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2022 Partnership Luncheon & Award Winners

We had a great crowd to help us celebrate DD awareness month, our 2021 accomplishments, the many partners we have in the community and our 2022 award winners. Thank you to Brad Taylor for joining us to kick the event off with an invocation. Thank you to our Board of DD employees who made the event possible. And thank you to our 6 board members who were able to attend: President Tom Fleming, Vice President Bob McPheron, Secretary Phyllis Montrose, Chrissy Hood, Chad King and Ty Butterfield.

In one year, there are many successes to celebrate for any organization. Amidst a number of successes, there were two great examples of the Board of DD’s successful partnerships in 2021.

First is our partnership with the Allen County Educational Services Center (ESC). As we began 2021, we started to learn about the ESC’s need for adequate educational space for students with multi-handicapped and autism needs. At the very same time, we were challenged by the impending retirement of our Director of Education and a school shrinking so fast we were not able to offer the same level of services we had in the past. The ESC had been looking for property for some time. After tours, meetings and brainstorming, we knew that operating two schools in our building was not possible; however, if the ESC could take over the final two classrooms of Marimor School, the Board of DD could provide facilities, such as the classrooms, gymnasium and cafeteria, and other amenities, such as custodial and maintenance. It was not easy to squeeze everyone in one building to kick off the 2021-2022 school year, but we did it, somehow. Many of our staff made concessions and gave up nice space – to use, say a closet – for a year. There is not one corner in the school building that is not used right now. We just began an office renovation project to make this a more permanent arrangement with the ESC. The students of Great Day at Marimor School also now have the Board’s ancillary services for students right in the same building – whether that is case management, which we call SSA, behavior support or transition services – the Board is more accessible to the faculty, students and families educated by the Allen County ESC. Since 2015, the Allen County ESC had operated 5 preschool classrooms in the Marimor School building. This was just an extension of that already established relationship. As we wind down the first school year with this collaboration, we are very appreciative of the wonderful educational services provided by the ESC to the students we also serve at the Board of DD.

The second partnership involved many people. From passing resolutions, to helping with the community build, to giving money to a Bath football player for their lift-a-thon, to donating directly, to coming to our rescue with equipment or raising funds over and over again as the Lima Senior DECA students did…our community made the biggest success of 2021 a reality for Lima/Allen County: Marimor Legacy Park and Playground. We raised $1,495,135 over four years to complete the playgrounds at Marimor Legacy Park and Camp Robin Rogers (2020). When we were ready to build the playground at Marimor Legacy Park, we held a Community Build. More than 400 people were part the of 3.5 scheduled days – and several in the weeks that followed. Marimor Legacy Park and Playground officially opened on October 25, 2021. It has brought joy to us and the community every day since then.

As mentioned before, there were many other successes to celebrate…

From our 3-year Accreditation award to serving more babies than ever before in our Early Intervention program – 10 sets of twins and 1 set of triplets is quite a feat for the Service Coordinators, Developmental Specialists and Therapists who do this important work everyday.

From hitting an all-time high with 145 people working in community jobs that are crucial to local business operations to helping establish the first ever Guardianship Services Board in Allen County with several of you here today…

2021 was a great year, where we served more than 1,400 people and we had a wonderful time doing it. Amazing partnerships is how we get it all done…which is the very reason we hold this luncheon each year… to thank our partners for their help, support, collaborative spirit and service. These partnerships are invaluable.

At the luncheon every year, we also honor a few of the partnerships that stood out. It is our honor to share the newest award winners…

2022 John Wilt “I Love My Community” Award

Earnie Lewis is extremely helpful, involved and hardworking. It is rare to find Earnie at home, especially when summer comes and he can be out mowing grass. The grass at his house is never more than an inch tall, and he mows several yards in the community. In warm weather, Earnie works with the City of Lima through Marimor Industries and even helps in the off-season. He also volunteers at Quick as a Wink and a local gym. Earnie participates in Venture Crew, loves tending his garden and he loves the Ohio State Buckeyes. Earnie enjoys helping out on his friend Randy Kohli’s farm and is always happy to help when working outside. Earnie loves his community – and his community loves him. If you’ve never met him, just know you will love him as much as we all do. He is sweet, kind and always willing to lend a hand.

2022 Partner in Advocacy

James Gephart is a self-advocate in every sense of the word. James uses his voice to better his life and the lives of others. With his outgoing personality, James has addressed the need for sensors and audible notifications while riding the Allen County RTA. He has talked with both Speaker of the House Bob Cupp and Senate President Matt Huffman during DD Awareness & Advocacy Days. James shares his life story and his growth as a person with a disability to various social groups. He is always open to answering questions and helping others learn. James is the first person to volunteer for DD activities when asked, and he’s active with ACBDD’s self-advocacy group, the Just Do It Crew. James works at Meijer, where his manager remarked that he wishes all of his greeters had the welcoming smile and personality of James. James is responsible and speaks up for his needs at meetings with his SSA. James does not shy away from having his voice heard. He is articulate, polite and assertive.

2022 Partner in Service Provision

Becky Betts is a Support Service Coordinator for IHS Services, where she’s worked for 25 years. In her current role, Becky coordinates the supports that she and her staff provide to three women who live together. Becky has developed a wonderful relationship with these ladies, and their home has a family atmosphere. Becky never misses a detail when personalizing services for the women. She celebrates holidays and special events with them regularly and helps maintain a clean, welcoming and festive home. The families of the women have expressed their complete satisfaction and trust in Becky. When one of the women first moved into the home, she was struggling with her health, and it was difficult for her to be in the community safely. Becky helped her make tremendous personal gains over the years. She is now happy and healthy and has developed the skills to go anywhere she would like in the community. We need more people like Becky Betts in our field – and in the world.

2022 Partner in Education

As a social worker with Lima City Schools, Cece Wheeler works with students and families to ensure critical needs are met at home, so students can have a bright and successful academic future. She provides counseling, and she’s there to support students in overcoming obstacles. Cece goes above and beyond for Heritage Elementary, running a food pantry and helping provide laundry detergent and household items to families. Cece was an integral part of opening a new classroom environment for students who have autism. She’s been supportive to everyone throughout the process. Cece provided one-on-one coaching to staff about using sign language and visual supports. She helped individual students work on communication skills to get their needs and wants met. Cece has shared her expertise and time in set-up, coaching, instruction, and serving students who have unique or challenging behaviors. Cece is a partner to her educational team and to the ACBDD.

2022 Partners in the Community

Levi Augsburger – fondly called Auggie – is a senior at Apollo. He is very hard worker, who is always ready to support the people around him. Auggie is talented at driving heavy machinery, has a positive attitude and helps others in need whenever he can. During the playground build, Auggie helped during his school day and then came back at night to help some more. He is a student that Apollo can be very proud of, as he represents the hard-working young men and woman being trained for skilled labor positions in Allen County. There’s no doubt that Auggie will find great success in his life. He is at ease with adults and has a great sense of humor. He is not one to boast either. Auggie helped with some of the most complicated and heavy equipment. It was amazing – and he’s only 19. Watch out world after Auggie’s graduation!

Chris Washam was a crucial part of the playground build from the very beginning, when he brought Apollo students to help move the play equipment out of storage. It was obvious right away that Chris uses every single moment to teach his students. He was always patient and calm with them. He knew the importance of real-life experience, and he carefully balanced that with their school schedules. Chris also came back on his own to help build the playground in the evenings. Even when Apollo was officially done coming to the playground, he lent us tools, asked what we needed and cared about this project. Chris has been the Instructor of Construction Equipment Technology at Apollo since 2018. Apollo is doing amazing things for our youth, and Chris is just one example of this, teaching the value of hard work, attaining skills, giving back to the community and service to others.

Josh Barhorst is a very difficult man to pin down for an award; however, he is very deserving of the Partner in our Community award for 2021. Josh is the Vice President and Project Engineer at Degen Excavating Co., where he has worked since 2008. Josh was part of an amazing team of employees from Degen Excavating. He demonstrates hard work and excellent customer service every day. Josh gave up so much of his personal time – delivering what we needed and allowing us to borrow whatever we needed. Josh cares about quality and the reputation of his work, and that alone speaks volumes. Even though Degen wasn’t officially a part of the playground community build, Josh helped in any way he could. He is one of the most respectful, hardest-working people we’ve had the pleasure of knowing.

2022 Partner in Employment

Walmart Supercenter has hired many individuals with developmental disabilities through the years. For some, Walmart is a first job, for others, it becomes a career. One person we serve has worked there for 30 years! Walmart offers a variety of positions, from customer service to janitorial, greeting to stocking and more. These options are important, so people can learn and discover what they like to do. The management team at Walmart is very approachable, respectful and flexible. They are willing to discuss concerns and work through what is truly best for a person. They will always accommodate a job switch, if something else might be a better fit, and they welcome job coaches, if needed. They have proven to be a wonderful employer of individuals with disabilities.

2022 President’s Award

Barb Blass started with the Board as a teacher in September 1994 and will retire in May 2022. She will be missed – not only for her wealth of knowledge, but for her kindness and compassion. Barb has held several positions through the years, many due to her willingness to try new things and meet needs. We’ve seen her as an Intervention Specialist, a satellite teacher at Elida Middle School, the Educational Services Coordinator, Project Director for Help Me Grow, Early Childhood Education Coordinator, Assistant Principal, and Director of Education and Early Intervention. In this last year, Barb has worked hard to make the transition of Marimor School students to the ESC as smooth as possible. This was bittersweet, as these significant changes for Marimor School were upon us but Barb has handled it with grace and compassion. Barb took up the challenge to collaborate with the ESC for the best education for all students. Barb’s impact on ACBDD cannot be understated and we deeply appreciate the many years she has given to the babies, children and students in our care. Barb is well deserving of the President’s Award.


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