GREENVILLE — The Darke County Board of Developmental Disabilities (DD) held their annual Appreciation and Disabilities Awareness Breakfast at Romer’s Catering Wednesday morning.
Darke County DD superintendent Mike Besecker welcomed a wide selection of attendees to the event, including Darke County Commissioners Matt Aultman and Mike Stegall, as well as a number of Darke County DD’s own clients.
“We have a diverse group of people here today,” Besecker said. “Elected officials, educators, board members, as well as people that we serve.”
Besecker recognized Matt Harrison, a long-time volunteer with the Darke County Advocacy in Action Committee and the Darke County Aktion Club, during his opening remarks. Harrison was recently appointed to The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council representing Darke County by Governor John Kasich. The council is made up of members who advocate to improve Ohio’s capacity to deliver services to people with developmental disabilities.
“We represent over 450 individuals and their families,” Besecker said of his own corner of the state. “And we’re always asking ourselves, how do we best support them, and how do we help them be a part of their community?”
Besecker discussed a number of initiatives currently being explored by Darke County DD, including “Think College,” a program in cooperation with Edison State Community College and Ohio State University which would offer educational opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; as well as plans to purchase homes for disabled residents, and their organization’s ongoing push to connect their clients with employment opportunities in the community.
“All of us have a heart’s desire to lead a full and meaningful life,” Besecker said. “Over the past few years we’ve doubled the number of our people who are employed in the community.”
Other speakers at the event included Stacy Collins, a team leader with Ohio’s Employment First Initiative.
“Darke County, in my opinion, has been a leader in helping people with developmental disabilities,” Collins said. “But it’s all of us that have to come together in order to recognize a person’s potential.
Two of MRDD’s clients, Paula Laney and Alice Messer, also spoke during the event. Laney manages the Roundhouse in Greenville City Park, which is operated by Person-Centered Services, while Messer has advocated to make local businesses handicapped accessible. Messer and her husband, Thomas, have been married for 22 years.
“I bawled my head off like a little baby, because everybody always said ‘Alice is going to be single her whole life,’” Messer said about the day her husband proposed. “But I bet each of my brothers a dollar I wouldn’t be, and I won two dollars that day!”
Messer also worked at Kentucky Fried Chicken for 20 years.
“Thomas and I both enjoyed long careers working in the community,” Messer told the assembled guests.
Finally, Community Connections Coordinator Sue Huston spoke, detailing a number of community programs benefiting developmentally disabled citizens, including the Next Chapter Book Club, which meets Thursday afternoons at The Coffee Pot in downtown Greenville; and Artistic Variations, a program for developmentally disabled residents and kids who are interested in the performing arts, offered by Greenville dance studio Final Bow.
In keeping with the theme of “Celebrating Community,” Besecker encouraged attendees to keep making the same efforts to be involved in their own community.
“I encourage you to keep building relationships with those around you,” Besecker said. “Really get to know each other.”