Friday, March 29, 2013

Good News Friday!

The article below is from last summer, but it is still worth sharing. It is about a young woman served by Imagine! who uses art as a means of expression. The story appeared in the National Herald, a leading Greek American newspaper.

Double click on the article to make it bigger so you can read it. To make the picture even bigger, just click on it again.

Way to go, Stephanie!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Lisa Fiero

Today’s “50 Years, 50 Stories” installment comes from Lisa Fiero, parent of an Imagine! client and member of Imagine!’s Board of Directors. I don’t have much else to add to this introduction, as Lisa’s eloquence below far surpasses anything I could bring to the post. Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your story, and thank you for all you have done for Joey, Imagine!, and the people we serve.

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First
By Lisa Fiero
Lisa Fiero's son Joey Crompton throwing out the first
pitch at a Colorado Rockies game

I have been a flight attendant in the friendly skies for 29 years. When I was in training, the first thing I learned was, 'put on your own oxygen mask first' so you can help others who cannot help themselves.

Twenty-three years ago, I had the perfect life and was blessed with a son named Joey. Life was good, but then I couldn't breathe!

When Joey was two years old it was my training that gave me the strength to scream for help, and I mean scream. I was scared to death. Something was very wrong with my son and no one was listening. The doctors did not know what to do. I looked in the Yellow Pages, hands shaking, barely breathing, I saw the words 'Developmental Disabilities Center,' now known as Imagine!. I made the call, someone answered, and within one half hour a social worker was at my door.

On an airplane, during a decompression people have 15 seconds before hypoxia sets in and they begin to lose consciousness. On the ground at that moment, I had one half hour.

Ding dong, doorbell rings, Joey gets help, I can breathe. Joey will be okay.

Twenty one years later, I am alive and well...Joey is alive and has thrived, in large part due to the services of Imagine! that we continue to receive.

  It has been my honor and privilege to:
  • become involved and educate myself by joining Imagine!'s Family Support Council.
  • be invited to join the Board of Directors, where I am still perched twelve years later.
  • be a part of the team that developed the name, 'Imagine!'
  • chair the successful 2002 mil levy effort that set up substantial annual revenue to help serve people with developmental disabilities in Boulder County, which Imagine! will receive a part of forever!
  • advocate and educate others by speaking at functions, at Boulder City Council meetings, on TV, and in print.
  • advocate and represent Imagine! at the State level, where I met the governor and was introduced on the House floor with Joey by my side.
"I paid it forward." That is what Imagine! CEO Mark Emery recently told me. I disagree. I just put on my own oxygen mask first.

Are you interested in sharing your story for “50 Years, 50 Stories?” If so, contact Caroline Siegfried at or 303-926-6405. We’d love to hear from you!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Good News Friday!

Here’s an update on an individual served by Imagine! who was featured in this very blog last fall.

Benjamin Tarasewicz a young man with high-functioning autism who is making a positive impact on our community by educating his community on the challenges of living with autism. Benjamin is a precocious speaker who delivers an hour long multi-media presentation entitled "Living With Autism: Breaking Through Barriers." A little less than a year ago, Benjamin gave the debut performance of his informative and inspiring presentation at his high school, and received a standing ovation from the audience of over 100 students, teachers, and others. He has since delivered his presentation to the Colorado Department of Education, the Colorado Special Education Advisory Council, and the University of Colorado’s Psi Chi Honors Psychology Club, among others. Benjamin’s efforts to educate the community about living with autism are already being recognized – last October he was honored by the Autism Society of Colorado with their “Compassionate Youth of the Year” award. 

This past Monday, Benjamin delivered his presentation at Regis Community College in Denver, and before that, he appeared with his mother Malva on the television show Colorado & Company to talk about his presentations and living with autism. You can check out his appearance below. He is a little nervous at the beginning, but then he recovers and performs like a champ.

Can't see the video? Click here.

Benjamin has his own blog, and he made a post about his experience on the TV show a couple of days ago. Check it out here.

You can also check out Benjamin's website to learn more about him, and about his presentations.

If you would like to see Benjamin’s presentation first hand, he will be appearing on Friday, April 12 at 6:00 pm at the Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center in Longmont. Please RSVP to Linda at 303-652-9131 or

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring Forward

Last month, Alliance, a statewide association of Community Centered Boards (CCBs) and Service Provider Organizations (SPOs) hosted its Annual Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day at the Colorado State Capitol. One of the highlights of the day was the reading of a resolution, in both the House and the Senate, recognizing persons with developmental disabilities as well as those who provide services to members of that community.

Click here to see some video from the House reading of the resolution (which starts at the 28.06 mark).

There are several things that stuck out in my mind as various state leaders spoke after the reading of the resolution.

The first thing I noticed was that this resolution represented a true moment of bipartisanship. Representatives from both sides of the aisle agreed that there is a shared responsibility to serve some of our community’s most vulnerable citizens. In this day and age of huge political divides, it was refreshing to see this moment of unity. And for anyone who has been following Colorado legislative issues this session, with so many contentious issues being discussed, it is clear that these moments of unity are few and far between.

There was also a very visible and vocal recognition among legislators that Colorado has fallen short in the goal of protecting individuals with intellectual disabilities in the past, as evidenced by our ranking of 47th nationwide in terms of fiscal effort toward services for this population.

And speaking of recognition, it was very nice to hear legislative tributes to our current community-based system. That system has been under fire from some circles lately, but I appreciate hearing that our state leaders recognize the genuine value that comes from communities that are allowed to lead the way in providing services to their local citizens.

Best of all, I don’t think that the resolution reading and speech making was just lip service. We are truly in the midst of one of the biggest forward movements in our state in quite some time in terms of serving people with developmental disabilities. Beginning with Governor Hickenlooper’s 2013-2014 proposed budget through today, we have seen many positive funding changes coming from our state leadership after years of cuts.

There is much more work to do, but I want to acknowledge the good things that have occurred recently, and thank those who have worked so hard to make these positive forward steps possible. There is much to be excited about.

Then again, what do I know?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Ron Scruggs

Today’s installment of “50 Years, 50 Stories” comes courtesy of Ron Scruggs, who began working at Imagine! back in 1988. Ron does a great job of describing the how and the why of the creation and growth of Imagine!’s Labor Source department. Good stuff! Thanks for sharing, Ron.

Ron Scruggs, looking rugged during a Labor Source
camping trip.

The Evolution of Supported Employment Services
By Ronnie Wayne Scruggs
In the beginning there were only nuts, bolts, work skills training, arts and crafts, including a flock of plastic waterfowl (ducks), one of which would eventually become the inspiration for Labor Source’s mascot, Skippy.

Then several of the stewards of Labor Source said, “There has to be something more challenging!” After several gatherings at the weekly Friday Afternoon Club an idea was born. Paraphrasing JFK’s phrase, “Ask not what your country can do for you” came, “What can our consumers do for their community?”

Staff members and consumers began to explore the community from satellites or hubs strategically located in Boulder near RTD routes that provided the opportunity for independent travel training. Consumers also had more choices to select from community activities they expressed an interest in navigating further.

One of the first mobile phones provided to staff was a Motorola field phone, code name Alpha. It weighed 8 lbs. The battle cry became, ”Failure is not an option; help is on the way!”

Social, recreational activities and retreats were provided to maintain the spirit and camaraderie of the support staff. These included but were not limited to camping trips, softball and volleyball teams, secret Santa parties, and tractor drawn hayrides.

A select group of staff, job developers, began to interface with a variety of businesses, mom and pop owned, and corporations within the Boulder, Lafayette, Longmont and Louisville area to market the benefits and incentives for establishing a partnership that would provide a structured paid employment opportunity to physically, developmentally, and emotionally challenged individuals.

Supported Employment work crews were placed in restaurant and taverns such as the LA Diner, Juanita’s, Colony Market and The Hungry Toad, (which holds the distinction of being the longest business partnership that exists today). However, janitorial opportunities were not the only environments where skilled laborers were placed. Partnerships were also secured at Eco-Cycle and with the Parks & Recreation Departments of Boulder and Broomfield Counties. Volunteer work crew placements were also established such as laundry aides at the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless, Adopt-a-Highway, and business flyer handouts from door-to-door.

As an individual obtained the skills needed to succeed and build productive relationships within the workforce, any interest expressed to secure an individual employment opportunity were explored. Follow-along supports were offered to the employer and the individual to ensure his or her relationship was meeting the standards established by both parties. To ensure that support staff had the professional tools and learning accessible to them, an Apprenticeship Training Program was created which addressed such strategies or approaches as “Try Another Way,” person-centered advocacy, revenue streams to secure service funding, and delivery of excellent customer service.

Professional resources such as Temple Grandin and Dan Hobbs were secured to offer tools of learning to support the success of those individuals who were seeking supported employment services.

As the community became more involved in the daily challenges of supporting individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities, police involvement became more apparent, i.e. arriving at a scene where a support staff was using an emergency control procedure to prevent a behaviorally challenged individual from doing harm to himself. Logic and training had evolved at this point and time to where each side had a deeper understanding of what the other side had to endure.

Within the last five years, departmental mergers between CORE, Labor Source, and Out & About have created new community venues where an individual has the opportunity to expand their artistic talents, explore the workforce, and maintain their recreational interests. What a wonderful life it can be!

As I begin my 25th Anniversary with Imagine!, I would like to acknowledge and thank various members of this elite family, including past and present Executive Directors and Boards who have provided the vision for success and enrichment, Case Management for the care giving you have provided, clerical and direct line staff who have always been accessible when the need arises, all the consumers who have shown me that growing together has truly enriched my life, and finally to the individual who conducted my initial interview and offered me an opportunity to have my life here at Imagine! come full circle.

Are you interested in sharing your story for “50 Years, 50 Stories?” If so, contact Caroline Siegfried at or 303-926-6405. We’d love to hear from you!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Good News Friday!

For today’s post, I’d like to share the story of a remarkable young woman served by Imagine! who is making a big difference in her community.

Sofia Stewart is making and donating beautiful bags to be sold at Louisville's LoCo Yo Shop tomorrow (March 16) as part of an early celebration of Purple Day.

Purple Day is an international grassroots effort dedicated to increasing awareness about epilepsy worldwide. On March 26, people in countries around the world are invited to wear purple and host events in support of epilepsy awareness. Last year, people in dozens of countries on all continents, including Antarctica, participated in Purple Day.

Sofia will be selling her bags to support awareness of Purple Day and epilepsy, but more importantly, to raise funds for a young Louisville girl, Destiny, who has a severe type of epilepsy. In addition to the sale of Sofia’s bags, LoCo Yo will be hosting a beading party, a Run/Walk/Roll for Destiny, and live music, all from noon to 4:00 PM. Door prizes will be available. You can learn more about the day's events here. LoCo Yo is located at 917 Front Street in Louisville.

Sofia hard at work on her latest creation
Even if you can’t make it to tomorrow's events, Sofia’s bags will be on sale all month. Visit her website to see, or purchase, some of her fabulous creations.

Congratulations Sofia, and thanks for your efforts to support those in your community!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Caroline Siegfried

This week’s “50 Years, 50 Stories” comes from Caroline Siegfried, who began working at Imagine! back in 1985. Many families and individuals served by Imagine! still remember Caroline fondly for the many years she spent as a Direct Support Professional, so obviously she made a profound impact.

For the past few years, Caroline has served as Executive Assistant for my predecessor, John Taylor, and for me. It is no exaggeration to say that Caroline keeps Imagine! running.

Thanks for sharing, Caroline, and thanks for all you have done for the people Imagine! serves.

Plan To Build Resume Turns Into A Lifetime Of Service
By Caroline Siegfried
Caroline Siegfried (center), with June Wolosin (left) and Juli MacKenzie (right) in October, 1985, at the first anniversary party for Imagine!’s Adult Day Program

When Mark Emery and Steve Dawes hired me to be a substitute adult day program instructor/College for Living teacher in 1985, my goal was to stay with the Boulder County Board for Developmental Disabilities for five years. Having never been employed anywhere for more than 11 months, it seemed an impossible goal but one that had to be accomplished if I didn’t want to go through life with a sketchy resume. Twenty-eight years later, choosing one story to represent those years seems almost as daunting now as keeping the same job for a year seemed then. For example, I think about:
  • Tulagi, The Broker Inn, The L.A. Diner and the excitement of community employment with the people in the adult day program—it wasn’t even Labor Source yet—despite the incredibly hard work of learning how supported employment might realistically occur in the world.
  • The entire company standing huddled around our first new IBM computer, learning that FORMAT A: is not the same as FORMAT and nurturing a great respect for the uses of technology anyway.
  • Sitting in the living room at 19th St. Group home in 1986, watching TV with the residents as the Challenger space shuttle exploded, and the feelings of devastation and support we shared.
  • Negotiating the gray area between being an employee for and being friends/family with people who receive services.
  • How for nearly 30 years and counting, an antique duck decoy united 30+ employees in supporting people with disabilities to become players in their communities, even though most of them, and the duck, went on to other things years ago.
  • The many occasions of working hard and playing hard with a like minded cohort.
  • Reading the state rules and regulations for the first time and reeling at my glimpse of the enormity of the tasks we were undertaking.
  • The smart, dedicated, fascinating people who donate 8-12 years of their lives to volunteer as board members and how privileged we have been and are to have their wild diversity of talents to call upon.
and there are so many more possibilities, that, sketchy resume or not, I am unable to choose.

Are you interested in sharing your story for “50 Years, 50 Stories?” If so, contact Caroline Siegfried at or 303-926-6405. We’d love to hear from you!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Good News Friday!

Once again, some talented artists served by Imagine! will be sharing their work with the community.

Starting today, March 8, a variety of drawings and paintings (including the one in the photo) created by participants in Imagine! CORE/Labor Source art classes will be on display at Breadworks Bakery and Café, 2644 Broadway St., Boulder, CO.   

Breadworks Bakery and Café is locally owned and operated, serving award-winning organic artisan breads, fine pastries, fresh à la carte breakfasts, lunches, and gourmet take-away food. I thank them for supporting our community and the extraordinary Imgine! artists.

The art will be displayed until Wednesday, April 3rd. Breadworks Bakery and Café is open Monday-Friday from 7am-7pm, Saturday and Sunday 7am-6pm.

Please consider stopping by to browse the artwork while enjoying some great food.

I also want to offer special thanks to CORE/Labor Source Art Instructor Bridget Carroll, who arranged this show.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Common Thread

For what I hope will be obvious reasons, lately 50th Anniversaries have been on my mind. So over the past few days, I have been doing some research on other organizations and entities that are celebrating 50 years in 2013.

The question I hoped to find some answer to was: is there anything unique about the year 1963 that contributed to the enduring nature of some iconic entities we know? Is there a common thread running through these 50 year-olds?

1963 saw the birth of several communities, such as Coral Springs, FL and the Broomfield Chamber of Commerce.

Mission driven organizations established with a sense of purpose in 1963 include the I Have a Dream Foundation, Think 360 Arts, the American Society of Bone and Mineral Research, and the Canadian Dental Hygienist Association.

Learning institutions were also born, such as Semester at Sea and Missouri State University at West Plains.

1963 was a year of information sharing, including the first published version of the magnificently titled Emery County Progress (a newspaper in Utah).

Entertainment and recreation had a good year in 1963. Steamboat Springs Ski Resort was established, the Doctor Who television program first aired, the Newmarket Pipe Band (Irish music … since St Patty’s day is around the corner!) was formed, General Hospital premiered on television, and the Swingle Singers acappela group released their pioneering, Grammy-winning debut album Jazz Sébastien Bach in 1963.

Can't see the video? Click here. 

Creations debuted in 1963 that clearly became icons included Lamborghini, McLaren Group Motor Racing, the Mustang Club of America, the Porsche 911, and the Ferrari Club of America (although that seems a bit oxymoronic).

After all of my research on the many organizations and entities celebrating their golden anniversary, I found the common thread to be . . . Imagine!.

We are most certainly a community organization – we can’t exist without the support of our community.

We are also clearly a mission driven organization.

We are a learning institution of a sort - we strive not only to educate those we serve so they may participate more fully in society, but also to educate society about the many contributions individuals with developmental disabilities are bringing to their communities every single day, and to facilitate the meeting of mutual obligation between those we serve and the community.

We believe firmly in information sharing, and work tirelessly to find the most effective and efficient ways to communicate with our many stakeholders so they can stay up to date about happenings throughout Imagine! and the world of services for individuals with developmental disabilities.

Recreation and entertainment are a key element to the services we provide. Why? Because they are a key element in every person’s life, and finding ways to create recreation and entertainment opportunities for the individuals we serve in integrated settings benefits everyone – our clients, Imagine!, and the community.

For the last element – are we iconic? While I may be biased, I would argue that we are an iconic organization. Throughout the history of our organization, we have been looked at as a model locally, statewide, nationally, and internationally for our innovative thinking and forward looking services. For 50 years, Imagine! has never been afraid to ask a simple question: “why not?” But beyond asking the question, we looked for answers where others only saw obstacles.

1963, then, was indeed a unique year. It marked the beginning of a 50-year odyssey for Imagine! and our stakeholders. The stories you have (hopefully) been reading in this blog are just a small sample of the successes that have resulted from that journey. I can’t wait to see what the next 50 years will bring.

Then again, what do I know?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories – Richard Lowe

This week’s “50 Years, 50 Stories” installment comes from Richard Lowe, who works for Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source department. In the piece, Richard shares his memories of Billy Montgomery, who received services from Imagine! and was something of a local celebrity and movie star.

Intrigued? Read more below.

Remembering Billy
By Richard Lowe
Billy Montgomery (seated), surrounded by family and friends in 2009.

“HellomynameisBillyMontgomeryhaveyouseenthemovie “Rain Man”? Guess who’s in it? Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, and MEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!”
If you were with Imagine! before 2009, chances are good that you heard this many, many times. I first heard it in the Art Room of the Dairy Center when I came to observe CORE classes the week before I was hired in 2007. Billy shuffled over and clobbered me with a barrage of verbiage. I said to him, pointing at my head: “You see this [imaginary] swarm of bees buzzing around me? That’s my brain trying to listen to you!” And he laughed as loud and free as I’ve ever seen a human being laugh. I would hear this laugh and every other emotion at full volume many times over the next two years.
One of Billy’s defining life moments came when he acted in “Rain Man.” He had done many shows before: a soap opera, some plays, commercials, and he deeply valued the lessons he learned as an actor. Know your lines. Know your cues. Hit your mark. Be on time. We bonded as performers, for this is what I did for twelve years before joining Imagine!. When he was becoming more frightened due to his rapidly progressing dementia, one of the only things which would calm him was putting my arm around his shoulder and whispering, “Do you know your lines?” “Are you ready for rehearsal?”
“YES!” and he pulled it together.
There are keys to working well with individual Imagine! consumers, and this was a big one for Billy: He did not respond well (to say the least) to being told “no.” He loved collecting magazines; from every bookstore, newsstand, and convenience store we visited, so I watched him as he did his thing to make sure nobody was getting hurt, then returned them when he fell asleep in the van. I would match eyes with a store employee as he marched out with $100 worth of “Vogue” and “Esquire” and “People” and mouth “I’ll be right back,” and they were always understanding. Billy and I came to love one another like brothers. Towards the end he called me Jay.
He changed from loving and charming most of the time to scared and angry. Some staff would try to tell him “no,” and he would punch and yell at them. I learned to take “no” out of the equation and began practicing what I think of as “Behavioral Aikido”, which is offering no resistance to a target behavior, switching the context and praising the new [appropriate] behavior. Affection trumped all in Billy’s world, and he returned it to me a thousand fold.
Billy was on a mission: collect magazines, pepper a stranger with questions, ask for Skyline Chili (from Cincinnati), say “Guess what? Guess what? Guess what?”

I wasn’t married then, but he asked me so many times I eventually just said “yes” to stop that train of obsession. Because of that response, many I worked with at CORE didn’t know if I was married or not. So you know, I got married on February 5, 2013, for the first time. Billy would have loved that.

He was at my Louisville morning pick-up. From there I'd drive him and a few others into Boulder, which took about half an hour. Billy hated seatbelts, and was always unclicking his, so he had to sit in the front seat (a sly manipulation?) where he'd hit me with the same questions I'd heard the day before, and the day before and . . .

"Guess what?"


"Why don't you, and me, and Jay, and Nathan . . . just the guys . . . go out tonight and drink Pepsi?"

"Well, I already have plans for tonight . . ."

"Let's do it!"

"Let’s look at next week."


It was always "next week", and that seemed to satisfy him, or at least get him to change the subject. Now I wish I had called Jay and Nathan and arranged a few Pepsi drinking bashes with Billy. I miss him terribly, but my life is far richer for having shared one leg of my journey with the resplendent soul, the irrepressible, the one and only Billy Montgomery.

Are you interested in sharing your story for “50 Years, 50 Stories?” If so, contact Caroline Siegfried at or 303-926-6405. We’d love to hear from you!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Good News Friday!

Last week, the Boulder Knights of Columbus Council 1183 presented a check for $1,050 to Imagine!'s Dayspring department for community activities that support the therapies children get at home. The Boulder Knights have now donated a total of $14,912.23 to Imagine! from funds raised by their annual Tootsie Roll Drive.

Then, this past Saturday, the Longmont Knights of Columbus Council 1313 presented a check for $1,547.38, also for Dayspring's Community Calendar Activities. The Longmont Knights have now donated a total of $22,527.84 to Imagine! from funds raised by their annual Toostie Roll Drive.

In all, local chapters of the Knights of Columbus have donated $47,416.04 to Imagine! over the years. We have a bunch of great Knights around here!

Longmont Knights of Columbus representative Chris Turnow (left) presents Dayspring Director Julie Hartman with a check for $1,547.38

Pictured are Dick Bryant, Chairman of the Boulder Knights of Columbus Tootsie Roll Drive, and Julie Hartman, Dayspring Director, immediately following a check presentation of $1,050 from the Knights to Dayspring.