Second Annual Microboards Retreat   

April, 2015 | Volume 4 
An Inspirational and Energizing Day


Pictured above are: Sally Carter, Chris Hunnicutt, Maria Pinkleton, Debra McElhaney, Pat Petrone, Randy Pilkenton, Gillian Grable, and Ken Reed  Front Row: Becky Copper, Aarti Sahgal and Katie Chandler  



On  January 10th, the Board of Directors met with guest speaker, Bruce Anderson of Community Activators, to witness each other's stories, to celebrate what we've accomplished over the past year, and to take time to reflect on the signature gift of the organization. After several small group exercises, it was obvious that we all have a passion for justice and a strong sense of shared beliefs about how communities should function; but how do we develop the skills to strengthen a Microboard's capacity to ask and invite new members who will sign on for the duration and work hard toward the objective? 


During the afternoon session, board members had a unique 

opportunity to deepen their relationships with  individuals, to listen to stories about their passions and what their Microboard members mean to them. Bruce told everyone gathered that it is always safer and easier to invite someone from the disability community. "Make the circle bigger. Unlock the immunity to change.  Your success depends on getting outside of your comfort zone."




Bruce added that one of the most important things a Microboard can do to maintain enthusiasm and attract new members is to bring up the topic of welcoming. Everyone had a story about a time they felt unwelcome or didn't belong - a reminder that new members are looking for an opportunity to participate in something bigger than themselves, to receive a warm welcome and verification that their gift to the group will be valued and appreciated.   




Bruce explained the power of rituals and suggested that we need group based, resilient rituals to keep us strong. They are activities that get everyone together in the same room and space. It is a place where communities are built and the hope of the group is established over time. Rituals reduce feelings of isolation and are a symbol of our unity.


At the close of the meeting, a small group set up a ritual table using water (purifying), earth (grounding, love), tree branches (new life and possibility), and stones (stories). Bruce told everyone in the room to choose a stone and to think of a person who helped you along the path or inspired you. We took turns slipping our stone into the water and saying the person's name out loud. We then poured additional water into the bowl to indicate our commitment.


We send our most sincere thanks to Bruce Anderson. From beginning to end, the event set a tone of unwavering optimism.


Pictured are: Todd Copper, Debra Taylor, Becky Copper, Jenny Humphreys, Marilyn Humphreys and Amie McElhaney   




Our gratitude and admiration goes to Brittany Curry who graphically recorded our retreat meeting in a live, real-time group setting. 


Two months from now, when the Board of Directors meets again, we'll be able to see the images and  reengage in the conversations, plans and commitments we made at the retreat. 





Pictured are: Bruce Anderson, Randy Pilkenton, Sally Carter, Aarti Sahgal and Brittany Curry








Pictured are Sandra Commito, Dottie Adams, Gillian Grable, Lucy Ahn, Helen Ahn, Aarti Sahgal, Joyce Kyung Cho and Narae Ahn   


In February, an enthusiastic group of women gathered at Nak Won Sweet Rice Café in Duluth to nominate the Board of Directors and to form one of our newest Microboards, "Narae's Dream World, Inc." 

Using sample documents from the Microboard handbook, Gillian Grable took the group through the process of what is required to register a Microboard with the Secretary of State and all of the decisions that need to be made to create a lasting network of support so that Narae may lead an active life and share her gifts.   


Narae is now an official employee of the Assi grocery store, has been assigned a locker, received six paychecks, and her first 1099 form. She continues to give back to the community through her volunteer activities at the Gwinnett County Public Library.


In December, Narae's friends at work held a fund raiser yard sale for her and raised $1,500.  Narae used $100 to go to camp and donated the rest of the money to Wheat Mission Ministries and Haiti Outreach Ministries. Inspired by Narae's generosity, Assi management added an additional donation.   

The Pilot Club of Atlanta sponsors Anchor Clubs at Roswell and Centennial High Schools. Anchors are high school "pilots" who provide volunteer services to their communities and represent the future of Pilot International.    


A fashion show was held at the Metropolitan Club in Alpharetta on Saturday, March 14, where Narae and volunteers modeled outfits provided by Dillard's. Dottie Adams, President of the Pilot Club of Atlanta, presented the net proceeds of the fun-filled event to representatives of the Police Department's Project Lifesaver-Atlanta and Relay for Life.


In addition, we have just learned that Narae will be featured in a documentary produced by the University of Minnesota researchers for a conference in Washington DC concerning what our focus should be for the future, and she has been nominated for Georgia APSE Personal Achievement award at the national level.  

Gillian asked how typical citizens view Narae in these enhancing roles, and how do we continue to expand the possibilities and opportunities?  


Watching this Microboard in action, one could not help come away with the feeling that they are 

re-defining what it means to be leaders.  




Pictured below: Shaquoya Bennett, Gillian Grable and Madeline Petrone


One of the priorities of the statewide Quality Improvement Councils is to give voice to individuals, their families, and other citizens in the region in assessing their needs and recommending priorities for DBHDD services.


Gillian Grable, Madeline Petrone, and Shaquoya Bennett met with members of the Quality Improvement Council to talk about why the Participant-Directed Waiver is so important to Madeline and the choices she makes.     






"Loneliness is the central reason why so many are unhappy and distraught. Our work is to help people find meaningful and enduring relationships. Nothing is more important." David Pitonyak


During the month of October in Decatur, and 

Columbus, the Georgia Microboards Association provided scholarships for two important workshops hosted by guest speaker, David Pitonyak, PhD.   


David explained that we are all hard-wired for belonging and, at any given time, 80 percent of our brain is focused on relationships and our social networks. It is his belief that difficult behaviors are "messages" which tell us important things about a person and his or her surroundings. Understanding the "meaning" of an individual's difficult behaviors is the first step in supporting the person, and the person's supporters, to change. One of the things he's observed in his practice is that the primary cause of difficult behaviors is loneliness. "The only people they have in their life are those who are paid to be with them and the turn-over rate is extraordinary. For someone who is lonely, these changes can be devastating."


If you were unable to attend one of the workshops, we encourage you to visit the website at: and download articles about ways to help people get connected and engaged in enduring, positive, meaningful relationships.    





Paula Dukes, Ed. S., Program for Exceptional Students, MCSD Public Education Center


I, like many of you, attend conferences with the purpose of discovering what is going on in the bigger picture regarding my field of work and to obtain new ideas and/or information specific to my area of expertise. Most of the newly acquired knowledge is information to be used to support what I do as an employee and, at times, it also feeds the need for personal growth and development. 

I arrived at the GWI with this mind set and was a bit confused by all of the social engagement built into the agenda. It made me uncomfortable and in somewhat discord as I tried to determine the purpose for the planned social interactions. Early on, I noticed that a large number of attendees actually had disabilities and were quite capable of advocating for themselves. I opted to stay away from most of the social activities except for lunch and conference sessions, which had plenty of socialization built in.


I found the sessions to be of benefit and actually assisted me in resolving a work-related dilemma I had struggled with for a couple of years. There were several "a-ha" moments during the conference, but I still didn't get the need for all of the socialization.  I attended all of the day-time conference sessions but, by the last day, I was ready to get back to my office and catch up on work that was waiting for me. Yes, I was debating leaving before the conference ended but, in spite of my internal conflict, I opted to stay for the final session.


When I entered the room for the last gathering, I knew immediately that we were expected to be involved in more socialization activities, as the chairs were arranged in a circle and room within the circle was made for those coming in late. Well, I managed to stay and participate in this event, and this is where the entire conference began to make sense for me. During the last activity I met a wise woman named, Ola Yasin. She began to tell me her story and I was captivated. She is a powerful woman of purpose and passion for individuals in need, and I could not stop asking her questions. Our time was limited by the activity and I left wanting to know more about her and her work. I would have never been able to connect with Ola in a typical conference session unless it was an intended outcome of the event.


It was at this moment that I actually "got" what the conference was about. It is not about the agencies organizing the event or the persons presenting the break-out sessions. It is totally about the people attending the conference; who they are, what they do, how they do it, what's important to them, why connecting to others is vital, what they each bring to the table, etc. They are the community that lives and practices what is being presented throughout the conference sessions. What a paradigm shift.

I left with a renewed belief in the power of forward thinking people that truly can make change occur in a much needed way in community thought and action. I look forward to attending the conference next year and will arrive with a much different set of expectations for me and others as I participate in a community of practice.


Rita Haggerty, President

Citizen Advocacy of Atlanta and DeKalb


I attended the Tuesday session of GWI as both Board President for Citizen Advocacy of Atlanta & DeKalb and as a parent. I find that going to learning sessions like these help educate me and lift my spirits. The Tuesday session was no exception. I sat in on Tom Kohler's "Power of a Long Story" with Brittany Curry providing some great visuals, a session  with Crystal Rasa on Employment First with  a bunch of parents who have fought the battles, and a session on Core Gift Interviews. I also enjoyed the conviviality of dinner after the sobering vigil for Warren Hill. 

I didn't realize it at the time, but starting the day with the long story helped me with the core gift interview.  It reaffirmed that what we are trying to do at Citizen Advocacy is quite vital and gave me some ideas as a parent.  I was very glad to have made the drive to Columbus and realize how important it is to be loving human beings to one another. (It even helped me when there was trouble with my daughter's final renewal application for her Katie Beckett wavier--a conversation with an employee who truly does want the system to work for its clients.) 

Christopher Hunnicutt

Board Member, Georgia Microboards Association


GWI 2015 was especially meaningful to me this year. In 1993, I determined my life should be lived giving back and helping others challenged by a disability. The evidence of that decision was shown in the faces and life stories of several folks in attendance. Friends, heroes, and heroines from the last 28 years were there, illustrating the power of committed people making a difference and staying the course over the long term.


I felt humbled and reenergized! I made alliances with many new folks and am eager to explore how we become "social capital" to each other. This gathering had a profound impact on me and I intend to multiply the impact in the lives of others


Ken Reed

Total Life Coaching & Consulting


I had a wonderful and enriching experience at my first Georgia Winter Institute. From the moment I arrived to the closing session, there was never a moment were I felt I was wasting my time by attending the event. There were many great people to meet or renew friendships with, and the session topics were varied and informative. I experienced the "Waddie Welcome" for the first time, and understand how a community can make a real difference in the quality of life for individuals who have been marginalized or fallen through the big cracks of our society. I was humbled by the commitment many in attendance had in making a difference in people's lives because it was the right thing to do.


My understanding of the advocacy work that must be done for those who are without a voice has been increased tremendously through the discussions I had with other advocates representing many communities and organizations. Many of the presentations were interactive, providing take-away tools that could be utilized right away with the community I support. During the conference, I decided to participate mostly in the futures planning track and have continued to engage with the Futures Planning Family of Practice group. I am fortunate to have participated in GWI 2015, and have much admiration and gratitude to the Georgia Microboards Association for sponsoring my attendance at the event. The GWI is a powerful conference that inspires people to take up the challenge of building communities where all are welcome and supported. 

Pat Petrone, Treasurer

Georgia Microboards Association, Inc. 


My daughter Madeline and I loved GWI 2015 in Columbus. I especially liked the courses based on identifying and affirming the gifts of others. It was wonderful to experience all of the networking on the trolley rides to and from lunch, the covered dish dinner, and the hospitality community room at the hotel. I made some very good contacts and am keeping in touch with a few new folks that I met. I really really liked the photo directory of attendees; that is the best!


Having the choice of four or five tracks made it very difficult to choose which course to attend, as they were all excellent. I loved the affirmation wall, the Wadi Welcome reading, and Karaoke night. Madeline made quick friends, so she went her way and I went mine. She and another self advocate volunteered to make sure that the rooms were cleared and in perfect order after each session. They really loved being put to work!


The Georgia Microboards Association Exhibit by Jonathan Hayes 



Jonathan Hayes represented the Georgia Microboards Association at the Walker-Catoosa-Dade Transition Academy hosted by Georgia Northwestern Technical College in Rock Spring, Georgia.  

Jonathan is a dedicated and gifted painter whose talent far exceeds his young age. He often uses his sketches and paintings as a way to communicate themes and places that interest him. His works, usually landscapes and vistas, use vibrant colors and details combined with his young spirit and skilled hand to tell his stories. Through watercolors and acrylics, Hayes is able to take those who view his paintings on adventures through urban cities and far off places.


In February, 2015, Jonathan was a featured exhibitor at the Capitol Art Exhibit, sponsored by the Georgia Art Education Association and the Office of the Secretary of State. This is the premier event of Youth Art Month and the largest student exhibit in the state. The purpose of the exhibition is to share the exceptional creative ability of Georgia's students with our legislators and the general public. Jonathan was one of two candidates selected for this honor out of the entire school population. His art work is also being featured by the local Cobb County Kiwanis where he will represent the eighth grade class at his school. Jonathan was recently acknowledged and inducted into the National Beta Club, which is a precursor to the National Honor Society.    




When all of her friends and family gathered in Sidney's living room for her PATH, Sidney's mom Nadine announced that she and Sidney's dad Wilton wanted "all hands on deck" to bring the world to their 10 year old daughter, who is deaf-blind.  Sidney's brother Seth and sister Sariah took part and even Sidney's Uncle Christopher was Skyped in from Holland. The device was sitting on the mantle so he could see the PATH on the wall.


Martha Veto of the Georgia Sensory Assistance Project said, "One of the most important realizations that people took from the conversation was that you don't have to be an expert to do things with Sidney; you just have to want to interact with her. "  The group learned that while it is important to have some consistency so she doesn't get confused, people should not get hung up on doing things "the right way."  As her uncle pointed out, "We're all different and we'll all interact differently, but that is how she will come to know us - for our unique way of doing things."  Sidney's parents will share the signs she is learning and using with everyone, but the group was encouraged to find other ways to communicate too.  One of the areas her support circle will work on is helping Sidney practice feeding herself with a fork and spoon.  Martha and Sidney's parents will provide tips and strategies, but by trying things in their own way, each person will find something else that works that they can share with the whole group. 

One of the big themes in the conversation was that everyone has something to bring to Sidney to expand her world.  Sidney only knows what she has the opportunity to touch, smell, taste, and experience hands-on.  People were excited to think about things THEY could share with her- strawberry picking, walking at the park, taking part in camp, or weekly visits to the ice cream parlor.


The PATH meeting closed with the words people offered to describe how the experience made them feel.  Some of feelings expressed by the group were:  endless possibilities, hopeful, unison, inspired, do-able, determined, and real.     The group felt very committed to bring the world to Sidney. One of the  family's close friends volunteered to be the 'champion' who sets up a calendar where people can sign up to spend time with Sidney, and keeps communication about future meetings flowing. 


Before the meeting was over, she had invited everyone to a Group Me group called Sidney Can Do It Too!  There were lots of young people at the meeting who wanted to take part and they arranged to meet at Sidney's house in a week to learn about helping Sidney learn about getting around in her own house.



When Path facilitator Ryan Johnson asked what they wanted him to record as their very last word about the experience, Sidney's friend Mariah said, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!"



by Shaquoya Bennett 


Madeline Petrone has been engaged in leadership training. 

My Voice. My Participation. My board. is a unique, 6-day training program sponsored by the Center for Leadership in Disability that is designed to teach the professional skills necessary to serve on a board or a council. Madeline was thrilled to be one of ten candidates chosen to participate in this year's leadership training, since she has  expressed an interest in serving on the Advisory Board of GCDD, having her voice heard, and learning how to advocate on behalf of people with disabilities.


The classes we attended covered everything from knowing the difference between professional and casual dress, to understanding Roberts Rules of Order.   


After each training session, Madeline was given a homework assignment. She had to come up with a 30-second elevator speech, design her own business cards, and develop a resume. Given some support, Madeline was able to complete all of the tests successfully. 


The speech taught her how to grab a person's

attention by getting straight to the point, and

the resume helped identify her many gifts

and talents, as well as her goals.


The training also included "speed networking"

activities where she would talk to a handful of

people she had never met, tell them about

herself and answer questions. This particular

activity turned out to be easy for Madeline,

since meeting new people, putting everyone at ease, and interacting socially are already

some of her most admirable gifts. 


During the final training class, all of the

students were required to dress in professional

business attire. Madeline was so excited, she

went to Macy's and independently chose the

perfect suit. 

Madeline rocked her suit and elevator speech and was rewarded with a certificate!