By Leslie Richards, Northeast Region Manager
We have so much to be thankful and grateful for this fiscal year that began with Governor Rick Scott’s visit to Pine Castle in Jacksonville with the help of Executive Director Jon May, and Family Care Council Co-Chairs Mary Smith and Karen Prewitt. Governor Scott ceremonially signed the Florida Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, which establishes a trust fund for certain people with disabilities to use for important services such as education, housing, and transportation. Governor Scott also celebrated a record investment of $1.2 billion for the elimination of the APD critical needs waiting list in his “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget.
I know the families served in the Northeast region are very energized by the support of Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature as demonstrated in the 2015-2016 budget. Many more individuals in need will receive community services with this additional money. We appreciate the continued backing of the Governor and the Legislature to ensure that people receive the services they require.
ADA 25th Anniversary Celebrations
Last month’s Northeast region’s ADA events were a success with Community Affairs Liaison Belinda Hoyt taking the lead and Employment Specialist Helen “Renee” Cooke and Community Affairs and Wait List Stream Lead Sylvia Bamburg rounding out the team. It was impressive to watch this team and partners put together these detail-oriented events, ensuring everyone was included.
The ADA celebrations were held in Daytona Beach and Gainesville. The July 22 Daytona Beach event was well attended with several hundred people joining in the festivities. There were speeches by state and local elected officials, people with disabilities, and business people, along with a march from the Volusia County Courthouse Annex to Jackie Robinson Ballpark for ADA Night that featured a game between the Daytona Tortugas and the Charlotte Stone Crabs. The Daytona Tortugas won 5 – 2.
The next day Gainesville celebrated the ADA anniversary with the Alachua County Senior Recreation Center hosting an ADA Expo. The Expo highlighted many community resources and personal stories. Participants were also treated to lunch.
Hoyt said, “These events continue to show how important the ADA is and how people, regardless of disability or not, benefit. Think about how we all enjoy curb cuts, text messaging, and automatic doors, in addition to all the knowledge and skills employers gain.”
Surfers for Autism
The August 1 Surfer for Autism event was the 6th Annual Inlet Beach Festival. The APD NE office always looks forward to participating and was well represented with Waiver Supervisor Becky Scales, Questionnaire for Situational Information Assessors Corie Hatcher and Stacia Regar, and myself.
I always enjoy seeing the smiles, hearing the laughter and watching these new surfers ride the waves. At times it’s as if they are one with the water, gliding their surf boards along the waves with such ease showing everyone their skills.
At a Surfers for Autism event, surfers are provided a safe, fun, judgement-free environment where highly skilled surf instructors carefully guide them into waves. Surfers and their families are treated like rock stars and enjoy a day filled with a range of activities including stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, live music, face-painting, games, the Ponce Inlet Police and Fire Department allowed participants to paint their vehicles for the fire engine tours and much more. A catered lunch was provided, at no cost to registered participants, their families and volunteers.
This is a very special day where children with developmental disability interact with peers without disabilities and wow families with their capabilities.
We would love for you to join us for the upcoming Surfers for Autism events:
- 6th Annual First Coast Beach Festival, August 22, 2015
- 6th Annual North Coast Beach Festival, September 26, 2015
For more information on Surfers for Autism, please visit: http://surfersforautism.org
Employment Enhancement Project
The Employment Enhancement Project (EEP) was a great success this year with Employment Specialist Helen “Renee” Cooke taking the lead this past year.
The NE region used EEP funds to assist 38 people with developmental disabilities become employed. Our goal was 28 and we surpassed that by 10. The field office breakdown is:
- Gainesville Office = 5
- Jacksonville Office = 11
- Daytona Beach Office = 22
The majority of the jobs are in the restaurant and food service industry, followed by retail and grocery stores. Cooke said, “It is always rewarding to see our customers’ secure competitive employment and reach their goal of working. Work allows all of us to interact with different people and learn new skills. It is the path that leads to self-confidence, a sense of personal achievement and independence.”
For more information on the EEP, please visit: http://apd.myflorida.com/customers/supported-employment/ .
One of my goals this year is to have more families, friends and individuals with disabilities get involved with their support groups through Facebook. There are several Facebooks support group connections in this region and I think this is a great way for people to give and receive emotional and practical support, along with information exchange.
Support groups can provide:
- Unconditional support and understanding;
- Information about doctors, medicines, medical procedures, research;
- Information about policies, funding, legislation; and
- Possibly financial resources.
Using Facebook, we can market the various support groups and people can attend meetings from the comfort of their home. In addition, the connections and information will be available for future use.
Last but not least, I want to thank the Northeast region team for their hard work throughout the year. You work under tight time frames and continue to meet deadlines to ensure the health and safety of all who we support. It was a very busy year and everyone stepped up to the challenge and shined bright. Your dedication to people we support never wavered from your intention to demonstrate outstanding service.
For more information about the APD Northeast Region, please visit: http://apd.myflorida.com/region/northeast/