life-Skills, Inc. has developed involves site-specific goal development.  Universal Supports training is broad, so identifying specific need areas for sites is imperative to successful outcomes.  After focused micro-trainings occur, staff vote on one targeted area of universal support to address relevant to their program site and then develop measurable ways to address that need area.  Most program sites voted to address individual support, but a handful of sites also voted to work on staffing interactions.  One trend that has emerged is a high level of interest expressed by sites to receive more training at the staffing level, specifically around communication.  The graph below outlines how 8 out of the 15 sites where Universal Supports has been implemented, developed site-specific goals geared towards staffing interactions.

Why are staffing interactions important to the work we do?

  • Staffing interactions directly affect the environment; individuals sense when tension exists between staff.
  • Effective communication at the staffing level is an essential proactive measure to preventing programming challenges.  (Example: If 1st shift staff fail to communicate to the 2nd shift that an individual is struggling with the recent loss of a family member and, as a result, exhibiting challenging behaviors, the 2nd shift staff taking over is not well prepared to  provide emotional support to the individual. This may result in the unfortunate continuation of problem behaviors.
  • When we work as a team, recognize each other, and communicate effectively, not only do we provide better services to the individuals, but we usually enjoy our work and the people we work along side much more.

Tips for Effective Communication:

  • Be aware of your tone of voice and body language
  • Ask clarifying questions (don’t assume)
  • Go to your co-workers directly before bringing in supervisors
  • Praise your co-workers when they do something well, even if it is a co-worker you don’t always enjoy working with.  This will help develop a positive working relationship.