Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On A Mission

I’m on a mission to update Imagine!’s Mission and Values.

Imagine!’s Mission and Values have not been changed for more than 10 years. As most of my readers know, I am a strong advocate of setting a vision, and then sticking to that vision while being willing to adjust and shift strategies to account for changing environments.

But even that vision needs to be evaluated periodically. As I said above, it has been more than 10 years since we last revisited our Mission and Values. Since that time, the environment we operate under has changed drastically. The way services are funded is completely different, and the resources available to provide services have diminished. Moreover, the needs of the population we serve are changing as many individuals with one or more developmental disabilities are living longer than ever and facing new and additional challenges that come with aging.

New opportunities are out there as well. For example, technology has opened many doors to new ways of providing increased independence and community engagement.

In short, we are facing an entirely different set of circumstances than we were when Imagine!’s current Mission and Values were formulated.

This need to change our Mission and Values became quite evident to me when a colleague related a story about giving a presentation about Imagine!’s SmartHomes. Last December, Kevin Harding, Imagine!’s Director of Information Technology, was presenting on our unique homes and how they use technology to provide better, more efficient services. The presentation was to a group known as New Tech Denver/Boulder – a local community of technologists who get together to network, socialize and show-and-tell new technology.

Kevin was asked to prepare a brief PowerPoint slideshow for his presentation. The first draft of the slideshow had Imagine!’s Mission and Values, and the head of New Tech Denver/Boulder admonished Kevin to change the slide, saying it was way too wordy and it didn’t really connect with the ideas Kevin was presenting.

I think that is true. Our current Mission and Values are a bit verbose don’t really connect with what we are currently doing at Imagine!. Furthermore, if you were to poll most of Imagine!’s employees, from our direct support staff all the way up to our senior management, most employees wouldn’t be able to even tell you what Imagine!’s Mission and Values are.

That’s not their fault. As an organization, we haven’t done a good job of promoting our Mission and Values internally or externally, and at this point they are out of date anyway.

So with the blessing of Imagine!’s Board of Directors, I am undertaking the process of updating our Mission and Values for their approval. I have already begun to informally interview employees at Imagine! to get their sense of why we are here and what is important about what we do. It is my hope that with enough input we can create a Mission and set of Values that truly reflect who we are and how we serve our community. I want Mission and Values that give us a fundamental foundation upon which every employee can measure each one of his or her of our actions.

I’m hoping you, dear reader, can help. What do you believe should be fundamental to Imagine!’s Mission and Values? Please leave a comment below. I’d really like to hear from as many people as I can so we can develop a Mission and Values that truly reflects Imagine!, our employees, and the people and communities we serve.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Good News Friday!

Tonight is Imagine!’s 11th Annual Celebration Dinner and Auction. In addition to being the primary fundraising event for the Imagine! Foundation, the Celebration Dinner provides an opportunity for Imagine! to share its successes with the community.

In that spirit, today I’d like to share some comments we have received recently from parents of some of the children we serve here at Imagine!. Their kind words demonstrate how important Imagine!’s services are in the lives of their loved ones, and I am honored that they would share them with us.

The first comment comes from a survey filled out by a parent of a child who received services from Imagine!’s Dayspring department. When asked “What do you like best about Dayspring?” the parent replied:

“The therapists- their knowledge, kindness, friendliness, ability to quickly build relationship with my child, answering my many questions, flexibility with scheduling, willingness to work around my teaching schedule, making a transition book for my son. My son would say he loves Barb, Joanne and Jenny... and the BIG bag of toys they bring each week. Carol Chesser (service coordinator) was on top of things as well and I enjoyed working with her. Honestly, I have been very impressed with all that you do. I have been an educator for 17 years and have pretty high standards. I was thrilled with the care we received and feel very fortunate.”
Another parent wrote to us about the importance of a receiving a Family Support Grant from Imagine!:

“This grant will help ease the financial stress and burden that comes with having a special needs child. It helps offset costs that insurance does not cover. Each year it seems that insurance covers less to help our child function in the world. We have dealt with that by cutting down on therapies, respite and recreation activities. This grant helps us keep some of those things in place.”
The last three comments I’d like to share today came from parents of children who participate in Imagine!'s Out & About activities:

“As parents of these kiddos - we are always planning ahead, trying to be ready for what "could" happen. It's tiring, I know, but you are as on top of it as I have to be - very possibly more so! Thanks - I know my child is in good hands!”

“Thank you. . . for being so patient and so kind.”

“It is so comforting to know my son is in safe hands when he is with Out & About.”
The comments above remind me of why we do what we do at Imagine! – because we do have an extremely positive impact on the individuals we serve, as well as their families. That is a message I am proud to share at tonight’s festivities.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Super Bowl Musings

This past Sunday, two football games were played to determine what teams would face off in the upcoming Super Bowl.

In each game, the difference between winning and losing came down to one or two plays – and in each game, those one or two plays were marked by key mistakes made by players on the teams that ultimately lost. Two teams that had spent months of training, practicing, making adjustments, and planning saw their seasons end because of the actions of one or two players who didn’t perform when it mattered most.

Any reader of my blog knows I can relate almost anything back to my work at Imagine! and the field of serving those with developmental disabilities, and the outcomes of Sunday’s games, and the way they ended, were no exception.

I spent considerable amount of time after the games wondering if planning really mattered. The amount of work the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens had put into that season suddenly seemed futile because of a fumble, a missed catch, and a missed field goal. And I wondered if the same could happen at Imagine!. Could it be that all the work we as an organization put into being strategic and preparing for the future be rendered meaningless if a few employees ignored the safety of those we serve? Or that one or two regulations put in place by the various bodies that govern what we do create an atmosphere that makes it practically impossible to continue to provide superior services to some of our community’s most vulnerable citizens?

To be honest with you, the thought was quite depressing.

But then I started looking at the bigger picture. Here’s the thing: every organization suffers setbacks at times. It is the organizations that consistently plan well, and are able to focus on long-term successes by setting a vision and sticking to that vision while being willing to adjust and shift strategies to account for changing environments, that are the organizations that can withstand temporary setbacks and succeed in the long run.

Look at the two teams that did win Sunday’s games. Including the upcoming game, since 2001, the New York Giants have been to the Super Bowl three times. The New England Patriots have been there five times during the same period of time. If you look at the Super Bowls from the past decade overall, you will find they have been dominated by a small number of teams. This is all the more impressive considering that the NFL prides itself on parity.

Certain NFL teams consistently have long term successes. Maybe they don’t reach or win the Super Bowl every year, but they always seem to be in the running. Meanwhile, other teams in the league go years without even getting to the playoffs, let alone reaching the championship game.

I would argue that the reason teams that are successful in the long run achieve that success because they remain committed and focused to an end goal, and don’t allow the occasional setback to cause them to lose that commitment or focus. Therefore, the franchises that are successful get judged not by one-time events, such as a loss in a big game, but rather they are judged by sustained greatness.

I think it is the same for organizations that serve individuals with one or more developmental disabilities. Undoubtedly they will suffer the occasional setback and not everything will always go smoothly. If they remain focused on the big picture, however, I believe organizations like Imagine! will be judged by their long-term success, not the occasional blip or slip. We may not always make it to the Super Bowl, but we’ll always be in the hunt.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Good News Friday!

The 11th Annual Imagine! Celebration Dinner and Auction is fast approaching! The date is set for January 27, 5:30 -9:30 PM, at the Plaza Hotel Longmont. Proceeds from the event go to support Imagine!’s programs.

If you are interested in attending, you can order tickets online by clicking here.

Today is the last day to purchase tickets, so do it now!

Even if you can’t attend in person, you can still participate in the Imagine! Celebration’s Live Auction through proxy bidding online. Online bids will be accepted through Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 6:00 p.m.

Click here to take part in the online bidding. 

There are some great items available in the online bidding, including:

Wine-A-Month Special Selection
You will benefit as Liquor Mart’s Fine Wine Manager personally selects one bottle of wine each month for one year for top-notch value and quality. 12 bottle total. Expires 1/31/2013.

Bountiful Barbecue
Round up your friends for a West End Tavern market style BBQ for 20 people with Colorado's best beef brisket, slab of pork ribs, whole chicken, hot links, pork shoulder, and choice of sides. Redeemable at West End Tavern or delivered to you.

California Wine Tour
Delight in the La Bellasera luxury hotel in Paso Robles, CA where 80 world class wineries are within ten miles. Includes one room for two people for two nights, a two-day car rental, and $250 in air fare credit. Restrictions apply, and space is subject to availability. Expires 10/31/2013.

Leona's Luscious Baked Bread
Enjoy a delicious, freshly baked loaf of bread each month for a year made by renowned bread maker, 1997 Colorado Mother of the Year, former Longmont Mayor, and former Imagine! Foundation President Leona Stoecker. Delivery details to be arranged with Leona.
Donor: Leona Stoecker

African Photo Safari
This unforgettable adventure starts with six days and six nights for two people at a Zulu Nyala Lodge located in South Africa’s province KwaZulu-Natal on the east coast of South Africa. Your stay will include authentic African meals and two guided photo safaris per day. You will be situated in the heart of one of South Africa’s most diverse conservation regions nestled between the great Hluhluwe, Mkuze, and St. Lucia Reserves. It is home to many animals including elephant, rhino, buffalo, and leopard. This is a birder’s paradise and for those who love plants, the trees are especially rewarding. This beautiful site was also the location for the filming of “I Dreamed of Africa." You are sure to make memories to last a lifetime!

Spectacular Ouray
Get away for a one week stay in beautiful Ouray, Colorado. This lovely three bedroom home accommodates six people comfortably with 2200 sq. ft. and 2-1/2 baths. The home is in a very secluded area but conveniently located north of Ouray, only five minutes to the hot springs pool and downtown Ouray and less than an hour to the gondola at Telluride. You will also receive up to 10 passes to the Ouray Hot Springs Pool which is open year round. No matter the season, you will find a plethora of activities and spectacular views with winter downhill and Nordic skiing, summer hiking and biking, cascading waterfalls, 4-wheeling, and so much more in the “Switzerland of America.” Home is available select weeks after May 1, 2012; arrange time with owner.
Donor: Jay & Kathy Montgomery

Cape Cod Getaway & Whale Watch
Relax for a full week in an authentic, remodeled Cape Cod house with room for six adults and two children. You will be five minutes from the ocean with beaches sure to please kids and adults alike. Included is an unforgettable three hour whale watching boat excursion for four. Sept. - Oct. 2013.
Donors: George & Kristin Karakehian

Avalanche Suite
Celebrate an Avalanche win in style with a luxurious Club Level Suite located on center ice to see the Colorado Avalanche battle the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, March 3 at 7:00p.m. You will receive 20 tickets, four Lot A - VIP parking passes, and two Premier Lot passes located adjacent to the arena. Your Suite tickets also give you access to the VIP entrances at the Pepsi Center 1 1/2 hours prior to your event. Extensive catering menu is available, though not a part of this package.

Gorgeous Greek Island Villa
Enjoy a magical week at a deluxe villa on Lefkas island off the west coast of Greece. Villa sleeps eight in four bedrooms with tennis courts, a pool, and breathtaking ocean views. Cross the swing bridge to the mainland or settle in at your villa and enjoy the island's many offerings including sailing, diving, windsurfing, exploring ancient archeological sites, or simply soaking up the sun. Redeemable in 2013, and timing is flexible but needs to be confirmed with owner.
Donor: The Palmos Family

Craft Beer Bonanza
Show your love of local craft beer with a package put together especially for you by Liquor Mart with hand selected gear, group tours, and gift certificates to your favorite local breweries. From Left Hand Brewing Company you will receive one Left Hand LED light along with a VIP Taste & Tour of the brewery for up to 10 people. Each person on the tour will receive a half gallon growler of beer and Left Hand Logo sign to keep. From Avery Brewery you will receive two 10 oz glasses, two Avery T-shirts, and a gift certificate for a brewery tour and beer for up to 10 people. Boulder Beer will outfit you with two pint glasses, two Boulder Beer T-shirts, and $50 in gift certificates. From Oskar Blues you will receive two pint glasses, two Oskar Blues T-shirts, and a $50 gift card. From Twisted Pine Brewery you will receive two pint glasses, two Twisted Pine T-shirts, and a $50 gift card. Top off your tour with a gift certificate to Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery for $100 and $25 to use at Old Chicago!
Donors: Local Craft Breweries and Liquor Mart

Rowdy Round-Up
Enjoy Steamboat Springs in the summer. Spend four nights in a Steamboat Springs condo while you get ready for the experience of a lifetime cattle drive (June 1 -Oct 15, 2012) for four or a Wagon Dinner Ride for four from Saddleback Ranch. Then cheer on the real cowboys and cowgirls with four tickets to the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series. Rodeo runs Friday and Saturday evenings from June 15 to August 18, 2012.
Donors: Dennis & Debra Paul

Family Reunion in Durango
Luxuriate for seven days in this beautiful Durango vacation home with six bedrooms, two lofts, and 4 ½ baths, easily accommodating up to 12 people. Every bedroom has vaulted ceilings, skylights, a small patio, and stunning views of the mountains. The kitchen features granite countertops and new appliances. Looking over the great room is a game loft with a large screen television and regulation size pool table. Expires 1/31/2013 with flexible dates arranged with owner as available.
Donors: Don Sullivan & Paige Lawrence

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Comments – I Love Comments!

One of the great things about Social Media is that it facilitates real conversations among users. Those using Social Media can glide back and forth from being content consumers to being content providers with ease.

One of my hopes in writing this blog is that I can help facilitate conversations about how services for individuals with one or more developmental disabilities are funded and delivered in our state and the nation.

That is why I encourage all of my readers to comment on my posts. You can even do it anonymously if you like. Comments make this blog a more complete forum for everyone interested in serving some of our most vulnerable citizens, and the more conversation, the better.

I don’t expect you to always agree with what I write, in fact, reasonable and respectful debate often helps me see issues in a clearer manner. For example, one reader took me to task for a post where I described some of the people we serve as being “difficult to teach.”  The reader commented:
“Frankly, I would be offended if a service provider told me that (my son) is difficult to teach. I would immediately question their ability as a teacher. I would have to point out all his amazing qualities and skills that he was able to develop and master, despite that fact that he is surrounded by a community that does not accept him, as well as, teachers that openly expressed doubt about his ability to learn.”
The commenter was exactly correct, and I realized that by trying to over-simplify a point, I ended up missing a key point.

Another commenter felt that I had mangled an analogy when I compared some of the issues faced by those in the field of developmental disabilities to a hockey game, and said it was time for us to score a goal. The commenter noted:
“Maybe instead of just trying to come up with a new and swift offensive in which to rebuke ones opponents, what about trying work with your opponents to score as many goals as possible for both teams.”
Excellent point, especially considering how often I talk about the need for us all to work together as a team.

Some comments made on this blog have expanded on ideas I have tried to express, and often express the ideas far more eloquently that my skills allow. For example, I did a post once on what I described as a willful ignorance among some when it comes to understanding the population we serve. A commenter summed it up better than I ever could have hoped to:
“People often avoid thinking about those who have developmental disabilities because they are terrified of their own weakness, shame, and hopelessness. Until we have dwelled with these states within ourselves, we will recoil from and project onto others. Once embraced and transmuted, the gifts of loving attention, patience, compassion, and determined courage pour forth. As giving becomes a fundamental expression of compassion for ourselves and then others, it becomes less and less optional.”
Along those same lines, I once did a post on how providing services for individuals with one or more developmental disabilities was an essential part of the economic health of communities.

A commenter made my point a thousand times better, using far fewer words, saying:
“My husband's disability-related needs provide employment for 6 people directly as personal attendants - total support for a family of 3 and a single mother; allows a father to go to college so he can support his family; supplements the income of a young man who works in human services; supplements the income of a senior citizen; gives job experience for a displaced construction worker; and supports a college student.”
By far the majority of comments on my blog are positive and in support of what I am saying, or congratulating an individual we serve or employee at Imagine! I have highlighted in my “Good News Friday” posts. I am very appreciative of those positive comments.

But – that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome disagreeing opinions.

Since I have been doing my blog, over 135 comments have been made, and currently the blog averages close to 3,000 page views per month. Those are not huge numbers, but they do demonstrate the potential of this blog to be a true community forum where anyone who is willing to participate can be part of a bigger conversation about the future of services in Colorado and beyond.

We are at a critical point right now in our field, and significant changes are afoot. Not all of those changes are being made with input from the people who will feel these changes the most. I encourage you to make your voice heard!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Good News Friday!

Imagine!’s two SmartHomes continue to garner national and even international attention. As the first two homes in the nation to use technology in a comprehensive way to enhance the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities, more and more organizations and thought leaders in the field are recognizing that Imagine!’s innovative and forward-thinking SmartHomes can serve as a model for the future of residential care.

Additionally, interested parties are learning how the various technologies, or SmartSupports, being tested and refined in Imagine!’s SmartHomes can offer solutions geared toward allowing individuals with disabilities to live independently, or with their families and loved ones, for longer periods of time.

For example, more than 500 visitors have taken a tour of either the Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome in Boulder or the Charles Family SmartHome in Longmont, and many have toured both homes. People taking the tour have come from all across the nation, and as far away as England, France, and Russia.

Below are some photos of national and international VIPs who have toured our SmartHomes and seen first-hand how technology is improving the lives of some of our community’s most vulnerable citizens.

You don’t have to be a big shot to tour the SmartHomes, though. If you are interested in taking a tour, just sign up online by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mission 16W

As I write this, pretty much everybody in my neck of the woods is talking about Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos’ amazing playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But I have been thinking lately about playoffs and championships in another sport – hockey. Specifically, I have been thinking about the Colorado Avalanche and that team’s 2001 Stanley Cup playoff run. During training camp at the beginning of that season, Avalanche veteran Ray Bourque posted the motto “Mission 16W” in the locker room and elsewhere to keep the team focused on the need to win 16 playoff games to reach the goal of hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Now while that concept seems simple, keep in mind that this was a team loaded with superstars: in addition to Bourque, the Avalanche roster included Joe Sakic, Rob Blake, Patrick Roy, and Peter Forsberg, to name just a few. The talent level was extraordinary, but with a group like that, egos and petty concerns could have gotten in the way if the team wasn’t able to focus on the bigger goal of winning a championship. The “Mission 16W” motto kept that primary goal front and center, and the result was a second Stanley Cup for the Avs.

Longtime readers of my blog know that a common theme running through my posts is the importance of coming together as a team by focusing on the big picture of what can we do to achieve the best possible outcomes for the individuals we serve.

Today, I’d like to highlight two recent achievements that demonstrate that the community of those who provide supports to individuals with one or more developmental disabilities in Colorado have truly come together as a team.

Example 1:

I wrote a couple of weeks back about Alliance’s Focus on the Future project, created to identify what is working and what is not working in the system, in the hope that the decisions made about changing the system moving forward will be made with knowledge of what is best for the end users in the system (the people we serve).

Last week, Alliance presented the Focus on the Future project to Colorado’s State Long Term Care Advisory Committee, and I had the honor of presenting it to the Legislative Joint Budget Committee. Also presenting were Carol Meredith, Executive Director of The Arc Arapahoe and Douglas Counties, Sally Montgomery, Executive Director of Mosaic in Northern Colorado, and Marijo Rymer, Executive Director of The Arc of Colorado.

This cross section of speakers from Community Centered Boards, from the advocate community, and from the provider community shows how well the Focus on the Future project represents ideas from a wide ranging group of stakeholders from across the state. And every presenter (including myself) commented while presenting on how proud we were to be associated with the project.

If you are interested, you can find a copy of the Focus on the Future final report by clicking here.
And, you can make your voice heard regarding the project. Take a survey about the project by clicking here.
Example 2:

For the past several years, there have been two state-wide organizations representing the Community Centered Board and provider community in Colorado – CCB Partners and Alliance. I won’t go into reasons why there were two such organizations, the reasons don’t really matter.

What did matter was that the two organizations, though they served the same populations, spoke with two different voices and made the system seemed fractured and fragmented to outside observers.

Just last week, leadership and Boards of Directors of both Alliance and CCB Partners announced the unification of the two organizations and their respective memberships into one, to be known as Alliance Colorado. Compelled by unity of purpose and vision, this historic action unites Colorado’s twenty Community Centered Boards (CCBs) in one organization in partnership with more than twenty provider agencies from throughout Colorado.

Culminating from nearly 18 months of close collaboration and with a view of what’s best for Coloradans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), this reconciliation signals a powerful and common mission of all Colorado CCBs and provider agencies to provide exceptional community services for people with I/DD, where self-direction, active engagement in community life, and the pursuit of quality of life that is defined by the person and not the system, are minimum expectations for every person with an IDD. The organizations that comprise Alliance Colorado are already working tirelessly in the service of that mission, unified in the belief that together we are better.

Both of these examples demonstrate the power of coming together as a team. We are much stronger when standing together, and considering the many issues and challenges currently facing the system of funding and delivering services to some of our most vulnerable citizens, the timing couldn’t be better.

I think we might finally have our own version of “Mission 16W” in sight. It is a very fine sight, indeed.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Good News Friday!

Last November, Christopher Donley, a talented artist known as “The One-Handed Potter” and who receives services from Imagine!, appeared on the television show “Colorado & Company.”

Also appearing were Darryl Houghton, Christopher’s pottery instructor/mentor, and Fred Hobbs, Imagine!’s Director of Public Relations.

If you missed his segment on the show, check it out below!