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 in to Hilary Powell at firstname.lastname@example.org
“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.
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 You tube 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!
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.
This week our #FeaturedFriday is on Misha Williams, the Adapted Physical Education Specialist for Wood Lane School. Misha is a person who exudes authenticity and cares deeply about the well-being of others. Her natural ability to problem-solve and passion for empowering students to reach their goals makes her a true asset to Wood Lane!
Misha first got her start at Wood Lane in 1998 at the Summer Day Camp. She loved it so much that she came back in 2001 to work here full-time and the rest is history! As she explained, “My grandfather would often say, ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life’. I am so fortunate to have found such a position. I love what I do! I strive to connect with each student on a human level first, then guide them into learning physical skills that will bring health and wellness throughout their life.” Misha’s role at the school can’t be stated enough. She makes sure each student has a chance to get moving and thinks outside of the box to help them reach their goals. Her favorite moments are the ones in which the kids have an “ah ha” moment and as she put it, “learn to do ‘it’ on their own!”
Misha has seen many successes over the course of her career here, but one of her favorite moments was when she was able to teach a student to float with the help of his 1:1 and then see him exceed that goal and learn to swim on his own! Another touching moment came when she suggested a gait trainer for a student with a double above knee amputation who “now walks in a straight line out of the gym because of PT and Adapted Physical Education! The moment she ‘got it’ was an emotional one,” Misha said.
Misha’s genuine care for people and desire to see them succeed extends far beyond the classroom, and she brightens the days of those around her with her kindness! She recently began a workout class for co-workers to attend after the workday, and this is a testament to her willingness to help others in whatever way she can. She is truly a woman on the go, and even when she’s not at school, odds are you’ll still find her moving! As she explained, “I actively look for peaceful moments… I am most at peace when I’m mountain biking, rollerblading, or playing guitar and singing.” She loves the outdoors, and a few years ago bought a house in her dream location by Oak Openings. One of the best parts about that location for her, an avid mountain biker, is that amazing biking trails are less than 10 minutes away! Family is also important to Misha, and she enjoys spending time with her husband, Rob, and son, Zachary. Rob also has an older daughter who has three kids. Of course, we couldn’t talk about her family without mentioning her two dogs, Luna, a German Shepherd, and Luca, a Vizsla.
We can’t say it enough, we are so grateful to have Misha on our team! Her ingenuity and natural warmth towards others help make the school a positive place to be, especially in a year as challenging as 2020. She goes above and beyond to make sure her students have the best supports possible to fit their individual needs and her passion for her job is inspiring to all those around her. Thank you, Misha, for living out our Wood Lane mission and supporting, empowering, and inspiring others!
This week our #FeaturedFriday spotlight is shining down on the wonderful Anne Schooley! Anne is a woman of action; when she sets her mind to something, she works at it until she’s achieved her goal. With such a strong work ethic, the sky is truly the limit for her!
One thing you should know about Anne is she is a sports fanatic! She is an accomplished athlete, having participated in Wood County Special Olympics since 2003. There’s no such thing as an off-season for her, as she keeps herself busy playing Basketball, Swimming, Softball, and Track and Field. When asked what her favorite sport is, Anne said, “Swimming!” Her passion for swimming is evident in the success that she’s had. Last winter she got all gold’s at state, coming in first for the 200 Freestyle, 50 Butterfly, 50 Backstroke, and 4×50 Relay. When asked what her favorite part of Special Olympics is, Anne said, “I always have a blast with my friends and love meeting new people!”
Outside of Special Olympics, Anne also plays Ice Hockey on the Bowling Green Ice Frogs team and says, “I love it!” On the rare occasion Anne isn’t actively playing a sport, she’s probably watching one. For football, she’s a huge Michigan and Detroit Lions fan, she also likes the Florida Gators and BGSU. When it comes to Basketball, the Golden State Warriors have her heart, which she attributes to her love for her favorite player, Steph Curry.
Anne’s goals aren’t just limited to sports. She is also currently working towards a career saying, “my long-term goal is to be an Athletic Trainer at Bowling Green City Schools. I started attending BGSU last fall to work towards this goal and am currently enrolled in an Exercise Science class. I enjoy being a student and being around other college kids!” Anne explained she first became interested in becoming an Athletic Trainer when she was injured playing a sport in high school. “I’ve had other family members get hurt playing sports, and I’m interested in the healing process”, she went on to explain.
When she’s not in class, you may find Anne at her job as a Teacher Aide with All About the Kids in Bowling Green, where she has worked since 2009. Her favorite age to work with is infants, and when asked why, Anne joked with a smile, “because they can’t talk back!”
Anne lives with her mom and dad, and has an older sister, Erin, and an older brother, Kurt. Her family enjoys traveling together and has fond memories of their trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Her dream vacation would be to go to California.
Anne, we are so glad you are a part of our community! Your ambition and drive inspires us and makes a positive impact on those around you. Thank you for all you do to live out our Wood Lane mission of supporting, empowering, and inspiring others!
Our #FeaturedFriday focus this week is on the amazing Alex Lutton!
From the HSPR Department: It is our pleasure to announce the December Direct Support Professional of the Month as Alex Lutton! Alex works for ViaQuest and was nominated by Helicia Paderes, SSA.
Alex is a veteran in the DD field and began working in 2015. She joined the ViaQuest team as a Program Manager in 2019. Alex is the kind of person who is dedicated to the individuals on her case load and always goes the extra mile to ensure they have all they need. She empowers the people she works with to advocate for themselves and ask for changes when something is not working for them.
As an example of her level of caring, her dedication, and her work ethic, Alex has gone above and beyond to help support, encourage, and praise a young woman who receives services. She has done this by taking the time to build a relationship with this young lady. Alex is willing to be a friend, offer a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on and lend a helping hand to this person. Every day Alex demonstrates that she believes in this person and shows that she values her spunkiness as well as her other skills, qualities and attributes.
Alex is respectful and is careful to never dull this person’s unique shine. Through teaching, modeling and providing encouragement, Alex has helped this young lady learn how to put her emotions into words. As a result, she is better at communicating with others about how she is feeling. Alex has helped this young lady to create her own boundaries and to understand how to respect the boundaries of others too. She has also helped this person realize that creating a clean and healthy living space can be accomplished and maintained.
In addition to being an outstanding DSP, Alex is currently in school, working towards her bachelor’s degree in social work. In her free time, Alex enjoys spending time with family, friends, and caring for the animals on her farm. She enjoys reading and painting as a way to wind down from a busy day at work. Her Supervisors at ViaQuest recognize how valuable Alex is and that she is committed to promoting independence and providing excellent services to all individuals.
Alex, thank you for all that you do, and more importantly, for all that you are. The Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities is grateful for your willingness to dedicate yourself to being an AMAZING DSP!
This week on our #FeaturedFriday, the spotlight is on Mark Foster!
Mark Foster is a man with a passion for advocacy, more specifically, advocating for Disability Rights. This passion drives him to work to increase awareness in our society about Disability Rights and send a positive message to the world about persons served. He strives to support those who feel they are not being heard and to ensure that their rights are respected. When speaking about his passion for advocacy Mark says, “I am a doer.” “You have to be able to work and do things to make the change you want to see.”
As one of the founding members of People First of Wood County, his work as an advocate for Disability Rights is well known and he has earned profound respect from its members. So much so that he has been elected to the positions of President and Vice President and is currently a candidate to be President again. He is an intelligent, thoughtful, and eloquent speaker and these skills serve him well as an advocate and in life.
Mark enjoys studying history and is quite inquisitive. “Mark has a natural interest in how things work and how things are made,” says his friend Joe Catalano. Mark and Joe, who has a background in Engineering, have spent hours together “going on field trips” exploring museums, visiting displays, and researching history to discover the answers to questions that Mark has posed. “Mark always has a genuine interest in the answers and the information learned,” says Joe.
Their friendship began about 10 years ago when they met at a communion service that Joe was leading. After the service, Mark sought him out and asked questions about the Catholic religion and being baptized. Their discussion led to Mark taking the time on his own to study and learn about the religion and then making the commitment to convert to Catholicism.
Considering the pandemic, Mark is happy to be back at Day Hab and working at wli with Scanning Solutions. During his free time Mark enjoys listening to music, watching movies, reading, and doing research about his favorite musicians.
Mark’s newfound hobby is collecting remote control cars. He got started in 2018 when he was looking for a new interest. “I became hooked after watching someone else who was racing their cars,” said Mark. His two favorites from his collection are the sports cars, and the cars that can do tricks. “One can walk up the wall,” shared Mark. When asked to describe his “ideal day” Mark said he would “sleep in, eat a lunch of delicious tacos, spend the afternoon sitting outside on my patio listening to music, and mess with my remote-control cars.”
It is well known that Mark is an aficionado of music. He loves all kinds of music and, “I especially love Rock and Roll—the Beatles, Stones, Elvis, and some Country if it is the right kind,” says Mark. “I would like to see Paul McCartney in concert someday,” said Mark.
Mark has a desire to travel and there are a few places that he would like to visit someday, including a trip to Elvis’ home, Graceland, in Memphis, TN. “I have always wanted to visit New York City,” Mark added. And although he has already been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, he would like to go there again.
Most everyone has a “Celebrity Crush” and Mark’s “Celebrity Crush” is Drew Barrymore! “I absolutely adore that woman!” exclaimed Mark. “I have watched many of her movies and I would really like to meet her—I would like to get tickets to be on her show.” That is another good reason for visiting New York, Mark!
Of all the skills and attributes that Mark possesses, the truth is he excels at being an amazing human being! This is best expressed listening to his friends describe Mark. When asked to share her thoughts about Mark, Dianna Temple, a former Occupational Therapist at the WCBDD, said: “Mark is a remarkable person. He is kind, encouraging, and has the best smile that lights up a room. Mark has experienced some tough times in his life, but he has always believed in himself, and I am immensely proud of all the things he has accomplished. I have had so many fun and incredible experiences with Mark Foster that I will never forget! If you do not yet know Mark, you must meet him!”
Thank you, Mark, for being an outstanding advocate, a compassionate humanitarian, and an amazing person! We are grateful for you and so glad that you are a member of the Wood Lane Community!
Jasmine McClendon and Martisha Jones
We are excited to announce Jasmine McClendon and Martisha Jones as the November Wood County Direct Support Professionals of the Month. Both Jasmine and Martisha are dedicated employees of Sisters Who Care, a provider in Wood County. Jasmine has worked for them for nearly a year and has shown she has a big heart and truly cares for the people she works with. Martisha has worked at the agency for approximately six months and has developed a reputation for being reliable and compassionate to those she works with.
Outstanding DSP’s, Jasmine and Martisha have both supported the people they serve in making great strides in personal growth. They have been instrumental in teaching individuals more about personal hygiene and how to take better care of themselves. One gentleman they work with had been hesitant to spend time outside of his bedroom. Jasmine and Martisha encouraged and helped him feel more comfortable spending time outside of his bedroom while improving his physical and mental health. He is now out of his bedroom more regularly, eating, practicing good routine hygiene, and having positive interactions with his housemate and staff members. The other gentleman has made notable improvements with practicing good personal hygiene and understanding how to deal with frustrations. Both individuals have also learned good habits that help them take better care of their home.
We are grateful for the hard work and dedication that Jasmine and Martisha display, and for the care they infuse into every interaction with those they serve. Thank you both for furthering our mission of supporting, empowering, and inspiring people through the work you do!
This week we are shining our #FeaturedFriday spotlight on AJ Hall! AJ Hall’s million-dollar smile says it all! This describes the smile you see on AJ’s face when he talks about working with our OT Carly Dauch, who AJ loves, or when he tells you about helping his Dad repair cars, or when you ask him about being a student at Wood Lane School. He also flashes his award-winning smile when he talks about working with the Transition Services Team, as he is a shining example of successes achieved.
The truth is, the smile on AJ’s face genuinely reflects his demeanor, and his approach to life, as well as his contentment with his current situation. He is a bright, inquisitive, humorous, and happy young man by nature. Still, as mesmerizing as his smile is, there was a time not too long ago when the circumstances in AJ’s life resulted in him being not so quick to smile.
During this time, AJ began feeling frustrated with his school placement, partly because the placement had him separated from his peers, but also because he was experiencing significant medical needs and missed an extensive amount of school. Moreover, he was not being challenged. School just stopped being fun for him, and as you can imagine, his learning suffered as a result. AJ’s family knew that they had to find a place for him that was a better fit.
The Halls began exploring their options. Working with his SSA, Jenna, who AJ loves, they were introduced to the Transition Services Team. By participating in a variety of assessments and activities, and working with the very bubbly Kate, who AJ loves, his needs were identified, and goals were created.
One action step was to move AJ to a more ideal placement at Wood Lane School. He started smiling again, and speaking more clearly, he is more engaged, and his academics have improved too. Equally important, communication improved for everyone and AJ’s Mom learned to be an advocate.
Barbara Hall enthusiastically shared their positive experiences working with the Transition Services Team and Celebrate EDU classes. “My child is finally viewed as a worker. Working with the Transition Services Team has provided opportunities for AJ to be challenged in ways that we had never experienced before. He is doing things that I have never seen him do before”, shared Barbara.
Knowing that AJ enjoys all things automotive, one of his goals was to work with his Dad repairing the cars, for 30 minutes, for 3 sessions a week, carrying 6 tools to his Dad. He achieved this goal quickly, learning to follow directions and learning about various tools, all while doing what he loved—helping his dad repair the car. Another goal that he achieved involved following multiple step directions to hitch a wagon to the back of his wheelchair and help his mom water the plants.
Another identified strength is that AJ possesses wonderful people skills and loves being around people, so his job exploration has focused on utilizing this strength. His classroom teacher Beth Fyffe said, “AJ is a joy to be around, and a social butterfly, and he has adjusted well in his new surroundings”. He enjoys working on their motorhome, or in the barn underneath the lift, which requires tremendous skill and lots of maneuvering to raise it to the right height so he can get underneath it. He loves to use his wheelchair to pick up the lawn mower and feels disappointed when his Mom needs to use the mower. He does have his own John Deere and his own tools.
AJ’s family includes his sister Kamdyn, his Mom and Dad, and his Grandmother, who he loves to call on the phone. Their fur-babies are Isabelle, the black lab, and two black cats, Roscoe and Daisy. The family enjoys camping and AJ’s favorite part is splitting the wood, then making S’mores in the campfire.
A feature on AJ would not be complete without mentioning how much he enjoys using his iPad to watch his favorite shows about Cops or DIY projects, on a Saturday night, while eating popcorn! He attends Camp Courageous, and one of the many highlights was learning to make pizza, his favorite food. Speaking of favorite foods, did someone mention Mexican food? AJ devours tacos, burritos, and especially chips and dip! He enjoys listening to Katy Perry music, and red is his favorite color as witnessed in his red wheelchair and the color of his bedroom.
AJ, thank you for being the shining star that you are! We are grateful to you for being a member of the Wood Lane community and brightening our days with that million-dollar smile, and for the joy that you bring into our lives!
This week our well-deserved #FeaturedFriday is shining on Linda Cox! Linda is an incredible person and a true gem, shining bright for all those around her! With an infectious sense of humor that is certain to leave you smiling and a heart of gold, we are very fortunate to call her a part of the Wood Lane family.
A member of the Bowling Green community for over a decade now, you may be surprised to learn that Linda originally hails from Ithaca, New York. Born and raised there, she also attended Ithaca College, where she earned her B.A. in English Literature. After college, Linda spent 12 years as a Letter Carrier and Part-time Supervisor of Customer Service for the United States Postal Service. Her time with the postal service came to an end in 2005 when her husband Chris accepted a job in Bowling Green, and they, along with their two sons Ryan and Dylan, relocated.
Linda’s career with Wood Lane School began in 2014 when she served as a group assistant for summer camp. As she explains, “I returned in the fall as a one-on-one for Ethan and have been here ever since!” Linda now works as a classroom assistant in the Juniors classroom and has held many additional positions including summer camp group leader and co-director.
Linda wears many hats in her position serving as a mentor, friend, teacher, and motivator for her students and co-workers alike. As Jennifer Gildon, who teaches in the junior classroom explained, “Linda brings a calm, positive presence to our classroom environment. She is creative, artistic and makes sure she interacts and establishes a relationship with every student.” Aside from her work in the classroom, she is also an advisor for AKtion Club, and is loved by the members!
Linda is a true artist at heart, and when she’s not at work she enjoys reading, gardening, sewing, crafting with her Cricut, drawing, and painting. As she puts it, “all things art, really! I have even dabbled in stained glass.” Linda fondly recalls returning home to Ithaca to paint with her grandma, and still has several of her grandma’s original works in her home. One of the latest hobbies she has taken up is learning how to play the ukulele and this has become one of her favorite things to do.
Along with her husband Chris and two sons Ryan (21) and Dylan (17), Linda has two dogs, Lily, a shi-poo mix, and Molly, a retriever mix who she says, “make me smile every day.” Both of Linda’s sons are avid hockey players and as they were growing up her family spent, “many, many weekends traveling for youth hockey…we even spent some time in Canada when the boy’s teams would compete in a yearly international tournament.” With Dylan in his senior year, Linda says, “I am currently savoring this season as it is our final year of high school sports.”
Canada isn’t the only country Linda has traveled to with her family. She also participated in a memorable class trip to Cuba with her oldest son Ryan in 2017 saying, “I would absolutely love to be able to return there someday for a visit or even live there for a while. Ryan and I are proud to say that we visited the Earnest Hemmingway House in both Cuba and Key West!” A particularly touching moment on the trip came when they gifted one of the stuffed Wood Lane Wildcats to an afterschool program that taught the children how to perform many circus acts. “The k-12 students were very impressive and knowing our kids at WLS would have enjoyed their performance, we left the Wildcat with them” she said.
We can’t say it enough, we are so glad Linda is a part of our Wood Lane family! She helps make each school day positive for the students with her warm presence and as Erin Brooks explained, “She can think on her toes, she is very creative and is able to remain calm during trying times.” Her passion and love for the students truly shines through in her interactions with them, and as Linda explained herself, “There is no feeling like when you are there to witness a really great moment with a kid and sharing in their pride or figuring out what helps them be successful.” Linda, thank you for all that you do to support, empower, and inspire our community!
This week we are shining our #FeatureFriday spotlight on Katie Rupert!
Katie Rupert has set her sights on becoming an early childhood educator. She knows achieving this goal will require hard work, patience, and dedication to her goal, but she’s not about to let that stop her. In fact, it is quite likely that this will be a goal that she does achieve, especially If one considers the level of achievement that Katie has already experienced in her life.
You see, Katie is a goal-oriented person. She has a successful plan of attack that she follows that has helped her to achieve her goals. Once she identifies a goal, she takes small steps working toward her goal. She also incorporates hard work and a strong will to help her meet her goals. One example where this approach was successful for her was in the way she transitioned from her previous job into her current job. At the time, she was working at the Toledo Zoo, and while she enjoyed that job, she also knew it was not exactly the perfect match for her. So, she set out to find a career that she liked.
She credits working with BVR for assisting her in discovering what she was interested in, providing coaching, and helping her get her current job as a teaching assistant. “I had to answer the question, ‘What do you really want to do?’, explained Katie. Deep down in her heart, she knew that she wanted to work with children. “When I started working with children—that was it! I fell in love with it. It just makes me so happy!”, she shared. That was nine years ago and from there she continues to learn and grow. She now desires to have a permanent full-time position working with kids.
Another goal that Katie is working on is getting her temporary driving permit. To prepare, she is doing the work by spending time reading the driving manual and practicing the sample test questions. While she admits that “other drivers make me nervous”, she is motivated to get her driver’s license because that will allow her to assume more responsibility and provide added independence. She visualizes herself driving on her own to go to work, to the grocery store, and to sports activities. She also desires to possibly get her own apartment someday.
Katie is a kind, loving and caring person. You can hear those qualities expressed in her voice as she talks about her Busia, which means Grandmother in Polish, and shares her experiences helping her Busia as her primary caregiver. The truth is, she naturally extends that caring to all people. She is a wonderful person, friend, sister, and daughter.
It is no secret that Katie is a sports fan and has enjoyed great success as an athlete. Over the years she has participated in the Special Olympics sports of Golf, Track and Field, Swimming, Basketball and most recently Cycling, competing locally as well as in Area and State games. In addition, Katie attended the SO National Games in 2006, and she swam in three events. She attended again in 2014, this time competing in Cycling. Attending Nationals in 2014 was doubly memorable for the Rupert family because her brother Jason also competed in Swimming!
In addition to sports, Katie has been involved in a variety of activities all her life. As a youngster she participated in the BG Ice Shows and once played the role of a lady from Egypt—on skates! While attending Otsego High School, Katie was Captain of the Golf team, playing their matches at her favorite course, Riverby Hills. She recalls fondly “my Grandpa taught me how to golf and he gave me my first set of clubs. Later she got her own set that were shorter and fit her better, and were designed for left-handed people. She is grateful for the experience of learning to golf using her Grandpa’s right-handed, over-sized clubs because she realizes that it taught her coordination and dexterity. To this day, she is able to play golf, bat and catch a ball with both her left and her right hands! Riding her bike is a favorite hobby for Katie and she has ridden from Grand Rapids to Whitehouse, which is 25 miles one way!
Family is very important to Katie, and she considers her brother Jason to be her best friend. “I am one proud sister!” exclaimed Katie, and she admits that they have had a strong brother-sister bond since they were little. “He has his driving permit, has been in his job for 8 years, and has earned his Eagle Scout award. I am so impressed with his dedication and commitment.” The fur baby member of the Rupert family is their dog Lily, who Katie loves very much!
In closing, Katie has some encouragement to share with us all: “If you have a goal you want to achieve, go for it! Get your heart set on it. You can do it! Furthermore, she says,” if you set your mind to it, you can do it—it doesn’t matter if you have a disability or not”. This piece of guidance is coming from a person who has LOTS of experience achieving goals. Thank you, Katie, for being a role model for all of us, and we wish you all the best in your future endeavors!
This week our #FeaturedFriday is on the one and only Branden Aben. A kind, considerate, and playful person, Branden has a natural ability to make friends wherever he goes and inspire others to be the best version of themselves. As staff in the Rec Department explained, “Branden carries himself in a way to admire. He is patient and treats everyone with respect.”
One of the first things you may learn about Branden when you meet him is that he has a deep appreciation for the arts. If there is a performance or show on the monthly recreation schedule, you can bet Branden will attend! Branden’s passion for the arts doesn’t stop there, he is also known to be a very talented dancer and regularly participates in iSing, iAct, iDance. He is now going into his 3rd year and according to his mom, “he would do it all day if he could!” He has taken on a leadership role, helping to lead the classes and arriving early to let other participants in the building. Branden isn’t just a skilled dancer though; he is also a wonderful performer and his passion for dance truly shines through in all his performances.
Branden is very active and his athleticism doesn’t stop with dance! When he’s not taking classes at iDance you may find him taking exercise classes with his mom or out on the green golfing with his dad. Branden particularly enjoys kickboxing classes and lifting weights. A true sportsman, Branden is also involved with Special Olympics basketball and volleyball where he is an excellent role model for the team. In the words of his coaches, “He is a great teammate who cheers others on, never has anything negative to say and plays to the best of his ability!”
Branden’s zeal for life carries over into his job at Barry Bagels where he has worked for 12 years. He is a committed and hardworking employee who loves his job. He does a little bit of everything from washing dishes and wiping down tables to helping get takeout orders ready and getting out condiments from the refrigerator to fill up. Throughout his time there Branden has particularly enjoyed getting to know his co-workers and has developed wonderful friendships as a result.
Hailing from Perrysburg, Branden lives near his parents and siblings Nick and Stephanie. He also became an uncle last year and can’t get enough of his niece Rylee. He has a new niece or nephew coming in December and can’t wait! Branden is very independent and has lived on his own for 12 years now, walking wherever he needs to go. In his free time, Branden enjoys frequenting the local Farmer’s Market and businesses near his house, especially the library and then Swigs for dinner. He is routine-oriented and loves to meet his friends for lunch every Monday; Wendy’s is always a popular choice. We are truly fortunate to have Branden as a friend of Wood Lane and a member within the community.
Branden, your kindness and sense of humor brightens the days of those around you and inspires us all to be the best versions of ourselves. Thank you for living out the mission of Wood County DD and being so wonderfully you!
We are focusing our #Featured Friday spotlight on Ayanna Williams, our DSP of the month for October!
Direct Support Professionals are an integral part of the quality of life enjoyed by persons served. Ayanna Williams is a dedicated and enthusiastic DSP who takes great pride in her work. She has worked for Pure Quality Care since February 2020 and her Supervisors say that “she goes over and above” for the children she works with.
Ayanna currently works at the Portage Youth Home as a Team Leader. Often putting in long hours, Ayanna thinks of all kinds of fun and creative activities for the kids. Some of the activities they enjoy doing are cooking, shopping, going out into the community to explore, and going on local trips. In addition, she looks out for their health and well-being by scheduling doctor appointments and then follows up by making sure they get to the appointment.
Ayanna has willingly assumed a wide range of responsibilities to support the children. Since the children are doing school at home, Ayanna helps them with their schoolwork by helping with their understanding of the material and making sure their schoolwork is complete. She does OT for school and assists with homework too. She communicates with the school staff to ensure that all appointments for the services listed in the youth’s IEP are being scheduled.
Ayanna loves children and is truly a mother figure in the home. She works with the other staff to keep the kids on a routine. The kids call her Miss A. and they absolutely miss her when she has a day off! What does she enjoy doing outside of work? Being with her own beautiful kids!
The Pure Quality Care agency says: “We’re glad to have Ayanna on our team!” Thank you, Ayanna, for being a loving, caring and dedicated Direct Support Professional!
This week we are shining the #FeaturedFriday spotlight on Kim Vaughn!
Nurses are angels on the earth. This adage perfectly describes Kim Vaughn, our Children’s Services Nurse. Kim is a strong, intelligent, loving, and compassionate person who works tirelessly to maintain the health and well-being of the students at Wood Lane School, as well as respond to their medical needs, with passion and purpose.
The impact that Kim’s presence has on the overall function of our school cannot be underestimated. While her duties as school nurse include monitoring the daily health and well-being of our students, she contributes so much more than that. Kim’s presence affects consistent student attendance, leading to improved learning. Having a school nurse allows teachers to keep their focus on student learning goals. In addition, Kim’s presence positively influences the overall health of families and staff and helps to maintain accountability for all. She takes the time to communicate and make connections with families. And Kim does all of this with love in her heart.
Kim’s first experience with nursing occurred in high school when she assisted her cousin with Downs who also had severe medical needs. She learned right then that she had a passion for working with people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Another role which Kim assumes is providing supervision for aspiring nurses who are completing their Pediatrics clinicals. Kim acknowledges that allowing aspiring nurses to work with students at WLS provides a unique training opportunity. She understands that working with students with special needs requires nurses to learn additional skills to make medical assessments. “They must learn to recognize and understand non-verbal cues. It is a different world of assessment, and develops an awareness, like an ESP”, says Kim.
When asked to share what is the best thing about working at the WCBDD, Kim enthusiastically responds “The KIDS!!!!!”. “I have learned so much from the students”, reflects Kim. “I have learned to just slow down, and give them the time to answer, or to do things for themselves.” “My approach with every one of our students has always been that you need to make a connection first. When you have established a personal relationship with the student, then you improve your ability to meet their needs and provide health care”, acknowledged Kim.
So much can be learned about a person when they reveal their cherished memories. A few of Kim’s favorite memories from working at the WCBDD and WLS include the time when a graduating student in the senior class, who was mostly nonverbal, unexpectedly got up at the Graduation ceremony and gave an impromptu speech and said “I want to thank my teacher and everyone on the staff. I will miss you.” Kim remembers, “There wasn’t a dry eye in the place”. Another special occasion is when a student comes up to you and seemingly out of nowhere, gives you a big hug. “Many times our students know what we need more than we do”, says Kim.
Family is the most important aspect of Kim’s life, and in her own words: “My family is my WORLD!!!!” (Notice the all caps and the 4 exclamation points). Kim and her husband John have been happily married for 28 years. He serves as a police officer at the University of Toledo. They have three adult children: Shelby, 27, an Assistant Principal at Di LaSalle Academy (a private special needs school) in Ft. Myers, FL, who is married to Megan; Trever, 25, is an RN in the Emergency Department at Blanchard Valley Hospital in Findlay, and is married to Keirstin; and Maddi, 23, is a Medical Assistant in Clovis, NM, and is married to Tyler. They are parents to Kim and John’s first granddaughter, Charlotte, AKA Charlie, who is 19 months.
Being new grandparents brings tremendous joy to Kim and John. “Being NaNa Rocks!”, exclaimed Kim. While she admits that the transition to empty nesters has been hard for them, they are very grateful for the technology that allows them to stay connected with their children. “Thank god for facetime, which we do nightly!!”, shared Kim.
A little known and ultra-unique fact about Kim is that at one point, everyone in her family was employed by a Wood County government entity. Her father and brother worked for the WC Sheriff Department, and Kim and her mom both worked at the WCBDD! Furthermore, Kim graduated from Eastwood, while John is an Elmwood graduate. Her parents were just the opposite—her mom graduated from Elmwood and her Dad from Eastwood.
Camping is a favorite past time for the Vaughns. They have a permanent camping site on Lake Erie and other favorite locations that they enjoy. They are always accompanied by their 2 rescue dogs, Remi and Roscoe, while their beautiful rescue cat Phoebe remains at home and guards the house.
Planning vacations is something Kim loves to do so traveling is frequently on their agenda, including weekend mini-trips and day trips. They enjoy exploring museums, visiting Amish country, and going to the Fort Wayne Zoo is one of their favorite destinations. Another favorite is trips to Mohican State Park which includes camping, canoeing on the river, and visiting shops, restaurants and wineries.
In her spare time, Kim’s hobbies include playing a variety of word games. She participates in on-going online games like Scrabble and Words with Friends with her co-workers and friends. She likes all music, but generally prefers country. One musical genre she enjoys is instrumental music, especially groups like Mannheim Steamroller and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, as well as listening to the a cappella group Pentatonix.
Kim is an amazing cook—just ask anyone who has had the pleasure of tasting her creations! While she enjoys making desserts the best, and especially baking cookies, this year she wants to expand her horizons to making baklava and macaroons. “Anyone who wants to share a recipe?” Kim asks. Also, just a heads up to anyone out there claiming “I make the best fresh salsa”. You will certainly encounter stiff competition from Kim—she has won the Grand Champions Salsa award at the Pemberville Fair the 2 times they have had the competition!
Lynne Beard, who grew up with Kim in Pemberville, is grateful that they have been able to reconnect with each other when they both started working on the Good Life Team and then at WLS. “I think I love Kim’s dedication the most, because she is always looking for what is best for our students and how we can go about finding a way to make it better for them”, says Lynne. Lynne added, “If you ask Kim to describe herself in one word, Kim chooses the word “Motherly” and that word fits Kim to a “T”.
The great Maya Angelou stated “…Nurses have the opportunity to heal the heart, mind, soul and body of their patients, their families and themselves….” Kim Vaughn embodies this belief in her every thought, word and deed. Kim, our Wood Lane School is better because of you. We are grateful for your loving, caring ways and your fun personality. Thank you for all you do, more importantly, thank you for who you are!
As we finish out Direct Support Professional week, we are putting the well-deserved #FeaturedFriday spotlight on Victoria Barclay, a DSP here in Wood County!
Victoria exudes compassion and a desire to see others succeed, and these characteristics shine through in her daily work as a DSP. She puts the time and effort into helping the people she serves not just live but thrive. Helping people learn skills that will increase independence is a big focus for Victoria, and she’s always ready to celebrate their successes along the way, both big and small. One such success came recently as Victoria explained one of the people she worked with had a hard time with mornings. “We set a time to wake up and got into the routine of showering, getting dressed, and brushing teeth. Now he has a good morning routine and it’s something he can do pretty independently!”
Victoria first learned about being a Direct Support Professional through her work with Special Olympics in her hometown. While life-guarding for S.O. she met another DSP who saw her dedication and caring nature and suggested she try it out! Now a recent graduate of Bowling Green State University, Victoria is coming up to her one-year mark as a DSP. When asked what’s challenging about her line of work Victoria said, “When the people I serve go through a loss or a hard time, I feel it too. That’s always a challenge. But it also reminds me that I have an extreme privilege to be in their lives and their families lives and I’m happy to walk through those times with them too.”
Of course, not every day is challenging, and there are a lot of great moments too. One of Victoria’s favorite memories was traveling to Florida with a person she serves and their family for a week saying, “it was so much fun to play and hang out at the beach!”
In talking with Victoria, it is clear this job has impacted her in a way that goes deeper than the good times she shares with the people she serves. As Victoria explains, “The best part about being a DSP is the people I meet; 100%. The families I work with and the relationships I have built have been life changing in the best way! This position has taught me that our differences are our best qualities and that we can learn so much by being in relationship with people who are different than we are.”
When Victoria is not at work, you may find her cheering on the Patriots with her husband Peter and dog Hattie who she says are, “the loves of my life!” She also enjoys reading a good book and spending time with her family outdoors.
Victoria, we think you are AMAZING! We are so glad to have Direct Support Professionals like you in Wood County and want to give you a big thanks for all that you do to support and empower the people you work with!
To know Cristina Gray is to love her! With an adventurous spirit and kind heart, it’s no surprise she is often a girl on the go looking for new places to see and fun activities to try. She loves staying busy and is always seeking out opportunities to become more involved with the community, meet people, and help others.
Cristina has a natural affinity for animals. With her gentle and caring disposition, it’s no surprise the animals love her as much as she loves them. It doesn’t matter what they are—dogs, cats, rabbits—they all manage to steal her heart, but she is particularly fond of horses. She recently had the chance to go horseback riding with the Recreation Department at Dusty Boots and fell in love with the activity. Through horseback riding she learned she wanted to spend more time with horses and is hoping to volunteer with them soon! Being such an animal person, Cristina also enjoys visiting the zoo and the Wildlife Safari whenever she gets the chance.
In addition to her love of animals, Cristina is also known for her love of books. She often finds herself immersed in new worlds through reading and as Kelly Faeth her Service and Support Coordinator puts it, “That girl can read through so many books! She loves going to the library and checking them out!” She enjoys the thrill that comes with stretching her imagination and envisioning new sights, creatures, and people that exist within the realms of bound pages in a book. A creative thinker, Cristina also enjoys the challenge of a good puzzle and putting together crafts when she’s not reading.
Another challenge Cristina has taken on recently is starting a new job at First Solar in Perrysburg. Just a few months in, she has enjoyed learning new skills and getting to know her co-workers. She is already a valued employee and has gained a reputation as a hard worker, which is no surprise to those who know her. Constantly looking to build her sense of community, Cristina also joined AKtion Club and has gotten more involved with Wood Lane recreational activities this summer. When she’s not at work or out in the community, you may catch her spending time with her family, who is a wonderful support system for her!
Cristina, we love your willingness to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. We are so glad you are a part of the Wood County community and are grateful for all to support, empower, and inspire those around you!
DSP of the Month: Jessie Meyers
We are excited to announce Jessie Myers as the Wood County September Direct Support Professional of the Month. Jessie was nominated by Ian McClure, SSA. Jessie has been employed as a substitute by Wood Lane Residential Services since June 2018, but she also worked for Wood Lane Residential Services from August 2014-December 2015. Jessie works at the Dwight Miller Home (both apartments) and the Dunn Home.
Jessie advocates strongly for the individuals she works with, ensuring their safety and happiness at all times. She goes above and beyond on each shift, has built amazing relationships with all the individuals, and is well respected by her peers and her supervisors. Jessie is an absolute favorite among the individuals, as well as the staff she works with.
Throughout the pandemic Jessie has been creative with finding ways to keep people she serves engaged and active. She has been purposeful about helping people safely get out of their homes and into the community. She always takes time to build special relationships with each person she works with.
Jessie works full time as an Intervention Specialist for Lake Local Schools and is looking forward to her upcoming wedding at the end of September. She enjoys spending time with her soon-to-be husband, Tony, and pets Bandit (dog) and Felix (gecko). Jessie also enjoys working out, personal development, and organization.
Eric Leu is a man of many passions. Whether it be sparking his creativity through baking and quilting or giving back to his community through volunteering and friendly interactions at work, one thing is for sure: he puts his whole heart into all that he does.
Eric is truly a baking aficionado and everyone who tries his creations raves about them! He first learned how to bake from his mom at a young age and was a natural from the get-go. He then went on to take three years of cooking classes at Penta when he got a little older. Any baker knows it takes the right mix of organization and attention to detail to create a tasty treat, and these are skills Eric possesses! For him, the process of finding the recipe and putting it together to create something new is both exciting and enjoyable. “I like trying new recipes and seeing what things work and don’t work. You never know what’s going to work out in the end.” When asked what his favorite thing to make is, Eric said, “cookies and cakes—you name it I can make it!”
Baking is just one way Eric flexes his creative muscles; he’s also an avid quilter. He first started quilting 10 years ago and has been hooked ever since! All about the process, Eric enjoys shopping for different fabrics to add to his quilting creations. He likes to research different patterns online and check out books for new ideas and inspiration. As he will tell you, quilting requires focus and patience, “sometimes you try one pattern and it doesn’t work, so you have to try again”. Although a pattern may not work every time, Eric is still quite the accomplished quilter. He can make all sorts of things from pillows to table runners, toppers, and more. In the last two years alone, he estimates he has made close to 500 items! He doesn’t keep them for himself though, saying “I give them away as gifts—for church events and people.”
Creativity is one of many great strengths Eric possesses—he’s also hardworking and reliable. These traits shine through at Meijer in Bowling Green where he has been a loyal employee for 11 years. He often sees people that he knows and loves to chat with the customers. His kindness helps ensure the customers feel welcome and have a positive experience in the store. He currently works as a courtesy clerk but will soon be transitioning back to a greeter.
If he’s not at work, you may find Eric spending time with his family, where he is one of seven siblings. When asked what the best part of having a big family is, he said, “there is no one best part—having a big family is a wonderful thing”. He enjoys the family dinners that occur often and always looks forward to a big gathering each year on Christmas Eve with his aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and
in-laws. Growing up, Eric’s family enjoyed camping and the outdoors, and this is something that still influences his love of nature today. They get a chance to go camping together several times a year in Amish Country or at Yogi Bear and ever the adventurous spirit, Eric loves hiking and swimming on these trips. A bonus of camping in Amish Country is it gives him a chance to look for quilting fabric!
Of course, we can’t put the spotlight on Eric without sharing about his faith and dedication to helping others—both of which are very important to him! Eric is a long-time member of Christ Church in Bowling Green and loves the sense of community that he feels when he walks into a Sunday Service. He takes great pride in being a Youth Leader and has enjoyed seeing it grow over the years. He also frequently volunteers at church whenever his schedule allows. Volunteering requires a person to be committed, selfless, and a team player and these qualities all come through in Eric. One of his favorite volunteer opportunities is helping his church put on a Thanksgiving dinner every year for Bowling Green residents. Recently, he participated in Mission to Bowling Green in which he and fellow members made Hero Bags for distribution to healthcare and other essential workers.
One thing is certain: our community is a better place because Eric is a part of it! Eric, your thoughtfulness and dedication to helping others sets an example that inspires us to make a difference too. Thank you for helping build the sense of community we have in Wood County and making it a kind place to live!
Staff Highlight: Steve Foster
Steve Foster is a rare gem. That a person would commit nearly 40 years of their life to the same company is, in and of itself, a rarity. To do it with the level of knowledge, passion, and steadfast dedication shown by Steve, is almost unheard of these days.
Equally unique is Steve’s career path at the WCBDD. He is a perfect example of someone who has followed the time-honored tradition of rising through the ranks. He began working at the WCBDD in 1983 as a substitute van driver while he was a student at BGSU. Shortly after, he was hired as an Account Clerk in the Fiscal Department, which at the time consisted of only two employees, the other being the Coordinator. Then in 1991, he assumed the role of the Fiscal Coordinator, a position that later was transformed into the Director of Fiscal Services, his current position. In addition, he manages the IT department. If you are doing the math, he is in his 37th year of employment at the WCBDD!
It is Steve’s exceptional blend of skills and personality traits that provide him with the acumen to assume the responsibilities of overseeing the Fiscal team and the financial management of this agency. The buzz words that he lives with each day–Budgets, Cost Reports, Deadlines, Grants, Contracts, Projections, Month End Reporting, PERS Reporting, Inventory, Capital Projects—along with the laws and statutes that are a part of government oversight in the DD system, would be intensely dizzying to most of us. They are second nature to Steve. “We’re numbers people”, said Steve. “The things that make us happy, others may look at as something crazy”. And so, he is able to provide strategic and financial guidance to ensure that our fiscal obligations are met, as well as helping to develop the necessary policies and procedures to ensure the sound financial management of our operations. It is complex stuff, and that is putting it mildly. In Steve’s words, “we don’t just sit here waiting for an invoice to pay.”
One thing that has kept Steve motivated over the years is hearing the success stories of persons served. “Persons served are the reason that we (the WCBDD) exist”, Steve acknowledged. The decisions made by every department in support of persons served, and the ensuing expenses, have a direct line back to the Fiscal department. His approach has always been to make every effort to make the budget requests work and to make it as simple as possible for the front-line staff. While this approach can make things more difficult for Fiscal, he believes that the success of the front-line staff, and ultimately persons served, is what it is all about. He takes great pride in knowing that the Fiscal Department is a huge part of the successes, but from way, way behind the scenes.
Always the family man, the Foster family consists of Steve, his wife Amy, and kids Trisha, Andrew, Nicholas, Sara and Kylie. He has 4 grandchildren, all boys, who live nearby in Ohio and Pennsylvania, so Steve is able to see them frequently. Sports are a big influence on the family as all his kids played either football, baseball or softball, and Steve often served as their coach. “We have a number of great family memories over the years traveling with the kids to various sporting events throughout the country”, Steve shared. In fact, as a result of their sports commitments, their youngest daughter Sara spent the early hours of her life at a baseball game. “Right after she was born, we never came home from the hospital, we went straight to a baseball game.”
Fishing is the number one activity that Steve enjoys in his free time. Each year the Foster family makes the trek to northern Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for a camping trip that includes lots of fishing and relaxation. He used to really care about how many fish he caught, but now he doesn’t really care if he catches anything at all. “I just enjoy being out on the water and away from the daily responsibilities”, says Steve. He admits that he does get worked up if he “loses the big one”. On one excursion with Andrew and his father, Steve recalls Andrew trying to net a huge northern pike, but it was too long for just one net. In the effort to wrangle the fish into the boat, the fish jumped out of the water—all 40 inches!! The shock of seeing the incredible size of this amazing fish caused the pole to fly up in the air and the fish got away. “This is a true story, it is not a fish story!”, Steve exclaimed.
Steve grew up in a farming family, including his Grandparents and his uncles, and has always loved being outdoors. He was greatly influenced by his parents and grandparents, even idolizing his grandparents, as he looked forward to hearing their stories about “back in the day”. His favorite food is just about any type of dessert, but he is especially fond of chocolate chip cookies, and he is grateful that his Grandma Adams passed her recipe down to them. “That generation cooked and baked all the time”, said Steve, and he recalls that their big family meal came in the middle of the day because as farmers they needed the energy.
When asked about his favorite memory working at the WCBDD, Steve admitted that it would be difficult to identify just one, but it is an extremely memorable audit that comes to mind for him. During the audit, the initial review showed the WCBDD to be short $500,000, due to a lack of documentation. However, the final negotiations and review of documentation with the auditor revealed that actually, it was the DODD that owed the WCBDD approximately $500,000. This resulted in a $1 million swing in the favor of the WCBDD! A memorable audit, indeed!
Throughout the DD system in the state of Ohio, Steve is well respected by his peers and colleagues. In addition to being experienced and wise, he is known as a person who is fair and transparent. To his co-workers, Steve is recognized as someone who is respectful, understanding, patient, open-minded, and approachable. True to the Wood Lane mission, he supports, empowers and inspires others in his own unique and authentic way.
In the words of Lin Hufford, Fiscal Coordinator: “Apart from decision making, communication and overall professionalism, the most important thing Steve does well every day, is he demonstrates how to be a good human being! Words can neither qualify nor quantify how helpful Steve’s guidance and advice has been over the past 10+ for me. His wisdom, dedication and sense of humor has earned him much deserved respect and admiration from the strong fiscal team that we are today. I feel lucky to be a member of that team! Thanks BOSS!”
Thank you, Steve, for your leadership and even-handed approach to maintaining our fiscal integrity. You truly are a one-of-a-kind, and we are grateful that you have dedicated your life’s work to the WCBDD!
DSP of the Month: Joe Coulter
We are excited to share that Joe Coulter has been selected as the August Direct Support Professional of the month, nominated by Ian McClure, SSA. Ian and Lynn Goble, Joe’s Coordinator, shared how Joe stands out as a Direct Support Professional.
Joe has worked for Luther Home of Mercy since May of 2014. Joe has consistently encouraged Kevin, person he works with, to challenge himself and has been there for him as a staff person, companion, and friend. Kevin has had a
long-time goal of being able to sit on his walker and stand up on his own. With Joe’s help and encouragement, Kevin has been able to accomplish this goal and continues to improve his mobility.
When Kevin’s roommates recently moved out, Joe has been there providing the companionship and stability during all these changes for Kevin to remain upbeat. Joe loves spending time with the guys at the home where he works as well as the folks in our rec program. They enjoy his company as well, always asking Where’s Joe?” if he doesn’t help out with an activity.
Joe is always been one to jump in and help when needed. He picks up extra shifts. He has been one to take the guys on medical appointments and help them with their shopping needs. Joe is one to advocate for the best interests of the people that he is working for even when it is not the most popular thing to do.
The stories that the individuals tell about something that they did at the house while Joe was there….. laughing, and sharing good times. Joe also encourages the folks to do the unpopular things as well….; like their exercises; helping with clean up in the kitchen after meals. I had been getting one of our fellas to try something new (to sit on his walker seat) and he would always say “SOMEDAY”. One day Joe just said well today is that day and the individual sat on the seat and was excited that he did so and can now go out and eat in restaurants because of it.
Joe keeps trying to find a way to help folks try new things and in this one example it has turned out to be a source of many new memories that we have been able to make and enjoy while out and about in the community. Thanks Joe, You Rock!
Staff: Jennifer Gildon
This week we are shining the #FeaturedFriday spotlight on Jennifer Gildon!
There is a proverb in the Education world that says, “A good teacher explains, a great teacher demonstrates, and a superior teacher inspires”. Jennifer Gildon, who serves as the Intervention Specialist Instructor in the Junior classroom at Wood Lane School, is, by all indications, a superior teacher. Jennifer truly does inspire her students—in her daily interactions and in her teaching–she inspires hope, she ignites their imaginations, and she instills a love of learning.
Using instructional standards as her guide, Jennifer passionately designs her lessons to motivate her students, utilizing a variety of strategies, modalities, and adaptations to meet the needs of her students. Her lessons are creative, engaging, and FUN! Throughout the school you can see evidence of the work of the students from the Junior classroom, whether it is a science experiment, math concepts, an art project, music, or a piece of literature that has come to life. Moreover, you will see her students absorbed in their learning, with smiles on their faces, and enjoying school!
Jennifer has personally always loved learning and reading. In school she was motivated, enjoyed exploring and was excited to learn new things. Learning was particularly rewarding when she experienced an “Ah ha” moment whenever she mastered a concept. “School was hard for me and I had to learn to be patient with myself, Jennifer explained. “Because of my own experiences in school, I knew what it felt like to struggle, and to need a little more time than my peers to learn a concept. I became an Intervention Specialist because I knew how important it is for learners to have a patient and supportive teacher.”
Jennifer grew up in Wisconsin and earned her teaching credential at Loyola University in Chicago. She has taught classes in Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas and now Ohio. She and her husband James have a son, Albert, age 5, a German Shepherd named Leo, and a cat named Bella. Jennifer enjoys spending time outside and walking or biking around town with her family. “I love running”, says Jennifer, who has been a competitive Track and Field athlete. In fact, Jennifer met her husband on the Track and Field team in college. He now coaches at BGSU, and their family continues to spend a lot of time at Track meets.
One of Jennifer’s talents and favorite hobbies is crocheting! She learned how to crochet when she taught in Kansas and she voluntarily served as the advisor for the 5th grade Crocheting Club–she learned to crochet right along with the students. She loved it so much that she stuck with it and perfected her skills. Her crocheted creations are amazing! She crochets authentic looking stuffed dolls and made one that looked exactly like her son! This summer she made Superhero dolls for all her nieces and nephews. Additional hobbies include canoeing, watching Family Feud, any dessert (red velvet cupcakes are her favorite) and reading.
From Jennifer’s perspective, the best part of working at WCBDD is reflected in a word found in our mission statement: “Support”. She recognizes that there are times when she is working on a project and she may need help ironing out the details of the project. “Many times my projects spill out of my classroom and into other areas, not only at the school but into other departments throughout WCBDD. When discussing my projects with co-workers at WCBDD, one phrase I hear over and over is “Just tell me how I can help.” Whenever I ask for help with a project, I am awed by the amount of support and willingness to help”, says Jennifer.
When asked to share her best memories of working at Wood Lane School, Jennifer said: “This job is FUN and I have so many enjoyable moments throughout each school year! I design my lessons in many various sensory ways to enhance my students’ learning—we get our hands dirty; we make stuff to touch and feel and explore and taste. On any given day, I may come to work dressed as a famous leader, Harry Potter or a Pineapple. We have spirit days and wear crazy socks or pajamas. I have so much fun watching students and staff completing activities in my classroom: escape room challenges, festive team minute-to-win-it-challenges, daily trivia, and community outings. Not only can I bring the community to Wood Lane School, but I can bring my classroom to the community. We can go grocery shopping, practice community skills at local shops, visit sports teams at BGSU, visit with local police and fire departments and many more field trips. I get to have so much fun teaching our students! They say it takes a village to shape children and I appreciate the WCBDD village in supporting us to be the best educators for our community.”
Jennifer, you are a tremendous asset to the Wood Lane community because of your patient, caring and kind personality, your ability to develop positive relationships with students, families and co-workers, and your devotion to quality instruction. Thank you for all you do, but more importantly, THANK YOU for being who you are!
Staff: Zach Daugherty
When you meet Zach Daugherty, you will immediately notice that he has a certain positivity and energy about him that is infectious. He is an authentic outdoorsman and he is living proof that being connected to nature is good for a person’s happiness, health, and emotional well-being. “As early as I can remember I have always felt connected to nature”, says Zach. He acknowledges that he learned the beauty of nature from his parents as a result of the activities that they would do as a family. “We would go for walks in the woods or my dad would take me fishing, and my mom would teach me about nature too”. Even now as an adult he spends time exploring and discovering in the great outdoors.
“When I was younger, I was set on becoming a Herpetologist”, a zoologist who specializes in reptiles and amphibians. As a child, Zach would go out into the woods and see how many different species he could find, and he would put salamanders, turtles, and toads in terrariums for a few days so that he could study them more closely, and then return them to the wild. “I still go “herping” to this day” says Zach, “flipping over logs and looking around swamps for different reptiles and amphibians.”
To share his enthusiasm for nature, Zach has introduced his experiences to the Venturing Crew 352, our Adult Scouting group, for whom he is an advisor. He is currently doing a virtual Nature Talk on a variety of animals that are native to Wood County. He has also begun introducing nature to his nephew Aiden, age 3. On a recent excursion they hit the jackpot as they found 11 salamanders, 1 toad, and 3 spring peepers! Zach shared that he has kept reptiles and amphibians as pets his entire life and he currently has 2 fire-bellied newts, 1 eastern newt, and 1 tadpole, which he is growing into a frog. He is planning to add to his collection this year with some more newts, and next year, “I am getting a hognose snake!”, he exclaimed.
When asked about his motivation, Zach replied, “I am drawn to these animals because I feel they are misunderstood. A lot of people have a fear of animals like toads and snakes, but once you come to understand them, they are truly fascinating animals that are extremely important to their ecosystems. They are also the closest living thing to a dinosaur that we have!”
Integrity, honesty, humility and respect are qualities that Zach possesses, and these values certainly align with his love of nature. Being outdoors and observing nature teaches one respect, and Zach demonstrates respect through his actions: respect for diversity of people, cultures and practices, and respect for the time, space and needs of others. All without judgement.
By all accounts, Zach is a proud Michigander, and people may be surprised to learn he was born in Ohio, in the small town of Greenfield, between Columbus and Cincinnati. When he was 3 years old, his family relocated to Big Rapids, Michigan and that is where he grew up. Big Rapids is engulfed in nature—it is a small. west Michigan town located on the Muskegon River—and without a doubt, growing up in this setting influenced Zach’s love of the outdoors. Zach remembers many summer days as a child when “we would wake up, hop on our bikes, go down to the woods and stay there all day”. He admits that in addition to his family and the environment, he was also influenced by Steve Irwin and says, “I always wanted to be like the Crocodile Hunter.” The summers of Zach’s youth typically revolved around fishing, biking, sports, and exploring the outdoors.
Zach is very close with his family and has two younger brothers and an older sister. “We are all about 2 years apart, so we really got a chance to grow up together– as siblings and best friends”, says Zach. In addition to his nephew, he has a 1-year old niece. “I love to go on adventures with them any chance I can”. Zach considers his dog, Bodhi to be his best friend. “He has been with me through thick and thin and I enjoy spending time with him. He truly is the best dog!”, declared Zach.
Originally hired at WCBDD as a Special Olympics Program Specialist, over the past 2.5 years his position has evolved into a Recreational Therapist. In addition to coaching and organizing Special Olympic events and recreation outings, he has helped to establish a recreation therapy program and now also provides recreation therapy to persons served.
In his spare time, Zach’s hobbies include fishing, hiking, biking, disc golfing, going to concerts (Seether and Tool are a couple of his favorite bands) and watching movies. He is big fan of horror movies and loves all things “scary”. His favorite horror movie is the original Halloween (1978).
When asked to share the best part about working at Wood Lane, Zach said, “Spending time with the individuals we serve! I absolutely love getting to know and working with some of the most amazing people. Whether it is a Special Olympics event or a recreation program, getting to build a relationship with the people we serve is, hands down, the best part of working at Wood Lane. I have had the pleasure of seeing so many people accomplish goals that they or others may have never thought possible. It is an amazing atmosphere and I feel that everyone is pushing each other to grow individually and as a community. Regardless of where my life takes me, the people I have met through Wood Lane and the relationships I have built with them is something I will cherish forever”.
His favorite memory working at WCBDD? “It would have to be the camping/kayaking trip to Indiana with the Venturing Crew last year”, said Zach. “Going into the trip, nearly no one in the group had been in a kayak before and by the end of the weekend, we had successfully accomplished a 2-hour kayaking trip with no tip overs. More importantly, we pushed the boundaries of everyone’s comfort level and grew a little that day. It was a perfect day and I cannot wait to go back for a longer trip!”
A Fun Fact about Zach is that by the time he was 25 years old, he had already lived in four states and had attended five different colleges! This surely provides proof that, like a true outdoorsman, Zach possesses adaptability, and responds well to, even seeks out, challenges. With his positive attitude, intelligence and mental strength, Zach has all the skills of the kind of person you want to have on your team, and especially when there may be a crisis to handle, or when the chips are down.
Zach is a team player, and his understanding of inter-dependency is instinctual. “I love the balance and harmony found in nature” shared Zach. It is not surprising that his favorite quote is from Bruce Lee, a man who emphasized the importance of cultivating your truest self and to be in harmony with the world: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” This quote inspires Zach because he realizes that to become the master, when working on a goal you must put in the time, and the hours, and make the effort to learn more, and that is when you really discover your true self.
Zach is witty, fun to be around, and laughter comes easily to him. He has a loving, caring, kind, and friendly spirit, and as such, he is BELOVED by the athletes, persons served, and his co-workers. Zach, the WCBDD is so grateful for you and all that you do! THANK YOU for being the shining star that you are and for making a difference in the lives of everyone you meet!
Person Served: Kyle Lewis
This week on our #FeaturedFriday, we’re putting the spotlight on Kyle Lewis!
Anyone who knows Kyle Lewis knows he’s a sports fanatic. He eats, sleeps, and breathes all things athletics. As you may have guessed, he’s very involved in Wood County Special Olympics, participating in Bowling, Basketball, Flag Football, Golf, and Softball. But did you know he’s also a great ambassador for the program? Kyle is an athlete leader, which is a program through Special Olympics Ohio, and has been involved in making decisions for Wood County’s sports and program. He also had the opportunity to throw the first pitch at a Mudhen’s game last year wearing his Special Olympics jersey.
“When I think about Kyle, I think about leadership,” says Zach Daugherty, one of Kyle’s Special Olympic coaches. “He’s one of the athletes that other athletes can look up to. He’s very respectful and carries himself like a professional.”
When he’s not playing sports, there’s a good chance you can catch him watching them; he loves cheering on his favorite sports teams including the Yankees, Flyers, and Eagles. Kyle’s originally from Philadelphia, so it’s no surprise he’s an Eagle’s fan! He actually lived in several different states before moving to Ohio five years ago including Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Connecticut.
Playing and watching sports isn’t enough for this sports fan, he also has his dream job working for the Toledo Mud Hens and Walleye! His job responsibilities include scanning tickets and ushering people in. One of the best parts about these jobs is the friendships he’s been able to cultivate through them. Because of the pandemic, Kyle recently started a new GES position at First Solar so that he can earn money while the sports venues are closed.
On the rare occasion you find Kyle not doing something sports-related, you may catch him watching The Curse of Oak Island, a favorite show of his on the History Channel. He’s got theories about who left behind buried treasures on the island and will tell you all about it if you ask!
In terms of goals, Kyle said right now he is mainly working to save money for golf and to go to Florida, where his aunt lives. When asked what he likes to do when he goes to Florida, Kyle said, “I’m not much of a beach guy—after a couple hours I’m ready to leave and get back to golfing!”
Kyle, you’re a great addition to our Wood Lane community and a great role model in Special Olympics! We’re so grateful for all that you do and the example that you set!
Person Served: Virginia Nuzum
Our #FeaturedFriday spotlight is on Virginia Nuzum!
Virginia likes to be out in the open air–she values both the mental and physical benefits that it brings her. In fact, one of her favorite pastimes is sitting outside and reading. Another outdoor activity that Virginia loves? She has a passion for growing plants and gardening! She currently helps tend a large, beautiful garden at her home where they grow a variety of vegetables and flowers.
Virginia and every gardener will tell you, “working in a garden is hard work, but very rewarding work”. Truthfully, working in a garden is an act of love, so it makes perfect sense to consider that gardening is a complementary expression of who Virginia is-a very loving, caring and compassionate person. She is the epitome of kindness and her kindness extends to plants, birds, animals, children and every other living thing.
Given her devotion to gardening, you will not be surprised to learn that one of her goals is to get a job in a greenhouse or at a nursery.
Persistence and tenacity are traits that Virginia possesses, as demonstrated by her recent efforts to achieve a long-standing goal of hers. After many months of trying, which were riddled with delays and setbacks, Virginia received her guardianship! Now that she has achieved legal autonomy, she can independently make important decisions for herself. While she understands and values the need to consult with others for information and advice, she is now able to make these decisions solely on her own.
Another goal that Virginia is working towards is living on her own. She would like to move into an apartment with a roommate. Further proof of her personal strength is her strong work ethic and the fact that she enjoys working. She just got a job at the library that she is quite excited about!
Virginia is someone with energy and dynamism and is a very involved self-advocate. She consistently supports the service projects of the AKtion Club. She is the Secretary of People First and traveled to the Ohio Statehouse in March for DD Awareness Day to speak with our legislators. Additionally, she is an Ambassador for Best Buddies and has attended the National Convention at Indiana University. She especially enjoys hanging out and attending sporting events with her Best Buddies BGSU partner, Riley.
“Virginia has a positive attitude, a great sense of humor and always has a smile on her face”, says her friend, Kim Paxton. “I have attended Synergy and Best Buddies with her and she is fun to be around, whether it is a late-night impromptu pizza party in our dorm at Best Buddies, or working alongside her on a project at Celebrate EDU”, shared Kim. “I can also tell you that she loves to move and groove on the dance floor, although she is not a morning person. She does love her coffee!”
Like flowers in a garden, Virginia is vibrant and lovely. Like a true gardener, she is a unique blend of patience, vision, curiosity, creativity, and wisdom. Virginia—the WCBDD is grateful for you, your ability to make the world a more beautiful place, and your willingness to spread your sunshine everywhere you go!
DSP of the Month: Jessica Wiggins
It’s time for another #FeaturedFriday! Jessica Wiggins is the Wood County Board of DD Direct Support Professional of the Month for July 2020. Jessica was nominated by Arianna Brooks, Katie Kramer, and Jenna Gable for her exceptional work as the Residential Home Manager of the children’s home.
Jessica is a person you can count on to get things done. She is dependable and always willing to help. Not only will she get the job done, but she will do it with a BIG smile too! Jessica is a positive influence on the lives of others. She can find the silver lining for anything. Even if everything seems to be going wrong, she will find at least one thing going right.
Jessica understands the balance between learning and playing. She makes learning daily living skills and makes playing meaningful. Jessica can be found in the backyard playing pirates or superheroes with the children of the home she manages. She isn’t afraid to get dirty or bring some snow boots to play. Jessica makes up games for chores and provides praise for accomplishing tasks. She is a leader and role model! We love her!
Staff Highlight: Mike Stanford
Today on our #FeaturedFriday, we’re putting the spotlight on the man, the myth, the legend…Mike Stanford! Mike has worked at the Wood County Board of DD for 10 years, starting out as a custodian before making the switch to administrative assistant two years ago. Whenever you walk back to Entrance D, you are sure to be greeted by Mike with a friendly smile and good conversation. He usually has a joke or two up his sleeve, so if you see him be sure to ask for one—you won’t be disappointed!
Anyone who knows Mike knows he is creative and takes initiative to make his many ideas into reality. These qualities help make him a great leader in his role as President of People First. He is a great advocate, always ready and willing to speak up about the things he is passionate about. This past fall he had the chance to speak about the importance of inclusion at a Not in Our Town rally and did a phenomenal job!
In addition to People First, Mike participates in Aktion Club and Special Olympics golf, volleyball, and swimming. He is also currently working towards a healthy lifestyle and is in the process of starting a YouTube channel to document his wellness journey! In his free time, Mike enjoys singing karaoke. You can catch his daily performances on Engage! Wood Lane. He also enjoys hanging out with friends, playing Super Mario Brothers 3, and is a big fan of parmesan garlic wings from Bdubbs (good choice, Mike!!)
Mike is a bright light and has a positive impact on his many co-workers and friends at Wood County DD. When asked what his favorite part of working at the board is, Mike said, “Seeing all the different faces every day and the good friendships I’ve made!” I think it’s safe to say we’re all thankful for your friendship too, Mike!
Staff Highlight: Rhonda Kendall
Our #FeaturedFriday focus is on Rhonda Kendall!! Rhonda is the Executive Administrative Assistant at the WCBDD and has worked here for 26 years. “How many people can honestly say that they love their job?”, asks Rhonda. “I love my job! I’m sure most of us believe they have the best job, but I am pretty sure mine is the best!”, she exclaimed.
This genuine affinity that Rhonda feels for her work permeates through every action and interaction that she makes at the WCBDD. Professionally, Rhonda is second to none, as demonstrated in her competence, her interpersonal skills, and her integrity. As a person, Rhonda exudes love and care, and her mega-watt smile is symbolic of her bright and fun personality. Understandably, she is respected and beloved by her colleagues.
Among persons served, and especially by the members of AKtion Club, Rhonda is affectionately referred to as “Mama Kendall”. In our society we use the word “Mama” as a term of endearment. “Mama” refers to someone who takes care of others, and who looks after everyone. Additional descriptive words like nurturer, supporter, and protector, come to mind. All of this describes Rhonda to a “T”! That she earned this moniker speaks volumes about the quality of the relationships she develops.
To Rhonda, family is everything. She and her husband Shad have been married for 28 years and they have two daughters, Alexis, 26 and Katlyn, 23. To make it even more special, they welcomed their first granddaughter, Maelyn Sue, into the world this year! Born in February, Maelyn Sue, daughter of Alexis and her husband Kenny, immediately stole Grandma Rhonda’s and Grandpa Shad’s hearts. Having a grand baby “put an additional sparkle in my eyes, and my heart grew beyond anything I ever imagined” shared Rhonda. Katlyn is attending BGSU and pursuing a degree in Biology. “I’m proud of our girls and couldn’t be more grateful that I am their mom”, said Rhonda.
The Kendall family is quite fond of traveling and vacationing. Vacation mode can take on many forms for the Kendall’s including camping, cruising the ocean, jetting off to other states, or trying their luck at the casinos in Vegas. One of their favorite places to visit is Nashville, which they describe as a must-see. They enjoy spending time with friends and consider them family too! Summertime is Rhonda’s favorite time of the year, when they can spend their weekends on their camper and relaxing in the sun on their boat.
For Rhonda, one of the joys of working at the WCBDD is the realization that each day is different. She especially enjoys the times when she gets to interact with the children at Wood Lane School. “They definitely brighten my day”, says Rhonda, and she feels blessed to be able to call WCBDD “my home away from home”.
One of Rhonda’s most memorable experiences working at the WCBDD occurred about 3 years ago. “I worked at the WCBDD for 23 years before I truly felt I had a purpose”, says Rhonda. “Then I became the AKtion Club Liaison and that was a life changing event for me”, Rhonda shared, recalling how she felt after she facilitated her first meeting. “I remember feeling so much compassion and love for all persons served, and especially my AKtion Club family. They are kindhearted, driven, thoughtful and all around amazing!”
Rhonda, a.k.a. “Mama Kendall”, we think YOU are amazing! The Wood Lane community is grateful for you, that you are a part of our family, and that you call the WCBDD “home”.
DSP of the Month: Danille Best
June’s DSP of the Month is the amazing Danille Best, of 1st Choice Family! Danille is all heart when it comes to her job, doing whatever it takes to make sure the people she serves are happy and have what they need. Not wanting individuals to be exposed throughout this pandemic, she has worked many hours, above and beyond her typical schedule. Danille can do it all–whether preparing meals, shopping, exercising, budgeting for adorable crafts, all while taking care of her own family!
Danille doesn’t look for praise or recognition, she just wants to make sure the people she works with are supported, healthy, and happy. Thank you Danille for all that you do to!
Person Served Highlight:
This #FeaturedFriday focus is on April Watson! The amazing April has an incredibly dynamic personality—she is fun-loving, kind, caring, friendly, and out-going. Given her keen sense of humor, smiling and laughter come easily to her.
“A person-magnet” is a phrase that accurately describes April and she thoroughly enjoys meeting new people. If you have ever spent even just a few minutes around April, you will most likely witness her introducing herself to someone new. The truth is, with her magnetism and high level of confidence, she could probably teach a class on self-introductory skills!
April is the consummate Ambassador. “We put April’s skills to good use”, said Victoria Denison, her home Supervisor. “Whenever there are visitors or a potential new staff member at the home, April takes the lead by introducing them to the residents and gives them a tour of the house. I just follow along.”
April has been working on developing her walking abilities as well as doing her PT Exercises every day in order to gain more strength. When she first began working on this goal, she could walk 100-150 steps, and only practiced every couple of days. She was hesitant at the beginning and had to be reminded to practice. It was hard work! With encouragement, and as she saw improvement, she gained confidence and pride. “She is being more proactive and taking initiative when it comes to this goal”, says Victoria. She is now able to walk over 300 steps! There has been a BIG difference in her ability. A goal that she would like to achieve is to be able to walk well enough so that she can be responsible for running the snack cart at WCBDD.
Activities that April participates in include being a member of People First, as she is passionate about advocating for and with people with special needs. She is also a member of Aktion Club and enjoys the various projects and helping in the community. Other activities include Special Olympics Bowling and Miracle League Baseball, which provide time for her to be with her friends, interact, and do a fun activity. She is an Ambassador for Best Buddies and looks forward to hanging out with her BGSU Partner Buddy.
April works at Via Quest and she has shown that she is ready and willing to accept a high level of responsibility. Her responsibilities include delivering the mail several times a week. She also monitors the front desk, another outlet for her to express her outstanding people skills.
During her spare time, April enjoys listening to music, practicing her math skills, and video chats. She loves to watch videos-there are no real favorites, she likes to watch it all! April is naturally curious, inquisitive, likes to learn new things, and she understands the value of asking questions to enhance her learning. She is fiercely loyal to both people and ideas, and has no difficulty speaking her mind. Did I mention that April loves to talk? She especially loves to talk on the phone!
April, you are truly a gem, and certainly one of a kind! We are so grateful for you and the ray of sunshine that you provide for everyone you meet!
Staff Highlight: Rachel Smith
Our #FeaturedFriday spotlight is shining on Rachel Smith! When you meet Rachel, you will become instantly aware that she is a people person, through and through. She is sociable, outgoing, and enjoys helping others, has a bright smile, an infectious laugh, and a sparkle in her eyes!
Rachel freely admits that her life revolves around her family and friends. She and her husband Alex live in Grand Rapids, OH and have two daughters, Adeline and Riley. While spending time with family brings tremendous joy to Rachel, they have a granddaughter, McKinley, “who we cannot get enough of!”
At the WCBDD, Rachel serves as the Administrative Assistant for the Health & Safety Department, which includes Health & Safety, Maintenance, Transportation and Custodial. Without question, the aspects of this job keep her busy, but she says she loves all the interesting challenges. In tackling these challenges, Rachel relies on her keen intellect, attention to detail and problem-solving skills. She came to the WCBDD after being in a corporate setting and has worked here for nine years.
When asked what her favorite thing was about working at the WCBDD, Rachel enthusiastically replied “the people!”. She is inspired by the genuineness and dedication of the staff, and she especially loves interacting with the people we serve. “They are the highlight of most of my days!”, says Rachel.
Rachel’s favorite memory about working here was when she competed in the Special Olympics vs Staff Swim Meet. Rachel recalled, “While most of the athletes like to throw out their typical “smack talk” prior to each event, they also gave encouragement before, and kudos after, every event. And yes, Maggie Hunt kicked my behind in the backstroke!”
When she is not at work, Rachel enjoys spending time playing with McKinley, working on restoring their home, or having game nights with friends and family. She is excited that summer is right around the corner because that means that she will be able to spend her time doing one of her favorite pastimes—Boating! Summer also provides opportunities to enjoy the sun, surfing, wake boarding, and music with her family and friends. Rachel said, “I love everything about it!”
Speaking of music, Rachel is an aficionado, and has a special knack for being able to name the artist for “almost” every song out there. Additionally, Rachel counts herself as a huge fan of college basketball (specifically March Madness), college football (Go Bucks!), crime shows, cooking, and has run three half marathons. Another fun fact about Rachel is that her Mom is from France. She has traveled to France twice to see family and is currently planning her third trip!
Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your beautiful self and your zest for life with us! You truly are a shining light, you radiate the Wood Lane mission, and you help make the WCBDD a great place to be!
Staff Highlight: Jenny Bailey
Today for our #FeaturedFriday, we’re putting the spotlight on the amazing Jenny Bailey. Jenny recently celebrated her 2nd “workiversary” here at Wood County Board of DD in March and while her official title is “Vehicle Operator”, she is truly a “jack-of-all-trades” on campus. She’ll try to tell you she’s a master-of-none but don’t be fooled, in addition to driving buses, she also subs as a cook in the cafeteria and as an instructor aid in the classrooms as needed and does a fantastic job wherever she is.
Originally hailing from Lima, OH, Jenny grew up in a large family—she has 7 brothers and 4 sisters—and “the best parents a child could ever wish for!”. Her parents also raised 3 of her mom’s siblings. She and her best friend have been friends since they were 5 and still hang out and have lots of fun together. If you talk with Jenny, you’ll quickly learn that her family, especially her children and grandchildren, mean everything to her. She has 4 grandchildren, Kaitlyn, Adrian, Acaiden, and Avaya, and affectionately refers to them as “my grands” because of how grand and precious they are to her. She loves spending time with them and making their time together as fun and memorable as possible.
When she’s not with her grandkids, Jenny enjoys dancing, hanging out with her friends, anything outdoors, and traveling with her sister. Together they have been to Ireland twice, Iceland, Canada, and have driven through or visited 38 of the 50 states in the U.S and hope to see them all. She LOVES music and says it is a great influence in her life. She has a very eclectic taste, but her favorite is rock. A few years ago, she won backstage passes and front row tickets to see her favorite bands Shinedown and Godsmack and took her surprised and very excited granddaughter for her birthday! She says “we got the royal treatment from Shinedown…and it was a night we will never forget!”
When asked what the best part of working at Wood County Board of DD is, Jenny said, “I love the kids that I get to work with and the staff! It is so nice to work at a place that makes you feel valued and appreciated, and I feel that here.” Jenny, we are so grateful for all that you do to help support, empower, and inspire our community!
Staff Highlight: Kristin Fisher
Today on our #FeaturedFriday, we’re putting the spotlight on the one and only Kristin Fisher! Kristin has worked at the Wood County Board of DD for 11 years as an administrative assistant. Kristin works in the school building and loves interacting with the students when they stop in the front office. She has a way of putting others at ease with her friendly demeanor and iconic, “Good morning, Wood Lane!” when answering the phones.
Kristin is involved with Wood Lane activities including AKtion Club, Special Olympics, Venturing Crew, and other recreation outings. An avid animal lover, you may find her volunteering out at the Wood County Humane Society and playing with the pups. Kristin also has three dogs of her own, Copper, Angel, and Roxy. She is an on-the-go kind of girl and has been to some amazing places including Turks and Caicos, and St. Lucia! Even with a stay-at-home order in place, Kristin still doesn’t slow down. She says she has been keeping busy with virtual work meetings and rec activities. She has also been trying to get in some form of exercise each day and connect with friends and co-workers through video chat.
When asked what the best part of working for Wood County Board of DD is, Kristin said, “I love my co-workers and meeting new friends!” Kristin, the feeling is mutual! We love you and are so glad you are a part of our Wood Lane family—it just wouldn’t be the same without you!
DSP of the Month: Barb Wise
Our DSP of the Month is Bard Wise! Many may also recognize her as “Grandma Barb”. For the past 5 years, Barb has worked as a DSP for C&J TenderHeart, an agency provider which provides Homemaker Personal Care supports to many individuals with intense needs.
Grandma Barb has always gone above and beyond to provide exemplary services for individuals served. During the current COVID19 pandemic, Barb has continued to support individuals in their homes even assisting during quarantines. She offers emotional and physical supports and helps alleviate anxieties of the people she serves and her coworkers. This is just one example of the many wonderful gifts Barb shares!
Most days, you will find Barb advocating for individuals at medical and psychiatric appointments and then on the sidelines of Special Olympic events, being everyone’s biggest cheerleader! Barb is not only a team player within the agency, but also when working with the County Board. Barb is the first to rearrange her schedule to attend as many team meetings as possible, and the first to directly reach out to the service coordinators of those she serves if she feels their needs are not being met!
We cannot thank you enough Grandma Barb for everything that you do for the clients you work with! Your love, support, and advocacy surely does not go unnoticed!
Person Served: Brandyn Broshious
It’s time for another #FeaturedFriday, and this week we’re putting the spotlight on…drum roll please…Brandyn Broshious!
Anyone who knows Brandyn know he’s easy-going and loves to have fun. He is a member of AKtion Club and is very active in Wood County Special Olympics Basketball, Volleyball, Flag Football, and Softball. Truly an athlete, Brandyn is also amazing at Zumba! Did you know he’s been doing Zumba for 9 years and aspires to be a Zumba instructor?? I think we’d all enjoy being in your class, Brandyn!
In addition to his busy sports schedule, Brandyn has also been working at All About the Kids in Bowling Green for almost a year now. He assists the teachers when needed and makes sure the facility stays clean. He says the best part about working there is getting to know the kids and playing with them.
In his free time, Brandyn enjoys playing video games, watching T.V., and hanging out with his friends Jordan, Zach, and Elena. During the summer he also likes going on bike rides. Ever the thrill-seeker, Brandyn likes to visit Cedar Point and ride the roller coasters. He’s also a big fan of Halloween and going to the haunted houses at HalloWeekends.
When asked if there’s anything else he’d like to share with the community, Brandyn said, “Go Wildcats!!” Brandyn, we’re so glad you’re a part of the Wood Lane family. You contribute so much positivity and kindness, and we can’t imagine our community without you!!
Person Served: Zach Parcher
If you are looking for a person who has significant goals and knows what it takes to achieve his goals, look no further than Zach Parcher. This week our #FeaturedFriday spotlight is on Zach Parcher.
Not only does Zach have goals, but he is quite motivated to achieve his goals. One major goal that Zach has been working toward is finding a permanent full-time job with benefits. He knows that through hard work and by putting himself out there so people can see that he has what it takes to be a good employee, these efforts will have a positive impact on helping him to achieve this goal.
For the past two years, Zach has been participating in the Wood Lane Apprentice program with the WL Maintenance Department. The program was designed to prepare participants for full time employment. During his time in the program, Zach has acquired skills used by electricians and plumbers. He has learned about snow removal and how to use a snowplow, how to work a chain saw, and to use other tools.
“The skills I have learned I can use for other jobs in the future. I think the apprentice program is a successful program. I have enjoyed it and I have learned a lot”, says Zach. As for his goals for future employment, Zach shared that he would love to be full time in the job that he has now.
Another goal that Zach is working on is improving his cooking skills and his daily living skills. “I am learning how to make my Mom’s homemade Mac and Cheese”. Some of his favorite things to prepare are grilled hamburgers and spaghetti, although he admitted that he does not yet know how to make his Mom’s homemade spaghetti sauce and the store-bought jar version does just fine for now. Additional skills he is learning include how to take care of his money, go grocery shopping, cleaning and doing laundry, and learning to be out on his own.
Zach is a skilled athlete and an avid sports fan. He is active in Special Olympics Sports including Volleyball, Basketball, Softball, Golf, Flag Football and Bowling.
During his spare time, he is a Volunteer at Wood Lane School, enjoys playing golf, hanging out with his friends, and playing video games every once and a while. He also enjoys going to the beach in North Carolina. This year he joined Best Buddies.
Recently Zach strengthened his advocacy skills during his trip to the Ohio Statehouse for DD Advocacy Day. “I got to speak with my legislators Senator Gavarone and Representative Ghanbari and talk with them about important topics. I shared with them the importance of increasing Special Olympics opportunities so that there are more sports and more people participating. We talked about the importance of accessibility for people with disabilities and for people who use a wheelchair. I also told them about the WL Apprentice program and how it is preparing me for employment. I enjoyed that trip to Columbus.”
While Zach knows the importance of taking action to achieve his goals, he also recognizes that his family is a good support system for him. “They are pushing me to be who I can be and they strongly support me in the things that I choose to do and want to do.”
Zach definitely recognizes that goal setting is the cornerstone of personal success. More importantly, he understands that applying hard work to his goals will propel him to achieve his goals. We are grateful for Zach, his leadership, and the positive energy that he contributes to the Wood Lane CommUNITY!
Staff Highlight: Danielle Perkins
This week, our #FeaturedFriday spotlight is on Danielle Perkins. It is said that the things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling. Danielle Perkins recognized at a young age that she had a passion for working with children. Following her dreams meant that becoming an educator was the only profession that made sense for her to pursue.
The WCBDD is grateful that Danielle honored that deep belief and answered the call! Danielle currently serves as the Coordinator of our Early Intervention department. Her professional path began at Bowling Green State University where she earned her degree in Early Childhood Education. She has been at WCBDD for nine years and her professional experiences includes opportunities to work with children in classroom, hospital and home- based settings.
“I love the variety that my job brings”, Danielle said reflecting on her favorite part about working at the WCBDD. “I enjoy meeting and working with a variety of children and families each with unique strengths, needs, and experiences. I enjoy the variety of people I work alongside and learn from (co-workers, departments, and agencies). I enjoy the day to day variety of being in the office and out and about in our community…every day is different!”
Danielle lives in Findlay with her husband, Chad, their son Cohen, who is 13, and their daughter Zoe, who is 9. She enjoys watching movies, eating ice cream, and attending sporting and music events with her family and friends. When not working she can be found on the sidelines and in the audience at her children’s events and volunteering with their schools. Danielle serves on the steering committee for Susan G Komen Race for the Cure Findlay Race and she also coaches her daughter’s soccer team.
Danielle brings an incredible variety of attributes and skills to her work, including intelligence, empathy, problem-solving, the delightful way that she interacts with all people, and a “get it done” approach to projects and tasks.
When asked to comment on what she has learned in her current role she said, “My position has taught me the importance of relationships. I have had the privilege of celebrating great successes and firsts with families, as well as sharing in heartbreaks such as the death of a child or a challenging diagnosis. I am fortunate to work with a team that supports each other during all these highs and lows that life and work throw at us.”
The truth is, the children of Wood County and the WCBDD are truly the fortunate ones. Thank you, Danielle, for honoring your passion and sharing your gifts, and for making a difference in people’s lives you touch!
Person Served: Ethan Sayler
This week’s #FeaturedFriday focus is on Ethan Sayler! Ethan, aged 15, is a freshman at BGHS, and is someone who can definitely be described as a fun-loving guy! But did you know that Ethan has a love for animals too? His pets include two guinea pigs, two hermit crabs, and various fish. Makes me wonder if this guy will become a veterinarian when he gets older?!?!
In addition to his pets, Ethan’s family consists of his Mom and Dad, two sisters, Hannah and Grace, and his brother Grant. He and his family are very actively involved with helping and supporting local food pantries.
Right now, much of Ethan’s focus and energy is spent on trying to keep up on his schoolwork. He is a member of 4H and is working on planting seeds to grow for his vegetable garden project.
During his free time, Ethan enjoys fishing, hanging out with his friend Trent, and going on Facebook. His hobbies include Bowling, and he was a member of the Bobcat bowling team. He also plays hockey for the Black Swamp Ice Frogs.
At Wood Lane, Ethan participates in the Recreation program activities and Special Olympics. He is looking forward to joining the Venturing Crew soon. Since he is still in high school, he doesn’t have a job but he does help his neighbors with their yard work, like grass mowing, pulling weeds, and shoveling snow.
Ethan wanted to be sure to give a shout out to Special Olympics: “I would like to say I really miss my coaches Zach and Jacob and give a shout out to all my friends, like Trent, Brandon, Larry, Zach, Dennis, Anne, Kim, George and many other friends I miss”.
Thank you, Ethan, for being the amazing young man that you are, and for all of the FUN, the kindness and the caring that you contribute to the Wood Lane CommUNITY!
Staff Highlight: Kathy Mangas
This week on our #FeaturedFriday, we’re putting the spotlight on Kathy Mangas, a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant at Wood Lane School. Kathy got her start at Wood County Board of DD in 1989, originally working in the same position but with Adult Services through Wood Lane Industries and Wood Lane Residential. She moved over to the school 20 years ago, and just recently celebrated her 30th year at Wood County Board of DD!
Kathy and her husband Jeff have been married for almost 27 years and have three children. Benjamin is 22 and graduated from BGSU last year and will be getting married soon! They also have twin daughters, Jenna and Jessica, both freshmen at Ohio State. Kathy and her husband spent a lot of time watching cheerleading events, basketball and gymnastics when their kids were in school and are now adjusting to being “empty nesters”. In her spare time, you may find Kathy reading, spending time outside in the summer, and taking family vacations to her parent’s cottage in Canada.
A dedicated employee, Kathy is known by her co-workers for being reliable and consistent. She is great about knowing her schedule and sticking with it, which is helpful for the kids she works with. She’s also very handy and can problem-solve to successfully fix most equipment, whether it’s a wheelchair wheel or a walker. She’s very knowledgeable about OT and is adept at thinking outside the box to find creative solutions to help the kids she works with reach and exceed their goals.
When asked what her favorite part of working at Wood County Board of DD is, Kathy said, “the best part of working here is the daily interactions I have with students and staff. I enjoy the challenges and rewards each day brings. I feel fortunate to be part of a team that supports and assists our students to be successful every day.”
It’s easy to see that Kathy exemplifies what it means to support, empower, and inspire people and we know how lucky we are to have her!
Staff Highlight: Tricia Peters
This week on our #FeaturedFriday, we’re highlighting Tricia Peters! Tricia will be celebrating 30 years with Wood Co. Board of DD this spring, and throughout her time here she has held several jobs. She got her start teaching individuals daily living skills on the weekends. From there, she worked as a Job Developer/Employment Specialist and then as a Service Coordinator. In November of 2019, she became an Employment Navigator and now works with students as they transition from school to the world of work. Tricia has had an amazing career with us and was honored at the National APSE Convention in Alabama. She also received the Best Practices in Supported Employment Award.
When she’s not working, you may find Tricia and her significant other Jason camping near wineries and golf courses, and spending time at their cottage. Tricia is also very family-oriented and enjoys spending time with her children. Her son Haiden is 26 and has a business of his own, Veteran Tree and Landscape LLC, is married to his wife Erin, and has a white German Shepherd named Opie. Her daughter Aubrey is 22 and a senior marketing major at BGSU. She and her significant other, Tom have Hank, a Black Lab
Tricia contributes so much positivity to Wood County Board of DD, and when asked what the best part of working here was, she answered, “Meeting new people and being able to empower individuals to improve their lives”.
Empowering those we serve is truly something Tricia excels at, as her co-workers said, “Trisha is a great advocate and support for those she serves. She has been with the Board for many years, and her passion, dedication, and experience have been invaluable as we develop our Transition Team.” Tricia, thank you so much for supporting, empowering, and inspiring our community! Be sure to thank Tricia for all that she does when you see her or drop a comment down below!
DSP of the Month: Missy Toney
Our DSP of the Month for March is Missy Toney! Missy has been working with people with disabilities for over 20 years and she is truly a gem. When employed with the county board, she was instrumental in making the Out and Abouters a unique success enabling people who would have otherwise not been able to get into the community, to have meaningful and engaging experiences. She sets standards for individuals receiving Vocational Habilitation and Group Employment so that they are prepared for Community Employment. Recently one of our staff members needed to take an extended leave and Missy stepped up to assist with our CJS crew. She is highly respected by her peers and is quick to help anyone in need. During her own time, she picks up individuals and makes sure that their holidays are filled and worthwhile, often inviting them to her own family functions.
Student Highlight: Drew Tokar
Our #FeaturedFriday this week is the one and only Drew Tokar! Drew is a senior at Wood Lane School and was recently nominated for Student of the Month from the Wood Co. Educational Service Center.
Drew is a good listener and loves music! He always rises to the occasion and demonstrates perseverance when faced with adversity. He is very active and swims, bowls, and participates in challenger baseball. When he’s at school he often helps bring things to the office when needed and enjoys technology and playing games with his classmates on the computer. He also has a blast doing exercise classes in the gym.
He is currently involved with vocational exploration and does custodial work as he prepares for his next steps. He is also busy visiting several other programs he may participate with in the future.
Drew, we are so proud of you and excited to see what the future holds for you! Go Wildcats!
Staff Highlight: Kim Paxton
Woohoo, it’s time for another #FeaturedFriday, and this week we’re putting the spotlight on the one and only Kim Paxton….better known as Kim Possible around here!
Kim has worked at Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities since 2016 as an Administrative Assistant. Throughout her time here she’s learned how to do many different tasks related to her job including creating ISP letters for monthly meetings and putting data into the computer system. She enjoys coming into work each day and is grateful for the support she receives from her co-workers.
Family is important to Kim—she has 3 siblings and 11 nieces and nephews. She’s also very adventurous and has traveled as far as Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world! When she’s not traveling, you may find Kim at a People First or AKtion Club meeting. She is also involved in Special Olympics and Venturing Crew.
Kim is a compassionate employee and friend who is never too busy to ask someone how they’re doing. She remembers the things that are important to you and is always willing to lend a helping hand. When asked what the best part of working at Wood County Board of DD is, she said, “Wood Lane is like a big family. The staff is amazing and very supportive!” She also wanted to be sure to give a shout out to “mama Kendall” for being the “best supervisor!
Kim, you are a part of what makes the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities so wonderful, and we are grateful for the work you do! Thank you for working to better our community and supporting, empowering, and inspiring others.
Staff Highlight: Danielle Galbraith
It’s time for another #FeaturedFriday and today, we’re putting the spotlight on Danielle Galbraith, an amazing employee here at Wood County Board of DD. Danielle just recently celebrated her 10th year at Wood Lane and we are so glad to have her on our team!
Danielle began her career in 2006 as a DSP at WLRS. After working there for a few years, she made the move to Wood County Board of DD in 2009 as a sub employee. A year later she was hired as a full-time Production Specialist and since then has held various positions including Job Coach, Service Coordinator, and most recently a Behavior Support Specialist.
Danielle is married to her best friend, Juston, and together they have four beautiful children Tianna (13), Jayla (8), Jacoby (7), and Jessa (5). Danielle and Juston are very involved in their community softball program and oversee the Elmwood Spring Softball Program for grades 3-8. They also coach one of the teams and put on a two-day winter softball clinic for all Elmwood Elementary and Middle School. That’s not all though! Danielle also recently started coaching volleyball for Elmwood 3rd and 4th graders and is a member of the Village of Wayne’s Welcoming Committee—a committee that organizes family-friendly events in the community.
When asked about the best part of working for Wood County Board of DD, Danielle said, “there are many ‘best parts’ of working here, but one I hope to be remembered for is by positively making a difference in the lives of others! It is a VERY rewarding feeling to see how doing something little can truly make such a positive and influential impact on the people we serve and their families!”
Danielle, you add so much positivity and encouragement to the Wood County Board of DD, and we are grateful for all that you do for the community!
DSP of the Month: Tracy Swartz
Our DSP of the Month for February is Tracy Swartz! Tracy was nominated by Jen Graf (WLRS, Retired) and Tina Wilson (WLRS).
Tracy has worked for WLRS for 33 years and is a great asset to the WLRS team. She goes above and beyond with every individual she works with and has always done all that she can to best support them. She is also incredibly supportive of her co-workers, taking the time to listen when needed and making everyone’s day better. Tracy stands out as a DSP because when all fails, she can be depended on to get what needs to be done, done.
Cindy Minnick, WLRS Support Service Manager, shared “I would like to add that Tracy is also a wonderful resource and trainer for her peers. She makes sure that they have all the information they need when they are learning the job, and this continues after they have completed training. She makes sure they know where and how they can get support. She also makes us laugh and makes sure we have fun at work! I appreciate her very much!”
Outside of work, Tracy likes to read all kinds of books, but she really enjoys self-help books. She also likes to spend time with her neighbors and tend to her garden in the summer. Tracy is always up for spending time with friends, but she does enjoy her solitude.
Tracy, we are so thankful for all the work you do! Your work makes a difference in the lives of so many people within our community, and we appreciate your commitment to supporting, empowering, and inspiring those within Wood County.
Person Served: Nick Woods
This week we’re excited to announce our #FeaturedFriday is…Nick Woods!
Nick is an avid superhero fan, and Batman is one of his favorites. You may have guessed that he loves watching superhero movies, but he also enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, going to the movie theater and working out at home or the BG Community Center.
Nick currently works at the Heritage Inn Nursing Home in Bowling Green as a member of the housekeeping department. He is responsible for cleaning residents’ rooms. Nick loves his job, his coworkers, and interacting with the residents.
Ally, Nick’s service coordinator, describes Nick as a guy who always works to better himself, and consistently identifies goals for himself and works to see them come to fruition. Over the past year, one of these goals has been to get his driver’s license. Nick has worked very diligently towards this goal, practicing and completing many driver’s training hours with Capabilities. It looks like Nick’s hard work and dedication paid off because just a few weeks ago he took his driving exam and passed! We think this is a huge cause for celebration!
Now that he has his license, he is saving money to purchase his own Honda Civic to get around. He is also currently working on his next goal of moving into an apartment with his roommate, Marshal. Nick LOVES dogs of all breeds and sizes, and his long-term goal is to eventually get his own dog and would really love a Husky.
Wow, Nick! We think you are unstoppable when you set your mind to something. Seeing you work towards your goals and achieve them is an inspiration for all of us, and we can’t wait to see what you accomplish next.
Person Served: Sean Pierce
This week we are highlighting Sean Pierce. Sean is a guy who likes adventure and this trait has motivated him to be very involved with Scouting and Wood Lane’s Venturing Crew 352! Some of his favorite activities with Venturing Crew are camping, geo mapping, and helping wildlife.
Not only is Sean an accomplished Scout, he also lives his life very closely to one of the teachings of Scouting– “Do a good turn daily.” When asked about his goals, Sean said “I’m focusing on having a better life and helping people. Whenever I’m needed, I’ll help!”
Sean also actively participates in the Recreation activities that are offered each month and enjoys going out to eat and seeing plays and musicals. During his spare time, Sean likes to watch tv, go to the movies, play Wii games and help his mom. “I am very social”, says Sean. “I like to spend time with my family and friends”.
Sean is employed at Heritage Corner as a dishwasher. Knowing Sean’s background as a Scout, it is not surprising to learn that he has a strong work ethic. “I am recognized as a hard worker” by my co-workers, says Sean.
Sean’s personal goals include improving his social skills and working on eliminating his self-talk.
You have probably already gathered that Sean is a fine young man with many interests. When asked if there is anything else that he would like to share with the Wood Lane community he said “I’d like to wish everyone a happy day! I’d like everyone to have a better life and to see more people smile”.
Sean, we are so grateful to know you. Thank you for being the consummate Scout that you are– for sharing your cheery smile, providing a helping hand to others, and for your contributions to making the world a better place!
Staff Highlight: Lynne Beard
This week’s Featured Friday person says that her favorite places and things involve water, sand, and a good book. This week we are highlighting the loving, caring and creative Lynne Beard, Administrative Assistant to the Director of Children’s Services. In addition to her affinity for reading, Lynne loves to travel and after returning from an enjoyable trip, she secures their memories by creating a scrapbook with the photos and mementos collected during the trip.
Lynne and her husband Mark have been married 31 years and are raising 3 boys, Christopher (21), Nicholas (20), and Jacob (17). Both Mark and Lynne are from Pemberville, but they have lived in Perrysburg for 21 years. Lynne has a degree in Music Education from BGSU, however with the realization that she is not actually using it, she has been a long-time member of the BGSU University Choral Society and gives her the opportunity to stay connected with her love of music and singing.
Lynne’s family has had a place on Lake Erie for 35 years and now that her sons are older, she and Mark have enjoyed many weekends at the lake exploring new restaurants and entertaining friends and family. Jake, their youngest, keeps she and her husband busy with his participation in the travel lacrosse team for the past 9 years. These travel opportunities have not only allowed them to support and cheer for Jake, but also to visit different places and to connect with many other families who are also traveling with the Lacrosse team. Christopher and Nick are both at University of Toledo following their dreams and spreading their wings. Lynne is looking forward to her next big adventure in June traveling for 2 weeks with her siblings through Europe as they follow the pilgrimage of their ancestors.
Lynne began working at Wood Lane in 2011 as a Bus Aide. After the years when she stayed at home with her kids, she found this new part-time work was quite enjoyable and a great way to ease back into employment. It didn’t take long before she realized how much she loved working with persons served! In 2013, Lynne became a Vehicle Operator and drove a bus for one year before finding a position in the front office at the school where she has supported Special Olympics, Volunteers, Recreation and Community Education. She started in her current position in 2017, working with the students, families at staff at Wood Lane School.
Of her experiences here at the WCBDD, Lynne says “I have met many wonderful co-workers and built relationships with many persons served. I was given the opportunity to be trained as a Good Life Facilitator in 2013 and that experience presented opportunities to work with a wide range of employees throughout the agency. I enjoy coming to work every day because every day is different and has its own challenges. Having had four positions has given me a unique knowledge of the different departments at the WCBDD”.
Working at the WCBDD has taught Lynne many of life’s lessons. “During my 9 years here, I have learned to look at the big picture when a challenge is presented and finding solutions has become one of my favorite parts of this job. I really enjoy working on a team and collaborating on projects. Being able to adapt to change can be very difficult for some people and I have found that the acceptance of change is a strength for me, and I am trying to find ways to help those that struggle with change. My big picture is that there are many blessings to be had at the WCBDD if you open your eyes to seeing them”.
Thank you, Lynne for sharing your love, your vision, your sense of adventure, and for spreading your cheer throughout the agency–The WCBDD is so grateful to have a co-worker as kind and gracious as you!
Staff Highlight: Terrie Hunt
Today we’re putting the spotlight on Terrie Hunt, a dedicated and caring employee here at Wood County Board of DD! Terrie got her start in the DD field in March of 1994 at Sunshine Children’s home. Originally, she was planning to work there only until she could start and manage her own daycare. However, she quickly fell in love with the DD field, and still remembers telling her husband after two weeks at Sunshine that this is what she was going to do for the rest of her life.
She then began working at Wood County Board in 1996 as a sub working at the industries. She’s held many positions since then including vehicle aid, 3rd shift direct care staff, Medical Appointment Coordinator, and Employment Specialist. In 2016, she began her current position as a Service Coordinator.
Terrie and her husband Eric have been married for almost 26 years and have two beautiful children, Dylan, who is 24, and Genna, who is 23. They are a very adventurous family and every 2-3 years they enjoy planning and taking a family vacation together. They also love to ride their motorcycles, and as Terrie said, “we love to ride our Harley’s as often as we can!” When she’s not riding her motorcycle, you may find Terrie taking her dog Scarlett for long walks at Slippery Elm Trail or Side Cut Park.
Terrie is truly person-centered, and if you talk with her it quickly becomes clear that she takes great pride in her work and genuinely cares about those she supports as a Service Coordinator. When asked what the best part of working at Wood Lane is, Terrie said, “I love everything about working at the County Board as a Service Coordinator. I feel like my co-workers are an extension of my family and can truly say that I love what I do.”
Terrie has been an amazing asset to Wood County Board of DD in the 24 years she’s been here, and we are truly grateful to call her one of our own! She works diligently and is a shining example of what it looks like to support, empower, and inspire others. If you see Terrie, be sure to give her a big thanks for all that she does or leave a comment below!
DSP of the Month: Erin Houston
Can you believe it’s already time for the first Featured Friday of 2020?! It’s our honor to announce Erin Houston from ViaQuest Day and Employment Services as the DSP of the Month for January 2020!
Erin was nominated by Becky Balser from ViaQuest. Erin is always smiling and ensures the best support is provided for all of the people we serve. She excels at building meaningful relationships and takes the time to get to know each person on an individual, personal level. She is always so calm, cool, and collected, even when the day may not be. She doesn’t let anything get to her and if it does, she doesn’t show it.
Erin goes above and beyond and is a great asset to ViaQuest and most importantly to the ones we serve here daily. As Dylan put it, “Erin is very nice and helps me, she is like my work mom! It’s evident that she makes a difference in the lives of those she serves as well as her co-workers, and we’re so lucky to have a DSP like her in Wood County!
Staff Highlight: Jan Hehl
It’s time for another Featured Friday!
A warm, familiar and friendly face at Wood Lane School is Jan Hehl, the Lead Cook. Daily you can find her planning, preparing and serving delicious and nutritional meals—both breakfast and lunch– for our students. If you have ever watched Jan in the kitchen, you know all of her food is seasoned with love.
Cooking is a fundamental part of life for Jan as she has a strong affinity for cooking and feeding people. “Food brings people together and makes them feel good”. A joyous occasion for Jan includes cooking for and spending time with her family, especially her three grandchildren. “My eight-year-old granddaughter shares my passion for cooking, and we spend a lot of time in the kitchen together!”
One of Jan’s co-workers remembers fondly eating tortellini soup that was prepared by Jan. “It was amazing”, says Kim Vaughn. “Making soups is one of her specialties and she can make something delicious with whatever is in the house”.
Jan has worked at the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities for nineteen years. She worked for several years as a Job Coach for CES before taking her current position. Jan feels very fortunate to have a job that she loves, and she enjoys coming to work every day. She feels proud to be a part of such an awesome team of co-workers that care so passionately about individuals served, and that are so supportive of each other.
Jan has proven herself to be dedicated to her work and is a strong advocate for the students. Her job is influenced by strict regulations and she makes sure to adhere to them, all while planning and creating food that meets the students’ nutritional needs and that they enjoy eating.
Jan says of her time working here, “I have learned more from my years working for the WCBDD than anything else I have ever done. I have many great memories and stories to share!” We are grateful to Jan for her kind and caring ways and her efforts to support, empower and inspire the students of Wood Lane School.
Staff Highlight: Katie Ackenberger
This week on our Featured Friday we’re spotlighting…drumroll please…Katie Akenberger!
Katie is a service coordinator and has worked here since 2017. She got her start with us back in 2006 when she was an undergrad at BGSU. She completed some field experience hours at both Wood Lane School and Work Leads to Independence (formerly Wood Lane Industries). She began her career as an educator, and two years ago decided to apply for a position with the Wood County Board of DD because she’d experienced such joy as a college student throughout her volunteer experiences.
Katie and her husband have two dogs, Rosie and Sully, and a spunky 7-year old niece who brings a lot of energy and joy to their family. Katie’s dream is to live on a farm someday and have all kinds of animals. In her free time, you might find Katie watching Friends on Netflix, or shopping at TJ Maxx, which she is “mildly obsessed” with. She also loves reading, watching crime TV and spending time with family. She could eat Mexican food any day of the week and lives for her mid-day Coke Zero.
Katie is dedicated to the work she does, and consistently strives to ensure the people on her caseload receive the very best support and encouragement she can give. When asked what the best part of working at the Wood County Board of DD is, Katie said, “The leadership, team work and enthusiasm throughout the agency makes coming to work fun!”.
Katie you are truly an asset to the Wood County Board of DD team, and we appreciate how hard you work to support, empower, and inspire our community! Be sure to let Katie know how awesome she is when you see her, or in the comments below!
DSP of the Month: Belinda Ayala
Belinda Ayala has been a Certified Independent Provider since October 2018 and works with several people in Wood County. Belinda, or better known to the people she works with as Bo, has been nominated for DSP of the Month by Denise Jagielski, SSA.
Belinda goes above and beyond in everything that she does. She genuinely cares about the health and welfare of the people that she serves. Belinda makes herself available to people she works with and has even been known to be in touch with them on Holidays! Belinda maintains good contact with the SSAs, providing follow up and updates on the progress of outcomes. Belinda will do things with the people she serves outside of her scheduled time. Anything that is asked of Belinda, it can be certain she will get the job done! Great Job Belinda! It is a pleasure to work with Belinda and thank you for all you do!!
Julie stated, “I really like Bo and she’s fun to be around. She helps me learn how to cook and clean”, while Tara said, “I like Ms. Bo because she’s reliable, shows up on time, and does what she says she will do. She is really fun to work with too.”
“Tara and I are extremely GRATEFUL to have a very kind, caring, and sincere care giver in our lives.With everything she has to do within her own family, Belinda ALWAYS finds time to go the extra mile ?? This is not just a job for her, this is a way of life to her.” Crystal, Parent.
Staff Highlight: Cheryl Schroeder
We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! There sure is a lot to be thankful for, and today on our Featured Friday we’re spotlighting Cheryl Schroeder, a compassionate and dedicated employee here at the Wood County Board of DD.
Cheryl Schroeder is an Investigative Agent and has worked here for 14 years. She got her start in the DD field while attending BGSU when she worked as a DSP for Wood Lane Residential Services and later for Wood Lane Industries.
Cheryl and her husband Tom have a beautiful family that includes their daughter Audrey, an adorable Springer Spaniel named Halli, 5 barn cats and 6 chickens! Cheryl is adventurous and enjoys camping, kayaking, playing cards, and watching football with her family. She also likes trying new recipes along with her tried and true ones.
Another fun fact about Cheryl: Growing up, she participated in FFA and showed sheep, hogs, and raised chickens for a school project. This is something she has in common with her niece and nephew, who now also raise animals. She explained one of her favorite things to do is watch them show their livestock, saying “their dedication amazes me, and I love watching their progress and hearing about the awesome friendships and memories they have made!”
Cheryl is passionate about empowering the people we serve to live their lives to the fullest, and works hard to ensure that they’re happy, healthy, and well supported. It’s clear that she genuinely cares about the people she works with and loves what she does. When asked what the best part of working here is, Cheryl said, “Making a difference in the lives of not only the individuals we serve but also their support system. I know that we encourage and support individuals to reach their goals, but they truly inspire me with their commitment and dedication!”
We are so grateful for all that you do to support the people we serve, Cheryl! If you see her around town, be sure to give her a big thank you for supporting, empowering, and inspiring our community!
Person Served: Mike Nuzum
If you know Mike, you know he’s a great leader and a sports fanatic. He works hard to accomplish his goals, and he’s reached several lately that we’re excited to celebrate!
One goal Mike has worked towards over the past year is getting a good job. He’s excited to share that he reached this goal and started a new job at Best Buy in Findlay stocking shelves and loading trucks. (Way to go, Mike!!) In addition to his new job, Mike was also recently elected as President for AKtion Club and led his first meeting this past week.
Mike is always on the go, but in his free time, he enjoys playing Xbox and spending time with his fiancé Heather. He likes going out to eat with his friends, especially if it’s at Bdubs! He is active in Special Olympics and recently went to state with his flag football team, where they got second place. Now he’s looking forward to basketball season starting up.
Mike is also a member of Best Buddies and has been matched with his peer buddy Nick for the past two years. He’s grateful for their friendship, and always has fun hanging out with Nick. Mike, we think you’re INCREDIBLE and we are so proud of all your accomplishments!
Staff Spotlight: Holly Hernandez
We’re putting the spotlight on our very own Holly Hernandaz! Holly has worked at Wood County Board of DD for over 13 years as an Occupational Therapist with Early Intervention and Wood Lane School. Fun fact: she got her start here in 2006, the day after her mom retired from 25 years of being a Wood Lane employee!
In her free time, Holly enjoys a good game of golf, although she admits, “the best way to describe my skills would be ‘wildly inconsistent’!” Her husband and her love to travel, and in recent years they’ve spent quite a bit of time exploring New England since their son now lives in Connecticut.
Throughout her time at Wood County Board of DD Holly has consistently gone above and beyond to support the children and families she works with. She knows the students she works with well, and always challenges them to take the next step, giving them the supports that encourage independence. The best part of the job for Holly is the relationships, challenges, and rewards that come with working with the children and families served by Wood County Board of DD. She also likes that there is always something new to learn!
Holly is truly an invaluable team member, and we are so grateful for all that she does! If you see Holly, be sure to thank her for supporting, empowering, and inspiring our Wood County community!
DSP of the Month: Amijo Mayberry
Amijo has worked with Wood Lane Residential Services (WLRS) for 35+ years. She began working for WLRS after a friend recommended she try it while she was working in a nursing home. Throughout the years, Amijo has formed lifelong friendships with the gentlemen she works with and with their families and guardians. She always has their best interest at heart and is an incredible advocate for them. Amijo is very knowledgeable and helpful. Amijo thinks outside of the box and gives many different ways that one could get something accomplished. This gift has been key in helping the people she serves learn new things and provides them with new opportunities. Amijo works many hours to help the home run smoothly and train new staff. It is amazing to watch her “work”, although according to Amijo she isn’t finished yet. She is truly an asset to WLRS! Amijo will be greatly missed throughout the organization when she does decide to retire!