ACCO FY 2018 Annual Report and Head Start Report

ACCO FY 2018 Annual Report and Head Start Report

Read Ability Connection Colorado’s Annual Report to the Community for FY 2018! We are very excited about the accomplishments of our organization this past year. Find more information, including:

  • Inclusion Matters – Imagine a world where each individual is valued, respected and honored for their unique abilities.
  • Early Education highlights
  • Employment highlights
  • Support highlights
    Special Event highlights
  • Financial Information

Annual reports for Ability Connection Colorado and ACCO’s HeadStart / Early HeadStart programs:

Covid-19 Update

Covid-19 Update


Our Amazing Creative Options Health Team!

Covid-19 update to our community
August 24, 2020

Dear ACCO Friends,

We wanted to take this opportunity to share with our community the impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on our programs and what steps we are taking to mitigate risks as we work toward reopening, while following the State health department guidelines. Given that ACCO serves people of every age from pre-natal moms to school-age children to youth seeking employment and older families sharing guardianship concerns about their loved ones, our organization is steadfast in believing that education, in all its forms, is the catalyst for overcoming all types of barriers. The updates below focus on our three primary areas of service:

EDUCATION
Our Creative Options program for children birth to five opened in June for a 4-week summer session focused on our children going to Kindergarten and our children receiving special education services. The session went well, and we feel assured that the children that could attend did demonstrate continued growth in all domains and expressed joy at being in school! Families also reported that this time for their children was important for them as well allowing them to stay employed while their children continued to learn. The health and safety of our teams, families and children we serve has and continues to be our top priority.

On July 20, we reopened our centers for our birth to 3-year-olds and, as of August 3rd, have also opened our preschool classrooms. Right now, we are offering a hybrid of services, providing both in-class and remote learning, depending on what families choose. For in-class learning, we have implemented several measures including:

• Following all CDC and Colorado Department of Health Guidelines.
• Augmenting staffing schedules in order to accommodate staff that also have children at home
needing care.
• We continue to provide ongoing assistance to families experiencing food, housing and
employment insecurity.
• On-site nursing provides immediate access to answer health questions and determine illnesses
when they occur.

EMPLOYMENT
Since March, the employment team at Ability Connection Colorado has been providing virtual services in a variety of ways:

• Though participation in the Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP) has been understandingly interrupted, ACCO staff continues to offer online virtual services to more than 50 youth.
• While mentoring participation has declined somewhat, guest speakers have been easier to arrange with less need for in-person meetings.
• With an uptick in food security and mental health issues, the RAMP team has been identifying and working with several families to provide needed resources. Staff also have noted a significant disparity between youth with disabilities and online learning. For these youth, we have helped provide or helped find and direct resources and equipment to help overcome these deficits.
• The Out of School Youth team is currently serving about 55 youth. Online Zoom sessions have been key to providing numerous classes on subjects including Financial Literacy, Mental Health Support, Workplace Etiquette and Navigating the OSY Application. Staff have also been helping youth with specific tasks such as applying for a Colorado I.D., obtaining a Social Security Card or assisting youth as they apply for Medicaid.
• Information is consistently shared among participants through newsletters and individual contact by phone.
• At a time when job placements and availability are down, employment staff continue to support participants individually with tasks like preparing job resumes and how to navigate new work environments considering the Covid-19 pandemic.

FAMILY SUPPORT
Ability Connection Colorado’s statewide support programs have been particularly busy at this time helping families stay safe and connected, while offering much needed information and resources:

EMPOWER Colorado, with its focus on helping families cope with mental health issues, has seen a steady increase in calls regarding the uncertainty of the times we live in and the growing need for support and available resources. Beginning in the second quarter of this year, EMPOWER Colorado joined forces with Parent to Parent to broaden their collective resources and to provide additional levels of support for families in need.
Faith in Action continues to do what it does best. Namely, to match the needs of vulnerable people with volunteers wanting to help others with their daily living skills and activities. More than ever, this service provides critical companionship and assistance at a time of isolation for many.
• Calls for information and support regarding ACCO’s Guardianship Alliance of Colorado (GAC) program have seen a steady rise during the pandemic. Aging parents are sharing their concerns and anxiety about their own health and what they can do for their loved ones should they become affected by Covid-19. The recruitment and training of guardians continues to be a major focus for GAC at this time.
• The Infantile Scoliosis Outreach Program (ISOP) continues to help support families of children born with Progressive Infantile Scoliosis. Whether it’s helping families navigate the medical system or providing them with critical information and referrals regarding the life-saving techniques used in Mehta Casting, ISOP continues to be vital resource for many.
Parent to Parent of Colorado (P2P-CO) has quickly made the transition from face-to-face meetings to online zoom gatherings where parents can share their stories and concerns, while receiving the latest information about the pandemic and guidelines for staying safe. P2P has been especially well positioned to help families at this time given their well-established web presence, their long-standing relationship with Colorado families and their growing network of information and resources.

In addition to programmatical changes, one of our greatest challenges has been the need to modify, cancel or postpone several of our special events. These critical sources of revenue are what allow us to provide the many comprehensive, life changing programs described above. While we are doing all we can to keep the lights on, it is a struggle to do so. If you can help us during these difficult times, we would be forever grateful. Whether helping spread the word about our need, volunteering or monetarily giving directly to our organization, please know that your contributions are and will make an important difference for someone in need. We recognize the challenges many are facing at this time and appreciate your consideration.

Lastly, if you are in need of support or know someone who is, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at info@abilityconnectioncolorado.org. We are here to help if we can.

Stay Safe and Connected,

Kathy Higgins
Chair of the Board

Judith Ham
President & CEO

Justice For All

JUSTICE FOR ALL

An introspective look from Ability Connection Colorado

For nearly 75 years, Ability Connection Colorado (ACCO) has been advocating for the rights and advancement of people with disabilities. In fact, our very existence was derived from a small group of mothers who sought greater opportunities, meaningful education and a more equal playing field for their children with disabilities. Even more important, they wanted people to know that their children, despite the severity of their disability, were loved and loving and exceedingly more capable than others might ever have considered. Theirs were among the earliest voices of what became known as the disability civil rights movement.

Just over 30 years ago, in March of 1990, a group of more than 1,000 disability activists descended on our nation’s capital to protest the failure of legislators to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Passage of the act would outlaw the discrimination of people based on their physical or mental disability and ensured equal access to public buildings, transportation, employment and other inclusionary opportunities. The rally was filled with speeches aimed at getting politicians to vote in favor of the landmark legislation.

8-year-old Jennifer Keelan crawls up the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., March 12, 1990

The most notable part of the protest occurred when over 60 activists abandoned their wheelchairs, crutches or other mobility-assistive devices and began to crawl the 83 stone steps to the top of the U.S. Capital Building. Among those who began crawling was eight-year-old Jennifer Keelan from Denver. “I’ll take all night if I have to,” Keelan was quoted saying as she forcefully willed her body ever upward. Bystanders watched as chants began to ring out— “What do we want?” “ADA!” “When do we want it?” “NOW!”

The stunning imagery of that demonstration, what became known as the “Capitol Crawl”, is widely believed to have been the catalyst that led to the signing of the ADA just a few short months later. And, while the ADA, may have been culminated in the acts of a few on that momentous day, their actions were the reverberation of the many thousands of people that came before them, forging victories big and small, not in the name of special rights, but equal rights and an equal opportunity to fully participate in the same world as their non-disabled counterparts.

Fast forward to today as we watch people of every stripe, creed and color take to the streets of American towns and cities. Their collective voices, strong and resolute, call for an end to institutional racial injustice and the social and economic disparities experienced by people in communities of color. Amid a global pandemic that has most people self-quarantining, others flood the streets at great personal risk, all in the name of equality under the law.

For an organization whose vision it is to live in a community that includes, accepts, and celebrates the abilities and contributions of all individuals, Ability Connection Colorado stands in solidarity with people that have been marginalized and discriminated against. Unsurprisingly, the growing movement we see today is not dissimilar to that of the civil rights efforts fought for by people with disabilities. Challenging negative attitudes and stereotypes, rallying for political and institutional change, and lobbying for the self-determination of a minority community are the very constructs that have advanced the rights of people with disabilities throughout the last century. Indeed, the immoral and profound injustices of slavery were not only the impetus to the civil rights movement, but by extension, have also helped launch other movements including women’s suffrage, disability rights and gay rights.

 


The Civil Rights Movement has been the impetus of change for other movements, including disability rights.

The history-making events we are witnessing today must become the salient call for all people of conscience to rise up and stand firmly on the side of equal justice and systemic, fundamental change. As an organization that serves people in disadvantaged communities, Ability Connection Colorado reaffirms our commitment to inclusion and the fair and equitable treatment of all people. We expect and hold to account our leaders and policymakers to be intentional in their actions by helping close the inequality gaps in education, healthcare and economic opportunity, which are disproportionately experienced in communities of color. And lastly, with one voice, we call on people everywhere to reject all forms of racial discrimination and structural bias.

At Ability Connection Colorado, we believe we are all connected by our common humanity and united by our shared sense of what is fair and just. Through our diversity and shared experiences, we are infinitely wiser. With our collective voice, we can change the world we live in and attain the equality that all human beings strive for.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and Team at Ability Connection Colorado.

Ability Connection Colorado is Committed To…

  • Partnering with our community to intentionally  pursue  real changes.
  • Reflecting on our commitment and vigilantly examining our efforts.
  • Committing to not stopping until justice and equality are our norms in our community.

Thanks to all who came to our Great Balls of Fire 9-Ball Billiards event!

Thanks to everyone who came out to our 26th year, 9-Ball Billiards event this past Saturday at The Wynkoop Brewery!! A challenge dedicated to Kyle E. Fisher. We had a blast! Thanks to the Fisher family, Denver Firefighters Local 858, Colorado Professional Fire Fighters all of our sponsors, volunteers and the ACCO team for making this a huge success. See more photos from the event : https://www.abilityconnectioncolorado.org/special-events/billiards-challenge/

ACCO’s RAMP Program: Suit Up Event

READY TO ACHEIVE MENTORING PROGRAM (RAMP) SUIT UP EVENT

On December 7th, ACCO hosted a SUIT UP event from 10:00-2:00pm. We received a generous donation of masculine clothing such suits, shirts, and ties from Men’s Warehouse thanks to TKC Inc. We invited families and youth to join our RAMP team at ACCO to pick out a free professional outfit. This was an exciting opportunity to support our clients in the community we serve.

FY 2018 Annual Meeting Held

FY 2018 Annual Meeting Held

Ability Connection Colorado held its Annual Meeting for fiscal year 2018 on Friday, April 5, 2019. The well-attended meeting featured a number of speakers who shared outcomes and highlights from all of our programs as well as a review of our special events held during FY 2018. The meeting was capped off with the presentation of Ability Connection Colorado’s annual awards which recognized the outstanding contributions of key staff and community partners in a number of different categories. Special thanks to all who participated in the annual meeting and to all of our deserving award winners! Pictures from the event and a listing of award winners are summarized below.

Annual Award Winners

2018 Outstanding Corporate Sponsor of the Year
The Frohlick Family

2018 Outstanding Volunteer of the Year
The Romero Family  

2018 Outstanding Perseverance & Determination Award
Heather Hyatt Montoya

2018 Outstanding Special Educator of the Year
Sara Randolph

2018 Outstanding Teacher of the Year
Maria Cardoza Alvarado

2018 Employee of the Year Award
Tracie Hammons

Civic Responsibility for All: Jury Duty

Civic Responsibility for All:  Jury Duty

When our son Aaron turned 18, he started getting pink government envelopes in the mail, and I was not thrilled.

Jury Duty summons…

In principal I support our constitutional right to a jury trial by our peers. However, I thought Aaron would not be able to serve and he would be excused.

The first time he was summoned I went through all the paperwork to get him excused (it required a couple of doctors’ notes and a description from me as to why we felt he could not serve) – it was a pain!  Over the years, Aaron has received several other summons and his number has not been called; one time his number was called and we showed up at the court house but were dismissed by noon.

This fall, he got summoned again and yes, his number was required to show up.  We dutifully made arrangements to appear.

Aaron didn’t remember our past experience two years ago, but I told him, “don’t worry, they won’t seat you.” Of course I had to keep explaining words, like why it is called a summons or a call, what does it mean to ‘seat’ you, etc.

We had my husband drive us so we didn’t have to deal with parking in Denver County. I accompanied him to sign in and told the clerk that he had a cognitive disability, I was his assistant and asked if they would like us to leave?

Nope.  We went into the big waiting room and watched the video with the rest of the potential jurors.  And then you wait.

Aaron was a bit anxious and I kept assuring him most likely we would just sit enjoying our coffee and in an hour or so they would dismiss us so we could go have lunch.  If his number was called the plan was to tell the court clerk that he has a cognitive disability and surely they would dismiss him.  A half hour later sure enough his number was called and I prompted him to raise his hand and say ‘Here’ like the other people whose numbers had been called.

We went out into the hallway with the rest of the potential jurors and listened to the court clerk explain what would happen next: go upstairs to courtroom number D, line up, remove our hats, be quiet & respectful, and sit in the order in which we were placed.

As we waited for our turn in the elevator I explained to the clerk that Aaron had a cognitive, as well as, a physical disability, I had guardianship and was his assistant for the day. I said he was willing to serve but would need my help and she said she would notify the judge. I figured we would never even make it into the court room.

Imagine my surprise when we were all up there and they lined him up, with me behind Aaron!

The clerk informed me that I would sit in the chair at the end of the jury box and that Aaron would sit in his wheelchair right next to me! (By the way, the jury box is NOT wheelchair accessible).

He was pretty nervous but was taking his potential responsibility very seriously. I tried to explain to him that we would still probably be excused but I would assist him with whatever was necessary.  He said it felt like he was going to jail. I can understand that, but did my best to keep him calm.  We were seated and the judge gave explanations, introduced the lawyers and defendant then explained different reasons people might not feel they could in good conscience serve.

When asked if we had been involved in a similar situation to the charges involved (this was a criminal trial, not a civil one) one person answered yes and was dismissed. Then a woman went up to the bench white noise began so we could not hear what was being said as lawyers from both sides discussed with her and the judge. Then she was excused and left. Next a man who works in the jail as a deputy was excused. They asked if anyone had ever testified in a trial, criminal or civil proceeding so I leaned over to Aaron and told him he needed to raise his hand to tell that he had spoken at his guardianship hearing. The judge asked him if his guardian was there with him and he said yes, his mom and pointed to me. So she asked my name, confirmed that I had guardianship and asked me to come forward with the counsels.

I was very impressed at how respectful they all were. They asked me if Aaron could understand what was being presented and listen to the witnesses. I said that if I were to translate into very simple terms that yes, he would be able to get the gist of what was going on, but that it would take time and I would have to be able to speak with him as the trial was progressing. They asked if I could be fair and non-prejudiced as I did that. I said yes, I thought that I could. He votes every year and I take the time to read through the blue book with him, giving plain English, simple translations of the various candidates and issues being voted on.   The fact that he doesn’t always vote the same way as I do I think is testimony to my being fair and unbiased in those explanation.

The defense attorney asked if he could participate in jury deliberations without my participation. I said I didn’t think he would be able to grasp the possible discussions that would take place and if there was a particularly strong minded juror he could either be persuaded or bullied or he could dig his heals in and be oppositional. But that if we explained to him the significance of the deliberation process he would try his hardest to understand and come to a conclusion based upon what he heard.

I did say I thought the time needed for him to process information and his cognitive disabilities would make it a very difficult situation. Because he couldn’t do the private jury deliberations without my assistance both the defense and the prosecutor felt that was sufficient cause to excuse him.  The judge agreed and everyone thanked our son and myself for being responsible and offering our service.

It was really quite an amazing experience.  I was glad that two others had been excused before him so Aaron didn’t feel like he was being singled out for his disability.  Ultimately he was very glad not to have to serve and we went off to a lovely lunch and I walked away marveling at how far we have come as a society that he would get

that far into the process before being dismissed.

Never miss a chance to let our sons and daughters rise to the occasion!  We talked at length about our rights, our responsibilities, and our privileges as citizens and our chances to serve.  I was so delighted that Aaron and I had this experience in civic responsibility!

Want to know what it is like to serve on a jury?  Watch this video!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNqt5NStkTY

How would you support your son or daughter if they are called to Jury Duty?  Share your ideas with us by emailing:  Parents@P2P-CO.groups.io

 

 

 

 

This is the second in a 3 part series on Civic Responsibility. Renee Walbert has recently retired from her position as a long time coordinator at Parent to Parent. She is a caregiver for her adult son, Aaron Walbert and is the mom of two other adult children and “Oma” of one. Renee continues to be actively involved in Parent to Parent of Colorado through our Online Parent Support Groups.

All services at Parent to Parent are provided free to families. However, we rely on donations of generous supporters like you to keep our programs going strong! Donate today at coloradogives.org/P2PCO

Thankful for the Quiet Moments

Thankful for the Quiet Moments

On the first day of November I always start to think about what I am thankful for – social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) is a good reminder for this as many people post daily thankful posts throughout the month. This is the first year in many that I have not been doing daily posts.   As I read what my friends and family are thankful for I am struggling with a myriad of emotions.

You see, 18 months ago I struggled to say “you better call my parents” as I was being rushed away for emergency surgery bleeding to death. I woke up intubated and in restraints somehow managing to communicate that I needed a way to ask if my baby was alive. I had no idea what had happened — just that the day before I had given birth to a darling baby boy.

The days and months after as my body healed, my spirit struggled to keep up. I experienced such severe post-traumatic stress and post-partum anxiety that I could no longer live life as I had.

Life up to this point hadn’t been easy, we had a 9-year old on the autism spectrum and I had been a single mom for many years, but I was able to hold it together juggling all the balls of life. I knew how to put on my favorite red lipstick and smile as I forged through.

Now, though, I no longer had the energy for lipstick or even a shower. I could not manage to go to work as I could not manage to even wash laundry. I struggled to take care of my family or myself. I felt like we lost everything – my uterus, my job, our dream home, my sense of self.

My husband and I have spent a long time putting pieces back together, pieces that no longer fit perfectly because their edges have been frayed.

In the quiet moments (far and few between with a 9 year old and a toddler) I sit and think about how far each member of my family has come since this day that turned our lives upside down and I am thankful that we had this experience.

Pain and tragedy breaks you to pieces, but what can come from that is so beautiful.

I used to make cute little Facebook posts about being thankful for our warm beds, my wonderful job, and such. Those things no longer seem as important (though I am still incredibly grateful to have them). Now I am grateful that my children, husband and I take one more breathe, that we have one more moment together.  

As we sit at our tables this Thanksgiving Day, that table may not look the way we want it to be – we may be facing extreme loss, we may be exhausted, we may just not be the best cooks.  No matter what it looks like as you tackle life while being the parent of a child with a disability know this…chances are you have way more to be thankful for than what other people share.

 

What I have learned the past year and a half is this:  Be thankful for the simple moments in life – those moments when you take a breath, when your little one (or big one) smiles at you or grasps your hand… be thankful for those quiet moments that melt your heart.

 

Cassidy Dellemonache lives in Fort Collins with her partner in crime Gabe, their oldest twice exceptional son Leyton (10) and little one Anthony (19 mo). She regularly refers to her house as a circus tent and her family discusses their roles within the circus. She participates in various advocacy efforts in the community, is a member of the Parent 2 Parent staff team, and works with Gabe to run their family agency Tandem Employment Services – connecting businesses with employees, ensuring that all people can be employed & stay employed.

 

In the Spirit of THANKS and GIVING…All of us at Parent to Parent are thankful to YOU for supporting our work with over 4000 families across Colorado.  With your help, last year we provided support and resources to 19,000 individuals.  In this season of gratitude, please consider a donation to keep our work going strong.  It’s fast and easy to give at: coloradogives.org/P2PCO

 

What are YOU Thankful for?  Share your thoughts and ideas with us in our Online Parent Support Group by emailing:  Parents@P2P-CO.groups.io

Not a P2P Member?  It’s free and easy to JOIN US!

 

 

801 Yosemite Street   |   Denver, CO 80230   |   303.691.9339   |   info@abilityconnectioncolorado.org