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Friday, May 30, 2014

Study: Nonprofits big business in Michigan

Nonprofit organizations are responsible for 10 percent of the jobs held in Michigan, according to a report from Public Sector Consultants (released Fri., 5.30). The analysis showed the nonprofit sector pays nearly $5 billion in wages every three months and employs 438,000 people. Approximately half those jobs are held in the health services field. The study was sponsored by the Council of Michigan Foundations and the Michigan Nonprofit Association. “In strict economic terms, (nonprofits) invest billions, pay billions, and employ thousands, but their service roles are far more varied and important,” said Public Sector Consultants CEO Jeff Williams.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Futures Foundation to receive 5K from Run the Plank Run/Jog/Walk

The Futures Foundation has been named a beneficiary of the Run The Plank 5K Run/Jog/Walk on June 28, 2014 at 8:15 am.

The event is a collaboration between three churches located on Romeo Plank Road in Macomb Township – Immanuel Lutheran, St. Isidore Catholic Church and St. Peter Lutheran.
Last year, 1,430 runners and walkers participated in the race and $45,000 was raised for the designated charities. Organizers are hoping 2,000 people will  participant this year. The Futures Foundation "is honored" to be one of the chosen charities, said Foundation Executive Director Teri Donaldson .

Registration is $30 and includes a tech t-shirt, cinch bag, wristband with discounts for dining and shopping establishments, medal with lanyard, complimentary pasta lunch/dinner on Friday (6/27) during packet pick up, complimentary Family Fun Fair, and complimentary food and beverages at the Fun Fair.

As a beneficiary, we are encouraged to have runners and walkers participate.  We also need to provide volunteers for the event. The awards ceremony is scheduled for 9:30 am. The Family Fun Fair runs from 9:30 to noon and includes inflatables, clowns, food and beverages.

To learn more about the event and registration, please visit the Website at

To sign up to volunteer, please click on the following link

Friday, May 23, 2014

Study: Business bias against hiring disabled still widespread

Almost twenty-five years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), physical architecture and some educational opportunities thankfully have changed, but negative attitudes and stigmas about people with disabilities have not. Indeed, a major Princeton study shows that while people with disabilities are seen as warm, they are not seen as competent.

Meanwhile, a study published by Cornell Hospitality Quarterly analyzed results from a survey of employers at 320 hospitality companies in the United States. It found that all of the companies share a concern that those with disabilities could not do the work required of their employees. Another top concern was the potential cost of unspecified accommodations they might need to provide for a person with a disability under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is despite the fact that the record shows that most such accommodations are not exceptionally costly. Anecdotally, there is also evidence that employers fear legal action should they terminate an employee with a disability. It is far more difficult to prove discrimination for not being hired in the first place. So, given that that the perception is that people with disabilities aren't competent, and could potentially be costly, why would an employer take the risk of hiring them?

One of the employers who took the "risk" was Randy Lewis, former Vice President of Walgreens and Fortune 50 executive, who led Walgreens' logistics division for sixteen years, as the chain grew from 1,500 to 8,000 stores. Randy introduced an inclusive model of hiring people with disabilities in Walgreens distribution centers that resulted in ten percent of its workforce consisting of people with disabilities. All of whom are held to the same standards as their colleagues without disabilities. The outcome? Study after study turned out to be myth-busters. The employees with disabilities were MORE productive and loyal than their non-disabled peers! And most accommodations? Either free or cheap. But even when the relatively few more expensive accommodations were factored in, the overall costs of accommodations were far outweighed by the low turnover rates and better tenures of the employees with disabilities. Grateful for opportunities, and in many cases thriving on repetitive tasks, they are so loyal to Walgreens that important sums of recruitment costs were saved as the employees continued to stay in their jobs and deliver excellent results. You can learn more about this in Randy's new book or on the Walgreen's website.

Other companies such as Ernst and Young (EY), have also found inclusive hiring to be a winning ticket. Starting with its founder, Arthur Young, EY has always embraced differing abilities. Trained as a lawyer, Arthur was deaf with low vision and he wasn't able to comfortably practice. He turned to finance and the new field of accounting to build his career. His "disability" drove him to innovation and entrepreneurship, which played a pivotal role in the development of EY. Finding and engaging diverse talents has been a key part of EY's ongoing success.

Malcolm Gladwell's new book, David and Goliath, extols the strength of people with disabilities. Because traditional ways of doing things don't always work for people with disabilities, Gladwell demonstrates that they compensate for that in ways that benefit the workforce by developing incredible ways to innovate and succeed.

AMC Theaters, Lowe's, many grocery stores and others are also getting outstanding results by hiring employees with disabilities. So what are other employers waiting for? They are still blinded by negative stereotypes. It's time for people with disabilities to be seen for what they CAN do, and not for what they cannot. What can people with disabilities do? Think about it.

Beautiful music from a deaf man? It happened. Ludwig von Beethoven.

World changing words from someone with dyslexia? It happened. Thomas Jefferson.

A Super bowl champion NFL player who is deaf? It happened. Derrick Coleman.

A Nobel Prize for a scientist who failed in school? It happened. Albert Einstein.

Secrets of the universe being revealed by a man who uses a wheelchair and who can no longer speak? It's happening. Stephen Hawking.

It's time to change the narrative of how we see people with disabilities so employers can see the ABILITIES they have and the positive impact that can have on their business's bottom line. It's amazing that such small change can have such a big impact. It can - if it is done in a focused and strategic way. Employing people with disabilities may take a little more forethought and planning. The U.S. government recently changed their expectations of federal contractors who now must become at least partially inclusive of hiring people with disabilities. There are many groups that can help in the process including,, and others.

As the Baby Boomers continue to age, a powerful answer to labor and talent shortages already exists in our own back yards - our own family members and neighbors with disabilities who want to work.

Recognize the disability. Imagine the possibility. Respect the ability.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Front door of Michigan's Capitol Building is inaccessible to a person with a mobility disability


On a damp rainy day on May 15, 2014, I had the privilege to be the keynote speaker at “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,” an event held annually at Michigan’s Capitol Building in Lansing to raise awareness of the issues of discrimination, housing, jobs, medical care and receiving an adequate education facing tho two million people in Michigan with disabilities.

One key point I made to the 3,000 in attendance was we “must be our own advocate. We each, if capable, learn the laws so you can wield them as a sword for truth and equality when needed.”
I added that when “one becomes fearless -- not afraid of dying, being mocked, shot or stomped -- he or she becomes an unstoppable force for positive social change for those with disabilities.” I have tried to be this since I was born with cerebral palsy in 1946 and avoided being institutionalized because my father refused, told the doctor to get blanked and took me home to raise me to be as normal as possible. I was 2 then and I still remember that dad, Vincent, and his brother, Sylvester, started building parallel bars in our basement so I would learn to walk.
I came a long way since then with the grace of God, my dad, mother Carol, wife JoAnn of 37 years, sisters Nancy and Rene and relatives and friends to the point where I am considered among the best advocates in the country. I have had the privilege of telling the stories of triumph and failure, of hopes and dreams, of death and life for those with disabilities with my "Voices of Disabilities" column in The Oakland Press, Macomb Daily and Daily Tribune and occasionally others for at least 15 years.
The wall behind me in my office is covered with 30 or so awards I've won for writing and service on behalf of the disabled but the greatest satisfaction is I didn't end up dying in an institution as did my dad's older brother, Alex Wolff, did when I was a child..
The Lansing audience loved the speech..
However, I had to deliver the speech from the base of the stairs that went to the front door of Michigan's Capitol Building in Lansing because there was no stairlift, ramp or elevator of any kind.
There was a mid-point where some of the leaders of the event from most of Michigan's 83 counties could stand under a tent and not get drenched. However, this was impossible for me to get to because of the stairs.
So I spoke, occasionally glancing at my notes as a young volunteer from Wayne County got wet while she held an umbrella over my head to keep me from getting wet. However, after five minutes I was soaking wet.
All those steps and no way for me to get there told me our lawmakers, who are sinking deeper into a quagmire of self-service and selfishness, don't want to give rights or even listen to those of us with disabilities.
They also are losing faith with Michigan's other 8 million residents for a general lack of success or agreement on even how to fix Michigan's pot-holed riddled roads.
I know they must not care or are to isolated from the average Michigan resident because I can't get in the front door of the Capitol to talk to them and even if the building is accessible, why should I go in the back door?

I thought some 600,000 Americans died in the Civil War to stop such segregation and thousand of people with disabilities have died in institutions before they started being moved into their own homes in the community, thanks of efforts by wise people such as those that work at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center, Community Living Services,
Easter Seals and the 46 Community Mental Health Authorities in the state which provide funding to providers from federal funds dished out to Michigan as well as general state funds.

So please listen lawmakers and Gov. Snyder: "I, as a disabled man who has worked at paid taxes for 50 years, want political access to the system so I can change it so my brothers and sisters with disabilities can get the services they need and don't have to die prematurely or live in horrible facilities such as the one in Detroit where a woman with autism was beaten by a caregiver with a mop handle and extension cord until her back was full of welts like those left when Christ was whipped on the day He died for our sins.
I and my spiritual kin want to tell you of what we need. We need just 4 percent of that $1.3 billion surplus so the mental health budget that provides services to those with mental illness and developmental disabilities can be made whole and all get the help and care they need to live lives with dignity and independence.
How would you feel if the governor and lawmakers said to you and the 10 million people in Michigan: “You aren't worthy enough for us to spend a few thousand to build a stairlift so you can gain political access in the bright sunshine and through the front door of our political system's main building."
Your failure to act in this area shows you all to be blind as well as incompetent. You probably never even thought of a wheelchair user trying to get into the Capitol's front door when, on some occasions, you probably trotted up the stairs to gain entrance to the halls of state power, probably wondering how you were going to raise another million or so to run negative television ads to win another term. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Those 'doing work on the front line' are recognized

More than 1,000 turn out for 32nd annual event

Every day should be caregiver appreciation day for those who devote their lives to caring for people with disabilities and mental illness.
Shantrice Holmes of Southfifield models with caregiver Kathy Alcorn of Waterford in the MORC Kohl’s Caregiver Fashion Show
It was just such a day when more than 1,000 caregivers, families and community leaders attended the Macomb- Oakland Regional Center’s Kohl’s Caregiver Fashion Show at the Palazzo Grande Banquet & Event Center on Thursday to honor the caregivers.
It was the 32nd Caregiver Appreciation Day and attendees included Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, who turned 52 on the day. The crowd sang the former sheriffff “Happy Birthday” as he stood on the runway.
“I’m honored to be in your presence,” Hackel said. “You are doing God’s work. You are the people doing the work on the front line. Today is your day, a day of celebration. This is all about the care you give others.”
Kohl’s Department Store provided money for new outfifits for some 86 people with disabilities as well as their individual caregivers who then walked a 75- foot long elevated runway to the sounds of music in front of an audience that fifilled the large Shelby Township facility.
Cory Guynn, manager of Rochester Hills’ Kohl’s on Auburn Road, spoke of how proud Kohl’s was to be involved in the Appreciation Day.
Some 15 workers from Kohl’s volunteered at the event and an additional 20 before that to help select the perfect outfifits for the participants.
Gerald Provencal, the executive director of MORC, said it was Detroit’s version of the great fashion shows that take place in Paris.
“Our models aren’t as expensive but they are just as beautiful and elegant as they strolled the runway, wearing the latest and coolest styles of the year,” he said.
Sue Cuddington of Utica, who has been a caregiver for two men with disabilities for 33 years, said it was a “fantastic event to honor the caregivers.” She noted being a caregiver is hard work, but “I’ve enjoyed it.”
During the past seven years alone, Kohl’s has donated $ 105,000 worth of high- fashion clothes to caregivers and people with disabilities. Jerry Wolffe is the writer- inresidence and advocate- atlarge at MORC. He can be reached at 586 263- 8950.

Wolffe speaks at "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" rally in Lansing

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Voices of Disabilities: Miles for Smiles a Sunny Success

Voices of Disabilities: Miles for Smiles a Sunny Success: On one of the nicest days so far this spring, more than 200 people, many of them Macomb-Oakland Regional Center staff members and their ...

Miles for Smiles a Sunny Success

On one of the nicest days so far this spring, more than 200 people, many of them Macomb-Oakland Regional Center staff members and their families, walked or ran in a 5K race to raise money for dental care for people with disabilities.

The event was held at the 1,276-acre Independence Oaks County Park in Oakland County near Clarkston on Saturday, May 10.

The 5K or 3.1-mile trek began at 10 a.m. Kody Coulter of Lapeer finished first in the 5k run in 18:07 minutes; Matt Springer was second and Joe Lasceski was third.

The top finisher in the women’s group was Eva Chmielewski, 15, of Columbiaville in a time of 22:10 minutes. Sommer Schons was second and Morgan Turk, both of Lapeer, was third.

It was the third annual MORC Miles for Smiles race. Last year, some $1,200 was raised in raffle ticket sales alone and $6,500 was donated for dental care.

Preliminary figures show some $8,100 was raised to help defray the costs of dental care to those whom MORC serves, said Jennifer Lasceski, a Human Resources Generalist. Final totals were not immediately available.

“To all the runners, walkers, volunteers, consumers and staff -- we can’t thank you enough!” Kerri Pfaffenberger wrote on MORC’s Facebook page. “Today was wonderful. Everything went smooth and the weather was great.”

The raffle baskets were a huge success again, raising about $2,000 in ticket sales alone. Raffle items included gift certificates for chiropractic services, concert tickets, a wine basket and gift certificates for area restaurants.

“It was so heart-warming to see so many join us to help provide brighter smiles for those served by MORC,” said Futures Foundation Executive Director Teri Donaldson, who participated in the race and was a member of the race committee.

Other committee members included Lasceski, Pfaffenberger, Bonnie Mazzei, Alicia Bianchette, and Megan Behnke.

“I thought it was an awesome event and it was a great turnout for a great cause,” said Bianchette, a supports coordinator at Clinton Township.

“It was enjoyable to be walking my dogs, Mo and Joe, in the company of co-workers on a gorgeous day in a beautiful park,” said Jane Guy, who works in the Health Information Management Department.

Staff members who sold tickets at the Auburn Hills Office included clerks Jane Corbin and Carol Rowland, receptionist Joyce Gracey, support coordinator Bonnie Mazzei, and Pfaffenberger of Speech Therapy Services.

Sellers of the $30 tickets at the Clinton Township office were Human Resources Generalist Jennifer Lasceski and Donaldson.

Kristina Jankowsky of the Waiver Program, Kevin Cox and Vlad Cara of the Maintenance Department were among the volunteers who were stationed along the route to help guide the walkers/runners to the finish line.
Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence/advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586-263-8950.



Friday, May 2, 2014

Restore cuts to programs for people with disabilities

Michigan residents need to make our lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder aware that budget miscalculations and cuts are likely to leave many thousands of people with mental illness and disabilities with reduced services essential for their survival.

More than $100 million of statewide general fund support for the state’s 46 Community Mental Health Authorities was cut, the CMH board projects. Among the hardest hit were the CMHs in Oakland and Macomb counties. The funds were to be replaced by the “Healthy Michigan” revenue, but the program didn’t kick in quick enough to bridge the shortfall.

The Legislature delayed implementation of Healthy Michigan, a program passed last August by lawmakers to enroll more than 300,000 Michigan residents in Medicaid, from Jan. 1 to April 1, resulting in less federal money to serve those with mental illness and disabilities.

“Unfortunately, the promise to do ‘no harm’ has been broken,” said Michael Vizena, executive director of the Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards. “Errors were made, and savings were withdrawn before sufficient Healthy Michigan revenue was available to replace lost revenue.”

John Kinch, executive director of the Macomb County Community Mental Health Authority, said, “It is important to continue to draw community and legislator attention to the seriousness of the current general fund reductions and impact on our consumers.”

The general fund reductions have placed us in a “difficult financial services situation,” he said.

The Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority anticipates its expenditures for fiscal year 2014 will exceed funding by $22 million, a spokeswoman said. Large deficits are projected for 2014-15.

The general fund payments to the state’s community health agencies also were cut to $13.9 million in May and will continue to be reduced to $4.3 million each month through September. Under this reality, there is no way to provide needed services to the 260,000 who currently receive them.

In addition, some mental health executives say many individuals served through entities that provide services from OCCMHA funds will not qualify for the Healthy Michigan plan, leaving individuals with limited services.

Instead of using all of the projected $1.3 billion surplus to fix roads and other things why not use $100 million to restore cuts of service to those with disabilities? We’re supposed to be a compassionate society so let’s show it by taking care of the most vulnerable people in society.

Jerry Wolffe is the “Voices of Disabilities” columnist and a rights advocate. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950.