Message from the Director
Picture This: An Even Better APDBy Barbara Palmer
Over the next five months, I will be traveling the state to host Town Hall style meetings to encourage dialogue with Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) customers, stakeholders, waiver support coordinators, providers, and others. I want to hear about things our agency should focus on in the future. I especially want to hear from individuals and families who are served by APD on their issues, concerns, and successes. After spending many weeks on the road, I hope to create a better APD and a brighter future for all the people who we help participate in their local communities.
The success of the recent Legislative session was the result of the agency and stakeholders working together to achieve things in the best interest of the people we serve. As a result, APD is receiving $36 million to enroll people from the waiting list onto the Developmental Disabilities Medicaid waiver beginning July 1.
To encourage attendance at the various APD Town Hall meetings, we are launching the Picture This campaign. Town Hall attendees are asked to take a digital photo with me with their camera or smart phone, and then send it to APD.email@example.com. The photos will be posted on the APD website and on APD social media. One photo will be picked to be highlighted in the APD Champion newsletter each month.
We will begin our tour of the state in the Suncoast region with two meetings.
- June 27 from 6-8 p.m.
- All Peoples Life Center
6105 East Sligh Avenue
- June 28 from 10a.m.-noon
- Disability Achievement Center
12552 Belcher Road
To find out the latest schedule of APD Town Hall meetings, visit APDCares.org. Please confirm the date and location on our website before traveling to the meeting due to possible changes. I look forward to visiting every area of our state to picture a stronger program to serve our citizens with developmental disabilities in Florida.
Governor Rick Scott visits Bishop GradyBy Jennifer Monje
On Thursday, May 16, Governor Rick Scott and Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Barbara Palmer visited Bishop Grady Villas of the Central Region to celebrate $36 million in funding for APD waiver waiting list. It has been eight years since there has been funding allocated for APD’s waiting list and all of the joy and excitement in the room showed how appreciative everyone was for this additional funding. About 750 individuals on APD’s waiting list will now have the opportunity to receive the services they need to participate in their community and develop skills to find employment!
During the news conference, Governor Scott profiled four individuals highlighting their success at Bishop Grady Villas and even sang "Happy Birthday" to Ashley Strand who was one of the individuals being profiled. The people Governor Scott profiled were thrilled to be recognized during the event. APD customer Alex Tooth began the event by leading everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance.
After the press conference, Director Palmer and others had the opportunity to tour Bishop Grady Villas that included the workshop and green house. Bishop Grady Villas supports persons with disabilities to use their gifts to achieve greater independence.
Governor Scott Visits Jacksonville
Governor Rick Scott visited Pine Castle in Jacksonville to celebrate $36 million in funding for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities waiver waiting list. Disability stakeholders stood with Governor Scott in support of the increase in funding for APD in the 2013-2014 state budget. Hundreds of people were at Pine Castle on May 29 to hear the good news from Governor Scott.
Governor Scott said, “I want every Floridian, including those with disabilities, to be able to follow their dreams. By investing $36 million in funding for APD for the first time in eight years, individuals with disabilities will be able to receive services in their communities and more people will be able to get the skills they need to have a job.”
Pine Castle, Inc. Executive Director Jon May said, “On behalf of the 400 participants at Pine Castle and those on the waiting list for services in the state of Florida, I want to extend a sincere thank you to Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature for adding $36 Million in funding to the Agency for Persons with Disabilities to serve additional persons in need from the waiting list. We also appreciate Governor Scott visiting our center today to celebrate this new funding. Pine Castle is where people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities enjoy opportunities to learn, work, and connect to the community.”
Governor Scott Visits Fort Myers
Governor Rick Scott visited LARC, Inc. in Fort Myers on May 31 to announce an additional $36 million in funding for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities waiver waiting list.
Governor Rick Scott said, “Living in your own home and having a job are what all Floridians want, including those with disabilities. With our $36 million investment, we will be changing people’s lives for the better so they may live their version of the American Dream. For the first time in eight years, we will move more than 750 people off the APD waiting list so that they will receive the services they need to participate in their community and develop skills to find a job. ”
Roger Bradley, Executive Director for LARC, Inc. said, “With the $36.3 million for the waiting list, the wait is over for those with the most severe disabilities who have been waiting an inordinate amount of time for services. An undesirable trend is now being reversed by Governor Rick Scott and our legislators because they listened and acted on behalf of our most vulnerable citizens. Hope has returned for many of our families! This new funding for employment targets students with intellectual and developmental disabilities that are transitioning from high school to the adult world, and will enhance and hasten the opportunity for them to join the workforce without being first diverted to the couch. The direct route to employment is the most cost effective and efficient route for those who want to immediately go to work when they leave high school!”
A Man and His Horse
Henry Fipps, a Tacachale resident, has had a love of horses since he was 8. When he was younger he would ride his uncle’s Shetland pony, and for the last 13 years he has been riding formally at the Marion County Therapeutic Riding Association in Ocala. He currently rides at Stirrups and Strides in Citra.
On May 3 and 4, Fipps competed in the Special Olympics Equestrian Championship, and won Gold in the state competition. To be eligible to compete, Fipps was required to attend at least 10 riding lessons six months prior to the competition. In his lessons he learned balance and stability in the saddle, good communication with his horse, and control of his horse; all skills he mastered to win the Gold.
Sunland Medals at State Summer Games
Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Barbara Palmer participated in the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics State Summer Games on May 17, in Orlando at the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disneyworld. She led the crowd in a “never give up” cheer. Director Palmer went on to say that she helped organize the first Special Olympic Games in Tallahassee 30 years ago. Back then, they had to beg people to come. With the 2250 athletes, volunteers and coaches there to hear her remarks, she said, “Look how far you have come.”
A total of 18 athletes traveled to the games from Sunland. Seventeen Sunland athletes received medals in track and field events and cycling. The Sunland Sonics volleyball team captured a Gold Medal, defeating Manatee on Friday and Pinellas on Saturday. This marked the 10th straight year the Sonics have won Gold in volleyball and their 25th Gold Medal since 1986.
The athletes received free screenings, including vision, hearing, dental, and other health related screenings. If needed, athletes received new glasses on-site at no charge. Special Olympics Florida also provides free health screening to APD waiting list customers.
Hot Dog, You Did It!By Cindy Drew
When you run a successful hot dog vending business, you truly relish your work. And, that is certainly the case for nine APD customers who collectively run a hot dog cart located just outside of Goodwill industries on Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala.
Fred Allen, Charlotte Coach, Anthony Dayton, Becky French, Aisha Issa, Michael Jacobie, Josh Lessor, Kerr Sargood, and Amy Thompson run the business. Learning how to operate their own business, literally from scratch, has changed their lives and the lives of everyone around them.
Amy Thompson, one of the nine workers, deeply enjoys her new entrepreneurial world and her sense of pride is unmistakable."I have been able to get better at my customer service skills. I have to take orders and run the register. It is definitely more responsibility for me, but I am learning more skills," says Thompson.
The hot dog stand business started in mid-May last year but, before it could even begin, each owner had to become a certified food handler. That means more than just cooking hot dogs. They each had to be able to keep precise temperature logs, utilize proper sanitation techniques, purchase and maintain inventory, and display outstanding customer service skills.
The hot dog stand is open Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The start-up entrepreneurs have steady sales in the range of $1,200 a month. Initially, they needed support and help from their adult day training skills trainer, however, after four months of operation they are able to run the business almost entirely own their own.
The hard work has paid off. Not only have they learned basic business skills, but they also track their progress on a specially designed spreadsheet. The program displays their bottom line on a big, easy to read, overhead screen. After carefully entering all the needed information, the program then calculates profits and losses so each worker can see what works and what doesn't. If they purchase too much advance inventory, their profits fall. If they have a particularly good sales day, their reward is immediately seen. And, business is booming.
The concept started when Derek Arnold, the Supervisor for Goodwill Adult Day Training Program, did research and discovered that Marion County had numerous food-based businesses. Why go elsewhere? Arnold thought a hot dog cart would be a perfect match for hungry, lunch time shoppers.
After months of planning, fund raising, and food handling training, the entrepreneurs are succeeding. “It's amazing,” says Arnold, “At first they needed a lot of help. Now it has taken off.” He says he actually does very little supervision now. “They are involved in every facet. They can do it, and they are getting paid well," says Arnold.
Each entrepreneur has had a taste of success and they love it. Sales are soaring but, more importantly, so is everyone’s sense of self esteem.
The group has also become an inspiration to peers, customers, family, and friends. People attending the Goodwill Adult Day Training program have seen for themselves how business dreams can come true and many want to follow in their footsteps. Change is in the air. Encouraged by their friend's success, others are hoping for the same chance and are exploring opportunities to start a business in the future.
Around the State
Floridians with Disabilities Get the Job Done
The Governor’s Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities invited employers in the Pensacola area to share their experiences in hiring and working with people with disabilities at their business meeting on May 10, at the University of West Florida. Having to contact too many agencies to find qualified candidates, getting employees hired in real time, fear of costs, unfamiliar with the disability, being too complicated to hire, transportation issues, and applicants being able to interview along with completing the online application were some barriers shared with the commission. Having face time with students with disabilities in a mock interview setting has helped employers be less fearful. Requiring students in the exceptional student education track to meet the community service hours required of other students may develop confidence in the students along with easing concerns of potential employers. Barbara Palmer, director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, shared information on the $500, 000 in the APD budget for 2013-2014 to support students transitioning into employment. The commission was created to develop public policy strategies that address barriers preventing people with disabilities from competing in the workforce. Incentives for employers to hire individuals with disabilities will be included in their public policy recommendations to the governor on July 26.
On Track to Transition
APD Northeast Region and the Area 3 Family Care Council, in conjunction with the Family Network on Disabilities (FND) and numerous other agencies held a series of workshops entitled On Track to Transition on Saturday, May 4, at Santa Fe College in Gainesville. Participants enjoyed informative presentations regarding the transition from school to work from APD Northeast Region staff Jim Smith, Leslie Richards, and Jennifer Valenzuela, who gave an overview of APD redesign and regionalization, the waiting list prioritization, and a demonstration of the new APD resource directory. These were followed by presentations that included Patrick Mulvihill from Project 10 Transition Education Network, the University of North Florida on-campus transition services, Jeanne Repetto from the University of Florida who led a valuable discussion about the importance of healthcare transition, as well as Tom Nurse of Manning & Nurse who had great information regarding guardianships, wills and trusts. Dr. Gary Walby from the Ounce of Prevention Foundation gave an update regarding a Florida Developmental Disabilities Council Waitlist Strategic Planning study. Community partners had information at tables, including Noah’s Endeavor Inclusive Recreation, Vocational Rehabilitation, the Arc of Alachua County, and the Alachua, Bradford and Levy counties Community Coalition for Persons with Developmental Disabilities.
Area 3 Family Care Council Chairperson, Shelly Voelker and FCC Member, FND Representative and workshop organizer Rebecca Harty-Allen said they were pleased with the turnout, noting that many of the enthusiastic participants were people who were attending their first community forum in Gainesville.
Disability Employment Expo at the Fashion Square MallBy Jennifer Monje and Maryjane Wysocki
On May 7, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) and the Employment Network of Central Florida (ENCF) had its third annual Disability Employment Expo at the Fashion Square Mall in Orlando. Over 400 attendees participated. Attendees had the opportunity to meet over 17 different Employers, obtain valuable information on resources, have their resumes critiqued and participate in a mock interview. This year, 44 individuals signed up for mock interviews with seven interviewers from Lockheed Martin, Big Lots, and Bishop Grady Villas. This was a new feature of the Employment Expo this year and something that will return based on the great reviews received from all participants.
During the opening of the Expo, the Employer of the Year Award was presented to Rob Harris from Walgreens Distribution Center by APD’s Regional Operations Manager, Merari Perez. Harris was recognized for his outstanding contribution to advancing employment of individuals with disabilities.
During the Expo, individuals also had the opportunity to attend workshops with presentations on various topics including, resume writing, interview and job search tips, and transferrable skills.
Freedom High School’s “Life after High School” Transition ForumBy Jennifer Monje
It is never too early to start planning for a successful life after high school! On April 29, the Orange County Public Schools, and the Greater Orlando Interagency Council, hosted an informational forum to update teachers, parents, and students with disabilities on issues related to transitioning into adulthood. The forum allowed over 300 participants to gather information on issues related to mild to severe disabilities. It was also an opportunity for parents, students, and teachers to attend breakout sessions on key topics such as the school's role in transition, preparing for employment after high school, enrolling in vocational education, what to expect in college, what services are provided by VR and APD, and getting answers to your Social Security questions. To find out more information about the Greater Orlando interagency council, please visit the interagency website at: www.gointeragency.com.
Swingers Treat Folks At Courtyard
The Sunland Swingers Square dancing group from Sunland took their show on the road May 14, and delighted a crowd of folks at Signature Health Care At The Courtyard. Karen Henrickson, Sunland’s Volunteer Coordinator said the group’s reputation makes them a crowd favorite. “The Swingers work very hard on their routines and that shows in their performances. The Courtyard invited the Swingers to come out to perform and we were more than willing to facilitate the trip,” said Henrickson. Those in attendance enjoyed the performance and the Swingers will certainly be welcomed for a return performance. “They did an outstanding job and we would love to have them come back for our next special occasion,” said Courtyard Activities Director Anna Neel. The Swingers are made up of individuals who reside at Sunland and are under the direction of volunteer Jim Bush.
For more information about the Swingers or other volunteer opportunities at Sunland please contact Karen Henrickson at (850) 482-9371.
Double Header for Miami ConsumersBy Michael Cardello and Rosa Llaguno
The Miami Marlins recently provided two Southern Region Agency for Persons with Disabilities customers with an enjoyable experience at the Marlins Ballpark as part of the agency’s Game Changer initiative. Game Changer is designed to allow individuals served by APD to tour sports facilities, meet players, and attend games.
On April 20, Axel Serrano was able to attend batting practice on the field, as well as to watch the game from seats very close to third base. During batting practice, Axel was able to personally meet player Adeiny Hechavarria. Axel and his dad were accompanied onto the field by a representative of the Marlins Foundation. According to his father Daniel, Axel said he had a marvelous experience which made him very happy.
Shaila Maldonado also had a special experience at the Marlins Ballpark on May 18. Shaila is an 11th grader and who has been on the APD waiting list since 2004. According to her mother Gwen Aguero, Shaila has always had a very special attachment to baseball as she used to attend games with her family, including her grandparents, who were very big fans. Shaila’s attendance brought back memories of her going to baseball games with her grandparents. For Shaila, attending baseball games has always been a very social experience. On Shaila’s game day, she was able to go onto the field to witness batting practice, and was also accompanied by a Marlins spokesperson. During the game itself, she was seated between third base and home plate. She enjoyed the music and was especially happy to see Billy Marlin. According to her mom, Shaila chanted “Let’s go, Billy”, while others were chanting “Let’s go Marlins”. Shaila also received an autographed baseball, but not before autographing it herself. This was Shaila’s first time at the new Marlins ballpark and because of her family’s history with baseball, this experience is one that she and her family will cherish.
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