International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day

March 8th, 2019 marks International Women’s Day. Started over 100 years ago, the first gathering on record was in 1911. This is an international celebration, acknowledged by various countries across the globe.

“Women are key members of our workforce and community.  At HDS, we continue to find opportunities for women through mentoring and leadership. Our vision and diverse skill sets create stronger foundations and platforms for emerging possibilities,” says International woman, Cristina Miranda Gilson, owner and founder of HDS Companies and President and CEO of the HDS Foundation (A 501(c) 3).

HDS Companies is a proud to announce that for the 15th consecutive year, we have received the Woman & Minority Business Certification from the state of Florida. Additionally, HDS is also certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council as a National Women’s Business Enterprise. We are an ethnic-racial diverse organization that continuously promotes a positive employee culture. HDS is pleased to have a ratio of 60% female and 40% males employed by the company.

To learn more about The HDS Companies, visit our corporate website www.hdscompanies.com where you can select each of the HDS units: Housing and Development Software www.HDSoftware.com,  eHousingPlus  www.ehousingPlus.com, and The HDS Foundation www.hdsfoundation.org.

For additional information contact Zainab Hageldain at 954-217-9597 x 260 or at Zainab.Hageldain@HDSoftware.com.

FISP Gala

FISP Gala

On Friday, February 8, 2019, the HDS Foundation was honored to attend the Florida Initiative for Suicide Prevention (FISP) 14th Annual Gala FISPY Awards. Miss Bryan, Producer of the DJ Laz Morning Show, was the evening’s MC.  In attendance were Presidents Harry Rosen and Jackie Rosen; all board members of FISP; the Mayor of Pembroke Pines, Frank C. Ortis; Commissioners from the city of Pembroke Pines; and various other guests from the community. Through education and resources, in addition to the FISPY Gala, FISP sheds a light on those who are affected by suicide and those who struggle with mental illness. 

At the event, the FISPY Mental Health Advocates Awards were given to Journalist Michael Mayo, HOPE Sunshine Club student Jason Tache’, and Memorial Hospital. The evening included a wonderful dinner and great musical entertainment. 

Carla Otiniano, Program Manager of the HDS Foundation, sat next to a mother who lost a loved one to suicide. The mother thanked the HDS Foundation for continuing support of FISP and she explained that this organization has helped her family tremendously. She candidly shared her experience and thanked FISP for helping her family in her time of need. Her two daughters dealt with this tragedy differently, but neither one dealt with the pain immediately. Rather, it affected them later in their life did and as a mother it was difficult to understand their pain and help them. With assistance from FISP, she was able to handle this sadness in a productive manner. 

For information on how you can contribute to FISP, visit them online at https://fisponline.org/. 

HDS Foundation was honored to be a part of this insightful gathering and will proudly continue their support. For more information on the HDS Foundation, visit us online at https://www.hdsfoundation.org/ or email Carla Otiniano, Program Manager, at carla@hdsfoundation.org 

The HDS Foundation will be a part of 2018 Vision XXV Conference!

The HDS Foundation will be a part of 2018 Vision XXV Conference!

From May 2nd through May 4th, the HDS Foundation (HDSF) will partake in Visions XXV, the annual transition conference held by the Florida Division on Career Development & Transition (FDCDT). The purpose of the FDCDT is to assist individuals with exceptionalities in their career development, helping them move from school into the workforce and community living. This year will also be a celebration of 25 years of the FDCDT. At the conference it is a goal of the HDSF to gather more information on the transitioning process.

There are currently services available for those affected with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and for those only affected by developmental disabilities (DD). It is another goal of the HDSF at the Transitions conference to find out why there seem to be more programs and services for those affected by IDD then those only affected with DD. With well over 50 pre-planned and open sessions available at the conference, along with the networking opportunities amongst various industry experts who will be attending, it is hopeful that the HDSF will be able to answer these questions and more.

If you would like more information on the FDCDT or the Visions Conference, visit FloridaDCDT.org.

2018 Tropical Nights Event

2018 Tropical Nights Event

On Saturday, April 28, 2018, the HDS Foundation will be partaking in Tropical Nights 2018 presented by UM-NSU CARD. UM-NSU CARD has been supporting families affected by autism and related disabilities in our local communities with impactful and invaluable resources and supportive guidance. Tropical Nights 2018 will be held aboard the SeaFair Miami, which will sail around Biscayne Bay for the evening. Along with entertainment, at this casual chic event there will be a live auction, a raffle, and of course cocktails. UM-NSU CARD is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year, which is going to be celebrated on board.

The HDS Foundation is a proud Coconut Palm sponsor of this event. We will be represented by Cristina Gilson, Chairman and President, Carla Otiniano, Program Manager and Board Members, among other guests. They are looking forward to having a great time for a great cause.

Though tickets are sold out, sponsorships are still available. For more information, visit https://www.tropicalnights.org.

Light It Up Blue

Light It Up Blue

April is World Autism Awareness Month. At HDS Companies, we kicked off the month by participating in Autism Speak’s Signature Event “Light It Up Blue” on Monday, April 2, 2018. Everyone in the HDS offices wore blue, showing our support and helping garner greater understanding and acceptance of those affected by Autism. The offices were also decorated in blue, with HDS and LIUB signs made out of blue lightbulbs, and other fun blue decorations adorning the walls.

In the afternoon, the employees gathered in the conference rooms to start the festivities. Blue puzzle piece lollipops, blue chocolate candies in lightbulbs, scrumptious cupcakes, and yummy packaged treats were distributed to everyone as part of the fun. Carla Otiniano, Program Manager of the HDS Foundation, opened the gathering by telling everyone how they could help spread the word of World Autism Awareness Month. She had selfie-signs available to all employees so they could take picture of themselves, post them to their personal social media accounts, and help spread the word. Cristina Gilson, CEO of HDS Companies, also spoke about the day and how excited she was with the participation and comradery of the employees.

Yessenia, an employee of the Miami office whose youngest child is affected by autism, said about the day, “Autism Awareness Month means a lot to me, being that I have a little boy with autism. I know the daily struggles of an autistic child. Bringing awareness to autism is an extremely important factor in life because this would help not only in being able to gain more studies and assistance for people on the spectrum. It also would help them immensely with their everyday life, such as going to a supermarket and people knowing and understanding how to approach them and interact with them. It would help in school settings, for other children to understand and help them interact with those on the spectrum without thinking they’re weird or incapable just because there different. I personally have known what it is to have to remove my child from a daycare only because they don’t understand him and feel they can’t deal with him. Therefore, I believe autism awareness month is so important, because more and more people are learning about the spectrum and people on the spectrum. One-day I am hopeful that everyone will know and understand Autism!”

Fun was had by everyone. Promoting Autism Awareness will continue at HDS throughout the month. If you would like to participate, take a selfie with the Autism Speaks selfie sign (available at https://www.autismspeaks.org/wam/how-to-liub) and tag it “LightItUpBlue!

Autism Awareness Month – LIUB

Autism Awareness Month – LIUB

The HDS Foundation is in final preparations for the annual kick-off of Autism Awareness Month (April). The HDS Foundation will join the United Nations and The WORLD on April 2nd, 2018 to Light It Up Blue, Autism Speaks’ Signature event.

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CD), one in 68 children in the United States are diagnosed with Autism, and an estimated 50,000 teens with Autism will lose school-based autism services each year as they age out of the school system.

The HDS Foundation, Inc. was founded to provide mentoring services and opportunities to Teens and Young Adults who have Autism-related disabilities.  The primary focus of our  Organization is to provide work and daily living skills building opportunities and experiences via specific school-based and community partnerships.  Teens and young adults can be better prepared to meet the demands of future employment opportunities when these challenges are addressed early on.  This year, The HDS Foundation is launching ASDY-TECH, a business model poised to employ young adults on the Spectrum by providing Technical Services and Solutions to private companies.

The HDS Foundation also supports and partners with various community-based groups, aiming to enrich the lives of this special population by providing an array of opportunities to participate in many social activities, and work towards improving future independence as they relate to their day to day activities. Additionally, The HDS Foundation is poised to help educate and provide information related to available, safe and affordable housing options, that can further the possibilities of attaining independent or semi-independent housing.

On April 2nd, 2018 we invite you to join the staff and families of the HDS Companies in celebrating Autism Awareness Day, and the kick-off of World Autism Month.  HDS will LlGHT IT UP BLUE, and join the hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide who stand together to support families impacted by Autism.

Our HDS Contenders Team!

Our HDS Contenders Team!

Written by Nico Morales | Feb 8, 2018

I think that the term “Crazy 8” would be very applicable to the events of the recent Dan Marino Walk About Autism. This is due to the fact that I was invited by my coworkers at HDS to participate in the 8th Annual Walk About Autism alongside them, and that it was crazy how much fun of a great time I had before, during, and after the walk. We were all dressed up in our company T-shirts to commemorate this event dedicated to raising money and awareness for people affected by autism and other related disabilities. I can’t stress enough how important this cause is to me and all of my colleagues over at HDS. Our goal this year was to raise a total of $10,000 and I am proud to report that we beat that goal by raising over $11,400! One of the best things about this fundraiser is that 25% of all monies raised by the HDS Contenders goes directly to The HDS Foundation. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without all of the support from our friends and colleagues.

But we weren’t alone in our cause, for I ran into a plethora of familiar faces who were also attending the walk, such as my neighbors, my childhood acquaintance, my friend from Social GAIN, and even my beloved girlfriend and her older sister, who are also major supporters of pro-autism events like this.

One of the highlights of my time there was after the opening ceremony, when I got to meet Froggy. He is one of the radio personalities of Y100, one of my all-time favorite radio stations growing up, and I actually made him laugh with the nickname I thought of for him: Chief Toad.

I also frequented many of the booths set up by various sponsors and vendors, one of which I won a $25 voucher form to set up a tax-free savings account at Able United. It was such an unbelievably wonderful experience, and I don’t plan on forgetting it any time soon.

I am very excited for what next year’s walk will bring; hopefully, we can get an even bigger turnout.

19th International Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disabilities and Developmental Disabilities, for Research Informed Practice

19th International Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disabilities and Developmental Disabilities, for Research Informed Practice

This past week, the HDS Foundation attended the 19th International Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disabilities and Developmental Disabilities, for Research Informed Practice, organized by the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities and held in Clearwater, FL. The Conference went off with a bang with several pre-conference trainings followed by an inspiring opening ceremony featuring keynote speaker Andy Gardiner, Senior Vice President of External Affairs and Community Relations, former president of the Apopka Chamber of Commerce and Former member of the Florida State Senate. Mr. Gardiner spoke of the legislative advocacy  facing individuals with Developmental Disabilities in the state of Florida. He also gave notable advice on becoming involved in initiatives in our own communities helping those with developmental disabilities and insight as a parent to inspire other parents, providers, educators, and community members to do more to have an affect on policy. Poster Presentations by various professors and faculty on different topics of research and studies were displayed followed by the Presidents Reception and a Student Social. 

HDS Foundation staff Carla Otiniano, Program Manager, and Meagan Bouscher, Board Member, attended relative, educational sessions on many subjects including the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), Pre- Employment Transition Services, Improvement of Public School Autism Programs, and several Model Transition Programs taking place at different Universities.  There was even a session on “Netflix and Chilling”, and how to navigate the dating world for students in college with ASD, by our friend, Doctoral Candidate, Tara Rowe of the University of North Florida’s Project THRIVE. Foundation staff were also fortunate enough to meet James Williams of the University of Wisconsin, who gave an enlightening session on Navigating the Transition Process through the perspective of someone with Autism.

The final general session presentation was closed by motivational speaker, advocate, and author Robert Pio Hajjar who spoke on how love and hope can transform an individual to bring out the best in themselves and contribute toward a stronger society. His message “I Can, You Can” helps others “to realize ability in disability and to empower champions of inclusion and change” and was an eye-opening ending to an amazing conference.

A Special Thanks to the CEC-DADD and their Conference Committee and the various presenting Professors, Providers and Faculty for putting on such a successful event, and to the many people we were able to meet and network with, to share knowledge and information to improve policy, educational programs and work opportunities for young individuals with autism, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. Be sure to come back and check out some of the presentations and available resources from the conference as they become available, on our resources page! 

8th Annual Dan Marino Foundation Walkabout Autism & Expo

8th Annual Dan Marino Foundation Walkabout Autism & Expo

The HDS Foundation is thrilled to once again participate in the 8th Annual Dan Marino Foundation Walkabout Autism & Expo, brought to you by Walgreens, presented by Badia Spices!

For years the Dan Marino Foundation has created many programs for children and young adults with autism in our community.  This will be the 8th year that they are holding this walkabout, and it is the HDS Foundation’s eighth year participating. One of the best things about this fundraiser is that 25% of all monies raised by the HDS Contenders goes directly to The HDS Foundation.  This is great for our organization because it enables us to continue to support and facilitate students and young adults with autism through our programs. Just a sample of some of the great programs that the HDS Foundation sponsors are:

Building Bridges at the Bay: This program helps Cypress Bay High School students with developmental disabilities learn life-long skills needed to function outside of High School.

HDS College Mentors: This program seeks to identify the peripheral needs of students with ASD-related disabilities who are seeking a college degree and living on campus. Mentoring is done through peer collaboration, which is one of the most effective tools available to facilitate the learning process and help navigate social demands.

The K.A.T.E. Scholarship: This scholarship embodies the fundamentals of Kindness, Acceptance, Teamwork and Encouragement, all values which can transform difficult situations into life changing wonderful experiences.

Come to the walk and raise money and awareness for this great cause with the HDS Contenders! Our goal this year is $10,000.  YOU can help us reach that goal! Think about what a great opportunity this is for us to work together and make a difference in the lives of those touched by autism.

Why we need your help:

  • There is no known cause or cure for autism.
  • Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder and, according to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 68 children in the United States are on the autism spectrum.
  • Currently 83% of adults with autism are unemployed, which is a startling statistic!

Help us make a difference by visiting http://myhds.co/hdswalkabout and donating today!

Parent Night

Parent Night

This past week, Cypress Bay High School’s teachers in the Personal Skills class which is funded by the HDS Foundation put together its first “Parent Information Night” for the parents of students in the Personal Skills class as well as other parents from prior year programs whose teenagers have social skill deficits. The event was not only well attended, it was also well received by all who were there.

Various groups presented to the parents, including Dan Marino Campus, HAAPE, College Living Experience (CLE), and Pediatric Psychology Associates. Representing the Dan Marino Campus and Dan Marino Foundation was Nick Valvano and Susan Morantes. They shared a lot of details regarding the types of certifications available at both the Marino Campuses which are located in Broward and Miami-Dade. The attendees also learned about VITA, the software program young adults have the opportunity to use to practice their interviewing skills. One of the graduates from Dan Marino Campus, Spencer Cohen, spoke with the parents about his experience going through the program.

Ike Grapin, the student president of HAAPE at CBHS, along with Larry Rothman, Edgardo Santiago and Maria Jacobo, explained HAAPE’s programs they are starting in conjunction with United Community Options (used to be UCP) of South Florida. The goal of HAAPE is to help young adults with Autism be successful in the workplace.

Kelly Miller-Alvarez spoke on behalf of College Living Experience (CLE) to explain to the parents the supports that are available for individuals after they complete high school, whether they are attending a technical program or a full-fledged university in the area. She explained that limited services are supported through Vocational Rehabilitation (VR); and the staff at CLE works with its families to try to get tutoring especially before exams, since this seems to be one of the biggest hurdles for the students in college who participate in CLE.

The highlight of the evening was Drs. Nick Maccarrone and Amanda Strunin from Pediatric Psychology Associates who both spoke on the topic of relationships – from friendships to dating. They both provided some great insight in how individuals with developmental disabilities often misunderstand friendly gestures to mean more than they are intended. With the use of visuals of a friendship pyramid, parents were able to gain a better understanding of why their teenage child may struggle more than neurotypical peers in developing romantic relationships. For example, individuals need to be explicitly taught the difference between an acquaintance, evolving friendship, and a best friend.

At the Parent Information Night, Bonnie Schmidt from ScentsAbility, a micro-enterprise for individuals with developmental disabilities, had a vendor table in the room selling candles and some of the company’s other amazing products. Claudia Guerios, the chef-owner of Pirate Republic, provided delectable refreshments ranging from sandwiches to quinoa for all the guests. There was even plenty of leftovers because of her generosity!

The teachers of the Personal Skills class go above and beyond for their students. This has not gone unnoticed by the school’s ESE Department administrator Kassandra Fried who came to support the event. The feedback from the parents was all positive. The parents also enjoyed the tech-friendly tools that HDS Foundation dropped off at the event for everyone.