2017 in Review


January 11, 2018

As I sat down to write this 2017 review, I knew it would take me awhile, as so many wonderful things occurred this year. I am sure some of you may be weary of hearing about our 50th anniversary celebration and the ‘Always There’ campaign; however, if you’ll allow me one final assessment of the year, I’ll be most appreciative.

In March 2017, we began a year-long celebration that started with a “Spread the Word to End the Word” event, our annual Partnership Luncheon, and Advocacy Day at the Ohio Statehouse. During the summer, we participated in an OACB Service Project to give back to our communities. We supported the construction of two Little Free Libraries and hosted a book drive to keep them filled in the future. Then most of the summer and fall, we planned for our 50th Anniversary Gala in October. More than 300 people joined us for this celebration. We were honored to have many individuals and families we serve, former board members, former staff and the list goes on. As part of this celebration, we finished up six scrapbooks, so all the history is in one place. One last event was going to the Ohio Statehouse again in October for the formal honoring of the County Board of DD system. There, we placed a time capsule to be opened in 25 years. With each event, it was important to remember the pioneers – primarily families – who fought very hard in the 1950s and 1960s for their children to have equal access to education, employment, community involvement and transportation. Even though the support and services are different in 2017, we strive to keep the focus on why we do what we do each day.

In other news this year (there really was other news besides the 50th anniversary 🙂 ):

We partnered with the Allen County Land Bank to begin constructing our first home specifically for the needs of individuals with Autism. Through the Land Bank’s hard work, we were able to obtain a city lot on North Street to place this home. A grant was secured for $247,500 to build this home through our partnership with LODDI, Inc (the non-profit housing corporation that meets the housing needs of individuals with disabilities). We hope to open this home by September 2018.

We were accepted to participate in the Provider Partnership Quality Project, where we joined two of our local waiver providers and other groups across the state to address the unique needs that face our providers today. This has been a very rewarding project, and we are excited about ideas that have come to life – such as monthly Learning Lunches, a Success Coach who will mentor and help staff, and most recently, our agency providing orientation services for providers. We will continue working on this initiative in 2018.

We are embarking on a significant change in leadership at the school with Peggy Cockerell retiring on December 31, after 44 years at Marimor School. Barb Blass begins her official duties on January 1 as the Director of Education and Early Intervention, while Rachael Staley is the new Early Childhood Supervisor.

This year we faced yet another hard decision with our Help Me Grow home visiting team. The board had to make the very tough decision to no longer provide the home visiting services, due to substantial changes in the requirements of the program. We were very grateful to work with Mercy Health for a smooth transition. It is still very hard to no longer have those staff with us; however, we have heard they are doing amazingly well in their new environment.

We moved the part-time FANS coordinator to a full-time Community Connections position and it has just taken off. Sarah Troyer leads FANS, Aktion Club and many other initiatives in her new role. She’s always looking for new and creative ways to ensure community life is top notch for those we serve in 2018.

We set a plan in motion to make employment the true first choice in Allen County, by forming the Employment Navigation unit. This is a group of staff committed to integration, innovative transition education services, and employment initiatives. This unit will be led by Melodie Conley, who will combine her many years of experience in Employment Services with her SSA knowledge to develop a new person-centered approach to this important area.

Our major capital work this year was repaving the campus driveways and refreshing many aspects of our campus environment. Many dedicated staff make sure our building and grounds are well maintained and inviting to the public. Come for a tour any time, and say hello to our new Maintenance Foreman, Tim Richards, who uses his creativity and ingenuity daily.

I want to leave you with one last thing as I close out the review of 2017. I had the chance to hear Mr. Charles Marshall speak this year. He is a humorist that is very encouraging to anyone listening. I recently read this article by him that has so much truth. I hope you enjoy it. If we do not say it enough, thanks for your support! We could not do what we do without each and everyone one of YOU – those we serve, families, providers, partner agencies, etc.

Happy New Year and may 2018 be wonderful to you!

The Most Important Gift You Can Give
by Charles Marshall

Not long ago, a young man named Tucker came over to my house to give me an estimate on a home repair. I didn‘t have to talk to him for very long before I realized he had a severe stutter. Every third or fourth word he spoke was accompanied with an awkward pause while he struggled to produce the right word. I wasn’t sure what the etiquette was in such a situation, so I just stood there, pretending not to notice while I waited for him to finish his sentence. After a bit, I decided to wade in and ask Tucker about his story.

Tucker told me of his life-long struggle with his speech impediment; how he got teased in school, had to defend himself on the playground, and was stereotyped as the “dumb kid.” After he was grown, he found that his stutter had limited his choice of occupations, since verbal communication is such a big part of the business world. Most of his tale was familiar to me, having seen others suffer with the same affliction. But as he wound up his story, he added something that stunned me.

“A couple of years ago they found a way to completely cure me,” he said, pausing to let the statement sink in. “Yep, for a while there, I was able to speak without stuttering a bit.”

I was dumbfounded. How had they cured him? Why wasn’t he cured now? Was he somehow under the impression that his speech was normal now? I didn’t understand.

All I managed to say, though, was, “Tell me about it.”

“Well, the doctor did some tests and I found out that I can speak just fine when I am speaking at the same time with someone else. As long as I hear someone else’s words simultaneously as I speak, I can pronounce them myself without stuttering. So they fitted me with something like a hearing aid that allowed me to hear myself speak and it pretty much eliminated my stutter.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but Tucker was referring to a product developed at East Carolina University called SpeechEasy*. The device has a small microphone, amplifier, and speaker which fits inside the ear. It alters the patient’s voice and plays it back to him slightly delayed so that his mind is tricked into thinking that another person is also talking. A large percentage of people who have tried the device have been able to find relief.

“Yeah, it worked great,” Tucker continued. “It totally eliminated my stutter, but I quit using it after about a month.”

Once again I stood there with my mouth ajar, too stunned to know what to say. “You… you say you were cured with this device but you quit using it? Why would you do that?”

“Because of something my mother said,” Tucker replied.

I wondered what words a mother could say that would compel someone who had experienced a medical miracle to walk away and choose instead to be afflicted the rest of his life.

“After I wore it a couple weeks, my mom said she didn’t like the new Tucker—that I had gotten too big for my britches and was putting on airs. She said she liked the old Tucker that stuttered much better because he knew his place. The rest of my family started saying the same thing, so I finally took out the gadget and haven’t used it since.”

Tucker was completely oblivious to the negative impact his mom’s words had had on his life. To Tucker, his mom was the voice of authority in his life, so she must know what she’s talking about. If she said he was being arrogant and didn’t like him anymore, then he needed to take the appropriate action to restore his place in his community.
Such is the power of words. Your words are living, active, vital things. They are either tearing down or building up. They are inspiring or discouraging.

Your words shape and mold the people around you. If you speak words of affirmation and encouragement, the people in your life will perform better and rise to meet challenges. If your words are negative, then the people around you will wilt and fade.

If you’re wondering what gifts to give the people in your life this holiday season, try adding a little positivity. Try telling your team members that you appreciate them. Try telling your kids you’re their biggest fan.

Don’t get me wrong. You’re still going to have to buy them a present, but your words are the gift that will change their lives.