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AWS Foundation Announces $1,298,762 in Grants

Fort Wayne, IN ─ The AWS Foundation recently awarded $1,298,762 in grants to 22 non-profit organizations that benefit individuals with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities in northeast Indiana. These organizations include:

 

Blue Star Recyclers: $30,000 for Midwest recycling operations creating jobs for individuals with disabilities.

Boys and Girls Club of Fort Wayne: $10,000 for sound reduction paneling and $135,706 for the Inclusion Coordinator position.

Camp Red Cedar:  $100,000 for operating support

Community Transportation Network: $200,000 for specialized transportation support.

Down Syndrome Association of Northeast Indiana: $20,000 for the iCan Bike program.

Early Childhood Alliance: $22,348 for early intervention services.

Easterseals Arc of Northeast Indiana: $50,000 in operating support.

Family Voices Indiana: $55,000 to support restructuring efforts.

Fort Wayne Ballet: $7,500 for one sensory friendly performance.

Greater Fort Wayne, Inc.: $165,200 for the disability employment initiative.

Huntington County Community Schools Corp.: $4,999 for the Chillville sensory room.

Judy A Morril Recreation Center: $8,258 for automatic door installation.

L.I.F.E. Adult Day Academy: $60,000 for operating support.

Little River Wetlands Project: $35,000 for the extension of accessible floating trails at Eagle Marsh.

Lutheran Social Services: $35,000 for LSSI Works.

Otis R Bowen Center: $10,000 for Silas Solutions software.

Super Shot, Inc.:  $12,751 Family exam room and sensory items.

The Lighthouse: $5,000 for training for staff to work with individuals with disabilities.

Turnstone: $200,000 in operating support.

Visually Impaired Preschool: $47,000 for early childhood intervention.

Wellspring Interfaith Social Services: $10,000 for the Older Adult Program.

YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne: $75,000 for adaptive services.

From the CEO: The Hill We Climb

February is Black History Month. On social media we have been posting in recognition of the actions of several inspiring African Americans in this country’s history of disability advocacy. In January, however, a new young voice was heard.

Even if you didn’t watch the presidential inauguration, I suspect you have heard about the breakout young poet, Amanda Gorman, who delivered the traditional inaugural poem. Many lines from the almost six-minute recitation entitled “The Hill We Climb” have been requoted.

The one I have seen most frequently is this:

“For there always is light,
If only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

When rereading her poem, a different line stood out for me. In referencing the desire to “form a union that is perfect,” she attempted to describe how we form that more perfect union that is referenced in the preamble to The Constitution. The line that stood out to me was:

“To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.”

In this line, she humanized the battle of the oppressed. She empowered those with the desire to make our country better for everyone. She encouraged us to “leave behind a country better than the one we were left with.” The vision and eloquence of this 22-year-old young woman reveal wisdom well beyond her years.

We were all encouraged to “lift our gazes not to what stands between us but what stands before us.”

That is what AWS Foundation strives to accomplish each day. We are tied together as a community. We know there are systemic inequities. Indiana continues to lag the national average in age to diagnosis for the child with a disability, and it is still more for the non-white Hoosier child. How can we help with the inequities in front of us? AWS Foundation desires to drive real change for individuals with enduring intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities.

During February and the days that follow, I encourage you to look at what stands before you and make one life a little better. No act is too small. Now, more than ever is the time to reach out, albeit figuratively, and be a light to someone.

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AWS Foundation Announces Vantage Grant for Disability Service Providers, Awards $450,000.

Fort Wayne (January 26, 2021) – AWS Foundation launches a new Vantage Grant awarding a total of $450,000 to six select disability service providers in the first round of evaluation. Each received $75,000 to identify and explore significant barriers they face and find a path toward solutions that can transform how they serve the disability community in Northeast Indiana. The organizations funded were: Arc of Noble County, Carey Services, Cardinal Services, Easterseals Arc of Northeast Indiana, Pathfinder Services, and Turnstone. During round two of the Vantage Grant process, these organizations will present potential solutions to the barriers they identified for the opportunity to receive additional funding to implement their plan to meet community needs.

“Even under normal circumstances, direct service providers rarely have time or personnel to explore how they can transform their organization,” says Patti Hays, AWS Foundation CEO. “We created the Vantage Grant as an opportunity to look beyond daily demands and explore barriers that challenge the very nature and way that programs and services traditionally support the disability community.”

AWS Foundation invited eleven disability service providers to identify a barrier their organization, and those that they serve, currently face. In the first phase, organizations submitted a concept proposal to receive $75,000 for discovery and analysis. Six award recipients will work for six months, both internally and with consultants and stakeholders, to take a 360-degree look at their barriers and identify potential solutions.  Each will submit a final proposal to AWS Foundation in July that will result in the opportunity for additional funding to implement their proposed plans.

Five additional pre-selected organizations not previously included in the selection process will be eligible to submit a Vantage Grant proposal in the fall of 2021.

Chief Program Office of AWS Foundation Named to Mutz Philanthropic Leadership Institute

Indiana Philanthropy Indianapolis, Indiana — Joni Schmalzried of AWS Foundation has been selected as a member of the inaugural class of the Mutz Philanthropic Leadership Institute. Launched by Indiana Philanthropy Alliance in 2021, the Mutz Institute provides a leadership training experience to skill-up professionals serving in board and executive roles at foundations, corporations and social impact organizations across Indiana.

Dr. Schmalzried successfully completed a competitive application process to gain one of 24 spots in this year’s class. “I am honored to be a member of the inaugural class of the Mutz Philanthropic Leadership Institute. I look forward to learning from both experts in the field of Philanthropy and my classmates across the state as we vision ways to impact our communities.”

The Mutz Institute is named for former Indiana Lieutenant Governor, past Lilly Endowment Inc. president, IPA founder, corporate CEO and Indiana visionary John M. Mutz.

“The Mutz Institute will serve as a pipeline for the transformational philanthropic leaders Indiana needs now and in coming times,” said Jamie Merisotis, CEO of Lumina Foundation, one of the program supporters.

Go here for a full listing of those accepted into the class of 2021 Mutz Philanthropic Leadership Institute: https://tinyurl.com/yy7qxlhs

About John M. Mutz

Born in Indianapolis, John M. Mutz is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he earned both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in advertising and business management. He had a long career in business, including managing a chain of restaurants and serving as president of PSI Energy (now Duke Energy). Elected to the Indiana House of Representatives in 1967 and to the state Senate in 1970, he was instrumental in introducing the set of legislative reforms that came to be known as Unigov, the creation of IUPUI and the White River Park Commission, among others. From 1980-1988, he served as the 45th Lieutenant Governor, serving under Governor Robert D. Orr. Mutz later served as president of Lilly Endowment Inc. and chairman of the Lumina Foundation board of directors.

About Indiana Philanthropy Alliance

IPA is a powerful network of foundations, corporations and other social investors working together to lead change, improve lives and lift communities through effective philanthropy. Members hold $21 billion in assets, make over $850 million per year in grants and are located in all 92 Indiana counties. In 2020, IPA celebrated thirty years as a nonprofit membership association.

The Mutz Institute is a program of the IPA. Classes begin in January and meet once a month until October. For more information, visit www.inphilanthropy.org/Mutz.

 

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From the CEO: Doing Our Part

“Do with less so they have enough.”

Growing up as the daughter of parents of The Greatest Generation, I heard this battle cry at family gatherings packed with aunts and uncles. Stories of World War II, or as my uncles called it, “the war to end all wars,” were common. My uncles served in the Air Force, Army, and Navy and fought in the Pacific and European theaters. My father’s oldest brother lost his life in Italy.

Virtually every aspect of American life of the 1940s was focused on winning the war. Every citizen worked to do his or her part to support the Allied troops. It was each American’s civic responsibility to sacrifice for the front line. Women’s contributions to the war effort were most visible primarily on the home front.

I heard stories of victory gardens, gas rations of four gallons a week, and ration coupons for sugar, butter, meat, and oil. Recycling didn’t start with the first Earth Day in 1970. During World War II, fats and grease were returned to butchers to be rendered and processed for ammunition. Paper and cardboard were needed to pack military shells and for cartons to ship K-rations to troops.

Women really did draw lines up the backs of their legs to give the appearance of stockings with seams because silk was required to make parachutes. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” was the message to all citizens, and to comply with that message was to exhibit patriotism.

Today the front line is in our community. The troops are nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, health department employees, all healthcare providers. Our soldiers include first responders such as firefighters, paramedics, police, and EMTs. Teachers, grocery store staff, direct-service professionals, and medical assistants are on the front lines and doing their part in this war.

My mother remembered being a young girl sitting in her house in western Pennsylvania with blackout curtains on windows and lights extinguished. Today’s children will one day describe virtual classrooms on computer screens, no graduation parties or football games, and long lines of cars awaiting food to be loaded into the trunk.

Until now, our weapons in this war were limited. Last year we were armed only with masks, hand sanitizer, and our ability to gauge six feet of distance, tactics that many people refuse to use. But in 2021, we are fortunate to have another weapon in our arsenal. We can now attack the root cause of the enemy that has erased the pre-pandemic life we knew in January of 2020.

The American death toll in World War II was a devastating 407,316. In the war against COVID-19, casualties will soon exceed that count. It took the D-Day invasion and the atomic bombs dropped in Japan to bring an end of the war of my mother’s youth. Our invasion has begun. Healthcare workers and the vulnerable elderly are being “armed.” Soon it will be your turn. The end to this global fight is at hand. You can join the assault by merely rolling up your sleeve.

Everyone is in the battle against COVID-19. Our sacrifice for the front-line troops will be to keep using the weapons at hand until we are called to serve. We all dislike masks, but we can wear them a bit longer. Savings accounts, small businesses, restaurants, theaters, concerts, tourism, and more have been ravaged, but they will return, and you can help the recovery. When it’s your turn for the vaccine, you will have the opportunity to show your patriotism against this war. Roll up your sleeve and “pass the ammunition.”

In Indiana, disability support professionals and the clients they serve are in the 1A round of vaccine eligibility. I am proud to be part of a state that recognizes the difficulty in protecting the health of the person with a disability as well as that of the individual providing the care. Avoiding the spread of COVID in these situations is difficult and too many with disabilities have comorbidities that put them at great risk if they would contract the virus. There are now thousands of vulnerable who will be towards the front of the line getting this needed vaccine.

If you are uncertain when it is your turn, call 211 or go to ourshot.in.gov.

Indiana Institute on Disability and Community to Administrate State-Wide Disability Resource Database FINDER

From Indiana University Bloomington:

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – For those with disabilities and their families, trying to navigate a complex web of services, programs, and other disability-related community resources can be daunting. In November, IU’s Indiana Institute on Disability and Community (IIDC) partnered with AWS Foundation of Ft. Wayne, IN, to implement Indiana Disability Resource FINDER as part of its library information and referral services.

With guidance from nonprofit organizations, disability-focused state agencies, and Indiana families, FINDER was launched in 2019 through an initiative funded by AWS Foundation. FINDER is a free comprehensive online tool specifically designed to connect people with disabilities, family members, and professionals with disability-related programs and services. It supports local communities anywhere in Indiana.

“Research has shown that locating information about disability services and resources is a major hurdle for community stakeholders and disability professionals. As a state-wide tool, FINDER assists in making information accessible and geographically relevant for all Hoosiers,” said Derek Nord, IIDC director. “Through our extensive work across Indiana that touches on all stages of life, the IIDC is excited to expand FINDER’s reach to make it the go-to resource.”

FINDER provides 24/7 access to community services, is easy to use, and supports first-time users with a step-by-step guide. For more experienced users, it has advanced search features. Regardless of how information is located, search results are immediately available, can be saved for future use and shared.

“As Indiana’s Center of Excellence in Disabilities, IIDC is the perfect partner to administrate the FINDER program and take it to the next level,” said Patti Hays, CEO of AWS Foundation. “Combined with IIDC’s leadership and specialized skills and experience, FINDER provides the latest technology to expand collaboration and develop new partnerships to help empower parents, teachers, caregivers, and others to find answers to disability-related questions and become a more informed advocate.”

Service providers, community advocates, and medical professionals regularly contribute to FINDER, keeping the information current, relevant, and practical. FINDER supports the right for people of all abilities to freely choose how they wish to live their lives to the fullest.

About IU Research

IU’s world-class researchers have driven innovation and creative initiatives that matter for 200 years. From curing testicular cancer to collaborating with NASA to search for life on Mars, IU has earned its reputation as a world-class research institution. Supported by $854 million last year from our partners, IU researchers are building collaborations and uncovering new solutions that improve lives in Indiana and around the globe.

About AWS Foundation

Founded in 2007, AWS Foundation supports a wide range of organizations and service agencies in northeast Indiana, working to develop a community in which people with enduring intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities are engaged fully and meaningfully in all aspects of community life.

 

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Benefits Of…. Employment

In support of October being Disability Employment Awareness Month, I originally wrote an article about the Myths around employment, disability, and benefits. When I was done, it seemed more like a fact sheet. A colleague encouraged me to write and share one of my many examples instead. Though some might find this information confusing (or even boring), I think it a much-needed conversation.

When I was a teacher, transition coordinator, and state-wide trainer, I often heard from parents and students that they couldn’t work because they would lose their Social Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. On top of that, they worried about losing health benefits, often provided through Medicaid.

Some would see this is an ‘excuse’ not to work. I saw it as sincere concern about how families might support the many needs an individual with a disability might have, and how benefits allow them to provide them. It is also a tribute to the misinformation that is rampant around individuals with disabilities entering the workforce.

Early on in my career, I learned to utilize those who knew much more than I did and connect them with families and individuals to help with the issues around going to work. In this story, a Benefits Information Network (BIN) counselor is key.

I worked with ‘Jennifer’ and her family for several years. She was a great worker, had many positive job experiences in school, and (in my opinion) was ready to enter the workforce. Jen lived with her mom, who was a single parent with 3 children at home. Jen’s SSI benefits supported the family in meeting Jen’s needs, including the fact that mom could only work part time and take care of her children. After bringing in a BIN counselor and working with Vocational Rehabilitation, Services, what we ALL learned was this (I upgraded the numbers to reflect 2020):

  • If Jen worked 20 hours a week, making $10.00 an hour, she could earn $800.00 per month
  • She currently receives $800.00 a month in SSI benefits. (which is why someone might think – why work, it’s a wash)
  • Since Jen isn’t involved in what Social Security calls “substantial gainful activity” (SGA), which means she makes more than $1260.00 a month, she ‘technically’ can keep her income and still receive ½ of her SSI payments.
  • Jen now has meaningful employment, earns her own income ($800.00 a month), and receives approximately $400.00 a month from her SSI making her total monthly income $1200.00.

This is a very simplistic take on a very complicated system that looks different for everyone. I only scratched a tiny surface. HOWEVER, whether you are looking at SSI benefits or SSDI benefits, an individual’s combined income from work and benefits is always higher than benefits alone (find more information at: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-64-030.pdf) . It is so important that we educate ourselves, the individuals we serve, their families, and potential employers on how employment may, or may not, impact benefits.

Indiana is an Employment First state; we don’t want a ‘misconception’ to interfere with potential employment. We need to help everyone see that when gainful employment is an option, everyone benefits!

Patti Hays, CEO

From the CEO: Work Inclusion

Recently, I was asked to rate the level of inclusion for our community, on a scale of 1-10. The question prompted a lively discussion with some of our staff. We are part of a city that has been embracing of the concept of accessibility and we acknowledged that this is a work in progress.

 

True accessibility and inclusion for people of all abilities comes when everything is accessible to everyone at all times. Everyone, always, everywhere.

True accessibility comes when no one feels like an “other”.

It is when we all travel the same path; one that is traversable by all.

True inclusion is integral and intentional. It is anticipatory rather than reactionary.

We are rich in resources with disability providers, arts working towards inclusive performances, recreational options with a commitment to adaptive programming and initiatives supportive of enhanced employment opportunities.

There is no checklist for how to make an inclusive community. It cannot be boiled down to a simple “to do” list.

With true inclusion there is no “us” and “them”. In schools there is no “special ed” and “general ed”. Universal design is in every building where accommodations do not need to be made for employees with disabilities. Large employers are scaled up and have work forces of widely varying abilities rather than just individual businesses doing a good deed for a single individual. We are on the path to meeting this vision.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness month (NDEAM). If you are an employer and want to help us on this path towards a more inclusive community, there are many resources available to you this month. Here are a few for consideration.

  • IIDC’s Center on Community Living and Careers has an onboarding curriculum with resources, tips and how-to videos. (https://iidc.indiana.edu/cclc/news/employment-specialists-are-getting-started)
  • The Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities shares the national initiative Work to Include (https://www.worktoinclude.org/)
  • Employment First in Indiana, in collaboration with Indiana’s Work to Include Coalition and other agencies, has shared its plan to encourage the development of statewide initiatives for competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities. (https://www.in.gove/fssa/ddrs/files/Employemnt-First-Plan-Adopted-Set.11-2020.pdf)
  • Self employment is another option and support is available for those considering that path. Zoom meetings are available in early November from IIDC for those seeking one-on-one support on the road to self employment.

Our group gave Fort Wayne a “6”…but let me explain. We are doing better than most other cities but that isn’t enough. AWS Foundation and those we work with have high expectations. We all have visions of what is ideal. We also know how far we have come. We tell stories of what life was like for the person with a disability earlier in our careers. Many of us knew of institutionalization, segregation & marginalization much greater than what we see just 30 years after ADA.

Fort Wayne has NEIDAC (northeast Indiana disability advocacy coalition) bringing together dozens of agencies with a voice of advocacy for those with varying abilities. The City of Fort Wayne and Allen County have organized the Disability Council with similar goals.

Providing opportunities for competitive integrated employment for those of all abilities is a critical keystone for the construction of a truly inclusive community. NDEAM reminds each of that and I encourage each of you to consider how you can help…help us self-score as a more welcoming and inclusive community.

Patti Hays, CEO

From the CEO: A Community that Celebrates People as They Are

My grandmother was born in 1891. When she went to the small Ohio schoolhouse her teacher observed her pick up the pencil with her left hand.  Each day thereafter her left hand was tied behind her back and she was forced to write with her right hand. Those who were left-handed were believed to be unlucky, dishonest, and even stupid. My grandmother was different and that was unacceptable.

How far we have come. Or have we? Now as in 1897, we all have confirmation bias. We search for and favor those like ourselves. Bypassing critical conscious thought, we are attracted to those who are similar. This is a field of expanding study with many corollaries but in that school in 1897, the girl who was left-handed was the one who was different and for that there was an attempt to correct her defect.

Ask anyone who is left-handed and they will tell you that they have had a lifetime of challenges. The world is built for the 90% of us who are right-handed. Scissors, desks, guitars, and even a computer mouse are all created for the right-hand dominant person. In my years of hiring, I am drawn to the lefties. I have found them to be more creative and better problem solvers because they have had to find new ways of doing things all their lives.

Overcoming confirmation bias is a continual process. It is only with repeated consistent and positive exposure to a diverse population that we can override those unconscious actions. It is more than just inviting everyone to the party. It is assuring that everyone feels respected and valued. That is the difference between diversity and inclusion.

The issues we deal with as a society today are not as simple as left or right handedness. Diversity today is different cultures, abilities, religions, sexual orientation, races, genders, and more. For some of us it is about us. For all of us it is around us.

Churchill said “The world, nature, human beings, do not move like machines. The edges are never clear-cut, but always frayed. Nature never draws a line without smudging it.” Are you the one who sees “different” as needing to be changed or ignored? Can you open yourself to greater exposure to that which is different with the goal of celebrating people as they are?

Patti Hays, CEO

From the CEO: Power of Words

One of my oft repeated quotes is from Maya Angelou:

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”

July 26th will mark the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a transformational law that continues to protect those with disabilities from discrimination. After 30 years, many of us know better and are trying to do better and still many fall short with their words and thoughts.

What is the power of a word? That old “sticks and stones adage” is wrong…words can harm. While the tongue may have no bones, there is little doubt that its actions can strike the sharpest blows.

It is hard to believe the words used as descriptors in previous generations we would categorize today as derisive. Below are the words used to categorize levels of abilities just 100 years ago.

Idiots—Those so defective that the mental development never exceeds that of a normal child of about two years.
Imbeciles—Those whose development is higher than that of an idiot, but whose intelligence does not exceed that of a normal child of about seven years.
Morons—Those whose mental development is above that of an imbecile, but does not exceed that of a normal child of about twelve years.
— Edmund Burke Huey, Backward and Feeble-Minded Children, 1912

Huey was a recognized 20th century psychologist, but use of these words today would guarantee labeling him as a bully.

Some buildings remain in use today of the Fort Wayne Asylum (later School) for Feeble Minded Children. When the original 1889 school on State Street was demolished in 1983 a single small pillar of the entrance was preserved. Today it stands to remind us of its existence and is marked with a plaque referencing a once “place to learn to be productive citizens”.

Typical of the language of 1983, the students of the school were referenced as “mentally retarded children and adults” on that same plaque. In the mid-twentieth century the words “mentally retarded” with categories of mild, moderate and profound, were created to replace those used by Huey above. It wasn’t until October of 2010 that Congress passed Rosa’s Law. Rosa was an 8-year-old Maryland girl with Down Syndrome who was bullied and taunted by the “R” word.

With Rosa’s law came the requirement that person first language and the more respectful “intellectual disabilities” be used by all federal agencies.

Thanks to Rosa and many others, today we know better on the power of words. AWS Foundation asks you to join us to erase those two outdated words on Monday July 27th at 10am. The bronze plaque will be moved from that brick column to become part of the collection of the Fort Wayne History Center. A similar plaque will take its place but will instead reference the previous home for “children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities”

“Words are the clothes thoughts wear.” –  Samuel Beckett