February 2015

Featured Emerging Leader

Transition and Employment Projects

One of the goals of the Rural Institute Transition and Employment Projects is to expand the vision of what is possible for youth and young adults with developmental disabilities to learn, live, work and play in their communities. We have been capturing stories of Montanans who have a developmental disability according to the Montana definition and who have creatively organized their supports to:


  • Live in the community (on their own or with family or friends) and/or
  • Work in the community (including owning their own business) and/or
  • Access inclusive education (high school, college, community classes) and/or
  • Participate in recreation and leisure activities that are inclusive (that is, alongside people without disabilities)

As we receive them, we share these stories with Listserv members. You may also read about Montana's Emerging Leaders in our Featured EL Archives, 2009 EL Showcase [PDF] and 2010 EL Showcase [PDF]. To nominate yourself or someone else as an Emerging Leader, visit the Rural Institute Transition and Employment Projects web site.

Randy in front of his home

Randy - A Man with Many Talents

By Tracy Fillbach, Rural Institute Consumer Advisory Council Member and Susanne Meikle, Director of Montana Work Solutions, LLC


Randy lives in his own home, a two-bedroom house with a bathroom, living room, kitchen and backyard. According to Randy, "I bought my house in 2007. I pay a mortgage each month. I clean and maintain my home. I cook for myself. I am a very good cook. I love to barbecue in my backyard. This year I started a garden and grew tomatoes, green beans, bell peppers, onions, basil, parsley, and radishes. I watered and weeded...I did not like weeding. My onions did not come, but everything else did and I cooked with everything I grew. Because I had so many green beans and tomatoes, I froze them to use later."  


In terms of employment, Randy says, "I have worked at the Bitterroot Star delivering newspapers for three years. I deliver about 200 newspapers to the downtown Hamilton area. I bought a wagon that I use to help haul all the papers. The wagon really comes in handy! I work all year round, delivering in the sunshine, rain and snow. My job coach, Susanne, helps me deliver papers in the wintertime when there is snow and ice. Last year, Susanne had to help a lot because the winter weather was so bad. "


Randy wants to work more than one day a week and make additional money delivering papers but explains that it has been hard finding another job. "I keep looking for new opportunities to open up."


When asked what he does for fun, Randy replied, "Wow, I don't know. I do all kinds of fun things. I visit with friends and cook dinner for them. I invite my friends for stir-fry, and I love to make homemade pizza. We sit around my house and watch films or walk around K-Mart or downtown. I go to church and to the Bitterroot library, where I check out movies, music, cookbooks and DVD cooking shows. I browse the Internet and look up recipes. I enjoy some cooking groups on Facebook."


"Out in the community, I belong to People First, a club for people with disabilities. I do the Summer Special Olympics Games - shot put, Bocce, and bowling. I go to Kiwanis Club lunches once every other month as a representative of People First. At the Ravalli Fair, I volunteer at the Kiwanis Club food booth scrubbing potatoes and putting ribbon fries in the boat containers, again as a representative of People First."


Randy makes use of several supports that assist him to live on his own and work in the community. "I have a Montana Developmental Disabilities Program (MDDP) Case Manager and a Developmental Disabilities Provider from Montana Work Solutions (MTWS), Susanne. MTWS helps me with my job, my house, cleaning, yard work, getting the garden going and maintained, cooking healthy meals, and exercising. I have lost a lot of weight - seventy pounds since working with MTWS staff! I go to the Canyons Health Club, walk to deliver newspapers at my job, and buy and eat healthy foods. Friends help me out, like Tracy drives me around to places and I pay her for gas. I use the Bitterroot Bus, too, because I do not drive. My other way of transportation is walking. My case manager and MTWS suggest things that will be helpful to me in having a healthy and independent lifestyle. MDDP provides the financial aid for my supports."


So what are Randy's plans for the future? "One of my dreams is to move to Florida where I am from because it is warmer there! I moved with my Dad to Hamilton, Montana fifteen years ago. I have a heavy coat, gloves and boots for winter."


When asked what advice he would give to others, Randy said, "With good support you can live on your own, work and have fun. If I can do it other people can do it!"


Randy at work delivering papers



Kim Brown
MT Transition Listserv


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This project is funded in whole or in part under a contract with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. The statements herein do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Department.