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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Michigan public colleges don’t provide financial aid to many potential students



By JERRY WOLFFE

As more than 750,000 Michigan public college students prepare to start a new school year, older adults are finding it harder than ever to participate, a new report says.

Michigan offers no financial aid grants to attend a public university or community college for those who graduated from high school more than 10 years ago.

Two of Michigan’s three ­higher education grants are aimed at students who graduated a decade or less ago, according to a new policy brief released Wednesday by the Michigan League for Public Policy. And the third one can only be used at private institutions, which are generally more expensive.

“We know that postsecondary education is so important in today’s economy,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Helping older workers sharpen their skills or pursue studies leading to in-demand jobs will help Michigan’s economy.’’

The League’s report, State Financial Aid Leaves Adult Learners Behind, shows that financial aid grants that once helped older students have disappeared as Michigan made recession-era cuts to higher education. Those eliminated were the Adult Part-Time Grant, the Michigan Education Opportunity Grant, the Michigan Nursing Scholarship and a state Work-Study program.

That leaves three major grants: The Tuition Incentive Program, aimed at students from low-income families, and the Michigan Competitive Scholarship, which are only available for 10 years after high school graduation while the third, the Michigan Tuition Grant, does not set a post-graduation limit but is only available for attending private, not-for-profit institutions.

 “Leaving older workers out of financial aid programs is a flaw in Michigan’s workforce development strategy that needs to be fixed,’’ Jacobs said. “ The health of our economy depends on workers getting the skills they need to become productive employees and support their families.’’


Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence and advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Caregiver’s home becomes set for a love story


front row: Richard Fisher and Lister Stewart have become part of the family of Sue Cuddington (behind Richard) and her husband, Chuck who is behind Lister. Sue has been taken care of the men since they were children..

By JERRY WOLFFE

Two men with disabilities a Utica woman has lovingly taken care of since they were youngsters in her home have become “like my own children.”
“I love them now and it’s going to be hard to let them go when I retire,” said Sue Cuddington, who lives with her husband Chuck.
Sue took in Lister Stewart in 1981 when he was about 10 and Richard Fischer 26 years ago when he was a teenager. Both, now in their early 40s, have multiple disabilities and are non-verbal.
“It was a good way for me to be able to be home with my children and also provided a good home for Stewart and Fischer,” said Cuddington, who plans to retire as a Macomb-Oakland Regional Center Adult Foster Care Home provider in June 2015 after 34 years of caring for those with disabilities.
Cuddington has a son Daniel, 42, of Warren, and daughter, Cheryl, 40, of Berkeley. Cheryl has two daughters, Suzie, 18, and Lynda, 12, while son Daniel has a 6-year-old daughter Brooklyn. Her husband, a Utica City Councilman, has a son, Chuckie, 37.
Sue bathes, dresses and feeds Lister and Richard early during the weekdays to ready them to go to a Life Skills workshop in Roseville.
“Richard and Lister are picked up between 8:15 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. and return home between 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.,” Sue said.
The two are given a snack and evenings are spent watching television, going for a walk in the neighborhood or the men play with their toys on the floor of their bedroom. Sue pushes one wheelchair and her daughter the other during their treks.
“My family, including my (late) father Max and mother Alwine were always supportive and helped me before I married Chuck,” she said. In fact, Sue’s mother was a caregiver for MORC for 20 years.
The first-floor bedroom at the Cuddington’s was enlarged and the home is accessible to a wheelchair-user but Sue or her husband Chuck must lift the men into a claw-foot bathtub since they don’t have a lift.
“Chuck helps me lift them into the chair and helps feed them,” he said.
Lister, who came to Sue’s home from the state institution in Plymouth, and Richard, who was in the Oakland County foster care system, go to bed between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.
“I do love them as if they’re my own kids,” Sue said, a comment echoed by her husband of 25 years.
“Our children accept the boys because they grew up with them,” Chuck said.
People don’t realize how much time you spend being a good caregiver, both Chuck and Sue said.
“We don’t go anywhere because one of us had to stay with the boys,” Chuck said.
Each said they only get to go out as a couple if one of their adult children or a relative takes care of Lister and Richard.
It hasn’t been easy all these years but without our help, “no doubt they’d be in a group home,” Sue said.
“People would walk into a store and let the door slam on us,” she said of some of the difficulties faced over the years. “Doctors offices aren’t accessible. Lister had a hernia and the doctor made us go out the back door because he didn’t want to disturb his other patients.”
The Cuddingtons are concerned as to where Lister and Richard will be living after Sue retires.
“I love them and it’ll be very hard letting them go,” Sue said. “I think one of the conditions to let them go will be that I am able to see them afterwards and make sure they’re doing OK,” Sue said.

Wolffe is the writer-in-residence and advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586-263-8950.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Carhartt and MORC'S 10th anniversary hockey game scheduled



By JERRY WOLFFE
Employees of Carhartt, an American-based clothing company founded in 1889 that focuses on making work clothes, has adopted the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center, Inc., as its charity to receive funds raised in the Carhartt vs. Red Wings Alumni game.
The 10th Anniversary MORC Hockey Game will be at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 21, at the Dearborn Ice Skating Center. 
This game for MORC will be extra special because it is part of Carhartt’s 125-year Anniversary Celebration.
Over the last 13 years Carhartt has provided thousands of people with disabilities with food, new winter coats and clothing, furniture and appliances, van repair and emergency help.  Each year, Carhartt adopts several hundred people for its “Carhartt Christmas.”
Thank you to all the MORC staff, local businesses and community members who volunteer to help with Carhartt donations throughout the year and on Christmas.
MORC is the state's largest nonprofit agency with offices in Clinton Township and Auburn Hills and provides homes in the community with 24/7 care for those with developmental disabilities or mental illness.

Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence and advocate-at-large at MORC. He can be reached at 586 263 8950.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Fishing Derby set for children with disabilities



Box:
Sponsors and volunteers are needed for this event. For more information on helping or attending, please call Doris Clarkston, president of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Benefit for the Disabled at (248) 618-8900 or William FitzGerald, the vice president of the nonprofit at (248) 736-9023. Those interested can visit the website at www.ocsdbenefit.org.

By JERRY WOLFFE

The 28th Annual Disabled Children’s Fishing Derby, sponsored by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, is scheduled for Aug. 13 at Dodge Park No. 4 in Waterford between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
More than 100 volunteers will help an estimated 700 children with physical and cognitive impairments have a “great day of boat rides, games, and food and fun,” according to Doris Clarkston, the president of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Benefit for the Disabled.
“We also will have the command staff at the fishing derby to help cook and serve food,” Clarkston said. She added that the Sheriff’s Department’s Marine Safety Division/Dive Team and an EMS unit will be at the Cass Lake location where the park is located “to ensure the safety of the children and other participants on the water.”
Our Lady of the Lakes High School Football team will be in attendance at the park at 4250 Parkway to help load the children into and off of Pontoon boats.
Owners of the boats have volunteered them for the outing.
“A lot of these children seldom have opportunities to go boating and be in a park,” she said. “We are working as an organization to build an accessible playground to enhance the park experience.”
The department will provide lunch, fishing poles, games, and fun for each child. The children with disabilities will come from all over Oakland County “to have a great day,” Clarkston said.
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence/advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586 263-8950.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

DIA volunteers help residents with disabilities discover artistic talent




Ashley Smith of Rochester Hills looks at the ceramic tile her friend, Brian Spuz of St. Clair Shores, is working. DIA art studio instructor Kathleen Rashid gives advice to both. Photo submitted by Jerry Wolffe
Artists with the Detroit Institute of Arts are trying to help people with disabilities who are served by the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center, Inc., discover their artistic ability.
In a trip from the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center in Clinton Township to the DIA, 11 people with disabilities and five staff toured the institute and then had sessions where they worked on ceramic tiles. They will decorate the tiles and eventually take them home after receiving skilled guidance from DIA art studio instructors/teaching artists Lavern Homan, Kathleen Rashid, Eric Gill, Soh Suzuki, Vito Valdez and Byron Nemela.
Before the hour-long art session, however, gallery docent Dave Galli guided the students, caregivers and MORC staff on a tour of several galleries and asked the individuals to describe the master works. Docents Judy Garvey and Judy Anderson also led guided tours during other sessions with DIA artists and those served by MORC.
“All of us are teaching artists,” Nemela said of those helping the students with disabilities.
The MORC artists were brought to the art studio by a chartered Indian Trails bus, sat at several tables and each was given two square four-inch ceramic tiles and told to draw whatever they wanted. People from MORC homes in Macomb County are taken one day and those from Oakland County are brought to the DIA the next day.
Rashid spent a lot of time helping Ashley Smith of Rochester Hills and her friend, Brian Spuz of St. Clair Shores, as the professional artists treated the MORC students with respect and patience.
Everyone worked hard on drawing on their tile. After an initial pencil sketch was done, Homan and Rashid brought out artist pallets for each table with blues, yellows, whites, greens and many colors the students could use to complete their works.
MORC Project Director Patricia Sims Sunisloe said she hoped the art works created by people MORC serves could be put on display at the nonprofit’s offices in Clinton Township and Auburn Hills.
“I think this program means a great deal to the participants,” said the sister of one of the MORC artists. “She told me Marty cannot stop taking about this experience and how much he is loving being a part of it,” Sims Sunisloe said.
“It’s fantastic for everybody,” said caregiver Barbara Lingenfelter.
A mid-July session – one of eight in July -- with the art studio instructors went quickly. Some students drew sketches of pets; others stars and planetary objects; some painted tiles saying “Mom is My Best Friend,” and everyone cooperated and helped each other.
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at MORC. He can be reached at 586-263-8950.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mental Health First Aid Training has far reach



By JERRY WOLFFE

          OXFORD -- The Tri-County Mental Health First Aid group has provided Mental Health First Aid training to more than 2,000 people.
The group is offering the training for free through September 30 as it works toward the goal set by the National Council for Behavioral Health to make MHFA training as common as CPR and First Aid.
The free training was made possible by a grant that Training and Treatment Innovations, Inc. (TTI) received from the Michigan Department of Community Health. The grant money allowed TTI, Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority, the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center and other collaborating agencies to form the Tri-County Mental Health First Aid group, helping to ensure that the optimum number of people are trained in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.
The training teaches people about mental health issues and instructs them in what to do if they encounter someone having a mental health issue or crisis. There are two types of mental health first aid. The first is for anyone the community while the second is for adults who work with children and teenagers.
A calendar of training date and locations is available at www.ttiinc.org.
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence and advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586 263-8950.