Our primary goal is to create safe, comfortable, and joyful spaces in which people living with dementia and their care partners can freely express themselves without fear of stigma; can discover themselves anew through creative and imaginative outlets; and can find contentment and reward in their daily lives. Secondary goals include bridging the societal gaps of understanding and respect between people living with dementia diagnoses and others in the wider community, in order that we help to create a Greater Philadelphia region that embraces community members living with dementia and their families. And finally, playing a key role in educating our current and future professional caregivers -- doctors, nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists, etc. -- about the experiences of living with dementia and other chronic neurological illnesses and ways in which they can rediscover their patients as people first, people with illnesses only a distant second.
Our strategies for realizing our goals are fundamentally rooted in community partnerships and collaborations. When we facilitate programs in arts and culture venues (such as museums and art centers, currently, and movie theaters and performance halls in the near future), we invite our host venues to embrace the programs and their participants as *their* programs and constituents so that our region begins to build an infrastructure of understanding and valuing those in the community living with dementia. When we facilitate programs in residential care communities and at care centers, we build ongoing relationships with our host venues as a means of ensuring structural integration of our programs and principles into their community life planning. And above all, we cultivate our relationships with our program participants on a personalized basis to ensure that everyone feels in tangible ways how valued and respected they are as individuals.
Our organization is unusually mission-driven. Our Board members not only understand and support our mission, they promote and strengthen it every day through their advocacy and action. Our executive director founded ARTZ Philadelphia and worked with the Board to define and refine our mission and strategic plan to ensure that we are thoughtful and focused in delivering what we promise. Our organization -- from Board Chair to part-time program coordinator -- is passionate about and dedicated to practicing as well as preaching.
Our challenges lie in funding and staffing our programs sufficiently to be able to meet the current community demand for them; and to expand as our region's needs inevitably expand with the startling increase in the incidence of dementia. But the framework is in place and is strong.
Indicators of our progress to date have included welcoming more and more constituents into our programs -- constituents who have come to us based on word-of-mouth recommendations from our existing program participants; based on referrals from care centers such as the Penn Memory Center at the University of Pennsylvania, with whom we collaborate; and based on media coverage. When new constituents come to us they stay with us, another indicator of progress -- they feel welcomed, they feel comfortable, they feel embraced.
Further indicators are the fact that we are approached every week by new residential care communities and new arts and culture venues about bringing our programs to their constituents. Our executive director is increasingly invited to speak about our work and to publish: another indicator that we are advancing our goal of reaching an ever-wider audience in our drive to expand the region's understanding of our constituents.
In the last two years, we have expanded from a single museum program and a single program inside a residential care community to six museum and art center programs each month and eight monthly programs inside care communities. We have gone from reaching an annual average of 100 people to being able to touch the lives of as many as 1000 people living with dementia and their families.
Our primary struggle is that of building capacity within our organization. Due to an exceedingly lean staff, we are not currently able to keep up with the community demand for our programs; and we are not yet able to reach as broad and diverse an audience as we need to.