Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities

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The Champion, November Issue

November is a time when people begin thinking about delicious turkey, dressing, and all the other wonderful food associated with Thanksgiving Day in America. It is also a time when I think about all the things I am thankful for in my personal and professional life.

Here at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) we have much for which to be thankful. We had a very successful October celebrating Disability Employment Awareness Month. We had a great event recognizing businesses that are committed to hiring people with disabilities (see story below). There were Disability Mentoring Day activities around the state too. I enjoy talking to and reading about our customers’ successes on the job. It is another great reason why we do what we do.

Working with our stakeholders, APD has been able to offer waiver enrollment to 1,200 people this year. I am extremely thankful to Governor Rick Scott and the Legislature for recommending and supporting the $20 million in additional money so we could enroll new individuals into the Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services waiver. Added to the $36 million the agency received last fiscal year to offer enrollment to 1,600 people, we have been able to see tremendous movement in people moving off the APD Medicaid waiver waiting list.

This year, Florida became the first state in the country to offer reciprocity to military members being transferred to Florida who have a family member receiving waiver services in another state. We are now able to provide continuity of services to those family members who in the past would have gone on the waiting list when moving to Florida. Addressing the needs of people on the waiting list is a top priority of mine, so these successes make me thankful.

Certainly, the agency has had numerous challenges. We have been able to overcome them and continue to move forward. Our job is to ensure that people with developmental disabilities have the services they need to participate in their local communities. We all know there is more demand than resources. With all of us working together, we have been able to meet the agency’s mission. Success is a team sport, so thank you for all that you do to ensure the success of Floridians with developmental disabilities.

I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

–Director Barbara Palmer

For more stories from The Champion, please visit http://apdcares.org/champion/

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An Amazing Bank Teller by James Vidrine

Rachel Doeble is a determined young woman who pursues her personal and career goals, and achieves them. Her career in the banking industry began in 2004, and she has been working full-time since June 2011 at Regions Bank in North Naples.

Doeble receives services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) in Naples.

She is married to her husband, John, and with his three children from a previous marriage, plus her young daughter, they created a large family with four children. She truly has full days.

Things have not always been this bright for Doeble. She entered this world as a three month premature infant. At her birth, she tipped the scale at less than three pounds. She spent the first six weeks of her life in the hospital, gaining weight and increasing her strength, so she could go home.

Doeble’s parents, however, soon noticed problems with her development. In her 15th month, her pediatrician broke the difficult news to her parents. Her delayed development was due to cerebral palsy. This news, although a shock, did not deter them whatsoever. Her parents worked with her at home to master the developmental skills that other toddlers and preschool children seemed to achieve without effort.

When Doeble entered kindergarten, the work she and her parents had engaged in for years paid off handsomely. Rachel was able to walk independently, with some difficulty at times, but without the need for a wheelchair. She was described by others at school, as a very friendly and a likeable youngster, with excellent cognitive and vocabulary skills. Her teachers also noted she could be stubborn at times.

Perhaps it was her stubbornness that contributed to her ongoing ability to engage the world with a positive attitude and determination to succeed. Doeble recalls, “As a child I had difficulty maneuvering around in school. I had to learn how to ask for help when I needed it, but also how to decline offers for assistance that I did not need or want.”

Doeble’s positive and caring attitude and her determination to succeed have not gone unnoticed by her supervisors at Regions Bank. Her direct supervisor, Head Teller Kathy Wessling describes Rachel’s work as amazing and fabulous. She depends on Rachel as her right hand at work. Wessling said, “Rachel is a very inspiring person. For someone that has a disability, she does not hold back on what she needs to do or what she wants to do. She has no fear.” Bank Manager Todd Ruggeri adds, “Rachel has the best outlook on life. She never gets upset or discouraged.”

APD Human Services Counselor Jose Delvalle is Doeble’s Support Coordinator. Delvalle said, “When I first met Rachel, I saw a person who wants to achieve her goals. She is a capable and an independent person who can handle any situation with thoughtfulness.”

Doeble is a living a success story. Not only does she work full-time as a bank teller, but she is also a wife, mother, step-mother, and provides a loving home for her family. Doeble wants to encourage others that have a disability to be persistent and persevere through difficulties and roadblocks, to reach their dreams. Doeble said, “Don’t let negative thoughts get in your way. Play to your own strengths and this will assist you. Never be afraid to ask for help, especially at your workplace.”

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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!

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The December Champion is Here!

This month’s stories:

APD Director Barbara Palmer gets into the Holiday spirit. APD customers and their families talk about the benefits that iBudget brings to their lives. More stories are shared about the success of Disability Mentoring Day activities all across Florida. Governor Scott makes appointments to the Area 15 Family Care Council. Tacachale prepares to welcome the Holidays with its annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. And a fraternity helps families in need. These and many more stories are in the December issue of The Champion—APD’s monthly newsletter. We hope you enjoy it!


If you’re interested in reading past editions, please visit us online at: http://apdcares.org/news/newsletters/

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Hard work pays off for young Miami woman

By Hillary Jackson and Jeff Saulich, Special to the Democrat, Tallahassee Democrat, Oct 29, 2012 

 Yaneris Alonso

  MIAMI — Yaneris Alonso is a 25-year-old woman who dreams big and has the courage to make her dreams a reality.

 After facing a personal tragedy involving the loss of her mother and brother, Alonso decided to focus on her future and that of her young daughter. Within two years, the Miami woman obtained a GED and a vocational certificate, completed an internship and secured full-time employment in a Miami hospital.

 Alonso has a developmental disability and receives services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, when APD and other state agencies highlight Floridians with disabilities who are successfully employed in their communities.

 At the end of 2010, Alonso wanted to improve her life and spelled out her objectives very clearly. They included obtaining a GED, going to school and getting a job. With the assistance of Luis Blandon, her supported living coach who is funded by APD, Alonso enrolled in GED classes at Lindsey Hopkins Technical Education Center in Miami.

 The counselor there told her about other options and explained that Alonso was qualified to enter the dietary aid program, which would allow her to learn a trade quickly and build a foundation for the discipline necessary to study for the GED. Alonso considered this option carefully and decided to give it try.

 Alonso woke up early, went to classes every day, did her homework and studied very hard for her tests.

 She graduated in December 2011, completed an internship at Palm Springs General Hospital in Hialeah and earned her certificate in nutrition and dietetic services.

 With certificate in hand, Alonso landed a job in the Food and Nutrition Department of the University of Miami Hospital.

 “I feel very proud and happy to have a job,” Alonso says. “I had been looking for a job for a long time and I was about to give up, but something told me to keep going and finally they called me.”

 As a trayline worker, Alonso performs a variety of duties including preparing the food trays and serving meals to hospital patients. She enjoys taking the skills she acquired in school, putting them into practice and earning money for it.

 “My job makes me feel very proud that I am doing something good for me,” says Alonso.

 Her supervisor, Stefanie Thompson, says Alonso pays attention to details, always has a positive attitude at work and is very sociable and compassionate with the patients.

 Thompson says that Alonso excels at her duties and that hiring her was a good decision.

 “This has been a very positive experience for Yaneris, because it has helped her gain self-confidence and she feels very valued,” says Blandon. “Her self-esteem was very low, but going to work and having a purpose has changed her life for the better.”

 APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 50,000 Floridians with autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit APDcares.org or call toll-free 1-866-273-2273.

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Baptist looks forward to buying a home, freedom

By Kimberly Tharpe, Special to the Democrat, Oct 29, 2012


 Terry Baptist

From left, Chris Starke, Rachel Sabo and Terry Baptist

 ST. PETERSBURG — Terry Baptist, 43, who is employed at Tradewinds Resort in St. Petersburg, had a specific goal in mind when he started his job in 2008. He wanted to get his driver’s license and purchase a car. Baptist has achieved those goals and many others in the last four years. He has worked diligently to improve his living environment, as well as his finances.

 Baptist, who has autism and other disabilities, receives services from Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and APD is showcasing the workplace achievements of people with disabilities and celebrating the employers that hire them.

 With the assistance of his live-in support provider, Deborah Evans, and supported living service provider, Chris Starke, Baptist was able to obtain intensive dental services donated by the University of Florida and the Special Day Foundation. UF dental hygienist Rachel Sabo visits Baptist on a monthly basis to make sure that he is maintaining proper dental hygiene. Through the guidance of his support team and his own drive towards independence, Baptist is learning to pay monthly bills and is well on the road to becoming more self-sufficient.

 “Terry is diligent at what he does and doesn’t stop until the job is done,” said chef Justin Harry at Tradewinds Resort.

 Baptist’s supervisor, Henry Harden, agrees.

 “Terry is very good at his job. He is focused and always on time. He’s just one of the regular guys,” Harden said.

 Because of his exemplary work at Tradewinds Resort, Baptist’s hours have increased to four days a week and he is now a valued permanent employee. When asked why he likes to work, Baptist replied, “It puts money in my pocket and I have co-workers that are my friends.”

 His long range goal is to purchase a home. “I don’t want to have to keep paying rent the rest of my life,” said Baptist.

 He also has a keen interest in environment sustainability and is always looking for ways to protect, recycle and reuse resources.

 In his free time, Baptist enjoys building model cars, playing video games, and watching documentaries and NASCAR races.

 APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 50,000 Floridians with the developmental disabilities of autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, spina bifida and Prader-Willi syndrome. To learn more about the agency, call 1-866-273-2273 or visit APDcares.org.


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Disability Employment Awareness Month Wrap Up

APD ran a series of stories in our local paper, the Tallahassee Democrat, highlighting our clients who are successfully employed.  We had so many Success Stories publish we didn’t have time to blog about them all before October ended!  We only have three more stories that were published so I’ll go ahead and post them today.  Enjoy!

Higgins an integral part of his workplace team
By Melanie Mowry Etters, Special to the Democrat

Moran Environmental, Bobby Higgins

JACKSONVILLE — Bobby Higgins is truly dedicated to his maintenance and custodial job at Moran Environmental Recovery in Atlantic Beach.

Higgins, 52, loves his job, which he has had for more than a year. “I am doing a good job. They like me. I keep it nice and clean, and it smells good,” he said.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities is highlighting the contributions of people with disabilities to the workforce. Higgins has a developmental disability and receives services funded by APD.

He drives himself to work around 5 a.m. to get an early start on his responsibilities of cleaning, dusting, mopping, vacuuming and a variety of other duties. He fills a cooler with water bottles and ice for the work crews that are going out to work on environmental cleanup projects.

“Bobby quickly became part of the MER family. He happily adjusted his schedule to make sure certain tasks are done early and don’t disturb us during regular working hours. He is always on time, diligent, hard-working and very thorough in all his assignments. He lets us know when we have to make repairs or order supplies. And Bobby is always polite, professional and just a pleasure to be around,” said Leslie Detlefsen, the firm’s manager of business development.

An additional benefit for Higgins’ conscientious work ethic has been his shrinking waistline. “Bobby has dropped 40 pounds since he started working here,” Detlefsen said. “He always tells me when I need to order a new uniform for him. I know he is proud of that.”

Higgins lives with his sister and her husband in Jacksonville Beach. His passion outside of work is professional football. The tag on the front of his blue Dodge Dakota truck has a football on it along with “Bobby.” Higgins likes the Jacksonville Jaguars, however, he loves the Pittsburgh Steelers because he was born in Pennsylvania and lived there until 10 years ago.

Higgins has worked at other companies in the past. He hopes his future professional career remains at Moran. “I get along well with everybody,” Higgins said. “They told me that I am part of the team. I want to stay at Moran and continue to work there.”

APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn, and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 50,000 Floridians with autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities and Down syndrome. For more about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit APDcares.org or call toll-free 1-866-273-2273.