- Putting People Behind People Who Need People - That means all of us!  



August, 2014 | Volume 3 



By Aarti Sahgal, Diversity Consultant 


Nowadays, Lucy Ahn walks with a little more confidence and a little wider smile on her face. Her 34 year old daughter Narae is out and about in the community, volunteering at the Duluth Public Library, working at an Asian grocery store stacking goods and at a retirement home. Both the mother and the daughter are exploring lives - independently - for the first time.


Lucy is the primary care giver of her daughter. For the past 34 years she has been her sole companion, providing both physical and emotional support to her, working around the needs of her daughter. Hard lessons of life probably convinced her that only she could love her daughter. Over the past few years, she has been an active member of Georgia Council On Developmental Disabilities' Korean Coalition - a group of parents of children with disabilities working together to find resources, access services, and working to connect with the larger community. On two separate occasions a PATH and a Future's Plan was done with friends and family support. But, there was no significant impact.  


In November 2013, I attended Narae's circle of support meeting and it was evident to me that she had a strong network of friends and church support. They wanted Narae to spend more time outside of home, doing things that she enjoyed and building relationships within the community. They were encouraging, creative, open and, when required, honestly blunt. But the biggest obstacle was Lucy's complete buy-in to the thought that Narae's disability is the only framework by which she can be defined, designed and viewed. Conversation around her civic engagement through volunteering were welcomed with skepticism and politely ignored. 

While I enjoy Korean food and hospitality, I was getting (a little) tired of eating rice cakes and drinking bubble tea without any outcomes to our meetings! So early this year, Lucy, Narae, and her attendant Sandy agreed to meet me at the Duluth Library to explore volunteer opportunities. Why a library? Simply because Narae always has a magazine in her hands and likes to flip through it. Folks at the library did not refuse, but neither were they welcoming. I could sense the feeling of defeat creeping in on Lucy and that "I told you so" look. 


We walked out of the library and decided to try our luck at a retirement home next door. Wow! What a welcome! The Director of the facility shared the activity calendar and various ways Narae could help them. She did not ask her to take a written test, question her ability to hold things in her hand, or doubt the maneuverability of her wheelchair. She believed that Narae was a god-sent; much needed help for her. This welcome encouraged Lucy so much that the next week she secured a volunteer job for Narae at an Asian grocery store in Duluth - one of the largest Asian stores in the county!


What changed -- Lucy's one-dimensional, narrow perspective view of her daughter. Narae is no longer defined by her disability, and adjectives such as "perfectionist," "detail- oriented," and "professional" are used to describe her abilities. Filled with pride, Lucy shares how Narae takes utmost care in stacking packets of snacks in precise order at the grocery store; how she makes the perfect mound of garlic display; and how nothing misses her eye. All Lucy needed was someone to "walk with her." It moves me deeply when she sincerely and repeatedly says, "Thank you for bringing back my life!"


Let me also share that the Duluth Library was not really "unwelcoming." They just needed a little time to identify an appropriate job for Narae. They have, in fact, been amazingly accommodating. Narae goes in weekly to sort out damaged books and magazines. Since she has difficulty holding heavy or large books, she is working in the children section and is able to identify damaged or torn books through a simple sound of "ah- uh." Narae has a full schedule now. She is giving back to her community by volunteering her time at her favorite grocery store, library and at a retirement home. Narae is making friends and I imagine, by her presence, shifting the notion of what's possible with community members in Duluth.  


by Gillian Grable and Sandy Commito


Stanley Taylor, a handsome man with a quick smile and a warm greeting was living in a group home when, three years ago, he was dropped by a medical transport company and injured to the point where he now uses a wheelchair.  Following the accident, Stanley was sent to a nursing care facility.


A PATH Plan (Planning Alternative Tomorrow with Hope) was facilitated in Savannah, Georgia, on June 12th. Gillian Grable (GA Microboards Assoc.) and Ryan Johnson (GA State University Center for Leadership in Disability) facilitated the PATH. Eight people were in attendance including Tom Kohler, (Chatham Savannah Citizen Advocacy), Sakinah Hampton (Stanley's Citizen Advocate), and members of her family.


The support group chose the name "Team Stanley" and the focus of the meeting and the job of this team is to find ways to fulfill Stanley's dream to be baptized and to have a home of his own. As Tom Kohler put it, "It's not too much to ask; to live in your own place with some hired help and lots of people doing things because they love you."  There was no shortage of ideas about welcoming Stanley to family gatherings, cook-outs, baptisms and weekly church activities. Ryan Johnson recorded Stanley's words at the close of the meeting as: hopeful, honored, inspired, grateful and ready.


It would take quick action by Sakinah and members of the team to make it happen. Robert Bell, (DBHDD) put her in touch with Shenequa McKay (Planning List Administrator), who provided the application packet and explained the Medicaid Home and Community Based Services Waiver process. In addition, an MFP Counselor (Money Follows the Person) was contacted to determine Stanley's eligibility for the funding necessary to help him return to his community.


Just as Sakinah was completing the last documents in the application processes, Stanley was admitted to the hospital with a life-threatening infection called sepsis. An effective leader in the midst of chaos, Sakinah headed for the hospital and immediately notified "Team Stanley." Two days later, she sent this inspirational photograph with thanks to everyone involved. There was Stanley: hopeful, honored, inspired, grateful and ready.   



The Journey of a Lifetime

by Maria Pinkleton 


The story of Betty Thompson's trip to the Redwoods National Forest in Weott, California is one of family, friends, hope, community and faith. What began as a "Bold Step" item on a PATH ended with a new group of friends celebrating the journey of a lifetime.

In February of 2013 friends and family gathered at Oakhurst Baptist Church in support of 66 year-old

Betty. Her hopes, dreams, gifts, talents and opportunities were laid out before the group through the creation of her PATH. Teaching at universities, growing her greeting card business, having a home of her own and visiting the Redwoods National Forest in California were all steps she wanted to take by the year 2015. In typical bold Betty fashion it was decided that the trip to California would take the most time, talent and planning - so it would be the first to be done.


A trip of this magnitude required logistics, a willing team of people/friends and a healthy sum of money to work from. Everyone has their gifts and people came forward to offer theirs. A group of church friends who were talented in logistics, travel, and photography, and those whose schedules would allow, volunteered to experience the Redwoods with Betty. Her traveling team would include Diana Lynn Farmer, Dee Ann Dozier, Elise Phillips and Trina Baldwin along with two caregivers.



In telling the full story of Betty in the fundraising campaign, we decided that a video should be added to her Crowdrise crowdsourcing website. As longtime friend Mark Crenshaw translated, Betty used her letter board to tell the story of her late father, his work with the California Conservation Corps, and why she had to experience it for herself. The website containing the video of Betty telling her story was shared with her friends who shared it with their friends. People from near and far, people who had known Betty for years, along with those who had only seen Betty in the video gave what they could. More than $15,000 was raised through community, church, and online fundraising.


Raising travel funds was a huge hurdle that had to be overcome; but other details proved tricky as well. Would the airlines be able to accommodate her power chair? How would her support staff arrange their schedules? Who would drive the two vans needed to go from Los Angeles to Weott California? The gifts of the group were put to use in facing these challenges. Options were discussed, calls were made, questions were answered, and eventually airline tickets were purchased.


The Atlanta Journal and Constitution wrote an article on the community coming together to make Betty's dream a reality. Along the way the Save The Redwoods League not only made recommendations on ADA accessible paths in the forests; but also sent "Save the Redwoods" clothing for the entire Georgia crew. 


On June 18th the seven women left Atlanta with three definite goals:

  1. Get to California

  2. Get to the Redwoods

  3. Get back to Atlanta

Everything else that would happen during their travels would make for more stories to tell upon their return. Those tales began with the awesome assistance of the Crisis Resolution Officials and crew from Delta Airlines. Their help made the process inside the airport, which can often be wrought with challenges, an easy one for the team.


A tight schedule combined with typical California traffic meant that more than a few hours were spent in the two cars the women were split into. The van carrying Betty included a constant stream of singing and laughter. Betty says, "I laughed myself silly and got to know my church friends really well." Much of that time spent traveling from Los Angeles was a blur of talking, eating and admiring the scenery; and the group agrees that there could never be enough time for them to do all and see everything in northern California. 




While Golden Gate Bridge, rolling hills and beaches were beautiful; nothing compared to the view when they arrived at the Humboldt State Park Redwood Forest. Park staff members Laurel Franklin and Debbie Gardner welcomed Betty's group and they began their tour of the forest. They marveled at the statuesque trees, some more than 300 feet tall, and the tiny pinecones they produce. Not to be outdone by the trees, a few of the more than 400 species of birds that call the trees home provided a melodious soundtrack. The group experienced the wonder that is nature; they also experienced the unpredictability of technology when Betty's power chair refused to work. This problem was solved with a half-mile of chair pushing by Laurel and Trina. Betty remarks, "Thanks God they were willing." 




With the exception of one moody battery, their time in the forest was perfect. Betty commented Baldwin reflected, "Betty wants to determine her own path and destiny and she did just that with this trip. I am amazed by Betty's grace and her willingness to be cared for."


Memories were captured in photographs of the beaches and the trees; but the bond that the women share now was the greatest thing that occurred that couldn't actually be captured in pictures. Friends were brought closer together as was the Oakhurst community and everyone who heard Betty's story. However, in the end it was Betty's experiencing the same majestic beauty that her father had, that was the greatest union.


Betty says, "My favorite thing was driving through the Chandelier Tree. My dad said he went through it in a truck.

Dad was with me in the wind and in the redwood trees saying, 'Hurray, you did it!'" 






Congratulations to Amie McElhaney who has secured a small private display for her art notecards in the Art Gallery at Lucy Goosey Gifts in the Vista Grove Shopping Center, 2840 LaVista Road, Decatur, Georgia 30033.
Stop by and have a look! Hopefully, the display will grow larger as her popularity grows.
Thanks to Lee Sanders and the Lucy Goosey team!   


By Gillian Grable and Sandy Commito


When Madeline Petrone, a raven haired beauty, walks into Meals on Wheels three days a week at the Cobb County Senior Center, she greets everyone with a huge smile and a warm hug. Madeline has always had a preference for putting things in order, which is why she jumped at the chance to work in the kitchen assembly line. Whether she's scooping mashed potatoes into each of the 180 frozen food trays or filling little cups of Jell-O, she's always focused on her task and quickly masters whatever routine she is assigned.

What she loves most is having the freedom to engage in a variety of opportunities in the community, including time spent volunteering at the local thrift store, the Humane Society, assisting at the annual Easter Egg Hunt or the Angel Watch childcare program at her church. 



She says her heart feels good when the people around her are happy - and she tries very hard to make sure that everyone knows that they are loved and appreciated. 


Each volunteer position is a learning experience, and using her strengths to help others has given her a new sense of pride and accomplishment. Madeline's current goal is to move into her own home with a roommate, and to perfect her skills as an advocate for individuals with disabilities








Tifton Museum of Arts and Heritage

The 3-month celebrations, "A Season of Quilts" was a collaboration between the Tifton Museum of Arts and Heritage, Diversified Enterprises and the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village. Additional support came from private patrons, Georgia Power, Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, Georgia Microboards Association, and the Tifton-Tift County Tourism Association.   
There is always the challenge of allowing people to see that what unites us is greater than what divides us. The quilts on display were as diverse as the lives they represented, bringing to mind the common threads that tie us all together. Marion Curry and Syd Blackmarr got the idea from an event they attended in Savannah, "We wanted the series to be something that included everyone in the community. The anchor is our theme, The Threads That Bind."     



Beth Mount, a Georgia native who now calls New York City home, sees art as the one true global language.

Her massive and exquisite quilts reveal stories of individual resilience, celebrating ways people blossom and contribute to community, particularly in the face of difficulty. 
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Margaret Mead


Andy Offutt Irwin, singer, humorist, songwriter, musician and children's storyteller was a huge success performing for over 500 fifth grade students of Tift County Public Schools, plus teachers and visitors to the Tifton Museum's A Season of Quilts events. 
The Georgia Microboards Association's participation in the events included presentations for families and people with disabilities at the Tifton-Tift County Public Library. Guest Speakers included Todd Copper, Becky Copper and Gillian Grable, Executive Director. 
Robert Bell, Director of Community Supports, Georgia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities, Division of Developmental Disabilities, addressed important topics and answered questions about the Participant-Directed Waiver Option.  


Professional Storyteller, Jeanette Vaughn Waddle, worked tirelessly with approximately 60 people in preparation for the Tifton events. A small story circle came together after the Waddie Welcome reading, with each person taking turns telling a story. Jeanette recalled, "This was the beloved community in reality and one of my favorite memories of the event." 
As Jeanette helped folks participate in the NPR StoryCorp opportunity, there was a common theme that emerged during the interviews. "A different kind of love" was the phrase that Wayne Duy used to describe it. There was a consensus among the participants that the love they experienced was different than what grows between relatives and friends; unexpected, difficult to explain, and all too real. 



























While it sounds easy, accepting help is something that is extremely challenging for all of us at one time or another. But as Rebecca Cheskes recently observed, once she stepped outside of her comfort zone, she discovered that her 12 year old daughter's PATH meeting was as much a gift to others as it was to Dalia.


An important message that echoed throughout the event was, "We all want to know Dalia better, but we don't know how." A speech therapist served as Dalia's voice at the PATH. Every person who expressed a desire to learn more about the communication device was warmly invited to attend Dalia's private speech therapy sessions on Monday afternoons. The speech therapist also offered to hold a more informal training session at some point in the future.


One parent offered to host a small gathering of teens to decorate a scrapbook binder with a "That's Me!" page for each person in attendance, including a photograph of themselves and all of their favorite things. This simple scrapbook idea will become something that Dalia can bring to various social events as a great conversation starter. Sam Horwitz, who visits with Dalia weekly as a Friendship Circle volunteer, quickly offered to attend, and shared with the group what it is like to be her friend.


The Friendship Circle provides a way for youth, with and without disabilities, to get to know each other. Through an on-line calendar and E-blasts to local members, news is circulated about activities such as Jewish holiday celebrations and Birthday Club events. Dalia was able to go bowling and pottery painting, which she really enjoyed. Best of all, everyone is included and everyone has a great time.


At the PATH, some attendees were discussing various things that teenage girls like to do, and perhaps, Dalia would enjoy these things as well. Since Dalia's school Speech Therapist was also in attendance at the PATH, she decided to see if Dalia would tolerate having her nails painted while in the company of her Special Friends at school. At Dalia's public school, which houses several classrooms of children like Dalia, and every year, many 5th graders volunteer to be a Special Friend to these children. The first time, Dalia watched with great interest, as her Special Friends painted each other's nails, though Dalia was hesitant to try it. But the very next week, Dalia actually requested that all of her nails be painted, just like her friends.


Now that her PATH has taken place, Dalia's family is continuing to plan for another very special event in her life: celebrating Dalia's

Bat Mitzvah. Sometimes, parents cannot begin to envision the possibility of a daughter undertaking the rigorous training required

to prepare for a Bat Mitzvah ceremony-- a beautiful and meaningful service that recognizes a young woman as a valued member of the Jewish community. Planning a Bat Mitzvah can be challenging, but Dalia's parents wanted to provide her with the opportunity to take her rightful place as a Jewish adult and to celebrate her journey.


Continually inspired by the love and support of her community, Rebecca's eyes filled with tears of pride as she described how, with the use of the communication device, her daughter has almost mastered the Torah blessings and associated responses. Dalia's right-of-passage celebration is scheduled for February, 2015, because her parents said, "Yes. This CAN and WILL happen."



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- Putting People Behind People Who Need People - That means all of us! -