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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.

 

COVID 19 Vaccine image

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.

 

From the CEO: A Year in Our Building

As we wrap up 2020 (Thank God), it is our last newsletter of the year. Andie Mosley is very organized with identifying themes for each month’s newsletter at the beginning of the year. We know when articles are due and what the focus should be, often timely to the given month.

Looking at the title for this month, it was all I could do not to laugh out loud(I did let out a little bit of a chuckle).

It was December of 2019 that we were able to move into our new building and the one year anniversary was the opportunity to reflect on a year’s worth of activities.

Looking from the outside you can see that it is a beautiful building. You will just have to take my word that it is similarly magnificent inside because since March, we have been in a virtual lockdown.

Our goal was to have a building that would host diverse community groups in this accessible space built and furnished with universal design concepts. We anticipated groups in the evenings and on weekends. We envisioned providing internships and work experience for individuals with varying abilities. Two well-equipped classrooms would host educational sessions and board meetings. We included a spacious parking lot to manage the throngs. You can credit the Yiddish proverb or Public Enemy, but we were reminded: Man plans God laughs (or Woman plans God laughs).

It has been our home for 2020 and it has done its job even if it was not as envisioned.

PJ and Patti preparing masks for service providers

  • When office space is designed to accommodate power wheelchairs or service animals using extra-wide halls and space between work stations, it is ideal for social distancing
  • Protected doorways with high porticos served ideally for distributing masks and gallons of hand sanitizer on blustery April days to dozens of grantees and service agencies
  • A large parking lot is an ideal spot for a food distribution site
  • Remote conferencing facilities built to allow inclusion of those who might have transportation problems were ideal for Zoom staff calls and virtual board meetings
  • A family bathroom helped minimize the spread of germs through body waste by providing extra private use. Look it up
  • Our new phone system seamlessly transferred all calls to individual cell phones giving the perception that the office was staffed by everyone on each business day
  • Sidewalks and landscaping provided a path for staff to walk when fresh air was the best medicine
  • One touch door opener makes it easier to open doors with a touch of the elbow after washing hands

Sure, we missed seeing all of you in our offices but we have gotten very good at zoom virtual site visits. While you haven’t been visiting, the birds have been enjoying the bird feeder and there was one red tailed hawk that had a spring banquet on a couple of goslings.

Celebrating Vicki’s birthday via Zoom

It has been a busy year, perhaps not how we had planned, but we have had a safe and efficient work environment that has kept us working as a team to meet our mission. We will plan for a better 2021. Did I just hear another laugh?

Giving Tuesday 2020

Every year, philanthropy is an important part of community involvement. This year, non-profits need your help more than ever. AWS Foundation offers a match to direct disability service providers in Northeast Indiana each year in the amount of $10,000. This means, that if you donate to these organizations on December 1, 2020, your donation will double. These are the organizations eligible for the match this year:

Man in wheelchair at base of large staircase unable to move up. Able-bodied man running up the stairs to financial gain.

From the CEO: The Hardest Part of Disability is Being Ignored

I have been saturated lately with “…ism” words. Words like racism, sexism, and ageism to name a few.  They each reference a form of oppression. Cruel or unjust treatment to individuals in our community who are different, often through no choice of their own.

One other ism is ableism. Ableism is when a person with a disability is stigmatized, stereotyped or pitied or, in a simpler definition, ableism is the belief that disability is a bad thing.

Oppression can be expressed in different ways. It can be exhibited personally through attitudes and behaviors. Are you likely to interrupt a woman before she is done speaking or do you overlook an older applicant? Oppression can be demonstrated culturally through language and norms. What words are in your vocabulary that might reflect that cultural oppression? Girls? Sweetie? Thug? Or is the oppression seen institutionally with restrictions with education and housing? How diverse is the neighborhood you live in?

Fort Wayne has started a new initiative to address all oppression and AWS Foundation is joining. I would encourage you to learn about United Front. Throughout Fort Wayne, individuals, work groups, anyone who is interested, is learning about the damage of oppression and working to identify a path towards the goal of equity and inclusion. We are joining in that path to inclusivity for all because we know that true inclusive thinking is acknowledging that:

disability is a wonderful part of diversity
disability is a part of Fort Wayne
disability is more than a diagnosis; it is a cultural identity
people with disabilities have the right to live where they want and the way they want.
I heard someone this week say that we needed to get used to the “D” word. There are many who have a physical and/or mental condition that limits how they interact with their environment (yes, that is the definition of disability). Our opportunity is to meet that disability with compassion because the hardest part of being disabled is being ignored.

To quote the philosopher Schopenhauer, “Compassion is the basis of morality”. I aspire to meet each person with a disability with compassion. Not pity, for that is ableism.

Compassion is kindness and caring and the willingness to help another. Compassion literally means “to suffer together” but I also believe it is compassionate to prevent the suffering of others. If we work to allow an individual equal standing and access in our society, isn’t that compassion? To see and acknowledge all persons, to introduce yourself, to call each person by name, to include them in the conversation, to invite each to join in, to offer a seat at your table, that is compassion in that you have truly engaged and not ignored.

The opposite of compassion is indifference. We are a moral community. We cannot be indifferent to those who are different.

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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.

Voting with a Disability

Your vote ensures your perspective is considered in the determination of our public officials at the federal, state, and local levels. Individuals with disabilities need to be included in that decision. All Indiana citizens, minus a few considerations, have the right to vote. This involves individuals with disabilities. Better yet, you have the right to access voting by any means needed. So, what are your options?

In-Person Voting

If you are willing and able to show up on November 3rd, go for it! You can also vote early at the locations, dates, and times determined by your county’s election board. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 requires that there be at least one accessible voting machine at each polling location. You are also entitled to assistance either from a friend or relative, or two poll workers (one from each political party). If you bring someone to assist you, make sure they remember to bring their ID too.

Voting by Mail

You may be uncomfortable receiving assistance at the polls or unable to physically make it to your polling location. That’s okay! Individuals with disabilities are eligible for absentee voting by mail. The first step is completing the absentee ballot request form which can be found at https://indianavoters.in.gov/MVPHome/PrintDocuments. You can mail that request to your county’s election board (a list of locations by county will be attached to the form). The request for an absentee ballot is due by 11:59 pm on October 22. Once the request is submitted, you will receive your ballot in the mail. It is better to request your ballot as soon as possible as the mail does take time. Once you receive your ballot, fill it out and mail it back to the election board, or hand deliver it to their office, by Noon on November 3. Remember, the ballot must be in their office by this deadline, please mail it with as early as possible to ensure it makes it there in time . The United States Postal Service suggests two weeks.

Voting by Traveling Board

If you do not wish to mail in your ballot, you are entitled to have a traveling board of a bi-partisan team come to your home with your ballot. A member from each party is present to ensure everything is processed fairly. You can fill out your ballot yourself, or with the assistance of a family member/friend/caregiver, or the traveling board team, then hand the ballot to the team to take with them that day to be counted. If you are unable to sign the ballot yourself another person present can do this for you. The person signing for you must write their name and address on the ballot as well. If you are able to make a mark, it is recommended to do so. You can find the form to request a traveling board vote at https://indianavoters.in.gov/MVPHome/PrintDocuments, which must be submitted to your county’s election board by noon on November 2.

Whichever method you choose, get out there and vote! The deadline to register to vote is October 5 and you can do that online at https://indianavoters.in.gov.