Through my public relations work, I love spending time with everyone who is involved with LADD (Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled) and its mission. If you are unfamiliar, LADD is a Cincinnati nonprofit organization that works side-by-side adults who have developmental disabilities to assist them in experiencing independence through a variety of supported housing, employment and community engagement programs. Its a cause about humanity, and about people who deserve to have equal opportunities for living their lives abundantly and with purpose, being able to do that in their own ways.
Last week they had their annual Taking Flight Awards Event to honor individuals who are achieving their goals, and those within LADD and the community who are part of that journey. It was a wonderful night. To see the entire photo album, please click here.
Spirit of Independence Award: Dale Jackson
Recognizes a person receiving services from LADD who has demonstrated outstanding achievement in realizing their independence.
At LADD, when they talk about supporting people, enabling and empowering them to experience independence, their goal is for them to enjoy in life the gratification that comes from achieving the goals they want for themselves.
Dale is most certainly walking his own path. “He is a really good example of what a working artist should be, someone that is able to be a part of the real world and have a real job and do what it is creatively that he needs to do. I think he serves as a role model for a lot of people with and without disabilities in that respect,” Bill Ross, co-founder of Visionaries & Voices and Thunder-Sky Inc. said.
For many years Dale has been dividing his time between his job at Kroger, and his studio time at Visionaries & Voices and Thundersky. He is a painter and a writer, sharing his innermost thoughts on paper. His art has been published and included in multiple shows including the ’30 Americans Plus’ exhibition at the Art Academy.
When creating, he is easy to spot. He is the one wearing glittery shoes and a baseball cap, and when he laughs, you can’t help but laugh with him…which happens often. Dale definitely enjoys life. He loves to dance, travel, visit art shows, and spend time with his family.
“Getting to know Dale has taught me that I too should be out there doing what I love,” said Neil Ferencak, LADD Find A Way Apartments program coordinator.
Courage to Fly Award: The Ryan Family (Family of Patrick Ryan)
Recognizes a family member or family that is served that has shown exceptional courage and support as their family member works towards independence.
When she thinks about the meaning of this Award, Diane Gaither-Thompson, LADD Supported Employment coordinator, said she thinks, “The words courage to fly mean to me that you can assist an individual but once they get there that you take that risk and let them go.”
And, in the more than four years that Diane has worked alongside the Ryan family, she has seen this definition with clarity as mother Jean and her daughters Colleen, Bonnie, Maureen, Kelly and Shawna, have participated in and welcomed the journey of independence for their youngest sibling, 62 year old Patrick.
An employee of Mercy Health Systems for over 12 years, the Ryans reached out to LADD when Patrick began feeling overwhelmed with the long hours of a full time job. The solution Diane recommended was cutting Patrick’s hours, a change that the family fully supported and one that gave Patrick wings to grow as that lessened stress meant gave him better ability to work through other life challenges.
“Solidarity, dedication and affirmation are the virtues practiced within this family,” said Diane. “With the Ryans encouragement and confidence in Patrick, together we are seeing Patrick continue to flourish at Mercy. And giving him the opportunity to be a productive community member has always been their goal.”
So Others May Fly Award: Jennifer Crowe
Recognizes a person receiving services from LADD who has demonstrated outstanding service and commitment to a cause or organization other than LADD that benefits the community.
Phyllis Thomas, Timberlane coordinator, one of numerous nominators, said, “Jennifer helps people to fly when she is educating children in the grade schools. She says, ‘I am a person just like you, but I am a person labeled with a disability. Yet I have a tremendous amount of time and talent to offer to others so concentrate on all the attributes I have to offer the world.’
One of LADD’s go-getters who lives at the nonprofit’s Timberlane residence, Jennifer is a tireless and passionate volunteer, artist, leader, advocate and role model. Her list of accomplishments could extend pages. She is a published writer and an artist who sold her first work in 2008. As a volunteer, she gives of her time to the Krohn Conservatory and other community causes. As an instructor, she has traveled to California to share her talents; and inspires creative expression through classes at 21C, Visionaries & Voices, and Lindon Grove. Since 2011, Jenny has been an art teacher for students on the autism spectrum at Linden Grove School. Additionally, Jennifer is a Cincinnati presenter for Everybody Counts, a program that reaches out to young children to foster understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities. Jennifer’s interest in wellness led her to becoming a certified trainer for the Healthy Lifestyles, a 12-week program which educates adults with developmental disabilities on leading healthier lives. Her leadership shown through in another way when, in 2009, she was one of the first two adults with developmental disabilities in Ohio to have completed the Southwest Ohio Professional Advancement through Training and Education in Human Services (PATH) credentialing program. To earn that credential, Jennifer attended 60 hours of classes and completed a portfolio demonstrating her knowledge in three essential direct support professional skill areas. For all that she has accomplished, she was honored with an award from the Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services (HCDDS) in 2010; and in 2009, a proclamation was issued from the City of Cincinnati her advocacy work.
In Jennifer’s words, “Teaching is a Calling. The legacy that I hope to leave behind is that every child should do the best they can and the best they can is good enough for me.”
Employer Excellence Award: (George H Rohde & Son Funeral Home)
Recognizes an individual or business that has been a leader in providing employment opportunities to the people LADD assists.
John Roach will proudly tell you he has been working with a lot of ‘great people’ since 1981, when he stopped spending his days in a workshop and began his employment at the family-owned George H. Rohde & Son Funeral Home. LADD’s Faith Maynard got to know John when she was community supportive living coordinator and assisted him with his housing needs. She has been a part of John’s life since and has seen him thrive as a result of being part of the Rohde’s business. As employers, they have gone far above their management role. In addition to providing John with steady work, Steve Rohde and his staff consider him a valued part of their lives. They include John in social functions, take care to remind him of his medical appointments, and even assisted John financially in times of challenge. Over the years, as Faith has seen John lose many stakeholders in his life, Steve and his staff have stepped up as advocates. They have played a key role in educating the entire Mt. Lookout community about John’s strengths, and, as a result, other businesses have hired John for temporary needs as well.
“I am like a brother for him and Steve is like a brother for me,” John said. “I won’t quit my job for nothing. I like where I am now.”
Above and Beyond Award: (Shannice Clark)
Recognizes a LADD staff person that has performed selflessly and tirelessly to effectively achieve LADD’s mission in the past year.
When Shannice first joined LADD in 2010, she was wavering between a career in education or social work. Since then, she has earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree, and come to realize LADD’s Find A Way Apartments is where she belongs. As a direct support professional, people’s lives, their experiences and perspectives have become so interwoven into her own. She knows no 9 to 5 hours. Shannice makes herself available for anything that could come up whether that is a phone conversation, taking someone on an errand, teaching classes or assisting with daily living tasks. And more than that, Shannice has been the driving force behind Find A Way residents realizing a dream many never had considered a possibility…going on a vacation. “It really bothered me to see these people I care about being stigmatized. They have been told what they cannot do or where they cannot go. If I can go on a vacation, I thought, then why can’t they?,” she said. And with that determination, she has organized numerous trips – to Columbus, Myrtle Beach and even Puerto Rico. Staff coordinate and oversee but Find A Way residents choose their destination, create the budget and even raise money. Barbara Taylor told us she had always wanted to go to Myrtle Beach. “I was not sure how I would get there, but Shannice made it happen. Going to Myrtle Beach makes me feel like ‘if I can go there, I can go anywhere’,” Barbara said, before turning to her friend. “Shannice, you are an awesome person. You have been a blessing to me.”
Shannice gets teary eyed when she reminisces those experiences. “One of the greatest rewards is seeing people who have never left the state, never flown or been near the water, never budgeted, hit those milestones,” she said.
Legacy Award: (Kroger Co.)
Recognizes an individual or business that have been a leader in integration of people with disabilities into the Cincinnati community.
Please join us in celebrating The Kroger Company, our Legacy Award recipient, for stepping forward in the 1990s to forge new ground when it comes to hiring people who have disabilities. Margo Wayne, a Kroger associate, spoke for so many when she told us for this video that at Kroger, “they don’t treat you like you have a disability. They treat you with respect.”
Reuben Shaffer, chief diversity officer for The Kroger Company, said they began with one store, testing the idea. “Soon word spread within the organization. Other store managers heard about it and were looking for associates. Store managers began to step forward and ask, ‘When are you going to do the next pilot? If you are going to do it, I am interested.”
Some 15 plus years later, over 1000 people who have disabilities have been employed by Kroger. “The Kroger Co.’s leadership has shifted the conversation relative to hiring people with disabilities. In many ways, this is not just about giving the Legacy Award, but also about moving the conversation forward on setting policies, protocols and procedures that facilitate inclusive workplace environments,” LADD Executive Director Susan Brownknight said.