The Commission on Disability is pleased to announce nominees and winners for the the 2012 Mayor's Awards.
The Dorothy Lasley Memorial Award spotlights a person with a disability who is an active voice in the community, championing for the rights of all people with disabilities. Consideration is given to the nominee's contribution to the community through volunteering, organizational membership and/or community leadership. It is named for Dorothy Lasley, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of two. This necessitated the use of a wheelchair for mobility and later caused the loss of Dorothy's eyesight. Ms. Lasley worked tirelessly throughout her lifetime towards removing both architectural and attitudinal barriers for citizens with disabilities. She was an advocate for people with disabilities, donating countless volunteer hours until her death in 1983. She worked for equal opportunities in employment, transportation, housing, and education, and independent living during a time when society was just beginning to recognize the value of including all its citizens in daily life. In many ways, she was a pioneer.
There few things more exciting that seeing a young person pursue something with passion and that makes this year's presentation of the Dorothy Lasley Memorial Award especially fulfilling. Dorothy was a pioneer; let me introduce you to another. Connor Kelly is a sophomore at Fossil Ridge High School and a young man bound for big things. Being born with Sotos syndrome might be seen as a disability, but for Connor it has simply given focus to the more important things wired into his DNA, things like strength, courage and determination.
You might have heard of 'Spread the Word to End the Word', an initiative to challenge all people to take a pledge to eliminate the use of the r-word from their personal vocabulary. The cumulative aim is to strike the word from our national discourse, but big changes take a lot of work. Not one to be daunted by hard things, Connor has embraced the cause and turned it into not just a Boy Scout project, but a one-man crusade against disrespect. He has given interviews, appeared in the Coloradoan and Denver Post and provided training to every willing high school and middle school in the Poudre School District. He has been a featured panelist at the Human Relations Commission Anti-Bullying Summit and is a continuing inspiration to the Commission on Disability. There are some r-words that apply to Connor: resolute, relentless, and remarkable. Commission on Disability Chairperson Jeff Coon rightly calls Connor the 'ultimate self-advocate.' Indeed, in that arena Connor more than excels. He is an advocate for himself, for his peers, for his community, for his generation. Connor Kelly is without doubt a World-Changer.
The Employee of the Year award is given to an individual who embraces his or her call to do impactful, life-changing work for and with people with disabilities.
2012 Employee of the Year Award Recipient: Sarah Belleau
Every school day, nearly 2500 local students ages 3-21 receive special education supports through the Poudre School Districts Integrated Services Department. Their needs are varied. Some require minimal support, others have significant medical and educational challenges that must be addressed. The youngest are just beginning a lifelong process of learning around and through their disabilities; the oldest are in a place of transition from the safety of school to the reality of adult life. Administrative personnel, teachers and service providers require leadership and coordination to most effectively meet the needs of each student. All this must be accomplished in the face real budget constraints and in compliance with complex federal and state regulations and time tables while staying true to the Poudre School District mission to 'Educate… Every Child. Every Day.' It is a daunting task. That's where Sarah Belleau comes in.
Sarah is the Director of Poudre School District Integrated Services and was nominated with enthusiasm by her Administrative Staff. Her colleagues write,
Or, in the words of a parent, 'I just know that she cares about my child.' Sarah's passion for changing lives, her grace under pressure and the strength of her commitment to Poudre School District Integrated Service students and staff make her uniquely suited to her position, and we are honored to present Sarah Belleau with the 2012 Employee of the Year Award.
The Employer of the Year award recognizes an employer who provides authentic work opportunities for people with disabilities or who creates a positive, supporting workplace for others who work with those with disabilities.
2012 Employer of the Year Award Recipients: Gib's New York Bagels and Sprout's Market
This year, the Commission faced a happy dilemma. The pool of nominees for Employer of the Year was so deep and so rich that settling on one was a challenge. And so since being decisive was impossible, the Commission opted to be generous instead. Today we recognize two employers who have partnered with this community; they have opened their doors to possibility and promise by simply opening their doors to the underutilized talent of people with disabilities.
Gib's New York Bagels opened the door to its first store in 1994 and since that time it has proven that it's not just in the business of making great bagels. Owner Mike Howland believes in community and in the ideal that local businesses should benefit their neighbors. His approach to running Gib's shows that this belief is more than words; it is a guiding principle that makes a true impact on the Fort Collins community.
Gib's strives to maintain both a 'local' and green presence, tapping into nearby food suppliers, reducing their carbon footprint, and sticking to the 3 R's of sustainability. Each year, 10 - 15 thousand Gib's bagels are donated to organizations like Foothills Gateway, Habitat for Humanity and the Mile High Down Syndrome Association. Giving dollars locally is also a priority at Gib's and organizations like Respite Care have benefitted from that generosity. As a 2012 Employer of the Year, Gib's has welcomed workers with disabilities, giving them a home to develop working skills, earn an income and know they are valued and respected. Mike Howland has changed lives by simply seeing the worth of everyone he interacts with and in building Gib's Bagels around that ideal. Ask his employees why Mike and Gib's New York Bagels should be honored and you'll hear the proof: Larry says that Mike cares for his employees and that Gib's is a fun place to work. Daniel calls Mike his 'second dad.' And Ken, who has worked at Gib's for 15 years and has Down syndrome, puts it nicely when he smiles and says, 'It's me… here. People treat me nice, like a worthsome person.'
The first 2012 Employer of the Year, is awarded to Mike Howland and Gib's New York Bagels.
Our next Employer of the Year recipient is both a new face and a familiar friend here in Fort Collins. Sprouts Market on Lemay Avenue, formerly Sunflower Market, is a regional business with a local feel and has been a vital part of our community. For the past four years, they have 'worked in a successful and productive partnership with Spirit Crossing Clubhouse' which is a part of the Touchstone Health Partners system, formerly known as Larimer Center for Mental Health. They have played an integral role in changing lives by offering transitional employment opportunities to clubhouse members with mental health disorders. These positions are truly authentic. They offer a competitive wage to workers and allow them to gain skills and experiences to carry into their next phase of life. Nominator Ken Draves writes of the partnership, 'the real world work experiences have been rewarding for employees, giving them experiences and personal and professional growth opportunities they otherwise might have never gotten.' The program has become an important cornerstone of how Sprouts does business here in Fort Collins, touching the lives of all its employees. Not only are clubhouse members enriched and impacted in a life-changing ways, but two employees, including the store's general manager Leland Kehler, have come alongside Spirit Crossing Clubhouse and joined their Advisory Council. We present our second 2012 Employer of the Year recipient to Sprout's Market.
The Service Provider of the Year award recognizes a business or organization that provides exemplary and life-enriching services to people with disabilities.
2012 Service Provider of the Year Award Recipient: Elderhaus
This years' Service Provider of the Year was nominated not once, but twice, for the impactful, authentic work it does every day with adults with disabilities. That fact stands as a testament to the importance of their programs, the reach of their services, and the beauty of their mission of support and empowerment. Missey Toomey (too-me) nominated Elderhaus for their Adult Day Care program. Her husband, Taft, participates in that program and she writes passionately about how it has provided a good place for him to grow and thrive:
Tracy Gefroh, whose brother participates in Elderhaus' Mindset Creative Community, is also an enthusiastic supporter of the facility. She commends their strong advocacy of people with disabilities and she speaks of the meaning and dignity they have restored to her brother and says simply, 'They changed his life. They changed my life.'
Congratulations to Elderhaus, the 2012 Service Provider of the Year.
Our next award is presented to an individual, business or organization that exemplifies the Spirit of Fort Collins not only in their acts of kindness but also in their passion for creating change and their respect for people with disabilities.
2012 Spirit of Fort Collins Award Winner: Fort Collins Service League
This year, the Fort Collins community joins with Foothills Gateway as it celebrates its 40th anniversary. What they have accomplished is laudable, but Foothills is quick to direct accolades to those who have come alongside and made their road easier. Shortly after Foothills Gateway came into being, a group of Fort Collins women saw a need and decided to band together and lend a hand. That initiative was the beginning of the Fort Collins Service League and since then, a strong partnership has been forged between the two organizations. For 33 years, the Service League has hosted Kitchen Kapers, a delightful door-to-door tour that showcases some of the most beautiful homes in Fort Collins. Kitchen Kapers is a perennial favorite that finds its way onto many a calendar year after year and the funds from this event, and other smaller functions, have raised nearly $1,000,000 to benefit the clients of Foothills Gateway. Those monies act as a supplement to the federal and state funds administered by Foothills Gateway and fill in many of the gaps in that funding. The efforts of the Service League have enabled Foothills to meet the needs of clients in a more holistic way, contributing to the creation of a kind, positive, and compassionate community for all of our citizens.
In addition to their hallmark event, Kitchen Kapers, the Fort Collins Service League is proud to host an annual Christmas Shop at Foothills. Service league members provide new items and Foothills clients are given the opportunity to do some secret shopping for family members and caregivers. Santa visits, food is shared, and the hectic schedule of the holiday season takes a back seat, if only for a while. The event is fun and light-hearted, but it reminds everyone that life is best lived when respect, dignity and self-determination are kept at the center.
Finding a friend who sticks with you, lifts you up, and lends you a hand for a short time is remarkable. Foothills Gateway and its clients have enjoyed that kind of friendship with the Fort Collins Service League for thirty-eight years and that is miraculous. For providing advocacy and awareness, for their unrelenting enthusiasm, and for their steadfast commitment to doing the right thing, day after day, year after year, we award the 2012 Spirit of Fort Collins Award to the Fort Collins Service League.
The Volunteer of the Year award is reserved for an individual who contributes his or her time, effort and heart to making our community kinder and more compassionate home for people with disabilities.
2012 Volunteer of the Year Award Recipient: Lois Douthit
Ryan Davenport has been a volunteer coach for the Special Olympics for the past decade and while that would seem to make him a prime candidate for a Mayor's Award, he is actually our nominator today. During his tenure as a coach, he has been awed time and again by the energies and efforts of one person, the mother of an adult son with Down syndrome, our 2012 Volunteer of the Year, Lois Douthit (dow-hit). Ryan reports that Lois is a can-do person, filled with enthusiasm for the Special Olympics program and always able to encourage other volunteers, coaches and athletes. Although she is 'retired', she has tirelessly organized new sports events in our area, recruited volunteers and athletes, and managed Special Olympic teams. Always present, always active, Lois has devoted her time and talent to making the Fort Collins Special Olympics a vibrant, challenging, quality opportunity for athletes with disabilities. Today we commend her for her rich journey as a mother, as an advocate and as a volunteer with the Special Olympics. Congratulations to the 2012 Volunteer of the Year, Lois Douthit.
2012 Parnership Award Recipient: Arc Thrift Store
Our first award recipient is expert in creating opportunities. In a world where 80% of adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities struggle to find work, the Arc Thrift Store creates opportunities for many of those individuals to have meaningful and authentic jobs that, in the words of nominator Wendie Robinson 're-ignites them as a person of value!' It takes its earnings and pours them not into upscale locations or flashy advertising campaigns, but rather into local Arc chapters and that creates opportunities for education and advocacy. Without those dollars, that vital work wouldn't exist. The beauty of their model is that it invites entire communities to participate in creating compassion. When a family donates to the Arc Thrift store they become part of the loop. When you shop at an Arc Thrift store, you become part of the loop. If you're looking for an opportunity to be part of something meaningful, the Arc Thrift store has simplified your search.
The 2012 Partnership Award recipient is Arc Thrift Store.