Our Featured Friday series is posted every Friday on our Facebook, Instagram, and website. This is our way of putting the spotlight on the people who make the mission of the Wood County Board of DD possible: Direct Support Professionals, Board employees, and the people we serve!
If you know of a Wood County Board employee or person served who exemplifies our mission through their work or interactions with others in the community, we invite you to complete the nomination form below and send it to Hilary Powell at firstname.lastname@example.org
I AM a Brute by MICHAEL MARSHALL
The average person experiences competitive swimming every four years if they happen to watch the Olympic Games. Men and women compete in 16 different events over the course of almost a week. These events range from a 50-meter sprint to a one-mile swim, or 1500 meters (in an average 25-yard pool, that distance is equivalent to 66 lengths, or 1650 yards!). Events also encompass four different strokes: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and “freestyle” plus two events, the individual medley, that involve all four strokes Seasoned swimmers would agree that three of the toughest events in the Olympic line-up are the 1500m free, 400m Individual Medley (100 meters of each stroke), and the 200m butterfly. As with any sport, competing in the Olympics is something that very few athletes achieve. Thousands of athletes of all ages swim to compete, to stay in shape, or to challenge themselves mentally and physically. U.S. Masters Swimming is one way for swimmers, ages 19 years and over, to get together, train, and compete. Approximately 65,000 swimmers in the United States are registered with U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS). One U.S.M.S. sanctioned event is called the Annual Ross Yancher Brute Squad EPostal Swim (swam in your local pool and results submitted to “compete” against others nationwide), hosted by the Davis Aquatic Masters (DAM) swim team each November. This event combines the 200 yd. butterfly, the 400 yd. individual medley and the 1650 yd. swim, using a 25-yard pool configuration. It presents a daunting test of a swimmer’s mental and physical endurance. It is an event not even attempted at the Olympic Games.
I remember being a spectator at the Brute Squad swim for the first time four years ago. While standing on the pool deck watching my Masters teammates swim, I thought “I want to do that next year.” I knew it was not easy, but they made it look easy, and that is why I envisioned myself doing it the following year. A response of “no, you are not ready yet” quickly came from one of my teammates. After all, I was just beginning to learn HOW to swim. I was only learning the basics of efficient arm movement and stroke development, and I was lucky if I could continuously swim 500 yards. So, the response I received was justified. After suffering training injuries two years back-to-back, I had to watch from the deck again. COVID-19 spoiled last year. Finally, I had my chance following months of hard work after the Bowling Green pools reopened this year!
For months, I have imagined what it might be like taking on this huge feat; after all, I knew what it felt like to swim the individual parts of a modified Brute Squad, but to swim all three continuously was beyond anything that I could imagine. The only word which came to mind when trying to describe it was part of its name… it is “brutal.” Do not get me wrong; it was a blast! Prior to swimming it, I had heard that many people who have swum all their lives often will not attempt it, and that some who make the attempt, cannot finish . I went into it with great anticipation for days, but I tried to prepare myself in case I had to concede. In fact, at several points I almost threw in the towel because of mental and physical exhaustion. What kept me going was having a teammate encouraging me from a nearby lane and hearing others on the deck screaming, “Go!” each time I made a turn. It seemed as if I was going faster with each “Go!” but that was all psychological. When I finished, I was overcome by many emotions because I knew I had accomplished it.
Why was swimming this event so important to me? I had something to prove; it might sound pompous, but I was out to prove that my disability was not going to limit my achievements. I was swimming in solidarity for others with disabilities. The reality is that I was not “cured” of my disability nor was it even reduced, but that my singular achievement trumped what many life-long swimmers have seen as nearly impossible. I look forward to my next Brute Squad swim!
Go here to read more details about the Brute Squad EPostal swim event: https://www.damfast.org/
I AM POSITIVE!!
This week we are shining our #FeaturedFriday spotlight on Geraldine Edwards. It is an honor to announce Geraldine Edwards as the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities March Direct Support Professional (DSP) of the Month. Geraldine was nominated by Jessica Wolfe, Service & Support Administrator (SSA), and works as a DSP for Pure Quality Care Services. Geraldine has worked at Pure Quality Care for 3 years and has many years of experience helping with family members who have developmental disabilities.
Geraldine has been working at one of residential settings that serves children. Geraldine cares about the individuals’ needs and their wellbeing. She enjoys having fun with them as well. She has assisted Jessica, SSA, with working through many situations that have required Geraldine to work long shifts, extra days, and extended hours. Throughout every situation Geraldine has been such a positive person for the boys living in this home. Jessica, SSA, has been in the home at least 1 time per week and almost every visit Geraldine has been there working.
“The last time I was there is when I realized just how GREAT the boys have it with the staff they have. Geraldine is so relaxed and comfortable not only working in this home but with the boys. She talked to them as though they were her own children. She gave them choices and knew exactly what they wanted for dinner. It was evident that the boys are comfortable with her. It was something that made me get chills and kind of choked-up because I always hope that we have staff like Geraldine in all of our settings. Geraldine is one unique person in so many ways and I think the boys and their families couldn’t ask for a better DSP!” shares Jessica, SSA. Geraldine stated, “I just want to see people succeeding and living the best life possible!”
Outside of work, Geraldine enjoys shopping and spending time with her family. Currently, she is busy helping plan her daughter’s wedding this fall. Geraldine has two nephews that she adores who have Autism. She feels like she has a lot of patience, and she enjoys going with the flow. She talks with her nephews on the phone as they love to call her, and she takes them pizza. Geraldine is very close with them.
Thank you, Geraldine, for your positivity and all you do for those you support!
This week’s #FeaturedFriday spotlight is on Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities (WCBDD) staff member Michele Solether, who is celebrating 24 years of service this month!
Michele began her career at the Board in Special Projects/Operations where she became and continues to be very active in Special Olympics. Michele has supported Wood County athletes through coaching football, basketball, and competitive cheer. She is currently a 22-year member of the Wood County Special Olympics Advisory Committee! She has been very active at the State level of Special Olympics as well.
Throughout Michele’s career, she has served in a variety of positions at the WCBDD. After starting in Special Projects/Operations, which included not only Special Olympics but staff development, maintenance and transportation. Michele then worked in the Technology department for 12 years. Michele joined the Human Resources team for another 3 years. Currently, Michele works in the Fiscal department, joining that team in 2018. Not only has Michele been busy with all of the work for the Board, she earned an Associate Degree in Accounting in 2019 and a Bachelor of Science in Management and Technology in 2021. Michele is described by both the Fiscal Coordinator and Director as being a very proactive employee and is always looking to streamline duties. They state, “Michele continues to serve the WCBDD with dedication and professionalism and it is a pleasure to have Michele on the Fiscal Team!”
Michele was nominated as this month’s staff feature by co-worker and Special Olympic athlete Kristin Fisher. Kristin says this about her, “Michele is a good person and we have become good friends. We like to spend time together and do girl things and have lots of girl talks!” Michele says, “Our friendship has grown into such a special one, and I am so blessed to have a friend like her in my life!”
When Michele was asked about what she likes most about working at WCBDD, she states “I enjoy all the people I have met throughout the years. I have made so many wonderful friendships and memories with the individuals we serve and staff while working for the Board. Too many to share, but I can tell you, they have filled my heart with lots of laughter and love. I can honestly say I have enjoyed coming to work for the past 24 years; there is never a dull moment and I get to experience something new every day. WCBDD is filled with so many compassionate, caring, and innovative people and I am thankful I have been a part of it for so many years.”
Michele, we thank you for your compassion and dedication throughout the past 24 years in your support of individuals served and hope you enjoy this well-deserved spotlight
This week’s Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities (WCBDD) #FeaturedFriday spotlight is shining on the one and only Lucas Reffert!
Lucas attends the Living Classroom and is in the Perrysburg School District. Lucas is currently working with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) and WCBDD Transition Specialist, Kate Allison to identify and explore his employment interests. Lucas is enjoying practicing his work skills at Goodwill in Bowling Green, BGSU Recreation Center and the Wood County Educational Service Center.
Lucas is a very active young man and is very involved within the community. He is the manager of the Perrysburg High School Bowling Team, volunteers at Perrysburg Heights Community Center, is active in BGSU Best Buddies program, Special Olympics and Baton with the Twirling Sophisticates!
Lucas also enjoys many activities with the WCBDD Recreation Department such as Drumfit, cooking club, karaoke, sporting events, crafts, movie night and community events. During his free time, Lucas especially enjoys watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. Lucas also enjoys traveling to Florida, going to the beach and swimming in the ocean! Lucas loves watching and participating in sports and camping with his family. Lucas is always up to trying a new adventure!
Audrey Stock, WCBDD Service Coordinator has this to say, “Lucas has a great smile and likes to be around other people. Lucas is very determined, and people are always glad to see him!”
Keep on smiling Lucas and enjoy the spotlight shining on you!!!
For this week’s #FeaturedFriday, it is an honor to announce Diana Long as the Wood County Direct Support Professional (DSP) of the Month for February 2022! Diana works for Wood Lane Residential Services (WLRS) and was nominated by Samantha Siefer, SSA. Diana has worked for WLRS for approximately 8 years.
Diana started out working at WLRS after her daughter who worked there suggested taking a part-time position. She was having a hard time with the loss of her grandson. He was born with Brittle bone disease and passed away at 8 months old. Her daughter thought it might help her and it did. Diana worked full-time at a factory and part-time at the group home. Diana stated “I loved my job being able to help other people be happy. That is very satisfying to me to be able to make others happy.” She continued to work part-time for 6 years then left WLRS only to return within 6 months as a full-time home supervisor. Diana stated “I have found my forever job. These individuals are very special to me, and I want to do my part to let them have the best life they can have.”
Diana’s favorite thing about her job are the smiles from the people she works with. Some of the people she works with have trouble communicating, but they give smiles, that makes everything worth it. She is a strong advocate for the people she works with and feels appreciated when they acknowledge her in different ways. She comes to every meeting prepared and ready to talk about the wants and needs of the people she works with. Diana said she will do whatever it takes to help them have better lives. She shared, “the look on their faces when you come into work makes your day. When the world seems to be falling apart, they don’t care, they just love you.”
“I personally love the craft wall she started, and how she decorates for each of their birthdays with their favorite things/theme. Diana tries to make every holiday memorable and goes out of her way to make it special! I have truly enjoyed working with her at Elder 2 Home and cannot wait to see what else she has in store for the people who live there!” said Samantha Siefer, SSA.
Outside of work, Diana’s family is her whole life. Her favorite thing is to spend time with her 7 grandchildren. She enjoys watching them play sports and just spending time with them. Diana reports being a “very proud Grandma”.
Diana, thank you for finding your forever job and caring so much for the individuals you support. We appreciate you and all the smiles you help create!
This week we are sharing how Assistive Technology is positively changing a person’s life by focusing our #FeaturedFriday spotlight on Baize Kaylor.
The Kaylor family recently received funding for a Ring Security system for their home. Not only to improve safety but also to increase Baize’s independence in his home. The outdoor cameras allow Baize to monitor if someone comes to the door and speak to them through the device without having to open the door which improves safety. The indoor camera allows Baize’s parents to know that he is safe at home and be able to communicate with his parents through the camera if he needs to contact them. Baize and his family are excited to increase Baize’s time home alone to gain the skills for a future independent living experience.
Thank you to the Kaylor family for reaching out to the Occupational Therapy department at the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities for assistive technology placement!
This week we our #FeaturedFriday spotlight is on Wood County Board of DD’s very own Tim Rice! Tim has worked for the Wood County Board of DD (WCBDD) for the past 16 years. He is currently one of the amazing bus drivers who transport students safely from their homes to Wood Lane School and back home again. Tim has also served the former WCBDD Adult Services program as a job coach. He has fond memories of driving the “Big Blue Truck” picking up paper for recycling and shredding. As a job coach, Tim supports individuals to learn and enhance both soft skills and hard skills to help them attain employment within the community.
Tim is a very busy man! He not only works for the WCBDD but also is a job coach with a Provider Agency supporting individuals working in the Vehicle Wash Bay on the WCBDD campus. Scott McKeown, WCBDD Health and Safety Coordinator has this to say about Tim, “Tim works hard to contribute to the well-being of the people he serves. Serving people all day Monday through Friday. He drives kids to Wood Lane School, gets out of his bus and heads to his provider agency employer and spends the day working with adults in the Vehicle Wash Bay, then hops back on the bus and safely gets the school kids back home.”
Tim includes his work job coaching is what he has enjoyed most about his position in the Developmental Disabilities field. He is quick to add he also “enjoys joking with his coworkers and taking field trips with the students of Wood Lane School!”
When asked “what do you want us to know about you?” Tim is quick to answer, “my biggest joy in life is being a Father to two girls and a boy and Grandfather to my grandson!!
Tim also says he, “enjoys helping others, enjoys sunrise, motorcycle riding and reading.” He states, “I am always amazed at how life is always teaching us simple truth and how to enjoy every day!” It is no wonder Scott McKeown adds this about Tim, “whether it is his co-workers, the students on his school bus, or the individuals he works with at the Wash Bay, Tim treats everyone the same. The joking, the laughing, the stories – they just never end – no matter who he is with!”
Thank you, Tim for all the amazing years of support and smiles you have provided to individuals served by the WCBDD and we are all looking forward to many more!
This week we are shining our #FeaturedFriday spotlight on Samantha “Sam” Sisco! Samantha is a Freshman at Bowling Green High School. Her goal after High School graduation is to find a job where she can work with animals, perhaps in a veterinarian clinic or an animal shelter. Besides her love for animals, Sam has many other interests. She is involved with Miracle League of Northwest Ohio Baseball as well as Ballet and Jazz dance classes. Some of Sam’s other hobbies include golf in the summer and bowling in the winter months, both of which she enjoys doing with her Dad. She also really enjoys watching her brother Fred (who is one of her favorite people) playing baseball. When Sam is not busy with those activities, she loves using her cell phone and iPad to watch YouTube videos and play games. She really likes to learn new TikTok dances and record herself performing those dance moves!
Samantha and her grandmother have remained connected to the Wood County Board of DD, Early Intervention (EI) Team, typically visiting them during the Winter Holiday Season. Samantha always enjoys bringing her “first teachers” special treats. The EI Team enjoy the treats but most of all love seeing Sam and catching up with her on all the many things she is doing. Speaking of treats, Sara Stalets, EI Developmental Specialist says, “Sam’s favorite and the ONLY treat she like is a chocolate frosty!”
Samantha really enjoys her summer trips to Cedar Point with her friends and family. Her favorite rides at Cedar Point are “The Eagles” and “Bumper Cars”! Sam also loves shopping with her Mom. Sam’s Grandmother shared some other highlights about her. Samantha’s favorite color is rose gold and favorite food is mashed potatoes…Yummy! Her favorite board game is Life. Her favorite animal is the Puma, and her favorite phrase is “are you kidding me!”
Samantha is loved and admired by all who know her and has such a big heart. We are so happy to shine the spotlight on this wonderful, talented and energetic young lady, Samantha Sisco!
This week we are shining our #FeaturedFriday spotlight on David Pawsey! It is an honor to announce David Pawsey as the January Wood County Direct Support Professional (DSP) of the Month. David is new to being a DSP and has worked for RVI, Inc. for approximately 6 months. David was nominated by Laura Borows, Director of Compliance and Day Operations, at RVI, Inc. In this short time, he has done an awesome job to build rapport and establish a relationship with the person he works with.
David learned about being a DSP from Sarah Davies’ Facebook posts and was drawn to opportunity of working with differing abilities. David really enjoys the people he gets to hang out with while providing services. Outside of work, David enjoys camping and spending time with his family. The picture is of David and his son.
RVI, Inc. operates within eight counties in northern Ohio from their headquarters near Oak Harbor. Founded in 1973, RVI, Inc serves approximately 200 adults across all eight counties. RVI, Inc. focuses on employment opportunities, including at their onsite vocational and habilitation center, as well as community living and employment. RVI, Inc. is dedicated to helping people served become part of their communities and live their best possible lives.
David, thank you for embracing those you support and making a difference in their lives. The Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities is grateful for your willingness to dedicate yourself to being a DSP!
This week we are sharing how Assistive Technology has positively changed and influenced a person’s life. We are focusing our #FeaturedFriday spotlight on Jolene Milliron. Jolene has a fun-loving spirit with the best sense of humor! She uses assistive technology in her everyday life to maximize her independence within her home. She is never afraid to try anything new when it comes to assistive technology!
Jolene uses her Google Home to control her television, smart plug to control her lamp using her Google, motorized blinds to allow her to independently control this aspect of her environment and has a seatbelt alarm to keep her safe in her wheelchair. Jolene also uses her tablet to play games that she enjoys! Click here to see Jolene's Interview.
We can’t wait to see what Jolene adds to her collection next!
This week we are shining our #FeaturedFriday spotlight on Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities (WCBDD) team member Sallie Gardner!
Sallie began her career at the WCBDD October 1985 during her college years at BGSU, where she worked part-time in the former Board operated Residential Services and later became a QIDP. Sallie then went on to work in Behavior Supports in the Adult Services Department. After Sallie earned a Master Degree in Early Childhood Special Education, she became a permanent member of the Early Intervention Team as a Developmental Specialist and PLAY Project Facilitator. Early Intervention Coordinator Danielle Perkins states, “Sallie is a cheerleader for Early Intervention, believing in the work we do to support families and advocating for those we serve throughout our agency. She has great assessment and coaching skills, ‘digging deeper’ to gather information to best support families”. Children Services Director Lorraine Flick adds, “Sallie is enthusiastic and full of energy. She brings a spirit of excitement to her work with families. She believes in the pro-active nature of Early Intervention supports”.
Sallie’s energy and passions outside of her work in Early Intervention include running, eating, laughing and adventuring! She is part of a “crazy bunch of friends” who inspire one another in their training. Sallie is looking forward to becoming a volunteer coach for Dave’s Marathon-in-training. Her favorite places to run are on the Oak Openings Trail and the Slippery Elm Trail.
Her family consists of her husband, 2 adult sons, and their wives both of which are named Kerigan, no kidding! She also has two fluffy dogs to round out her family. Sallie has had most every kind of pet imaginable including snakes, mice, lizards, turtles, tadpoles and frogs!!
When asked what Sallie has enjoyed most about her career with the WCBDD she states, “It has been such a diverse career working with the youngest and the oldest persons who receive services. I have loved supporting parents with their children’s development”. Sallie loves the teaming process of Early Intervention stating, “The team supports one another so well. Additionally, so much of what I learned is helpful for life outside of work for example “Coaching” can be used everywhere.”
Sallie will be retiring from the WCBDD 12/31/2021. She is looking forward to relaxing, church volunteerism and training as a CASA/GAL and she is really hoping her next job is Grandma!
Congratulations on your upcoming retirement Sallie and thank you for your contributions to our mission to Support, Empower and Inspire!!
This week we are shining our #FeaturedFriday spotlight on Hayden Baer! Hayden is currently an eighth grader at the Bowling Green Middle School. Hayden’s friends and family describe him as a very happy, funny young man with a contagious smile. He loves spending time with his roommate, friends, SSA and staff. His grandmother Karen is a huge support to him.
Hayden has attended BGSU Football clinics and a recent December Holiday party with the BGSU Football team. Hayden also enjoys participating in the Wood County Board of DD’s Recreation activities. He also loves Angry Birds, collecting plushy characters, Monster trucks and Legos.
Hayden is very smart and savvy with all electronics and often teaches others how to use them! He absolutely loves to use his iPad, gaming systems and cell phone. Hayden loves to play video games on his Nintendo Switch with Minecraft being his favorite game. Hayden also enjoys watching movies and YouTube videos. it is no wonder it is Hayden’s dream is to become a youtuber!! He loves going to GameStop, Nickel World, Chuck E. Cheeses and Dave and Busters as arcade games are also some of his favorites.
Currently, Hayden has been trying out other hobbies and activities he can enjoy on weekends and after school with friends. He is working on increasing his independence at home with assisting with household chores and is learning to advocate for himself to further his independence! Way to go Hayden!
Hayden, we thank you for lighting up the world with your smiles and giggles.
This week we are shining our #FeaturedFriday spotlight on Tiffany Williams! It is an honor to announce Tiffany Williams as the December Direct Support Professional (DSP) of the Month. Tiffany has been working in the field since October 2006 and is currently employed by Assured Health Services, providing supports in the areas of Adult Day Services, Employment Services, and NMT. Tiffany was nominated by Jill Harrington, Director of Adult Day Services and Employment, and Jennifer Krach, Director of Operations, both of Assured Health Services.
Tiffany became a DSP after assisting in a special need classroom in high school. She loved the feeling of helping others be more independent. Outcomes are very important to Tiffany as she strives to ensure everyone is learning something and building self-calming skills.
According to Jill, “Having Tiffany choose to come work with Assured Health makes us feel like we have won the lottery! There is nothing she cannot and will not do. In her time with us, she has helped Assured Health with many different services, one being NMT. Not only does she drive routes when needed, but she makes sure the vehicles are safe and maintained. She works in our ADS centers during the weekdays and provides employment services on nights and weekends. She has built great relationships with the employers of those she serves ensuring their success. We could talk all day about all the things Tiffany does for Assured Health, but that is nothing compared to the impact she has on the individuals Assured Health serves. Assured Health has a newer ADS Center in Perrysburg that Tiffany has taken control of! She has created and implemented programs and activities that provide structure, while being flexible, foster growth, enrichment, and entertainment. She has a unique ability to assess people’s sensory needs and creates sensory input activities that are person centered. She creates an atmosphere where people feel safe to be themselves. This helps people build friendships and their confidence soars. Assured Health’s mission is to “Help Other’s Succeed”. Tiffany embodies that and everyone who meets her becomes a better person.”
Outside of work, Tiffany spends time with her partner Mike and her 3 children (ages 7, 9, 11). She spends most of her free time running her kids to football, dance, Lego Club, cheer, and much more. Tiffany likes to go trailblazing in her Jeep. She likes Reese’s peanut butter cups and anything pink and black!!
Thank you, Tiffany, for your creative and caring nature. We appreciate you and all that you do for those you support!
This week we are sharing how Assistive Technology has positively changed and influenced a person’s life. We are focusing our #FeaturedFriday spotlight on Dylan Price. Dylan is a strong advocate not only for himself but for others with disabilities as well. He loves to be in the forefront of trying new things, especially when it comes to assistive technology (AT).
Dylan’s current goal is to one day get a wheelchair with the ability to go up and down stairs. He feels that this would open a lot of doors for his future, including career possibilities. Dylan currently uses a wide variety of AT including: Google Home, smart lights, iLevel feature on his wheelchair, Bluetooth earbuds, Siri on his iPhone, charger stand for his iPhone, remote-controlled blinds, robot vacuum, height adjustable desk, ceiling track lift, automatic door opener, and his laptop. These devices allow him to be as independent as possible in his everyday life. Dylan is looking forward to his other current goal of moving out on his own!
We wish Dylan the best of luck and can’t wait to continue to try new Assistive Technology with him as it is developed!
This week we are shining our #FeaturedFriday spotlight on Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities (WCBDD) employee Tina Stearns!!
Tina has worked at the WCBDD for 22 years in the Human Resource Department’s payroll processing. Tina describes a favorite memory in payroll as, “The time I inadvertently paid an employee $1000.00/hour which equated to over $40,000.00 for one pay period. I am not sure it is my favorite memory but it sure is a memorable one!” She added, “just so you know we can take the money back as fast as we can give it!”
Tina describes her most cherished thing in life as her family! “Family always comes first in my world”, she says. Her favorite thing to do is take trips to the beach with the whole family. She loves to walk the beach and look for shells, or just sit and read a book.
Tina is planning on retiring from the WCBDD on November 30, 2021. Her coworkers describe her as a “payroll guru”! She has been busy imparting her knowledge of the payroll system to her replacement with all its’ quirks and loads of paperwork. Her coworkers have enjoyed (and will dearly miss) her love of baking and all the goodies she has brought in over the years! She has been a wonderful coworker and friend and will be missed.
When asked about what she has enjoyed most about working for the WCBDD, Tina says, “The feeling of family created between the staff and the people served.”
Tina would like tell everyone she will miss the many friends that she has made over the years...but she does look forward to spending winters in Florida!
Hats off to you Tina, for a career of 22 years well done, we wish you joy in retirement, don’t get too much sun and send us pictures this winter from your Florida beach chair!
This week we are shining our #FeaturedFriday spotlight on Samantha Reighard!!! Those who know Samantha will tell you, she is a very active and energetic young lady, and so fun to be around! Kate Allison, Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities (WCBDD) SSA, had this to say about her, “Samantha literally inspires anyone around her! She wants to be her best self and wants that for others too!”
Samantha is involved with many activities within both her school and community. As a student at Perrysburg High School, Samantha is a member of the Perrysburg High School Theatre Department as well as the School Choir. She is currently looking forward to trying out for a part in the next Perrysburg High School Theatre Production! She also participates in the Job Connections program at Perrysburg High School which she describes as her #1 job. Samantha shares her skills and enthusiasm for life as a volunteer with the Perrysburg Heights Community Center through the Job Connections program. She is planning on attending college after high school graduation to pursue an Associate Degree in Hospitality! Samantha’s support team recognizes her self-advocacy skills and her leadership skills and describe her as a role model for others!
Samantha is also very involved with several programs offered through the WCBDD including the Transition Summer Experience, “I am” Workshops, Virtual “Ticket to Transition” program and the virtual “Konnect with Kim” show. Jennifer Irvin, WCBDD SSA, says, “Samantha is amazing. She brings so much joy to any room she enters!”
Samantha enjoys listening to music, especially K-Pop. She loves BTS and is going to see them in California soon! Samantha also enjoys writing in her journal, watching TV, specifically shows from different parts of the world like Anime and My Hero Academia. She also enjoys learning new things about other countries.
When Samantha was asked what she would like to share, she had this to say: “I would like to share that I had a really good experience with the WCBDD this past summer. I’m really glad to be here and be a part of a place where everyone is accepted and have fun and make memories.” She also said, “If you enjoy something... just do it, do what you love! Love yourself, accept yourself and be who you are because that’s what I do. And MAKE MEMORIES with your family and friends, have fun, do you, be you, hang out with people.”
Samantha has some final words of advice for all of us to consider, “Don’t be scared to get involved. I know it’s scary sometimes, but your friends and family will be there for you. Everything you do will grow your confidence by doing what you love! I know it’s hard sometimes to find a community, but the world can be a good place if you be yourself and put a smile on your face!”
Thank you, Samantha Reighard for putting a smile on everyone’s face by just being you!!!
DSP of the Month: Victoria Barclay-Housemeyer
This week we are shining our #FeaturedFriday spotlight on Victoria Barclay-Housemeyer as the Direct Support Professional of the Month. Victoria was nominated by Jodi Campbell, SSA. Victoria became certified as an independent provider in October 2019 and has been working as a Direct Support Professional. Victoria has a positive attitude and is not afraid of putting in the time and work to get positive results. She has great communication with the family she works with and the SSA to ensure a continuity of services. Victoria is an exceptional advocate for the young man she works with. She is always willing to go above the expectations for Ryan and his family, including helping his mom out a lot! She has a close connection to the family and the family is very comfortable with having Victoria in their home.
Victoria has also volunteered to be part of the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities (WCBDD) Provider Emergency Response Team. The Provider Emergency Response Team is a list of independent providers who have volunteered to be on a call list when other providers need assistance with meeting staffing needs. Victoria has assisted when she is available and recently started picking up shifts for a provider agency who is experiencing difficulties with meeting staffing needs in a residential setting.
Victoria heard about becoming a Direct Support Professional in college from a fellow Independent Provider. She thought it sounded so rewarding. Victoria shared, “Being an advocate for this community has been one of my greatest life blessings in life. What I love most about being a Direct Support Professional is being there for the best moments and worst moments and lifting someone up in both scenarios. My goal is to help the individuals I work with exceed their potential and help them live out the dreams they have for themselves, no matter how big or small they may be.”
Outside of being a Direct Support Professional, Victoria enjoys spending time going to church, serving her community, and spending time with friends. Victoria especially loves spending time with her husband, Pete, her family, and caring for her dog, Hattie. “Family and friends are everything to me and being with them brings me so much joy!” Victoria stated.
Victoria thank you for your caring, your dedication, and your service. We appreciate you and all that you do for our community!
This week we are sharing another example of how Assistive Technology has positively changed and influenced a person’s life. We are focusing our #FeaturedFriday spotlight on the many successes of Christin Taylor!
Christin, who is legally blind, requested assistance from the occupational therapy department to aid her in becoming independent with reading. Some of the things that Christin wanted to do included reading her mom’s messages and recipes, the details on labels of food items that she used when cooking her meals, as well as other various household items.
Christin has been successfully using the SuperSense app on her phone, which operates by scanning the information and then reading it aloud to Christin. Unfortunately, Christin often found it difficult to orient her phone over the item she needed to read so that it could allow the app to scan the item properly and with accuracy. She realized that she needed help and she reached out to our OT department.
Whenever our OT department receives a request like the one Christin submitted, the first thing they do to fulfill the request is to review and assess the person’s current situation and their needs. From there they begin to brainstorm ways to fulfill the request. Sometimes filling the request can be as simple as using items that are found in the OT loan closet. Sometimes, as in Christin’s case, creating a solution requires that the OT’s build an adaptive tool.
To assist Christin, the OT department created a stand from Lexan material, which is a clear durable plastic. Using this stand allowed Christin to easily place her phone, using the SuperSense app, on top of the stand and slide the item that she wanted to read UNDER the stand for scanning.
OT provided training to help Christin use the new device to learn about and identify exactly what household items she was working with. To no one's surprise, Christin became a pro instantaneously! Christin was ecstatic about using her new device and grabbed items from all over the house to try and to be able to independently know what they are. Excellent job mastering the challenge, Christin!
As promised, the #FeaturedFriday on the final Friday of the month will be devoted to highlighting the amazing accomplishments that Individuals have achieved and the assistive technology that they are using for support. This week we are shining the spotlight on the accomplishments of Ed Dreske!
Ed is soon to be the new receptionist at ViaQuest on the WCBDD campus. He will have the responsibility of opening the door for guests, greeting them, and sending them in the direction they need to go upon arrival. If you know Ed, you know that he has a wonderful personality and is perfectly suited for this role.
To assist Ed in welcoming guests, he needed to be able to open the door using the door opening button on the wall. The Occupational Therapy department created an adaptive tool that can be placed on his wheelchair tray when he gets to work. The tool was created using a repurposed lateral head support, a tennis ball, nuts, bolts, washers, and PVC piping. This tool allows Ed to drive his wheelchair to the door and bump the door button for easy opening. In the photo, you can see the device as it rests on Ed’s wheelchair tray.
Ed shared that he was thrilled about having his first job and would like to use the first paycheck to, of course, buy Michigan football tickets. Congratulations Ed on your new venture!
Stephen Scholl is a modern-day Renaissance Man in the truest sense of the word. The term Renaissance Man was coined in reference to some of the most talented artists, musicians, inventors, scientists, thinkers, and philosophers who ever lived, and during a time when tremendous progress was being made in these areas of study.
When you meet Stephen, you quickly learn that he is a gentleman, and a gentle man. He is humble and charismatic, and he has a humanistic spirit. Stephen is intelligent, educated and cultured in the arts. He has a natural curiosity that prompts him to ask questions, while valuing Science as a source for answers. These are all hallmark qualities of a Renaissance Man.
Music is prominent in Stephen’s life and in his family. His instrument of choice is the cello, an instrument he was drawn to because he liked the beautiful sounds that it made. He started learning the cello in the 4th grade and being a devoted musician, he makes time to practice his instrument every day. While attending the Ravinia Festival, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony, his mom and his uncle helped to arrange a meeting with his role model and inspiration, Yo Yo Ma, the premier celloist of our time. “That was the best day of my life! I cried!” exclaimed Stephen.
Stephen is a continuous learner and his motivation for learning and improving his skills with the cello is fueled by the love he has for his teacher, Dr. Elaine Colprit. While he was describing the ways she makes learning fun, he very genuinely stated, “I love her.” They have incorporated OT goals to develop the muscles in his hands to help him with playing the cello, including using silly putty to squeeze and stretch to develop strength, and making “Bananagrams,” a word game that utilizes cross body movements. “I am working with my hands so I can make my hands better so I can play my cello better,” explained Stephen.
Other traits that you immediately observe about Stephen are that he is handsome, has a smile that can light up a room, and an infectious laugh that goes hand in hand with his tremendous sense of humor. He has done quite a bit of traveling, and visiting New York and various parts of the US and the world are topics of conversation that Stephen enthusiastically initiates. He is obsessed with Alaska although he has not been there. When the Scholl family lived in Germany, they “traveled around the country, hiked in the alps, went on beach holidays in Denmark, and visited a really cool Zoo in Holland that had a watering hole,” shared Ellen Scholl, Stephen’s mom. They also got to spend some time in Paris which included a trip to Disneyland Paris. On Stephen’s bucket list is a trip to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play the Yankees.
Additionally, like a Renaissance Man, Stephen is well-rounded in social, creative, and physical activities and skills. He is a member of AKtion Club and participates in Special Olympics Sports of Volleyball, Basketball, Track, Golf, Softball, Swimming, and Bowling. In his spare time, he participates in a variety of Rec Activities, and he especially enjoys Horseback riding. “I love it! I am taking lessons,” he shared. “I rode in two events in a competition horse riding show and got a gold and a silver medal ".
Stephen also enjoys working in the Greenhouse. “I love working in the garden. I am excited to see things when they grow. When I can eat them that is even better!” he said, referring to the tomatoes, peppers, garlic, cucumbers, gourds and pumpkins he grows. LeAnn Frankfather, our Rec Specialist who works with Stephen in the Greenhouse said: “Stephen has been exceptionally successful working in the greenhouse. I consider him my “go to” person when things need to be watered. Watering is not as easy as it sounds. You need to be precise, so you do not over or under water a plant or bore the ground out under the plant. Stephen has mastered this important skill because he clearly enjoys gardening and his dedication to our greenhouse really shines. His sense of humor and witty one liners leave me in stitches. I enjoy our banter back and forth about moving to New York or visiting Alaska. I am grateful for the time I have spent with Stephen and the opportunity to get to know him. He’s a great guy with a lot to give back to the world.”
A story about Stephen would not be complete without mentioning the love he has for animals in general, and especially for his dogs, Quinn and Alby, two soft coated Wheaton terriers. “I love them so much. They bark loudly and jump,” which is affectionately described as a “Wheaton Greetin’”. Carys is a special person in his life, and she gave him an amazing birthday gift--” I got to feed the giraffes!” stated Stephen. Erin Brooks, a longtime friend, shared “I had the pleasure of meeting Stephen Scholl in 2009. Stephen is always up for a good political debate, drinking coffee from his favorite coffee shop- Grounds For Thought, and his famous line- "When are you going to retire?" Stephen really enjoys volunteering at Wood Lane School with the students and the students enjoy Stephen's calm and caring presence. Stephen is one of a kind and a really good friend.”
Stephen Scholl is a person with many talents, just like a Renaissance Man. But more importantly, Stephen Scholl is the kind of person who makes the world a better place. Thank you, Stephen, for gracing our lives with your kind, caring ways, your zest for life, and your intellect and wit. With tremendous gratitude, we celebrate you!
DSP of the Month: Clarence Minniefield
It is an honor to announce the August Direct Support Professional of the Month as Clarence Minniefield, Independent Provider. Clarence was nominated by Kate Allison, SSA, and Lindsay Umstead, SSA . Clarence has gone above and beyond to ensure continuity of services for an individual who was experiencing many life changes at one time. Clarence is certified in many services, however, services for this person started with homemaker personal care services. Clarence’s services in conjunction with an agency providing residential services allows the person to get out of their home. Clarence helped the person get of their shell and start doing things in their community such as volunteering. This opportunity opened a whole new door for this person. They went from not wanting to work at all to participating in job development services with Clarence. This person recently was hired by a local restaurant through a carved employment position. With another person, Clarence was able to step into the vocational site, assess the situation, and provide solutions that met the needs of the person and their employer.
“Clarence prioritizes the individual’s needs, team communication and follow through like no provider I have worked with before. He is responsive and provides valuable input in all facets. We truly appreciate Clarence!” Kate Allison, SSA.
“Clarence is responsive and just has a way about him where he can figure out what is needed and then address it. He thinks outside the box and is just all around great to work with.” Lindsay Umstead, SSA.
Mary Beth Lavey
Mary Beth Lavey is as genuine as they come, and she is well known for her dedication, compassionate spirit, and giving heart. Throughout her 32 years as a Certified Occupational Therapist/Licensed (COTA/L) at Wood County Board of DD, she has seamlessly blended her expertise in the field and natural inclination for ingenuity to provide outstanding service for individuals and families. Her creativity, dedicated approach, and knowledge have made her an incredible asset to the board, and as she retires today it’s only fitting we celebrate her!
Mary Beth has been an OT practitioner for forty-two years and recalls always having an interest in the medical field, something she cites, in part, from experiencing knee issues very early on. When she heard about a new OTA program starting at Lourdes College she was immediately interested and as she put it, “I started the OTA program, and I just fell in love with it! I did my level 1 field work at Sunshine and from there I was hooked!” Mary Beth continued saying, “I’ve received more than I’ve given from the individuals I have the honor and pleasure to serve. They have taught me to be in the present and to celebrate the small and big successes in life with a grateful heart!” Her passion for the job truly shines through and is no doubt a part of what led to her to be appointed by Governor Kasich as a member of the Occupational Therapy Section of the Ohio OTPTAT Licensure Board nine years ago. She was re-appointed by Governor DeWine and is currently finishing up her final term.
While Mary Beth has had a very successful career, she remains humble and focused on meeting the needs of individuals. Her upbringing laid a solid foundation for her values, and as she shared, “My parents instilled in my eight siblings and myself the importance of serving others and in being an authentic individual.” Perhaps most striking about Mary Beth’s approach to her job is her fierce advocacy for those we serve and her ability to build meaningful relationships. As Carly Dauch, OTD, OTR/L, explained, “Mary Beth has always gone above and beyond to build relationships with individuals and families. She loves a good challenge, especially one that gets her hands dirty!” In fact, “can’t” really is not a part of Mary Beth’s vocabulary, and she is no stranger to thinking outside of the box or trying new and innovative approaches to solving a problem.
Outside of work, she enjoys playing golf, tennis, and working out in the yard. She also enjoys having a good meal from her favorite restaurants, BG Burgers, Hot Sizzling Wok, or Rumors! Although Mary Beth is retiring, she has no plans of slowing down and is looking forward to spending the winter months in Texas with her spouse Stacy and spending time at both of their family’s cottages in Michigan during the summer months.
Throughout her many years of service, Mary Beth has always exemplified what it means to be an advocate, friend, and support system to individuals. Her positive attitude and “can-do” approach inspire co-workers and those we serve alike to never give up. Although we will miss her here at Wood Co. Board of DD, we wish her the very best in this next chapter! Congratulations and thank you, Mary Beth!
Wood County Plays
Our #FeaturedFriday this week is a tribute to Wood County Plays, a passionate group of parents, therapists, and residents, and the more than 150 Volunteers who helped turn the vision of an all-inclusive playground into a reality for our community.
The WCBDD is grateful to all of you for your passion, dedication, and hard work, and for creating a space where truly, EVERYONE can play! Thank you, Wood County Plays--We salute you!
Please enjoy this interview with Jamie O’Brien, a physical therapist, as she shares her insights about the passion involved in building this playground, the real life experiences for families who visit a playground, and why this park is so special and so important. https://www.wgte.org/radio/podcasts/rough-draft-diaries-haley-taylor/park-everyone.
Everyone is invited to join in the celebration and attend the grand opening of Wood County’s first all-inclusive playground, on Saturday, July 31, 2021, at 10:00 am, at Rotary Community Park, in Perrysburg, OH.
DSP of the Month: Zach Daugherty
It is an honor to announce Zach Daugherty, Independent Provider, as the July DSP of the Month. Zach was nominated by LeAnn Frankfather for the exceptional work he does with her son, Dane. Zach began his career working for the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities, then transitioned to becoming an Independent Provider. Zach has been an Independent Provider since August of 2020.
Zach excels at building relationships and helping the people he works with discover new passions. He goes above and beyond, truly getting to know the people he works with and encouraging them to step outside of their comfort zones. As Ian McClure, SSA, explained, “Zach is exceptionally caring and puts a tremendous effort into helping the people he works with find and expand their interests. He does a great job of making the people he works with comfortable trying new things. He takes a personal interest in helping people meet their goals.”
An avid outdoorsman, Zach brings that same sense of adventure into his work and his sense of wonder for the natural world around him is contagious! “We both have the same personalities a little bit. He likes reptiles, I like reptiles, and we both like fishing. He’s somebody I can trust and I like to talk to people who I can trust. He’s taught me a lot of things too like fishing! I just love him” said Dane.
When he’s not working, you may find Zach trudging through local Metroparks trying to spot salamanders or volunteering with Venturing Crew 352 as a Community Advisor. His authenticity and caring heart make him an incredible asset to our community, and we are grateful for all he does to better the lives of those around him.
This week our #FeaturedFriday spotlight is on the one and only Melissa Frizado!
Melissa is a spunky and social go-getter who is always ready for the next adventure. Passionate and caring, she takes the time to learn about those around her, and once she meets you, she won’t forget you. With a sharp attention to detail and a lively disposition, Melissa is the kind of person that you can’t help but love!
Melissa is the definition of a “girl-on-the-go”, participating in nearly all the clubs and activities WCBDD has to offer when she’s not at her job at First Solar in Perrysburg. In addition to being a member of People First, AKtion Club, Greenhouse Group, and Venturing Crew, she also stays active with Special Olympics Track, Softball, Bowling, Swimming, and Basketball. She is altruistic at heart, and as Rhonda Kendall, Aktion Club Advisor and Liaison put it, “Melissa is not only a wonderful person, inside and out, she is outgoing, fun to be around, and genuinely cares about others. AKtion Club is all about helping out in the community and Melissa is always one of the first to sign up when she is available!”
Melissa is informed, driven, and confident, and these qualities are a part of what makes her such a strong advocate, especially for the environment. Melissa’s passion for the environment was first sparked when she worked at the BG Recycling Center and learned how big of an impact recycling can have. She shared, “I don’t want stuff to go to the landfill.” Melissa took the time to learn what can and cannot be recycled and is always willing to teach her peers when she sees the need. A true environmentalist, Melissa has also been known to take walks and help pick up litter. She’s also an avid fan of the Greenhouse Group.
Melissa’s family is comprised of her mom, dad, and younger brother, Jacob. She shared that although she lives independently, she still enjoys seeing her family on a regular basis! You may be surprised to learn that Melissa is a huge fan of HGTV, and in her free time she particularly enjoys shows like Love it Or List It and Property Brothers, but a personal favorite (and one that only plays on Fridays!) is My Lottery Dream Home. She is also a Falcons fan and loves to watch BGSU sports...especially Women’s Basketball!
Melissa is one-of-a-kind and easily brightens the days of those around her with her vivacious personality and contagious laughter. She builds others up and as Kim Paxton put it, “if you need something done, Melissa is always willing to help out, even when it’s not convenient for her.” We are so grateful for Melissa and the way she exemplifies our mission through the way she lives her life! Thank you, Melissa, for supporting, empowering, and inspiring those around you!
“I love to laugh and make others laugh”, shared Barb Dussel, who is our #FeaturedFriday focus this week! This statement perfectly captures who Barb is--a person who is playful and light-hearted, and who is also loving, kind and thoughtful.
An example of Barb’s fun-loving way is when she visits WLS dressed as Bobo the Clown for fun days or Halloween. We will never forget when Bobo and the Custodial Clowns brought the clown bus to be repaired by Mechanic Brent!
In addition to enjoying a good laugh, Barb is an animal lover and is especially fond of dogs. There is an extra special place in her heart for rescues, and over the years, she and her family have rescued many. They currently have a black lab named Annie and a yellow lab named Clyde. She has “grand rescues” too. “We love them all!” Barb exclaimed.
Barb and her husband, John, who works as a WCBDD bus driver, have been married for 39 years. They have three adult children, Amy, Jill, and Brian, who they are all quite proud of, and four adorable grandchildren between the ages of 4-13 years. In their spare time, they enjoy camping and this summer they have parked their camper on the Maumee River in Grand Rapids. They also enjoy anything that has to do with vehicles moving fast, including NASCAR, Sprint carts, Go Carts, and more.
As a professional, Barb is conscientious, has a strong work ethic, and displays incredible attention to detail. She takes great pride in her work, and shared “I care about the work I do so I give my best effort and do what is best for the job.” Prior to coming to the WCBDD, Barb owned a cleaning business for over thirty years, but gave that up when she became Custodial Supervisor so she could put all her focus on her department, and moving forward with great equipment, good communication and valuable training. “I am so grateful for the support we have here at the board”, Barb said.
To tell the truth, Barb is a stickler for neatness and cleanliness. When asked to share where she learned this trait, you may be surprised to hear her response. “I grew up on a farm and we were so busy doing all the chores, we didn’t have time for serious cleaning, and we only did basic cleaning. Then when I met my husband John, I had never seen anyone so meticulous about cleaning!! learned how to clean from him!,” she declared. “Now, I love to clean! When I am not at work cleaning, I am home cleaning.” It is easy to see that Barb is someone who truly loves her work. Over the years she and John have learned to share the chores at their house.
It must also be known that Barb is an amazing cook! When asked to share her favorite recipes, she acknowledged that some of her best cooking comes from recipes that she has made up! Her specialties are baked goods and decorated cakes, and she has even won blue ribbons for her efforts. She finds that decorating cakes satisfies her creative outlet. Other hobbies include traveling. “I love visiting all the states. I have been a lot of places and checked a few things off my bucket list- just to keep adding more and more to it!”, said Barb.
Barb’s favorite memory of working at the WCBDD is all about the kids. “I love watching the students grow and the progress that they make from the time they walk in the school until the day they graduate.”
Thank you, Barb, for sharing your laughter, and your love, and for shining your light here at the WCBDD and everywhere you are!
This week our #FeaturedFriday spotlight is on Marshal Geiselman!
Even in his short lifetime, Marshal Geiselman has already overcome challenges that most people would consider insurmountable. He is an amazing young man in that the adversity that he has endured and conquered, is astonishing. But what is most striking about Marshal is the way in which he has responded to these challenges.
When you meet Marshal, you quickly recognize that he is kindhearted, intelligent, and witty, and that he is a modest young man, not one to talk glowingly about his accomplishments. You will also discern a positive outlook on life and a “get it done” attitude that transcends the common. But to hear him talk about his life and look back over these challenging events, it is clear he never considered any option other than being successful. To him, overcoming adversity is seemingly all in a day’s work.
Marshal was a prototypical young man until the age of 16 when one night, his car struck a tree while driving home. “I don’t really remember much about that night,” Marshal shared. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and was hospitalized in the ICU for 6 months. His prognosis for recovery was not good, except that every step of the way, Marshal showed tremendous courage, grit, and toughness. He was in a medically induced coma, experienced tremendous pain, and had to undergo multiple surgeries, and despite the odds, he soon began moving his fingers and displaying facial expressions.
Soon after, Marshal was transferred to a rehab hospital and completed rigorous occupational, physical, and speech therapy, often having as many as nine appointments per week. Additionally, he began attending Otsego High School again. From the beginning, he was adamant about recovering—he was determined to walk and talk. And through it all, he never complained.
To resume his speech and communication skills, he learned how to use a communication device. “I hated using that thing, said Marshal, “so I would just use my phone and text people.” He was equally motivated to regain his ambulatory skills. He started with an electric wheelchair, then progressed to a manual, then he progressed to assisted standing and walking. By his own account, “I wanted to walk again,” and he practiced and practiced until one day, he just walked.
From Marshal’s perspective, he just did what came naturally to him: set goals, work hard, and never accept the words “I Can’t”. To see Marshal now, you would never believe how far he has come. He graduated from Otsego HS, works at Porkbelly BBQ, and is living in his own apartment (with supports) with his friend Nick, and his new kitten named “Bruh”. “Living in an apartment is better and I can do what I want,” shared Marshal.
Marshal’s favorite restaurant is Taco Bell, and when he cooks, he likes to make hamburgers with cheese. His favorite movie is Deadpool and collecting the memorabilia. He enjoys listening to classic rock and rap, and spends his spare time gaming online with Nick and his cousin, playing Call of Duty. “That’s my favorite because you have to survive,” he shared. Marshal is a recipient of the WCBDD Individual Achievement Award.
Marshal, thank you for being the courageous and inspiring young man that you are. We are grateful for you, and that you are a part of the WCBDD community.
It is an honor to announce April Lee as the June DSP of the Month 2021. April has been nominated by Becca Von Saken, SSA, for her outstanding work at the Children’s Home. April currently works for ViaQuest Residential Services. April has worked for ViaQuest since June 2017. She will celebrate her four-year anniversary with ViaQuest on June 20. April has worked for ViaQuest as a DSP, Program Manager and currently as an Operations Manager. April has worked in the field for five years.
April cares deeply about the people in serves and their well-being. She takes the time to really get to know each individual so she can provide the best possible services and motivate other Direct Support Professionals to do the same. April has gone above and beyond for the children she works with. During the pandemic she has been a constant in the home, providing stability and security for the children who live there. April has created a fun space in the home to keep the children engaged. April is always thinking of ways to add to the sensory room in the home for the children. April has thrown themed birthday parties for the children in the home and invited all staff and the family. Given the pandemic April continues to take the children to their favorite restaurants. April will even go take the children to 2 different restaurants to get their favorites (nuggets from Chick-fil-a and fries from McDonalds). April even makes doctor appointments better by taking a young man out for a special breakfast afterward. He was able to order his favorite meal. He loved having this one on one attention with his staff.
April's documentation and communication has been top notch. She quickly sends communication and keeps the SSA and the families up to date on what is going on. When April is not working you can find her traveling and binge watching her favorite shows. April is an aunt of four and loves spending time with her nieces and nephews. She has a turtle named Franklin, who loves to climb out of his tank. Some of her favorite hobbies are reading, shopping, and cooking.
ViaQuest is a veteran-owned health care company that believes strongly in choice for its employees and the people it serves. Its areas of expertise include mental and behavioral health and residential and day services for individuals with developmental disabilities throughout Ohio. ViaQuest offers quality, highly personalized and specialized care, empowering individuals to function independently and live their best possible lives. Through a wide range of innovative services referred to as ViaQuest’s Circle of Care, a skilled, dedicated staff ensures that the people served are active participants in their own care. For more information visit www.ViaQuestInc.com.
One of the most nurturing people you will ever meet, our #FeatureFriday focus is on Donna Powers! Donna is instinctively humble, loving, and gentle, and she makes others in her presence feel safe to be who they are.
Donna has worked at Wood Lane School for 20 years as both a Para-Professional and as a Teaching Assistant. She cherishes the many remarkable and rewarding experiences that she has had with students and staff. She also recognizes that with each one she has learned something new, whether it is about life, about herself, or about working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
With her initial assignment working as a one-on-one, which she admits was a little overwhelming at first, Donna quickly learned the importance of communication. She also welcomed words of wisdom from the classroom teacher, who taught her to always be positive, gain trust, show respect, be committed, and to listen to cues. The most important thing she learned came directly from the student: how to be patient and to be understanding. Over the years, Donna has been able to apply all this knowledge in every classroom, working with students of all ages.
When asked to share the best part about working at the WCBDD, Donna said, “we are Family." “I’ve been blessed with all the friendships I have established over the years. Great friends who will make you laugh and lift you up when you are down. We are here for one another.” Additionally, Donna feels connected to the Mission Statement. “I can’t say enough about our Mission Statement. The words: Empower, Inspire, and Support are what we do to engage all individuals we serve. These words bring Community to all who are in this Great Family. I will always feel connected in some way because I take these words to heart,” expressed Donna.
Donna’s favorite memory occurred during the pandemic, when school was not in session and the staff did “a COVID-19 Parade”. “We decorated our cars and followed the bus to visit our students,” she shared. She recalls fondly driving by the students’ homes, honking car horns, and waving hello from the car windows. “We went all over Wood County on different days. It was fantastic to see their faces!” exclaimed Donna.
For someone with such a nurturing heart, it seems fitting that Valentine’s Day is Donna’s wedding anniversary. She and her husband Mike have two children, Sean, who lives with his wife Nikki in Monclova and Melissa and her husband Mike, who live in Upper Arlington. Donna and Mike enjoy creating their garden each summer. They also enjoy the hummingbirds who visit their feeders as well as the albino sparrow who visits twice a day! They are planning to canoe down the Maumee River again this summer and a train trip in the fall. Discovering their genealogy is also a passion.
To be sure, Donna is a person who cares for and gives to others with deep affection. As we approach Donna’s retirement from the WCBDD, it is absolutely apparent that her friends, students, and co-workers feel tremendous affection for her too, as seen in these quotes: “you are loved, and you will be so missed;” “you are always working at the highest level of achievement;” “you are amazing and a joy to work with;” “you are always positive and finding humor in situations.” Donna, thank you for being the amazing person you are and for always sharing your love with others. We wish you all the BEST in this next chapter in your life!
This week our #FeaturedFriday is on Laura Peterson! To know Laura is to love her. With a quick wit, the natural ability to form strong bonds with individuals and co-workers alike, and years of experience in the DD field, she has been an amazing asset to the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Laura is the kind of person who can lift the mood of any room she walks into and brighten even the gloomiest day with a joke and a smile. She is a friend to all and strives to help those around her in any way she can! She will be retiring at the end of May, so it’s only fitting that we pay tribute to someone who has had such a remarkable impact here throughout the years.
Laura first got her start at the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities in 1993 working as a third shift DSP at the newly opened Schult and Dunn homes. Being the stand-out employee that she is, it didn’t take long for her to become a Case Manager, then an Assistant Home Manager, and finally the Home Manager. She stayed with Wood Lane Residential Services after they privatized in 1999, but ultimately came back to WCBDD in 2012 first as a Service Coordinator and then as a Medicaid Specialist.
There’s never a dull moment in the office with Laura, as her passion for what she does and joyful personality bubbles over into her interactions with those around her. As Andrea Coutcher, a long-time co-worker of Laura explained, “Laura has been amazing to work with over the years. She not only has been my coworker but an amazing friend as well. Her sense of humor, kindness, and generosity is apparent in the office!” Always looking out for the wellbeing of others, rumor has it that Laura’s office is the one to go to if you ever find yourself hungry and in need of a snack.
The joy and vibrancy Laura brings to the office only just scratches the surface! Her festive spirit may come from being born on Cinco De Mayo, although by her own admission Laura’s a bigger fan of margaritas than she is of Mexican food. With such a great sense of humor, it should come as no surprise that one of her favorite shows is The Office. Of course, we can’t talk about Laura without mentioning her beautiful family. Laura’s been happily married to her husband Jim for 15 years and has three children Ben, Rebecca, and Mark and two stepchildren, Melissa and Thomas. She also has 8 grandchildren, ranging in age from 3 to 13 who live in Florida, Perrysburg, and Columbus.
Laura may be retiring at the end of the month, but you shouldn’t expect her to slow down. She and Jim love camping and plan to go salmon fishing this September on Lake Superior. They also have their favorite campground in Wyoming (Granite Hot Springs) and will be heading there soon. With a laugh Laura also shared how they plan on fitting their kids into their busy camping schedule saying, “we also plan on being like cousin Eddie on Christmas vacation and parking our camper out in front of our kids’ houses and emptying out the grey tank into their septic system…?”
Speaking of retirement plans, Laura has an affinity for senior dogs and would also love to have an “old dog hospice” someday when her and Jim are done with their travels. This speaks to the innate compassion and care that Laura has for others, whether it’s someone on her caseload, her family, or an animal.
Laura is truly a bright light for those around her, and we are so glad to have had her own our team for so long! We will certainly miss seeing her in the office, but we wish her well in this next chapter and congratulate her on this well-deserved retirement! Thank you for being such a dedicated employee Laura, and for supporting, empowering, and inspiring those within our community!
DSP of the Month: Sabra Walter
It is an honor to announce Sabra Walter as the May DSP of the Month. Sabra was nominated by Lindsay Umstead, SSA, and Ian McClure, SSA. Sabra is constantly going above and beyond when working with the gentleman in the Dwight Miller Home. The guys enjoy spending time with Sabra and their families are appreciative of how well she works with their loved ones. You can tell the love she has for the job and the genuine care she has for those she works with.
Sabra has worked for WLRS for over 2 years and became an HMS at the Dwight Miller Home in September of 2020. Sabra is a favorite of all the residents she serves. She goes above and beyond to make sure they are well taken care of and happy in their homes. She's very much appreciated by her fellow staff and consistently puts in the extra time and effort to help ensure that things are running smoothly.
Her favorite thing to do on her time off work is spend time with her friends -- whether it's going on trips to Michigan or binging their favorite shows on Netflix. She has an eclectic collection of pets: a cat, a rat, and a tortoise. Her hobbies include roller skating and drawing amazing mandalas. She's also a well-educated wine connoisseur.
Wood Lane Residential Services, Inc. offers services to individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities throughout the Wood County, Ohio area. We remain committed to helping these members of our community and their families by providing services and tools that promote independent living and overall wellness with a whole-person approach. WLRS provides residential services, transportation services, adult day services, supported living, and Ohio shared living.
This week we are shining our #FeaturedFriday spotlight on James Mozena!
James Mozena is the kind of guy who feels a keen sense of personal accomplishment in a job well done. He is currently employed as a Custodial Apprentice at the WCBDD and he takes pride in knowing that he has completed his responsibilities well. He has been in this job for about one year, and he will immediately tell you that the thing that he likes the best about his job is the satisfaction that he feels after cleaning and vacuuming the halls and the classrooms at WLS. He likes to make sure that he cleans thoroughly, including mopping the walls to remove he handprints. “Everything is cleaner, and it just looks better,” declared James. He has also experienced those deja vous moments and thinking “hey, didn’t I just clean this?,” with the realization that his job responsibilities require him to do the cleaning, and maintain the cleanliness, every day.
James is a kind, thoughtful and caring person, and has wonderful sense of humor. His Supervisor, Barb Dussel, shared “James is so sweet and kind to everyone! James always has some fun jokes and amazing stories to share! He is doing a great job as a custodial apprentice, and he is really a joy to work with!” His co-worker and friend, Kristin Fisher, admires “what a wonderful person he is and that he works so hard!”
Sports and participating in Special Olympics are some of James’ favorite activities. He is a multi-sport athlete—he plays Volleyball and is also on the Swim Team. James’ first swimming experience was in the pond at his house. This is where he learned to swim, and he shared, “I didn’t have any lessons—I just practiced in the pond and got good at it.” Golf is his favorite sport, and he has been a State Champion, with his dad being his partner. “My Dad taught me how to golf,” said James.
James is the oldest child in his family, and he has a younger brother and sister. Sadly, James’ mom recently passed away. He has fond memories of a family vacation to Cozumel, where he enjoyed the beach and the water. “The Caribbean Sea is so blue!,” exclaimed James. He especially enjoyed snorkeling and seeing the fish and swimming with the dolphins. “I love dolphins. One came right up to my cheek and gave me a big, wet kiss! I loved that!” His favorite color is red, and he is a huge fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes. In his spare time, he likes to do puzzles, and visit with his friends and family.
Old school 70s & 80s Rock is the music that James likes to listen to. He named Pink Floyd and Led Zepplin as some of his favorites, two bands that are among the best bands in rock history. “My Dad saw all these bands in concert, and he introduced me to this music, and I just love it. I went to see Ozzie Osbourne in concert at Myrtle Beach and I met him in person and met his kids,” shared James.
He enjoys being outside and doing outside chores, working along with his dad. “When we mow the lawn, we split it up so we can be more efficient,” explained James. One of his favorites is splitting wood. He grows rhubarb and enjoys the “fruits of his labor,” by using the rhubarb to make rhubarb crisp and rhubarb jam.
James loves to cook and his favorite thing to make is spaghetti, which is an extension of a favorite memory--helping his mom make homemade noodles from scratch! He and his dad love to grill hamburgers and another favorite is making breakfast while on at the campgrounds. He also makes chili with the family recipe. “It is really good—it has everything in it!,” exclaimed James.
James, YOU are an amazing young man, and you make all our lives shinier and brighter, literally and figuratively.
This week our #FeaturedFriday is on Lindsay Umstead, an incredible SSA at Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities who consistently goes above and beyond, not just for the people on her caseload, but for co-workers, family, and friends as well.
It’s been said that nurturing has the power to transform people’s lives, and this is certainly true of the impact Lindsay’s care has on others. As Derek Rando, an individual on Lindsay’s caseload, explained, “Lindsay is one of the best coordinator’s out there! She’s reliable and does a great job. She helped me find transportation to and from work, and that helped me a lot!” This care extends in her home as well, where she is a devoted wife to her husband, Kevin, and amazing mom to daughter, Aubree. “Lindsay is a pet and plant mama too! That’s just in her nature to care for everyone and every living thing,” Arianna Brooks added.
Labeled a “jack-of-all-trades” by those who know her, Lindsay enjoys photography, crafting, cooking, and baking. She even baked her way through an entire bread book during quarantine and shared some of the delicious treats with family and friends! Her creative spark doesn’t stop there, as she is also known for her skill with embroidery and needlepoint.
With such a vast range of interests and a heart of gold, it’s no wonder Lindsay can connect so easily with others. The relationships she builds are important to her, and she is known for working hard to ensure the people on her caseload get the best services and supports. “Lindsay forms strong relationships with the people we serve and won’t stop until the job is done!” Kate Allison shared. Her “don’t stop” attitude can be attributed to her passion for the job and her person-centered focus, as Lindsay explained, “I love that I’ve been able to meet and work with so many amazing people (both co-workers and the people we serve) and that no two days are the same!”
Lindsay has a zest for life and a great sense of humor. “She loves sarcasm and you know she likes you when she jokes around with you!” Arianna explained. When she’s not at work, Lindsay enjoys going to craft fairs, exploring Toledo and the surrounding areas, and trying new restaurants. Of course, no restaurant can top her favorite, Thai 9, which she first discovered in Dayton while attending college at Wright State University. She also enjoys a variety of shows including Psych, Downton Abby, and Jane the Virgin.
It is clear Lindsay exemplifies our mission of supporting, empowering, and inspiring others. With her caring demeanor and compassion for those around her, she is a great asset to the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities! Thank you for all you do, Lindsay!
This week we are shining our #FeaturedFriday spotlight on Thomas Nygard!
To Thomas Nygard, family is one of the most important and valuable gifts in his life. “I love my family and they are very important to me.” My family is important because they provide encouragement for me, they listen to me, they care about me, and I do the same for them,” shared Thomas.
Family may refer to people who are related to you or not, but regardless, family bonds are built on unconditional love. Thomas is full of an abundance of love and wherever Thomas goes, he spreads that love and joy, resulting in his ability to naturally create a sense of family. This happens in his “real” family, with his friends, at Day Hab, and in his home.
Thomas’ family lives in a variety of places throughout the U.S. “My Dad lives in Florida, my brother, who is in the Air Force, and his wife live in California, my sister lives in Alabama, my uncle lives in Texas, and my cousins live in Indiana and Arizona. I was born in Knoxville, Tennessee.” Sadly, Thomas’ mother passed away when he was in high school. “I do not get to see my family very often, so we talk on the phone, and message through Facebook and that is how we stay in touch,” shared Thomas.
There are other people in Thomas’ life who he considers family. “Shelly is my guardian. We go out to eat, talk on the phone and on Facebook. We see each other often. Ms. Harris and her son Michael are my family too. She was my teacher at Penta, and she helped me get my first job at Sears. We also attend church together at St Johns XXIII,” shared Thomas.
“I also have a family at the Dave Miller home. When at home, Thomas likes to relax and listen to music. “My favorite group is R5”, said Thomas. He likes to use his computer to watch movies and use Facebook to stay connected with family and friends—Ben Snyder, Jenna, and Connor. His favorite color is blue, and his favorite meal is spaghetti with meatballs and garlic bread.
Thomas is an active member of Best Buddies. In fact, Thomas has attended the National Best Buddies conference held yearly at Indiana University and serves as a Best Buddies Ambassador. During the day he attends Sunshine Day Hab in Maumee where he enjoys doing arts and crafts. He described a recent project where they made a “beach in a bottle”—they made colored sand and put it in a bottle, and then went to the park to hunt for seashells to put in the bottle to complete the scene. He is currently looking for a job and wants to work at pizza shop. Speaking of pizza, his favorite pizza? Anchovies!
When asked to describe himself, Thomas said, “I am awesome and kind. I am loveable.” When you meet Thomas, you will quickly realize how accurate this description is! Carlee Leonhardt, his home Supervisor shared this sentiment about Thomas: “Thomas is one of the friendliest people you will ever meet. He has so much love for the people closest to him like his family and friends. Thomas has a great sense of humor and likes to act goofy. I enjoy working with Thomas because he is easy-going, has a positive attitude, and I always enjoy seeing his smile.”
Thomas—you are an AMAZING person! Thank you for spreading your love and joy wherever you go. The WCBDD is grateful for you and we are so glad that you are a member of our family!
DSP Of the Month: Krissy Gerwin
It is an honor to announce Krissy Gerwin, WLRS, as the April Direct Support Professional of the Month. Krissy was nominated by Kristen Varallo, SSA. Krissy currently works at Positive Community Connections Day Program (PCC) through Wood Lane Residential Services. Krissy has been working for Wood Lane Residential Services (WLRS) for the past 5 years. However, Krissy had previously worked for WLRS for 6 years and for Bittersweet Farms for 4 years, then returned to WLRS.
Krissy has always been a standout DSP. She maintains a positive attitude, and it is apparent that she loves what she does. Krissy is versatile, cooperative, gentle, enthusiastic, and caring. She is a tremendous advocate for the individuals she services, and she has been wonderful at coming up with creative activities to keep everybody involved and excited during the pandemic. She has a great rapport with her coworkers and all of the individuals she works for. We are so lucky to have Krissy as a team member!
There are many attributes that make Krissy an amazing DSP at PCC. Krissy is genuine and puts in the effort to know everyone we serve on a personal level. She exudes empathy, assisting an individual to take flowers and visit a friend in the nursing home multiple times before the pandemic. Krissy has assisted another individual with planning, growing, and maintaining our raised garden beds. They have plans to grow even more fresh vegetables this year. Krissy is receptive the needs and emotional well-being of all our individuals and is a contributing factor to the ongoing success we are experiencing at PCC. We appreciate the high level of care she gives to all we serve!
Outside of work, Krissy enjoys spending time with her family. This includes her Fiancé Matt Wolfram, daughters Katie & Ophelia (18 and 8 respectably), sons Dylan & Elias (15 and 1), soon to be stepson Aedan, and 2 dogs Gertie and Bindi. Krissy enjoys gardening, cooking, camping and just recently started circus classes that she loves!
PCC serves 30 individuals on weekly basis by providing adult day service options to people using a person centered and understanding approach, focusing on mind body and spirit to help create a bridge to success in each individual life.
This week we are shining our #FeaturedFriday spotlight on Gavin Coonrod!
When you meet Gavin Coonrod, one of the first things you will notice about him is that he has a keen perception of humanity. Gavin has an amazing capacity to offer care, show respect and be tolerant of others. He has incorporated these attributes into his leadership skills too, and through his words and his actions he promotes teamwork and harmony. Most importantly, he shows love, kindness, care, and forgiveness to others. In short, he has magnificent people skills!
The best part of all? Gavin utilizes these amazing people skills everywhere he goes and in everything he does. One example is in the way he performs as an employee. In his job at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Findlay, and now with the Perrysburg Heights Community Center, his supervisors report that “he has wonderful people skills, and he is a hard worker.” As an older brother to 6-year-old Oliver and 4-year-old Everly, he speaks proudly about how he guides them and helps them learn new things. And as an athlete, Gavin is a team player and understands the importance of supporting his teammates and having everyone work together to achieve success.
People who know Gavin speak highly of him. “Gavin is a great guy,” said Henry Magoun, an Ohio State student who was motivated to become a Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities (WCBDD) Volunteer because of Gavin. “He’s one of my best friends and I am blessed to have him in my life!”
In addition to his people skills, being an athlete and his love of sports are two additional aspects about Gavin you will quickly discover. “I’m a sports kind of guy” declared Gavin. He participates in Special Olympics football, basketball, softball and will begin Track & Field this spring. His favorite sport is football. He is a huge fan of the Detroit Tigers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, especially Ben Roethlisberger, as well as the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James. He visualizes himself as LeBron when shooting 3-point shots.
But it is the Michigan Wolverines who reign king on his list of favorite sports teams. He enjoys attending sporting events and enthusiastically shared his experience when he “went to the big house with my dad to see the UM vs Indiana football game and it snowed.” Some of his favorite UM athletes are Tom Brady and Charles Woodson, who is still regularly active and influential in Fremont, OH and who attended the same high school as his Mom. Gavin does remember a time when he went through a spell when he liked Ohio State. That lasted about 1.5 years and then he returned to being a UM fan.
His coaches, Jacob Muellerschoen and Eric Bostelman shared how much they enjoy working with Gavin. “Gavin is an incredibly talented athlete and a great leader. He throws a perfect spiral and has a great jump shot! Gavin is a great teammate and role model. He gives his absolute best effort, loves competition, and always exhibits great sportsmanship”, said Jacob. Eric shared “Gavin is a breath of fresh air…always polite, attentive, ready to participate and supportive of his teammates. We are thrilled that Gavin has been a steady participant in various sports over the last 3 – 4 years. We always look forward to seeing him giving his all”.
As a senior at Perrysburg High School, Gavin is active in the PHS Marching Band, pep band, and performs in concerts. He is a member of the percussion ensemble and plays bass drum, tambourine, tom-toms, and can switch instruments depending on the need. He admits he was drawn to the drums because he likes the sound. Some of his fondest memories of high school were attending Homecoming and traveling to Disney World when the PHS band marched in the holiday parade. “I went with my friend Lucas and two of my peer buddies,” shared Gavin. His plans after graduation include attending Penta Career Center.
Gavin participates in Ticket to Transition and has completed three Celebrate EDU courses—Discovering Your Strengths, Identifying Your Support Team, and Goal Setting. One of the goals he has for himself is to work toward gaining his own independence. He attended the “I Am” workshop and proudly shared his “I Am” statement: “I am evolving. I celebrate growth and change. I am a leader.” His employment navigator, Tricia Peters said, “Gavin’s positive attitude, confidence, and friendly nature have made time learning with him so much fun!”
During his free time, Gavin enjoys hanging out with his friends and family, watching sporting events, tv and movies. He describes himself as “really into rap music” and his favorites are Drake, DJ Kahlid, and Lil Wayne. He recently turned 18 and as part of his birthday celebration he is traveling to Florida for spring break to “relax and chill”.
Gavin—YOU are a shining star! The WCBDD community is grateful for you and your willingness to share your wit, your intelligence, and your leadership skills with us. Our world is brighter because of YOU!
This week our #FeaturedFriday spotlight is on Kate Allison! Kate is an amazing asset to the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities and the kind of person who leaves you feeling empowered and encouraged after every interaction. She is a dynamo and in equal measure caring, loyal, and passionate about equipping the people on her caseloads with the very best opportunities. If you watch her in action, you’ll quickly learn what we already know: she inspires others to believe in themselves and dream big when setting goals.
Kate has been an Employment Navigator at Wood County Board of DD since September of 2019 and the impact she has on those she serves can’t be stated enough. As Ivan, a young man on her caseload, explained, “Kate is someone I can count on. She’s a person that likes to get things done, and honestly always helps me make sure I get things done properly.” Kate’s consistency and ability to encourage the individuals she works with is a part of what makes her so successful in her work, and the relationships she builds are, in many ways, two-way streets. As she put it, “nothing comes close to the joy of working directly with individuals!” She also shared this position has taught her “to think outside of the box and individualize a plan for those I work with. I have learned that coloring outside the lines IS okay- because that’s where growth happens.”
As you may realize, connecting with others is something that comes naturally to Kate, and this is true in her life outside of work as well. She shared that she loves to golf and bowl, not because she’s particularly good at the sports, but because, “both can be done with friends and family, which I value to no end”. This is testament to how people-centered she truly is. Kate and her husband have a blended family of 3 girls with another on the way, and they are very active in their community! As she put it, “I have an extremely supportive family that I wouldn’t trade for the world. It truly takes a village, and I would not have come this far without mine.”
When asked what her favorite part of working at Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities is, Kate shared, “The culture! We are all on a mission to empower individuals to live their best lives. I get to witness successes EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Lucky me!” Here at the Wood County Board of DD we feel just as lucky to have Kate as a part of our team! Stephanie Cavanaugh, Transitions Coordinator, summed it up best saying, "Kate is a wonderful member of the WCBDD’s family, and a huge asset to the Transition Team. I am inspired by her passion and commitment to those we serve. Her energy and kind spirit is contagious!" Thank you Kate, for all you do to support those on your caseload and further our mission every day!
This week for our #FeaturedFriday we are shining the spotlight on Ben Bowen!
Ben Bowen describes himself as a jack of all trades. He is a person who has developed a variety of skills throughout his life, rather than just focusing on developing one or two. Through his own desire to learn, and by watching his father and grandfather, he has acquired a wealth of knowledge and especially, how to “fix things.”
Ben has fond memories of the time he spent with his father and grandfather. “They would show me how to work with motors. I started when I was four. They showed me how to do it and I had to take the motor apart and put it back together so that it worked,” shared Ben.
All this knowledge certainly serves him well in his role as a Maintenance Apprentice. In fact, it influences his hobby choices too. In his spare time, he enjoys working with his hands and “tinkering with stuff.” He still enjoys working on motors and lawn mowers, including oil and spark plug changes and general tune ups. One of Ben’s goals is to go back to school and get his electrician degree, to add to the carpentry degree that he has already earned through Penta. Woodworking is a passion of Ben’s, and he helped build the kitchen cabinets in his family’s house. He also enjoys making bird houses.
Another activity that Ben enjoys occurred as a result of his charm with medieval times. He likes to learn about the Knights of the Roundtable, the legend of King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, Castles, and Camelot. He is fond of all music except polka, and considering his favorite musicians-- Jimi Hendrix, BB King, Van Halen, Southern Rock and Gospel music—you can see he has an eclectic taste in music.
Ben is a member of AKtion Club and thinks he would like to join the Venturing Crew as he enjoys outdoor adventures and is an enthusiastic camper. His dream vacation would include camping and white water rafting on the Colorado River. Now that would be an adventure for sure!
Working outside is one of the most enjoyable activities of his job, especially driving the lawn mowers and the Kubota. When asked to share a particular challenge that he has faced with his job he emphatically stated, “moving the Service Coordinators in and out of their offices,” and he added, “I have moved them too many times to count!”
One of the many attributes Ben has is a strong work ethic. He takes pride in a job well done and always being early to arrive wherever he goes. These qualities have been noticed by Scott McKeown, the Supervisor of the Maintenance Department. “Ben is 100% committed to whatever he is working on – it can be assisting with a project, doing campus landscaping, or delivering boxes of copier paper. Ben is always focused on completing the work and doing it well,” shared Scott. “Ben always has a keen eye for details and sees many opportunities that most of us just walk past and fail to notice. Ben frequently is offering ideas on ways to improve our buildings and grounds – even if it means more challenging work for him. This is an amazing trait and a testament to his character and integrity, said Scott.
Ben—you are a shining light in our Wood Lane community! We admire you for your kind, caring and helpful ways, the example you set for us all through the way you tackle challenges, and the humor you add to our daily lives. Thank you, Ben!
It is an honor to announce Greg Matheny as the March DSP of the Month. Greg was nominated by Allison Kall, SSA, for his outstanding work with people served at Via Quest Day Services. Greg has worked with ViaQuest as a Program Manager since ViaQuest opened in Wood county in Jan 2018. He was a huge asset from the beginning having worked in this county for many years prior, so he knew many of the individuals ViaQuest started their program with. It not only was a huge help for those who didn’t know anyone, but it helped the individuals transition a little easier having a familiar face. It also helped that they liked him. Greg has been in the field for 30 years! He has worked residentially, done transportation and worked in Wood County with the rec program, in addition to ViaQuest.
Greg always go above and beyond with the people he provides services too. He is very patient and kind. Greg is able to explain things in meetings to allow people to gain a better understanding of what is being discussed. He is reliable and always on time. Greg will find answers when he does not know himself. Greg is greatly appreciated!
Greg has many qualities that make him outstanding, but a favorite is his sense of humor. One of ViaQuest’s core values is humor and Greg embodies that. He has “dad jokes” on standby and he works to make the most mundane tasks fun. He is always trying to elicit smiles and laughter from our individuals and staff, whether it’s one of his “Dad jokes” or a silly play on words or “falling over” during morning stretches or just treating those around him like a friend. When getting feedback from individuals about programming, Greg’s individuals ALWAYS say things like “I love Greg” or “He makes me laugh”.
Greg also brings a bit of his roots to programming for our individuals and during cooking classes he would teach them some southern cooking, which we all love. A large part of our programming is that we offer employment services. Greg from the very beginning has spearheaded our employment side. He took on the task of vocational training and creating a curriculum every week for class and kept it interesting and relevant week by week, which is no small feat. This training has helped our individuals find community employment, be able to earn a paycheck and take pride in learning those skills and working. He is the backbone to many of our processes behind the scenes, but most importantly, he keeps the snack cart stocked.
When the weather is nice, he enjoys working outside, whether it is working on autos or the house. He loves to grill out and when inside he likes to concoct fusion recipes of southern cooking and wherever his imagination takes him. He loves playing outdoors; baseball is his favorite, but he also enjoys playing basketball on occasion and he really likes hiking locally and riding bikes. Pretty much, if it can be done outdoors, he loves it. He has 14 outdoor cats. He said that he loves his wife, his family and his church and feels that those three things define who he really is.
Chris is as wonderful as they come—with his outgoing personality and friendly demeanor he’s sure to leave you smiling or laughing. Chris is the kind of person that has a positive impact no matter what he’s doing. He knows the value of helping others and whether it’s through running the snack cart at Via Quest or giving back through volunteering, he makes a difference!
You may be surprised to learn Chris is originally from Florida and lived there with his family before they relocated to Ohio. While living in Florida he worked for Goodwill and was so beloved by his co-workers that when he moved, his co-workers got a billboard for him saying goodbye and wishing him well! This is testament to the impact Chris has on people. Caring, funny, and a good worker, Chris is the kind of person you can’t help but love to be around. A true Florida native, Chris is also a huge NASCAR fan and excitedly shared that he got to ride in Jeff Gordan’s car on his 21st birthday!
As you may have realized, Chris is a fun person who deeply cares about the well-being of others and will do his best to help whenever he can. Volunteering is a natural fit and he is active at both his church and the BG Humane Society. “I like to help where I’m needed” Chris explained. He also volunteered at the Toledo Zoo at the beginning of 2020 but stopped when the pandemic began in March. He is hoping to volunteer there again once the pandemic has passed.
Chris is an on-the-go kind of guy. On top of his work at Via Quest, where he’s worked for two years, he’s also very involved in recreation and clubs—participating in People First, AKtion Club, and the Greenhouse Group at Wood County Board of DD. He also said he enjoys other recreation activities, especially those led over GoToMeeting with rec staff.
When he’s not at Wood Lane, you may find him at the YMCA working out or at a local park on a walk. In the summer he loves going to the Cedar Point and Imagination Station! When the weather warms up Chris also enjoys going to garage sales and seeing what great deals he can find.
We are so fortunate to have Chris as a part of our Wood County community and are continually inspired by his joyful presence and the way he never hesitates to jump in and help when he’s needed. Thank you Chris, for all that you do and for living out our mission to support, empower, and inspire others!
One of the coolest guys you will ever meet--Ryan Janas--is the focus of our #FeaturedFriday this week!! Ryan also happens to be one of the biggest fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (his friend Neil Storch is a close second). And because it is the week after the Super Bowl, and because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the game, you can imagine how happy he is—Ryan is walking on Cloud 9 right now. Check out the photo of Ryan surrounded with his Buccaneer memorabilia!
It is significant to know that Ryan is a loyal and dedicated Buccaneer fan and has been a fan of the Buccaneers his whole life! He is not a “climb on the bandwagon” kind of guy. One thing you need to know about Ryan is that he truly understands what it means to be a loyal and dedicated sports fan. He knows that being a devoted fan requires that you take the good with the bad, that there are victories and setbacks, but through it all, you continue to persevere. When asked to share the names of his favorite Tampa Bay players, he lists the names of some of the best players ever to wear a Tampa Bay Buccaneer uniform--Warrick Dunn, Mike Alstott, Ronde Barber, and Warren Sapp are some of the names that just roll off his tongue. No doubt, Ryan has earned and deserves to celebrate this Buccaneer Super Bowl Championship!
However, there is SO much more to know about Ryan, beyond being a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Upon meeting him, one of the first things you will notice is that he is a “People Person.” Notably, he is a thoughtful, kind-hearted person who genuinely cares about others. He makes a point to ask about others—how they are doing or how their day went. He has a wonderful sense of humor and he can be a jokester. Hearing him laugh is infectious and makes you want to laugh too!
Ryan is employed at wli as a production assembly worker. Some of his responsibilities have been to assemble electric power blocks but his favorite is working on the eleven liner, both for Regal Beloit. He genuinely enjoys working there and the people that he works with. He enjoys the social aspect of his work, and working with Brian and John, and his Supervisor, Kent Strange. It is not surprising that the feeling is mutual: Doreen Ehlert, the COO at wli stated "Ryan is a great worker and always willing to do whatever is asked of him".
In his spare time, Ryan enjoys participating in Recreation activities, like Bingo--he describes himself as a “lucky guy.” He especially likes the Sports Talk activity with Jacob and Emily, because it is all about sports and he is a huge sports fan! When asked to share his favorite sports to play, Ryan pointed to Softball and Disc Golf, and he recently began playing Flag Football. His favorite sports to watch? “All of them!,” Ryan said. Ryan emphatically shared one of his favorite Softball memories that occurred during a friendly competition between the Special Olympics athletes and the WCBDD (Wood County Board of DD) staff-- “I smacked a homerun off the pitcher, Brent Baer!”
That Ryan is a true sports fan is an understatement. He is a loyal fan of the Toledo Mud Hens and has been a season ticket holder for 17 years. Additionally, he enjoys attending Boys and Girls Ohio High School State Tournament Basketball games. In fact, he has attended the Boys tournament every year since Lebron James was a freshman at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s! As a dedicated Baseball enthusiast, he has visited an impressive list of ball parks across America. “I have attended professional baseball games at Comerica Park (Detroit Tigers), Progressive Field (Cleveland Indians), The Great American Ballpark (Cincinnati Reds), PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates), Wrigley Field (Chicago White Sox), US Cellular Field (Chicago White Sox, Miller Field (Milwaukee Brewers, Busch Stadium (St. Louis Cardinals) and SunTrust Park (Atlanta Braves),” Ryan shared.
Ryan’s family includes his Mom and Dad and his 10-year-old Labradoodle, Molly. They enjoy traveling to Amish Country on family vacations. “I really like to see the beautiful colorful leaves when we travel there in the Fall,” added Ryan.
Ryan, thank you for being such a wonderful person and sharing with the rest of us your wit, your charm, your kindness, and your enthusiasm for sports. YOU make the world a better place and the Wood County Board of DD is grateful that you are a member of our community!
DSP of the Month: Resa Hastings and Teresa Allgier
It is our honor to announce Resa Hastings and Teresa Allgier as the February “Honorary” Direct Support Professionals of the Month! Both are employed by Luther Home of Mercy in administrative roles, Resa as a Coordinator and Teresa as a Team Leader, stepped into the role of Direct Support Professional (DSP) as their agency experienced a shortage of DSPs to work in residential settings due to COVID-19 in December.
These women worked extensive hours in homes that were either quarantining or had individuals who had tested positive for COVID-19. They were so patient and helpful! The people who live in the homes were in quarantine or had tested positive for COVID-19, so a limited number of DSPs worked night and day to ensure the people were cared for properly. Resa and Theresa were an amazing support system other DSPs and the people served!
Resa has worked for Luther Home of Mercy for 9 years. Previously, she worked at Anne Grady. Resa shows compassion and dedication for to the people she serves. She is a team player. During the pandemic, Resa has worked in the homes to fill the void of staff shortage. When a few of the homes were COVID positive and in quarantine, it was nothing for Resa to go into the home and work a shift. She goes the extra mile to ensure that the individuals are living a quality of life, as well as advocate for the people she works with. Resa truly leads her team by example. Resa enjoys watching volleyball, reading, going to the beach, spending time with family and her cat. Resa is married and has two children and a cat.
Teresa has worked with Luther Home for 20 years. Prior to coming to Luther Home, Teresa worked at REM of Ohio for 4 years. With the pandemic and staff shortage, Teresa has really helped in the homes working open shifts. She has worked many long hours to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the people in the home. Even when homes were in quarantine, Teresa would go into the homes to work to fill the void of staff shortage. Teresa is dedicated to the people served and goes above and beyond to ensure they have everything they need. Teresa thinks outside the box and comes up with good solutions to help with any type of situation. Teresa enjoys spending time with her grandkids and seeing family. Teresa is married with 6 children and 6 grandchildren. She has a one dog, 2 cats, fish and ducks.
Located in Northwest Ohio, Luther Home of Mercy is a ministry dedicated to helping adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities live as they choose while providing the supports needed to fulfill their hopes and dreams. They provide compassionate care at their intermediate care facility in Williston, 19 community homes and 5-day program centers in the Greater Toledo area and Wood County.
Ivan Carter is a dreamer, but make no mistake, he turns his dreams into reality! With a million creative ideas and a strong work ethic to back them up, he’s taken a passion for bikes and turned it into a business, Hot Customs.
Ivan’s passion for bikes started at a young age; he recalls always being interested in them as a child. This passion expanded as he entered his teenage years as he explained, “I always liked the motorized [bikes] but a friend of mine got me into the lowriders and choppers.” His interest soon became a hobby as he learned how to customize bikes from “a lot of research on social media and YouTube. I figured, if they can do it, I can do it too!”
Fast forward 10 years and Ivan was working a job he didn’t love but figured that’s just how it was going to be. After he got injured at work, things began to change. Ivan had more time to reflect on what he really wanted, and the pieces began to fall into place. “I put more time into focusing on this interest that I’d had for a while. My grandma also encouraged me to pursue this before she passed” Ivan said.
With help from his employment navigator, Kate, Ivan began to explore his options and attended a presentation put on by Celebrate EDU while they were here last March. The presentation lit a spark, and Ivan began thinking about making his passion for bikes and customizing them into an income. When his friend Spencer mentioned going into business together, the decision was made in his mind. Ivan officially started his business, Hot Customs, in June of 2020 with Spencer and hasn’t looked back since saying, “Celebrate EDU gave me the opportunity to go forward with my plans.”
“I finally feel like I have a purpose,” Ivan said when talking about what this business means to him. He designs custom bicycles and tricycles and is a man of many talents—he can add engines, radios, lights, and spray paint. His talent doesn’t stop there though, he can also refurbish old bikes and get them rolling again. He enjoys the creative aspects of customizing a bike and working through the best approach to make it look great.
His hard work is paying off, and he was recently awarded a microgrant from Celebrate EDU. Through this program, Ivan also received access to a course on finance and budgeting, and additional Celebrate EDU courses.
When asked what advice he would give to anyone interested in pursuing a passion, Ivan said, “do what you can to be able to move forward and make your dreams come true.” Thank you, Ivan, for dreaming big and inspiring us all along the way. We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for you and Hot Customs!
Exciting. Evolving. Expanding. Experimenting. Envisioning. Expressing. These words perfectly describe Tyler Wolleson and the efforts he is currently making with his artwork, and with his business, Mad World Images.
To hear Tyler Wolleson describe his artwork, you can immediately detect in his voice the excitement and passion he has for his work. “My artwork is experimental, not traditional. It is vibrant, unique, and includes a distinctive styling element. It is made in a way that stands out” says Tyler. Looking at his art, you can see that Tyler is successfully mastering the art genre of Japanese Ink painting and using it to express himself. He has tapped into his natural curiosity and creativity to develop his art skills, but Tyler has always remained committed to making sure that he stays true to himself and does not follow the path of other artists who sometimes mimic another artist or art style.
Tyler is the kind of person who is on a continual quest to find new ways to challenge himself. Never one to rest on his laurels, he has continually evolved his artwork over the years. His personal path with his love of art began around 2010 when he was really into drawing cars. His path has led him to explore anime art and Animov art, where automobiles are the subject, and he has continued to evolve his art to the work that he produces today.
Tyler has long envisioned turning his love of art into a career. His business, Mad World Images, originally began as a father-son endeavor. “I come from a very artistic family. My father was an artist and he helped me, encouraged me, and pushed my artwork” shared Tyler. Sadly, Tyler’s father passed away this past summer.
Certainly, adjusting to his father’s passing has presented difficulties, but rather than being swallowed up by the loss, Tyler used the experience as an opportunity for self-growth. This monumental event in his life, along with the reality that his health issues prohibited him from working a traditional job, supplied ample motivation for Tyler to find a way to support himself and maintain Mad World Images. He was determined to make this happen and he turned to his love of art to produce a thorough, workable plan for success.
The plan began in earnest when Tyler made a conscious decision to grow, expand and make significant changes to his business--starting from the ground up. With a goal of expanding his following, which had historically been mostly adults, he began to create artwork that would appeal to a wider range of ages, including children and families. To increase his visibility, he broadened his marketing plan and attended 10 art shows last year. He also increased his access on the internet with more virtual events. Further growth has included a new branch of his business-teaching art classes online, as well as expanding his website and offering more merchandise to sell.
And that is not all! Tyler is in the process of upgrading his studio, which involved converting his living room into an art studio. To run his business successfully, he knew he needed to become more organized and increase his efficiency. He now has improved access to technology to support the things he is doing online—recording, live streaming, posting videos on Youtube and Twitch. Additionally, Tyler has installed a professional backdrop to use as a display area, like those found in art venues.
Another experience that Tyler attributes to his success is attending Celebrate EDU classes. He admits he was skeptical at first, but he gave it a chance, attended the first meeting with an open mind and found that he liked it. After completing Celebrate EDU he realized that a key motivator for him was getting the chance to work with Linda and Jenny and learning about her brother Brent. “I saw how determined they were to help others succeed and the passion they had to help others. I took their passion and used it to push myself!” said Tyler. Being the amazing and amiable young man he is, Tyler must have impressed them too, because he recently received a microgrant from Celebrate EDU! He is thrilled to be able to invest the money in his business.
No doubt, the energy and efforts Tyler has put into in his business have paid off. He recognizes that he has made a real burst in his growth as an artist and acknowledges that he relied on discipline, faith, and his love of art to make it happen. In fact, Tyler’s story is a perfect example of someone who has transformed a hobby into a successful career!
When asked if he had any words of Inspiration to share with the WL community, Tyler said, “If you come across negative people who bring you down or try to make you think you can’t achieve your dreams because of your disability, don’t let that stop you from trying or achieving your dreams! Even if it takes us longer to make it then that is fine by any means, but if it doesn’t happen, don’t be sad. Be proud of yourself for trying. Follow your dreams!”
Tyler, thank you for being the wonderfully vibrant person that you are, and for encouraging and inspiring us to follow our dreams! We are cheering for you and your continued success and we are grateful that you are a member of the Wood Lane family!
This week, our #FeaturedFriday is on the one and only Jenalyn Moser! Jenalyn is equal parts spunky and stylish. With an impeccable eye for design and a smile that will melt you in two seconds flat, she brightens the day of those around her and does it with flair. As Ally Voland, Jenalyn’s SSA, put it, “She has an energy about her that draws people in. She has such an incredible sense of humor that every time I’m around her, my cheeks hurt from smiling.”
Jenalyn is a talented entrepreneur and with her mom’s help, runs her business “Jenalyn’s Jewelry”. She developed an interest in making jewelry when she worked at Georgette’s in Maumee. It was there she was first able to create her jewelry and sell it in the shop. A true go-getter, “she knows what she wants and goes after it full force. it doesn’t take long for people to notice her passion for things in life” Ally said.
Unfortunately, since the pandemic hit last March, Jenalyn hasn’t been able to work or sell her jewelry in the store, but that hasn’t stopped her passion. With support from her family, she is still able to create beautiful pieces available for purchase by email. Making jewelry allows her to flex her creative muscles as she picks colors and creates designs, and as her mom explained, “she enjoys the concentration of working on it and the satisfaction of others buying and enjoying it.”
Jenalyn is a very family-oriented person, and if she’s not making jewelry, you’ll most likely find her spending time with her family. She is the youngest of 4 children adopted to a family that loves her very much. Her family is comprised of her beloved father who passed away this summer, her mom, two sisters, and one brother. She also has three nieces and two nephews who are all very important to her. Of course, we can’t mention her family without mentioning her 2 cats, Milo and Mia.
Jenalyn also enjoys bowling, exercise class, music class, and swimming. Pre-covid, she also liked going out to dinner with her friends.
As you can see, Jenalyn is a true light that shines brightly for all to see. She has an incredible impact on people, and joy follows wherever she goes. Throughout the years, “she has grown in every way…she is loving, cooperative, giving, positive, perceptive, supportive of others, & beautiful” her mom said. We couldn’t agree more with that description and are so grateful to have Jenalyn as a part of our community. Thank YOU Jenalyn for how you support, empower, and inspire those around you!
We are pleased to highlight Sheila Brogan as our #FeaturedFriday person of focus! Sheila has been selected as the Direct Support Professional of the Month for January.
Without a doubt, Sheila has truly dedicated her life to working with adults with disabilities! She has been in this career field for 33 years! She currently works for Triad Residential Solutions where she has been employed for the past 11 years. Sheila was nominated for this recognition by Terrie Hunt, SSA.
This award is well deserved because Sheila is known to be a phenomenal asset to the people she serves. She is a person they can always count on and she is always there for them. Additionally, she is quick to follow up with any issues and concerns that need addressed at the homes. Her goal is to ensure that everyone has what they need to feel safe, secure, loved and cared for.
Because of her loving and caring ways, Sheila puts the ladies’ needs first and she is more like a family member to them than a paid staff member. Sheila is the kind of person who always considers their needs, and then follows up by taking the next steps. She is creative and resourceful and thinks outside of the box. A perfect example of this happened recently when one of the homes had a positive COVID situation. Sheila was one of the first staff to volunteer to move into the home. Arrangements were made so she lived in the home for the next 15 days to ensure everyone was supported and had the care they needed while in quarantine. Without question, Sheila goes above and beyond every day!
Another way that Sheila shines is in her approach to celebrations. If there is a special occasion on the calendar, Sheila makes sure that the occasion is EXTRA special! Every holiday the houses are decorated, and every birthday is celebrated with balloons, cake, gifts, and of course a party! She makes sure that everyone feels loved and that each celebration is a day to remember!
Sheila is a proud Grandma and has 7 grandchildren. She also shares her life with her beloved fur-baby, a dog named Hope. Her favorite flower is a sunflower and you may have guessed that she likes the color yellow!
Triad Residential Solutions recognizes that Sheila puts her best foot forward daily and always does the right thing for the right reason. Sheila was a team leader in one of their Lucas County homes before taking a step to assist in Wood County. Sheila was a big asset in starting our Boundary and Louisiana homes.
Sheila, the WCBDD is grateful for you, your level of care, and the dedication you have shown as a Direct Support Professional. Thank you for all you do and for making a positive difference in the lives of persons served.