Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities

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People First! Advocate Award

The Ridge Area Arc’s People First! Advocate Award honors an individual, group or organization which consistently demonstrate a leadership role in the advocacy of people with developmental disabilities. Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) Employment Liaison Jenny Sykes was presented with the Advocate Award on May 16 in Avon Park. Ridge Area Arc CEO Rhonda Beckman said “She is an exemplary advocate for APD customers throughout Hardee, Highlands, and Polk counties.”

Sykes coordinates multiple activities of agencies, service organizations, businesses, and providers to champion, educate, and promote hiring practices that target individuals with developmental disabilities. She works very closely with Ridge Area Arc’s supported employment staff to identify barriers and various misconceptions that employers may have about hiring individuals with disabilities.

Sykes also works to facilitate open lines of communication with family members and other natural supports of APD customers so they understand the Social Security Work Incentives and benefits are still retained. It goes without saying that her tenacity has paid off. She has provided the foundation to cultivate new business partnerships, develop community awareness, and helped employers understand the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities.

Jenny Sykes wins award

Jenny Sykes wins award

Jenny Sykes is recognized by the Arc

Jenny Sykes is recognized by the Arc


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Central Region Events and Information

Guest post by Community Resource Coordinator, Charles Steen


APD’s Central region covers 12 counties with its regional headquarters in Orlando and field offices in Lakeland and Wildwood. This diverse region stretches from coast to coast, covers urban and rural, beachside and inland.

APD recently participated in four autism walks and fairs in Lakeland, Melbourne, Ocala, and Orlando. This was a great opportunity to meet families, providers, organizations, and community leaders. APD was able to give information to numerous families. We also had an APD resource table at the Special Olympics State Games at Disney, and the Best Buddies Friendship Walk at Lake Eola in Downtown Orlando.

On May 2, APD hosted its Disability Employment Expo at the Fashion Square Mall in Orlando. This event had 525 attendees and participants were hired on the spot by the Krystal Company. Interviews were arranged with Sea World and job shadowing opportunities were set up with Florida Hospital.

The Area 14 Family Care Council hosted a presentation by Kathie Snow, parent, advocate and author of Disability is Natural. A diverse group of parents, individuals, and professionals were in attendance to learn specifics about the importance of inclusion, how and where to set good expectations, people first language, and positive attitudes.

There are many exciting events on the horizon in the Central Region. Most notable is Family Café, June 6-8. Thousands of participants are expected to attend.  The event will include countless activities, educational experiences, and opportunities to network with people from around the state. APD will also be hosting an Employment Expo at Café on June 6 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. This is free to individuals with disabilities and those who accompany them. It is a great opportunity for individuals to participate in mock interviews, get their resume critiqued, and to meet employers. Some employers include Walgreens, Universal Orlando, and Krystal.

Other upcoming events in the Central Region include Nathaniel’s Hope-Make ‘m Smile Walk at Lake Eola in Orlando on June 7. Make ‘m Smile is an annual community festival dedicated to celebrating VIP Kids (kids with all types of special needs and disabilities) and their families. This is a great opportunities for families to meet resource exhibitors and make new friends.

The Area 13 Family Care Council will be hosting a community forum on June 14 at the Sunrise Arc in Leesburg. All families are encouraged to attend.

For those able and interested, Lift Disability network, a faith-based organization in Central Florida, is having their annual Breakaway Camp July 8-12 at Lake Yale in Leesburg. This camp allows families to break away from the grind so they can enjoy a week of fun and relaxation. For more information and an application packet, visit http://www.liftdisability.net/2014-fl-breakaway .

In the Ocala area, the Ocala Autism Support Network (OASN) is offering to sponsor 30+ children with Autism for free swimming lessons. The child must be 18 or under and must have an autism diagnosis to be eligible. For more information, you can reach OASN at (352) 462-0168 or oasninfo@gmail.com.

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APD Northwest Region Spring Happenings

Guest post by APD NW Region Operations Manager Lynne Daw


The Northwest region, one of six geographic regions within APD covers the 16 most western counties in the panhandle of Florida.  Due to the large coverage area, the region also has field offices in Pensacola, Panama City, and Marianna with the regional office located in Tallahassee.

Spring has finally sprung and with it several exciting events are blooming in the region!

Marcus Pointe Baptist Church in Pensacola hosted a Disability Ministry Conference on March 29. The purpose of the event was to recruit other churches into developing ministries dedicated to individuals with disabilities and their needs.  The guest speaker was Joni and Friends, Charlotte team. This organization is committed to train, disciple, and mentor people with disabilities exercise their gifts of leadership and service in the church and in their communities. Twelve churches were represented at the conference. One topic discussed was how to set up respite opportunities like the one offered by Marcus Pointe one Saturday per month. Two other churches will be partnering with Marcus Pointe in setting up a similar respite program.

On April 5, the Northwest Region 2 Family Care Council sponsored a nutritional workshop for family members, paid caregivers and self-advocates.  Presenters at the workshop included nationally renowned dietician, Sandra Woodruff who provided information on making wise choices when grocery shopping.  She included tips on how to read food labels, when to choose fresh versus frozen foods, and how to get the best value when shopping.  Jim Bellamy, of the Frenchtown Project, presented the exciting opportunity for individuals who have EBT dollars and how to double their value by purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables!  Participants learned that importance of combining exercise with good food choices with a presentation by Gold’s Gym Owner, Joe Burtoft. The highlight of the event was the cooking demonstration presented by Chef Shafrica Simmons who prepared stir fry using brown rice and a variety of fresh greens and vegetables. Along with enjoying food samples by Chef Simmons, participants were also provided with a free nutritious lunch sponsored, in part, by Newk’s restaurant.

Regional staff are making great strides in identifying both employment and internship opportunities for individuals utilizing the Employment Enhancement Project (EEP) grant.  Since January 2014, over 13 individuals have become employed in new jobs and more than 18 individuals are actively participating in paid internships in the community!  We have seen great response on the part of the community in developing these internship opportunities. On April 11, about 300 students participated in the Transition Services Fair at University of West Florida in Pensacola. During this fair, APD set up mock interviews with 12 employers and teachers to provide students with interview experience.  As a result, one individual was given the opportunity for a real interview with anticipation of hire.  Regional Employment Liaison Katrina Washington presented with Brenda Clark of the University of South Florida at the Visions Conference in Tampa April 29 to May 2, which will help attendees use creative writing as a tool toward employment.

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Fanning Springs Disability Expo

The Arc of Levy County, Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association (FDOA), and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) are partnering up to host the Fanning Springs Disability Expo in the Dixie, Levy, Gilchrist tri-county area.  The event will be held on May 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Fanning Springs State Park.  Other event partners include the three county commissions, local businesses, several nonprofit partners, local providers, and other state agencies.

The Expo’s goal is to provide a fun filled day for individuals with disabilities and their family members.  FDOA has organized a SportsAbility Sampler, which includes many inclusive recreational activities such as bocce ball and sit volleyball.   Attendees can also enjoy participating in prize raffles, watching dance performances by Tacachale, and sitting down to a sack lunch from the concession stand.

In addition to the recreational experiences, attendees will have the opportunity to listen to presentations, and learn about the various services that APD and other agencies can provide.  Special Olympics will also be providing the Special Smiles health screening for APD waiting list customers.  For questions or more information, please contact Resource.Directory@apdcares.org.


Fanning Springs Picnic Area Playground

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March is DD Awareness Month!

Here are some more tips to have….Manners that Matter!  If you are in the Tallahassee area on March 18, join APD and others at the Capitol for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day.  Speak with your legislators about issues that are important to you.  Hope to see you there!!


Manners that Matter

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Nominate an Exceptional Employer Today!

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities is looking for businesses that are committed to employing individuals with disabilities. The agency is accepting nominations of outstanding businesses from across the state until August 23. To submit a nomination, visit APDcares.org to complete the form. APD and other disability agencies will recognize the winning employers on Wednesday, October 9. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The awards event will be held at the Tallahassee City Commission Chambers, 300 South Adams Street. Information displays will be in the Second Floor Mezzanine beginning at 8:30. The employer recognition will begin at 9:30 a.m. Some of the organizations participating are Vocational Rehabilitation, Blind Services, Able Trust, Veterans’ Affairs, City of Tallahassee, and the Department of Economic Opportunity.

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Disability Employment Expo

Hey Orlando job seekers! The annual Disability Employment Expo is at the Orlando Fashion Square Mall on May 7, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be presentations, mock interviews, and resume critiques. Walgreens, Cole Engineering, and Waldorf Astoria & Bonnet Creek Hotels are just a few of the employers that will be in attendance!!  Check it out and possibly walk away with a job!