Here we are at the beginning of a new year… and a new decade… Here’s hoping each and every one of you had a good year and that 2011 proves even better!
This past year four new peer advocates joined our group. We welcome aboard Brad Bauder, Ernest “Chip” Boyd, Elizabeth Varnum, and LaRoy Williamson. Each brought with them their own areas of interest and expertise… Brad truly enjoys being a panel member for disability awareness presentations… Chip is our “techy” and has developed some excellent PowerPoint presentations… Elizabeth has taken on the role of a co-advisor for the Bitterroot Valley People First Aktion Club, a co-facilitator of the Living Well with a Disability workshop, as well as working some in the office… LaRoy has been active in promoting “visitability,” advocating that all public buildings and paths of travel be made accessible, and collaborating with various agencies in support of more accessible recreational sites. They all joined our current team of peer advocates, including Deena Boyd, Scot Browne, Susan Butchart, Joan Marie Connor, and Velda Vial, and have participated in many community activities throughout the year, with the highlight being the 20th Anniversary of the ADA, with two memorable celebratory events… Bitterroot Glory Days & Parade here in Hamilton, and the ADA Celebration held at Fort Missoula.
The Bitterroot Valley People First Aktion Club has remained active this past year with community projects as well. In March, Mary and two members of the Aktion Club attended the People First Senate, which was a two-day conference held in Helena. Community projects included planting flowers at the Youth Home, helping out with the Kiwanis Fishing Derby, the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast, and the Kiwanis food booth at the Ravalli County Fair, and collaborating with the Summit peer advocates in putting together various activities during Bitterroot Glory Days in celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the ADA, as well as attending the ADA Celebration at Fort Missoula. Social activities included hosting a Valentine Party for the members of the Missoula People First Aktion Club, and then joined the Missoula Aktion Club for the December Christmas party. The Ravalli County group had a couple of outings to Missoula on their own, and had a grand Halloween party here in Hamilton.
In addition to all the People First and peer activities, this past September we had the honor of having a nationally renowned speaker, Dr. Richard Pimentel, join us at the Pharaohplex Theatre to watch a documentary of his life, “The Music Within.” And the following day he gave an informative, entertaining, and inspiring presentation on overcoming attitudinal barriers, and provided information on employer training programs he developed to give individuals with disabilities the opportunity to become successful in the workforce.
Then in October, after months of planning and preparation to provide education, training, support and recognition to caregivers in Ravalli County, the Bitterroot Caregivers Conference was a huge success, with 65 caregivers and 20 staff participating in the event. At the end of November, we collaborated with Ravalli County Council on Aging in putting together an education forum for our returning and newly elected legislators, and I extend many thanks to those who participated and we look forward to working with them throughout the legislative session.
Here’s wishing you all the very best throughout 2011. As the 2011 legislative session begins, we’re faced with budget constraints, so I encourage each and every one of you to let your voice be heard so the services you need may remain in place.