A Day in Athens at the Georgia Disability History Symposium

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

On November 1st, I traveled from my home in Atlanta to the University of Georgia campus in Athens, where the Georgia Disability History Alliance was hosting their annual disability symposium. As the Social Media + PR Specialist for GCRC, I have the privilege of attending events like this and taking note of what I learn there so I can bring that knowledge back here and share it with you. If you’ve never been to a conference or day-long symposium, then you might not be aware that all too often they are little more than opportunities for people in positions of power to pat themselves on the back for what they see as a job well done, while those in more administrative or service roles wait and hope to gain something more than just a stomach full of tasteless, hotel chicken.

Lovely, right?

In my four years of working in human services, it has long since become clear that when people with disabilities are given the opportunity to speak for themselves and lead the way, we are all the better for it. And that is what I saw and experienced in Athens. As Dr. Beth Mount, one of the keynote speakers at the symposium, stated in her message, “Person-centered planning, which was once so pure, has become so clinical. These days, it is more about filling out paperwork than it is about working with the person to discover what drives them.”

In other words, when we lose the person, we lose everything.

In the afternoon, we had the opportunity to engage with and hear from a lively and passionate group of guests. The panel who sat for the Q+A session was intersectional at its best: a combination of various genders, races, ethnicities, religions, and abilities. Men and women from truly diverse backgrounds with widely varying perspectives who all stood for the most important things: representation, opportunity, and equality.

It is wonderful to hear from those who have worked so tirelessly in this field for decades, regardless of ability. But when I heard from the marginalized people who are most affected by our willingness (or lack thereof) to stand for and with them, it really struck hard at the deepest privilege within me, the place I sometimes still avoid because even though I work on staff with one of the most person-centered organizations in the state, some ableistic demons remain. It can be so easy to ignore those demons. But here is the crux of that truth: If it is easy for me, it is because I don’t have to confront them. I am not forced, day in and day out, to do battle with a society that still doesn’t see my true value. As an able-bodied, neurotypical person, I have a choice to not confront my privilege, a privilege that, by definition, is denied to many.

Parker Glick, the social media guru for Georgia’s Statewide Independent Living Council told symposium attendees that he is constantly asking the question, “Are you seeing this? If you are, how does it not matter to you?” This is the question we must be willing to ask—and answer honestly—for ourselves. Because when people with disabilities are spurned from employment opportunities, housing, intimate relationships, autonomy, and equality, it DOES matter. It DOES affect us, even if we don’t realize it.

A few weeks ago, I heard a woman I know only in passing declare that the Pride Parade in Atlanta was “taking equal rights too far.” Such a declaration is, in itself, a contradiction in terms. There is no such thing as taking equal rights too far. If every person’s rights have gone as far as they can, that is simply equality. Anything more, and one person has privilege while another doesn’t. That is the position we find ourselves in now. And that is the position that must change.

I am looking forward to continuing my work and partnering alongside people with disabilities. I am looking forward to being a part of the day equality has been taken as far as it can possibly go.

Are you?

Advertisements

Our First Health Fair

Thank you so much to everyone who came out to our first (hopefully annual) health fair last Thursday! It was a great success and we couldn’t have done it without the hard work of everyone on our staff, especially Robin Williams, as well as the following vendors who took valuable time out of their day to participate:

Gordon Hospital

Ken Carson

After God’s Heart Ministry

Calhoun CNA School 

Tender Touch

Floyd EMS

Lunsford Agency

Calhoun Fire Department

Healing Hands

Floyd Medicine Center

Blood Assurance

Fitness First

Mother Nature’s Eden

We spent the morning giving tours of our facility and training center, connecting with students from Calhoun CNA school, enjoying conversation with all our vendors, doing giveaways, and maybe even getting a massage (or two) from Healing Hands Massage Therapy. We also received an incredibly generous donation from KVW Services, Inc. which will go towards the Bailey Building grocery store in our new training facility.

It was truly a wonderful event and we hope to see everyone (and more!) back in 2018!

A few photos:

DSC00626DSC00627DSC00628DSC00640DSC00641DSC00643DSC00644DSC00646

Grand Opening and Open House!

image1 (1)

Last Tuesday, we hosted the ribbon cutting and grand opening celebration for our brand new employment training center. It was a perfect day! We hosted visitors from all across the community and the state, including GA House Rep. John Meadows and Calhoun Mayor Jimmy Palmer, and celebrated with music, food, and even a fun little photo booth.

It’s been a long road to get here, and we couldn’t have done it without the support of the people in our community. If you’d like to learn more about the grand opening, as well as the training facility itself, please check out our mentions in the Calhoun Times below:

Groundbreaking made on George Chambers Resource Center

George Chambers to host grand opening for facility that will train adults with disabilities

George Chambers holds grand opening for recent expansion

 

 

Christmas Ball at Sage Mountain Inn

CB2

Happy Monday friends!

On Saturday, we hosted our first ever GCRC Christmas Ball at the Sage Cottage & Mountain Inn in Adairsville. What a beautiful venue! And it was all decked out for Christmas, so we spent quite a bit of time taking photos in front of the trees and marveling over the decorations.

Close to seventy people attended the event and everyone enjoyed an evening of food, dancing, and, most importantly, lots + lots of laughs. We also sent each attendee home with a special customized ornament to commemorate the night.

We’d like to extend a special thanks to the folks at Sage Cottage for hosting us and for making our event such a special one! We appreciate all your hard work. We also want to say thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate with us! We hope you had as much fun as we did.

More pictures below:

CB1CB3CB4CB5CB6CB7CB8CB9CB10CB11

 

Calhoun High School Business Expo

IMG_3095

A few of our staff members worked the annual Business Expo at Calhoun High School yesterday, including myself, our CEO, Mary Barclay, and Glenda Collins, Assistant to the CEO. It’s an important event because it not only allows us to get connected with members of the community, it also gives us the opportunity to share what we do with other employers. Since supported employment has been a big issue for us for many months now, it was only fitting that we do our part to let others in on the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities.

IMG_3101

 

We spent most of Tuesday preparing for the event and  gathering all the materials for our table. It was so much fun to get creative and think about how we could put our best foot forward. We set up goodie bags with postcards, supported employment brochures, pens, and mini notebooks, and laid out each of these items separately on the table. We also had a beautiful faux chalkboard display with a quick glimpse of what our organization is all about. Mary had the great idea to add water bottles at the last minute with stickers bearing our name and logo: “Building Bridges”. These were a great hit! Everyone gets thirsty at these things. Lots of walking! Finally, we set up a computer with “For Your Consideration” playing on a loop with copies of the DVD set out on the table in front in case anyone got curious. And they did! What a wonderful tool that DVD was to help us showcase the work our state has been doing to help individuals with disabilities gain independent lives.

We met some kind, generous people and enjoyed networking with business owners from across our city. And we can’t wait to do it again next year! Thanks to everyone who showed up and helped out.

Wendi

Dancing Down the Aisle: Receiving Our $500K Community Development Block Grant

Block grant photo 2
Today, GCRC individuals, families, and staff are still amazed and excited over the recent Community Development Block Grant we received from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA). I want to express our thanks to our Board of Directors, the Gordon County Board of Commissioners, Gordon County Administrator, Dave Ronningen (Grant Writer), and also to Killian and Clark, (Architects), for their support in applying for this grant in order to ensure that individuals with developmental disabilities will have a state-of-the-art addition to the current agency, which will provide opportunities to fulfill their desires to become fully integrated, working members of our community.

I, along with Commissioner Norris Sexton, attended the workshop and award ceremony on September 5, 2014. Commissioner Gretchen Corbin, DCA, was present and offered her words of excitement, encouragement, and pride at the grants that were awarded. Her commitment to growth and economic development of our communities/counties was a prevalent theme in her address to the awardees. 

There was an air of excitement in the room as each county/city was announced, along with the amount they would receive and what the funds would be used for. I stood in the rear of the room, too excited to sit, daydreaming of the finished product this grant award would produce: a 3,200 square foot addition to GCRC that would include a theater/video production area, a driving simulation room, a banking/financial area, kitchen, Italian style restaurant, and a non-perishable good grocery. I pictured the success of individuals who would soon be learning and experiencing opportunities that would allow for independence. I pictured the choices for each individual to learn to drive, manage their own dollars, and gain the skills to be competitively employed. I could not help but shift from foot to foot, and smile like a cheshire cat, in anticipation of Gordon County being called up. The list was long and G seemed so far removed from A with all the counties involved. For a brief moment I was able to speak with the Dave Ronningen, the Grant Writer, and Brent Allen, DCA Field Representative for the North Region, and could barely contain my excitement and thankfulness to them for believing in the project and providing the opportunity to receive the funds to make it happen.

As the Chief Financial Officer of DCA read off the names and awards, I spoke with Dave and asked him to join me and Commissioner Sexton in accepting the award. This was to be Dave’s final year of grant writing and I felt like he should be present when that enormous cardboard check for $500,000 was handed over. I shared with Dave that I was going to dance down the aisle when Gordon County was announced, to which he replied, “If you dance, I”ll go.”

Suddenly, Gordon County was next on the list, and true to my word, I began to sashay down the aisle. I smiled back at Dave, who grinned and remained in his spot. After a brief dance move and twirl, I walked with Commissioner Sexton to the front of the room to shake hands, say thank you, smile for photos and  make sure all involved knew the depth of gratitude from Gordon County and George Chambers Resource Center. As Norris and I reached the rear of the room and took a spot back beside Dave, he stated, “I’m so glad to see your excitement. We don’t see that kind of joy that often over these grants.”  That excitement I felt at that moment is the same excitement still felt by each staff, family, board member, community member, and individual involved in the supports and work of George Chambers Resource Center.

Block grant photo

We want to thank this entire community and all who played a part in making this happen. We can’t wait to break ground, complete the project, and share an open house with you all. Until then, we will continue to keep you posted with pictures and progress as the project takes place. And, as always, we welcome you to stop by anytime for a visit and get to know GCRC.

Thanks for reading!
Mary

Let Your Light S.H.I.N.E.

Flyer Gordon County

This weekend, Saturday, August 23, we will be hosting our very first S.H.I.N.E. event at the historic GEM Theatre here in Calhoun. S.H.I.N.E. stands for “Smoking Hot Initiatives in New Employment” and, really, it’s all about getting local business owners together to talk about the potential we have, as a community, to change people’s lives.

The individuals we serve have developmental disabilities. Some are high-functioning and others need more constant care. But they share one thing in common: they have dreams, hopes, and goals like every other person on this planet. So it should come as no surprise that many of these individuals are working to make their dreams become reality.

Take Douglas, for example. He used to work in the garden with his mother, and those experiences cultivated a love for the earth, and for being outside, in his heart. Douglas was a catalyst for building our own garden and greenhouse here at the center. And, thanks to some very generous community and business members who gave both their time and their money to see it happen, he is able to care for it and sell the vegetables at local markets. He is making connections with the community, building bridges, as we like to say, and the ripple effect from his small success has the potential to grow much, much wider.

So here’s an important question to consider: Why do we work? For an income, that’s obvious. But, mostly, we pursue what we think will give us purpose. What we think will offer us a future. What we think we will enjoy. We take our skills, our passions, and our goals and we put them down on a resume, hoping an employer will take notice and choose us for the job. Douglas, and the many other individuals we serve, are no different.

Well, now is your time to take notice.

We hope you’ll join us at the S.H.I.N.E. event this weekend and learn more about how you can play a role in this exciting, and crucial, time for our community! Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @GCRCOfficial, and Like us on Facebook to keep up with all the news about this event and others. And, as always, you can send us an email if you have any questions or would like to RSVP for S.H.I.N.E.

See you Saturday!