By Julie McCoy
Persons with disabilities can be and are vulnerable in a world that is not always accepting of people that are different. The need for perspective change starts at home. This is a big part of the reason Soaring Dreams Incorporated, a 501(c)3 charity, was established on July 19th of this year.
As a parent of a child with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, I feared for my son’s future.
My son, Nolan, is now 27 and is the reason for this idea of developing job skill opportunities for persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, shortened as I/DD, after completing school. Nolan has an intractable seizure disorder, called Lennox-Gastaut, and has severe cognitive and visual deficits. However, he has many abilities that would be beneficial to the community and, of course, has the best manners of anyone I know!
Nolan attended Woodland School, developing wonderful skills, but especially stressing functional academics. The skills he has developed are going to be very useful in strengthening his autonomy in the community and his future. Nolan lives in his own home with two other gentlemen with disabilities. They have supports, provided through Community Mental Health, when they are home.
I have read articles, viewed the news, and have personal contacts with parents throughout the country with the same fears for their adult child. However, parents with the help of their communities, changed that feeling of fear to one of hope.
One inspirational example of this is the work of Tom D’Eria who, wanting his son to have a job that he could succeed doing, built a car wash in Parkland, Florida that employs his son and many other adults with autism. If you have any knowledge of someone with autism you know they can be very detailed oriented. Vehicles that went through the car wash line were meticulously cleaned, inside and out. The car wash became so successful that D’Eri is building another one, that again, will employ autistic individuals.
There is also the story of Ruth Thompson, a retired teacher in McKinney, Texas who approached her city officials, the community, schools and parents, and developed a café called, “Hugs.” It is staffed by persons with disabilities and is very successful. The entire community has been involved, has embraced the concept, and supports the restaurant.
Here in Michigan, there are similar business concepts. St. Clair County will now be on that map, with unique ideas for Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled (I/DD) individuals that will be totally integrated into the community.
I, along with co-founder, Laura MacDonald, herself a concerned parent, agreed that we needed to catch some of the ingenious ideas that other parents and communities were developing for their Special Needs Adults. Since she and I had limited resources, we decided a resale/thrift shop could help sustain the organization until we explored and fulfilled other future ideas that I/DD individuals requested.
We will rely on the community for volunteers to assist our individuals that need guidance. We will focus on strengths of individuals and develop those strengths. As we collect items to clean, repair, and/or paint for sale, we will also conduct Enrichment Classes for our individuals, focusing on Dress for Success, Self-Esteem, Anti-Bullying, Good Manners, How to Engage the Customer, to name a few.
Our organization is attempting to raise money to lease a building to begin our successful journey. Once the funding is secured for at least six months to one year lease cost, our specifications and needs for a building will be a site in St. Clair County, preferably in the Port Huron area, at least 3,000 sq. ft., handicapped accessible, and with easy access to a bus service line. We have developed a GoFundMe Page for Soaring Dreams Incorporated under the Charity section. A grant to St. Clair County Community Foundation has been written and submitted for consideration.
By the Grace of God, this column will continue to share the progress of Soaring Dreams Inc. as we proceed with this project. Later, I will touch on other topics that are of interest to readers including supportive housing, Social Security issues, wills and trusts, Home and Community Based Service Waiver, and medical issues that go along with disabilities. I will also keep the forum open for input and suggestions of topics from readers.
To help support Soaring Dreams, please visit the link below:
Soaring Dreams GoFundMe Page
See you next time!
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