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Partnership Luncheon – Always There

We held our fifth annual Partnership Luncheon on March 29, 2017 at the City Club in Lima. Every March for the past five years, we’ve gathered to celebrate our community partners. The event is very important to us, and it always turns out to be a special and encouraging time. This year was no different! We kicked off our 50th Anniversary Celebration with the “Always There” theme. Seth Kunkleman and Amy Werking performed the invocation, signing and singing Amazing Grace for the crowd. Seth and Amy have shared their gifts for several years, and we were honored to have them perform! Seth was assisted by his mother Nancy Kunkleman, and Angie Herzog accompanied on the piano.

We started with a yearly review of our partnerships – of which there are many. We have hundreds of community partners, and we added a few new ones this year. We have 12 new Medicaid waiver providers, and five of those are independent providers of home and community-based Medicaid waiver services. These providers are very important, as it takes hundreds of direct care professionals to support the nearly 450 individuals receiving Medicaid waiver services. We also added a few contractors to our Medicaid partnership list for environmental home modifications. On the flip side, a few of our partners did leave the area. (Each year brings changes like this.)

We added new partners in the community, too. Some new partners came from our FANS program; several community members have stepped up to meet the needs of their neighbors in big ways. The best story of the year was how a local church, local businesses, and some buddies from Ottawa put on a new roof for man we serve. That day convinced me that you can accomplish almost anything with good people and big hearts.

Now, back to the luncheon! During the event, we honored three special individuals and one family for their impact in our community over the past year. Here’s a summary of those awards and the winners, who we feel blessed to know.

The John Wilt “I Love My Community” Award

This award is in honor of John Wilt, a kind and friendly gentleman who was very involved in his community. John knew no stranger, and the same can be said of our 2017 Award Winner, Sunita Hooley. Sunita works at McDonald’s and Marimor Industries. She volunteers at the Mennonite Memorial Home and in her church’s nursery. Sunita plays Ultimate Frisbee and basketball for the Special Olympics team, and she’s an avid Bluffton Pirates and Bluffton University fan. If you’re ever in Bluffton and the weather is nice, you will likely see Sunita out on her bike, riding from one event to the next. She’s an important and special part of the Bluffton community!

Partner in Our Community

Dr. Mark Winerman is the 2017 Partner in Our Community. As a pediatrician in Lima, he has a heart for children with special needs. For 35 years, he provided extraordinary care to many children, serving them into their young adult years. Dr. Winerman has gone above and beyond for his patients, and we can never thank him enough for his dedication to our community.

Partner in Employment

Our 2017 Partner in Employment is Kewpee Hamburgers. Our partnership with the Shutt family began in 1998, when they offered employment to a young lady trying to find her place in the work world. At Kewpee, she found support, understanding, encouragement, and patience. In fact, she just retired from the restaurant in June 2016! This year, Kewpee hired two more individuals with developmental disabilities. In addition, Kewpee supports our Marimor School students and provides a job training site. The Shutt family gives back in countless ways, and we are so appreciative of their support for individuals with disabilities.

Partner in Education

Amy Recker is our 2017 Partner in Education. Amy is the Preschool Special Education Director and Supervisor of Related Services at the Allen County Educational Service Center. She works with many families, school districts, special education supervisors, therapists, and early intervention staff members, and she does it all with kindness and compassion. Amy listens with an open heart, and she is a leader who people admire.

This year, we also had the privilege of recognizing three partnerships we’ve had for the past 50 years. It was easy to identify these partnerships, because they are still active with our agency today. For this part of the presentation, three retired staff members, Phyllis Steele, Angie Herzog, and Esther Baldridge, shared their historical perspectives of each partnership.

Partner in Advocacy Our 2017 Partner in Advocacy is the ARC of Allen County. For more than 50 years, the ARC of Allen County has been a strong advocate for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. The families of the ARC started Robin Rogers School, Camp Robin Rogers, and the ARC Daycare. They also advocated to build the first residential group homes, R & R apartments and the Mary Brown Ann Residential Facility. We have been honored to partner with the ARC for the past 50 years, and those we serve continue to benefit from all the ARC does.

Partner in Service Provision Marimor Industries, Inc. is our 2017 Partner in Service Provision. Marimor Industries, Inc. has been a fundamental part of services for the past 50 years. Through the years, they’ve provided many meaningful opportunities for employment, training, companionship, and community integration. Marimor Industries Inc. has served a diverse group of people, and they’ve always focused on individualized services and helping people reach their goals.

President’s Award

Since 1967, the Allen County Board of Commissioners has assisted our agency through the county government processes and responsibilities. The Commissioners own the buildings and property we use, and they also appoint five of our board members. They are responsible for authorizing tax levies, and they oversee the county governmental structure. Our relationship with the Commissioners has always been very positive. They have been supportive, offered us excellent advice, and watched our back when community members didn’t understand what we were doing. It has been a pleasure to work with them.

Congratulations to all our award winners. We are so grateful to work with you!

Our 2017 Partnership Luncheon was one for the books. It was a wonderful reminder of all the kindhearted people in the world, and of all the outstanding work being done for individuals with developmental disabilities.


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