The Darien Times is introducing a new monthly column for 2019, highlighting a person who plays an important role in town and in the community. Featured individuals will talk about what they do and why they do it, as well as share some fun things about themselves.
If there is someone in town who you would like to recommend for a Spotlight, send an email to sfox@darientimes.com.
Ali Ramsteck is a licensed clinical social worker and the director of human services for the town of Darien. In this role, she helps residents “from birth to death in whatever their needs might be,” she said.
This can include anything from crises intervention to emergency financial assistance. Ramsteck also works closely with social workers and counselors in the schools, and with the police department.
“The police will refer residents to us who they are concerned about,” Ramsteck said. “They often refer seniors to us who they might go on a call about and feel like [the senior] can use a social service follow-up.”
The human services department is open and free of charge to any Darien resident. It accepts walks-ins and referrals.
“If someone walked in and is in a crisis, we will accommodate him or her in however way we can,” Ramsteck said. “We are happy to go meet with people in their homes or wherever they want to meet.”
Some people may walk in just one time for a referral or resource. Others work with the department on an ongoing basis.
For those with mental health issues, “as social workers, we can do our own evaluation to make sure they are safe,” Ramsteck said. “We will reach out to family or friends, or refer them to protective services for the elderly, through the department of social services, which is the state.”
She added she does a lot of home visits, helping seniors with tasks such as paying bills.
In addition, Ramsteck will refer those seeking employment to programs, as well as give supportive counseling those who have addiction problems.
“We try to help people navigate how to improve their circumstances,” she said.
Ongoing programs
Back to School: The department served 124 Darien schoolchildren in 2018. “We provide school-aged children whose families are financially struggling, with backpacks,” Ramsteck said. Aside from a backpack, the children also receive school supplies and a gift card.
Energy Assistance: This program helps residents with their heating bills during the winter. It helped over 100 households in 2018.
Thanksgiving: The department works with the nonprofit organization Person-to-Person to provide residents in need with a turkey and fixings. “Last Thanksgiving, we provided meals to 299 residents,” Ramsteck said.
Christmas: The department provides a wish list for residents who are in need. “Volunteers shop for "the item and drop off the gifts here,” Ramsteck said. Last Christmas, “we had 57 families in town adopt 67 seniors. That’s record-breaking.”
Ramsteck added that nearly every single senior who received items “called us or sent thank-you cards.”
Medicare open enrollment: During open enrollment for Medicare participants, the department reviews seniors’ Medicare drug coverage. “For 2018, we helped 68 seniors save money,” she said.
Love for seniors
Ramsteck said she has a “soft spot” for seniors.
Ramsteck previously worked for eight years in the geriatric division at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Westchester.
It was there that she fell in love with working with older adults.
“They appreciate the smallest thing that you do for them,” she said, adding she thinks that “seniors are overlooked in our society. Attention, listening, and caring goes a long way.”
“Even what might seem small to me or you can have a huge impact on a senior’s life,” Ramsteck said.
About Ramsteck
Ramsteck grew up in Wilton and graduated from Wilton High School.
She received a bachelor’s degree from Boston College and a master’s in clinical social work from Columbia University in New York.
“Social work gives you so many options. You can work with families, schools, children, and hospitals,” Ramsteck said. “I love the variety.”
She moved to Darien from Manhattan in 2003.
She has three daughters ages 15, 14, and 12.
She has been working in the human services department in Darien since 2002, starting as a part-time case manager. She became director of the department in 2017.
Many of the families Ramsteck sees are headed by single mothers who are managing a household independently, Ramsteck said. She added that she can relate to this since she is a single mother herself.
Bikram yoga
One passion Ramsteck has is Bikram yoga, which is yoga performed in a room with a temperature of 105 to 110 degrees, with 60% humidity.
“I’m obsessed with it,” Ramsteck said, adding she has taken classes for the past 10 years, three to four days a week. “The classes are 75 to 90 minutes. It takes a lot of dedication and discipline.”
“It’s a good workout,” she said, adding the feeling when “you leave is tranquillity and total peace.”
In Ramsteck’s role as director, one of her main focuses, she said, “is to get the word out about the services that we offer.”
“Some people might not know that we exist,” she said. “Everything is strictly confidential. We are here as a resource for Darien residents.”
sfox@darientimes.com