Friday, September 27, 2013

Good News Friday!

For several years now, Imagine! has selected employees annually from across our organization to participate in a Leadership Development Program. The purpose of Imagine!’s Leadership Development Program is to provide a coordinated platform that strategically develops talent within Imagine! to address the company’s leadership needs for the future.

The program is designed to educate employees (participants) about the complexities of the organization and to assist management in learning about people with talent that may be good matches for leadership roles. The Leadership Development program also allows participants to learn important processes, skills, and offers opportunities to develop and promote leadership skills.

If you missed it, check out this post I made earlier in the summer about the accomplishments of the participants in the 2012-2013 Leadership Development Program.

Then, please join me in welcoming the 2013 – 2014 members of the Leadership Development Program (pictured below from left to right): Anna Knott, Site Supervisor for Imagine!’s Innovations department, Carla Rapp, Administrative Analyst for Imagine!’s Family Support department, Katie Edwards, Imagine! Human Resources Coordinator, and Laurel Reese-Scott, Site Supervisor II for Imagine!’s Innovations department.

Congratulations to this year’s participants. I look forward to getting to know you all and seeing how we can work together to continue Imagine!’s tradition of excellence and innovation.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Solution Economy

Regular readers of my blog are probably aware that I am a regular listener of the Harvard Business Review IdeaCasts, the podcast part of the HBR Blog Network. I like to listen to the podcast when I drive, and I frequently find parallels in the subjects discussed and what is happening in the world of funding and delivering services to individuals with developmental disabilities.

I discovered an especially pertinent parallel earlier this week when I listened to a podcast interview of William D. Eggers and Paul Macmillan, authors of “The Solution Revolution.”

The interview begins with the premise that, as a society, there are many incredibly challenging and complex problems that we expect our government to solve, and increasingly, it seems as if our government is incapable of solving any problem, big or small. Following that premise, the question is posed, “what is stopping government from being able to work on some of these big problems?”

Eggers and Macmillan argue that a key reason for this seemingly inability for our government to solve problems is that government tries to do so many things that it is impossible to do any of them well. In fact, government often finds itself working at cross purposes – like creating programs to fight obesity among Americans while subsidizing sugar producers at the same time. And in too many cases, the government tries to solve these problems unilaterally, without tapping into the skills and resources of the not for profit and for profit sectors.

One way out of this quandary proposed by Eggers and Macmillan is by tapping in to what they call the “solution economy” - the space where public problems are being solved. The two note that savvy governments are realizing that they can make government dollars go much further if they can leverage investments in solving problems that are already out there - investments made by foundations, by companies, by social entrepreneurs, and by social venture capitalists. When governments collaborate with a variety of organizations, both for profit and non-profit, solutions to complex problems are easier to discover and implement.

I believe that Colorado’s system of funding and delivering services has historically been an effective model of a solution economy. Imagine!, in its role as a Community Centered Board, would receive state and federal funds and would then utilize local resources, both for profit and not for profit, to maximize the value and output of the funding. Each sector in turn brought tremendous value to the solution. It worked remarkably well for a long time.

I fear that in the recent decade we have moved away from this solution economy approach to services in Colorado, and at a terrible time to do so. In fact, this is the very time when no one sector should attempt to solve the problem alone.

In a field with many challenges, one thing that I know has been successful for a sustained period of time is the community based approach to delivering services that is the hallmark of Colorado’s I/DD system. The nonprofit and market driven for profit sectors should be continually recognized for the value they bring to the table. This isn’t a system that can be successful where the solution is driven entirely by the government. All sectors need to be part of the solution.

Then again, what do I know?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Bethany Roberts

This week’s installment of “50 Years, 50 Stories” comes from Bethany Roberts. Bethany holds a unique view of Imagine! and what we do. Her mother, Kim Holman, has worked for Imagine! for close to twenty years. And Bethany also worked for Imagine!’s Out & About program starting when she was a senior in high school, and came back to work at O & A’s Summer Camp frequently during her college years. You could say that Bethany grew up at Imagine! in more ways than one.

Thanks for sharing, Bethany!

Out & About Experience Sets Career Path
By Bethany Roberts
Bethany Roberts (in back) on the job with
Out & About in 2007.
When I was nine, my mother started to work at Imagine! back when it was still called the Developmental Disabilities Center (DDC). My mom became good friends with Colette Marie (the Coordinator of Out & About), and during my senior year of high school (2005) I started to babysit Colette’s daughter. One day near the end of the school year, Colette mentioned that she needed some extra help with Out & About’s Summer Camp program and asked if I would be interested in working as an assistant staff. I took the position having no idea how much of an impact this job would have on my future.

On the first day, I felt I was in way over my head. I really had no experience with people with disabilities (other than the tiny bit of knowledge I had received from my mother). I remember feeling very nervous the first day; I hardly talked to anyone, not knowing what to say or how to act. Thankfully, my nerves ceased, and my confidence increased. By the end of the summer I loved the job, and I was assisting with some of the more challenging kiddos and loving it!

After that first summer, Colette asked me to stay on and work full-time. I took the job and loved it. I worked year-round for three or four years until I started going to school in Maine. Out & About is actually one of the major reasons why I went back to school. Through my work with the kids, I became very interested in autism, and I went to school so I can eventually work directly with children with autism either as a special education teacher or a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).

Even though I spent my school years in Maine, I still came back and worked Summer Camp every year! I have worked a total of eight summers all together. This year is actually the first summer I did not come back to work, and I am truly missing it. I love all the kids and staff, and by not coming to work at Out & About I feel as though my summer is incomplete. Imagine’s! Out & About is a major part of my life and has given me many unforgettable experiences that I will take with me in my future work with children with autism.

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, September 20, 2013

Good News Friday!

I have always said that people associated with Imagine! were extraordinary, and this was demonstrated again and again this past week. The floods may have damaged our property, but they strengthened our sense of community.

All week, Imagine!’s Facebook page has been featuring “Flood Superheroes” – short stories about the ways Imagine! employees and others in our community have truly gone above and beyond to ensure the safety of other employees and of those we serve. I’ve compiled all the stories below. I’m sure these aren't all of the heroic actions undertaken by Imagine! employees and other Imagine! stakeholders this week, so feel free to share others with me in the comments section below.

Thanks to all of our flood superheroes!

Site Supervisor Michael Benz stayed at the office of Imagine!'s Manhattan Apartments from 7:00 am Thursday morning to Friday afternoon at 3:30 PM during the worst of the flooding to make sure everyone was ok. Even when he finally got a chance to take a break, he still offered to be on call in case of problems!

Tim Johnson, Chris Holder, and Matty Barnert, who work in Imagine!'s Innovations department administrative offices, ripped up carpet all day at two homes, ending up soaked head to toe in carpet soaked flood water.

Imagine! Board of Directors President Scott Doyen rolled up his sleeves and pitched in on the clean up at our Tenino St. home.

Site Supervisor Chantelle Tweeten stayed 36 hours at the Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome, away from her young daughter and family, to ensure coverage and safety.

Site Supervisor Anna Knott worked crazy hours and spent the night at our 19th St. home to be on site in case - the “in case” happened when a stranded young man who receives foster care services from Imagine! was alone at the bus depot and needed a place to stay.

Site Supervisor Michael Sean Bradley ventured out to Wednesday night in flood waters to support a staff working alone at the significantly flooded Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome, and stayed up 36 hours to support his staff and others.

Michael Puente drove for hours trying to find a route into Longmont so he could get to work.

Priyanka Giri, Site Supervisor at the Charles Family SmartHome in Longmont, knowing that once again EVERY route into Boulder was blocked (she drove Longmont to test routes), called her supervisor Friday night told her that her plan at 6 AM the next day was to have herself and her husband relieve the overnight staff members to ensure coverage.

Imagine! Foundation Board of Directors member Don Brown and his wife Karen opened their home to house a displaced live-in from one of Imagine!’s homes damaged by flooding.

Imagine! contractors and support staff members including Nate George, Mark Reeves, Kristin Conboy, Sara Good, Leah Gerstner, Mike Fischer, and Christian Glover rolled up their sleeves and did a great deal of work to protect our property, mitigate damage, and to begin clean up.

Michael Ulfstam worked a 20+hour shift when he got stranded in Boulder. He just kept working, put his own concerns aside and did everything he could to make sure our consumers were safe and well cared for.

Russ Christiansen, a newer staff member, was alone doing an overnight shift the first night of flooding. This was only his second overnight shift by himself. He followed protocols perfectly, and most impressive, he kept his calm and happy demeanor, no complaints, even in a strange and scary situation.

Matt Boren, who works at Imagine!’s Manhattan St. home, had his roommate drive him into flood waters to get to work. His commute took hours, and he had his roommate leave him in the middle of the street when he could not pass by car to attempt the final journey. Because the other overnight staff member is unable to work, Matt agreed to work 11 overnights in a row to make sure the shifts are covered. He is also working 2 extra days!

Dave Ruhter and Fred Osei: Dave tried for two hours to find an open route to Imagine!’s Foothills St. home on Friday morning and when he thought he might not be able to make it, he went back to his house and got his bike so he could ride in if he could not find a clear road. He also worked extra hours each day to ensure the house was covered and split his time between taking care of clients and bailing water in the basement even offering to stay all night to bail if we needed it. Fred Osei got to Boulder from Denver despite the floods and many closed roads and then worked 30+ hrs straight between Foothills and Boulder Charles Smart Home. Neither of them complained or needed breaks and both were rockstars through the whole process.

Shannon Bundy, who works at the Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome, worked straight from Friday afternoon to Monday at 3:30. Some of the shifts were overnights so she did get some sleep in, but that is still a tremendous amount of time to work!

Todd Discher, Imagine!’s Maintenance Supervisor, has been a rockstar this whole time. On Thursday and Friday, during the flooding, Todd drove to every Imagine! site to assess damage and meet the needs of the homes as best he could, sometimes cajoling police officers to let him pass through street closures so he could get to the homes. He was up at 3 AM Saturday morning, attending to an alarm that wouldn’t turn off. When not filling sand bags or tearing up soaked carpets, he has been on the phone trying to get damaged homes fixed and back on line as soon as possible.

Imagine!’s IT Director Kevin Harding was at the Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome on Saturday, cleaning up and accessing damage to the home’s tech equipment, when he discovered the lights weren’t working in the home. Kevin went back to Imagine!’s office, got the SmartHome’s blueprints and electrical schematics, figured out what fix was needed, went to Home Depot to buy the needed parts, and fixed the lights!

Last Sunday, even with the rain still falling and the flooding in Boulder continuing, a group of Imagine! staff members and fantastic volunteers helped to clean out the flooded basement of the Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome. Among those who helped out include: Ty Allen, Josh Dayton, Ryan Wright, Aaron Flower, and Andy Reimer of “The Well” church, Matt Barnert, Jodi Walters and her family, Caroline and Essie Siegfried, Eva Klemens, and David and Karen Kalis.

And extra special kudos to Imagine!’s Director of Innovations Jodi Walters. Jodi has been a star performer under incredible pressure. She has been working tirelessly since the flooding began, making sure clients and staff members were safe, rallying support to ensure all of our homes had adequate staffing, assessing damage and working to get the damage mitigated as quickly as possible, gathering and sharing information, all the while looking ahead and setting priorities for what's next. She even found time to help create a fundraising campaign to help cover some of the costs of repairing the homes. Her efforts to date have been heroic and errorless. Well done, Jodi!

Other flood information:

Imagine! Behavioral Health Services (IBHS) has created a document on “How to Self-Care After a Disaster.” You can find that, along with flood updates and resources, on the “What’s New” page of the Imagine! website.  

Looking to volunteer? Click here.

Looking to donate? Click here.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Flood Update - Another Way To Help

Many people have offered to help in the aftermath of the floods, and we are so appreciative. We have set up a fundraising campaign to help offset at least some of the costs of gutting and rebuilding Imagine! sites.

Watch the short video below, and then please click here to donate.

Every little bit helps! Please share with anyone you think would be interested.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Via Mobility Services

This week’s “50 Years, 50 Stories” installment comes from Mary Cobb, writing on behalf of our good friends at Via Mobility Services. Via’s mission is to promote independence and self-sufficiency for people with limited mobility by providing caring, customer-focused transportation options. The is a great deal of overlap between the populations that we serve, and I’m proud to say that our relationship with Via is one that continues to be beneficial not only to both of our organizations but, more importantly, to our community.

Thanks Mary, for the kind words, and thank you Via, for all you do to provide a bridge to the community for some of most vulnerable citizens.
Via Salutes Imagine!’s 50 Years
By Mary Cobb, Director of Communications, Via Mobility Services
There was a time in the recent history of this country when people with disabilities, regardless of the nature or degree of disability, were housed in institutions. This long era of shame and hidden family secrets destroyed lives through guilt and broken human bonds. When someone lives in an institution, whether due to disability, mental illness, or simply lack of family to provide care, even if that person receives visitors, at the bottom of her heart, this human being knows that she is not loved, not wanted. I am not talking about dangerous criminals or people who pose a serious threat to society. I am talking about people who are striving to find a home and place to belong and may need special accommodations to be able to do so.

During the last few decades, primarily due to dedicated organizations such as Imagine!, major civil rights developments have occurred, including one called self-determination, which defines the principle that people with disabilities have the right to choose how to live their own lives. For self-determination to be successful, four factors are essential—loved ones, friends in the community, professionals, and community services such as Imagine! and Via. While Via has not been on the “road” as long as Imagine!—50 years versus Via’s 34—both organizations are committed to true inclusion and choice for older adults and individuals living with disabilities.

There is enormous human and societal cost in institutionalizing human beings. This era of lost human beings is not completely over. While tremendous progress has occurred, Imagine!’s work will never be done. I say this not to deter enthusiasm, but to encourage determination to achieve the goal of helping to realize the potential of every person living with a disability in our community.

When you go to the supermarket and there’s the guy with Down syndrome who is bagging your groceries, do not look at this person as disabled. Look at him as someone with a story worth knowing. It's so incredibly important that if you are somebody who feels a passion for people with disabilities because you have a loved one who has a disability or you have a larger faith that every human being has a purpose on earth that may not be known to you, you need to go out and you need to fight for their rights and for services that support self-determination. That’s what Imagine! has been doing for 50 years. We at Via salute you. And with deep honor, Via will be right by Imagine!’s side in the drive to give all people the opportunity to live their dreams, have a sense of purpose, and find their own unique place in the community.

“50 Years, 50 Stories” bonus! Mary and the good folks at Via submitted the above story as guest editorials that appeared in both the Daily Camera and the Longmont Times-Call. Words can’t express how appreciative we are of their support.

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!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Flood Update - Ways You Can Help

There has been a tremendous outpouring of support from Imagine! employees, families and friends following the flooding last week. Imagine! is thankful for the support so far and for your support as we move forward.

After an assessment of needs, Imagine! has identified that our biggest area for recovery support will be at our residential sites. There are six homes that are seeking volunteer support to help restore the condition of the houses for the residents who live there. We have already started the process of debris removal and there is a great deal of work to be done! With that in mind, we are seeking individual and groups of volunteers who can assist with a variety projects now and in the foreseeable future.

We are currently seeking volunteers for the following tasks:
  • debris and drywall removal
  • hauling debris to the designated drop off points
  • logistics support (supplies, safety, etc)
We will be sending out updates about the progress at each site and needs that still persist during our recovery.

In the upcoming weeks/months we will need skilled volunteers to assist with:
  • hanging drywall
  • drywall mudding/finish
  • painting
  • trim and finish work
  • flooring/carpet
Imagine! needs volunteers everyday of the week between the hours of 10am-8pm (please note these times may vary based on supplies and supervision). Please consider getting involved for a couple hours or make an extended commitment by volunteering daily or weekly to volunteer as a site supervisor to assist and instruct incoming volunteers help with long term goals!

All volunteers must be age 18 and over. For the safety of all team members, we ask that all volunteers come prepared with work boots and work gloves.
Needed tools on site include:
  • hammers
  • crowbars
  • buckets
  • shovels
***if you have the above items handy, please help our recovery by bringing your own tools.

If you or someone you know would like to volunteer to assist Imagine! during this time of recovery, please contact: Elizabeth Hill- or at 303-926-6460.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Flood Update II

Here’s another update on Imagine! and the flooding after another couple of days of too much rain.

Most importantly, we have accounted for all clients and staff in our effected area. This includes those airlifted out of Lyons and Jamestown, those who are isolated in the mountains and safe, those dealing with their flooded homes, and those carrying the burden of care for many extended hours. The notice of the last unaccounted for employee came yesterday when we learned that she and her family were airlifted out of Lyons. We are grateful for this news.

Volunteer groups have already begun cleaning basements and living quarters of homes that were deep with mud. There is much work still to be done; many heroes to honor, and many people who will need reassurance that they are important and we care for them. I have been particularly amazed to see the resilience of people living in our homes and the staff that support them.

I have been in contact with representatives from Colorado’s Division for Developmental Disabilities, members of Imagine!’s Board of Directors, local legislators, and members of Alliance to keep them updated on our situation. They have all been incredibly supportive and have offered to assist in many ways.

I have also been communicating with employees and supervisors. I am meeting with our Human Resources team today to determine how best to support those who have been unable to get into to work, but just as importantly, how to acknowledge and honor those who have made supreme efforts to get to work and to ensure the safety of the individuals we serve.

I encourage you to check out the Imagine! Facebook page, where we are sharing stories of the many Imagine! stakeholders who have made extraordinary efforts on behalf of Imagine! and those we serve. I think you will find them inspiring. I have spoken with many Imagine! folks during the past few days, and I have yet to see anyone reacting with anger or frustration. Instead, they are all rolling up their sleeves and doing the work that needs to be done.

It makes me proud to be associated with Imagine!.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Flood Update

Hello –

Normally I use this space to share good news about what’s going on at Imagine!, but today the news across Boulder and Broomfield counties isn’t so good so I wanted to give you an update on how Imagine! and the people we serve have been impacted by the severe flooding hitting Boulder and Broomfield area.

Fortunately, right now we do not have any reports of injuries or fatalities, either among staff members or individuals we serve. So that part is good news, at least. Unfortunately, many of our homes have been damaged because of the flooding, some significantly.

The worst hit was our Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome in Boulder. Up to four feet of water flooded the basement there overnight on Wednesday, destroying a good deal of equipment as well as the staff live-in apartment. Thanks to the hard work of many, sandbags were placed yesterday around the stairwell where the water entered, and we did not see more floods last night. The residents are still in the home and safe and there is partial electricity.

Imagine!’s Foothills St home is holding as well with minor flooding mitigated by a creative manual fix. However, the home is mostly cut off from anyone entering or leaving the area due to road closings.

Imagine!’s Tenino Companion Model Home has ankle deep water in the basement. The resident has been staying with her parents, but live in staff members are justifiably concerned about where they will stay next.

Imagine!’s 19th St. home is dry though a back porch is threatened. The staff there stepped up and helped a youth in our foster care system who was stranded at a bus station. The Charles Family SmartHome in Longmont is unscathed but also cut off because of road closures.

Imagine!’s Garden Place home has standing water and a displaced live-in but residents are safe.

Imagine!’s Manhattan Place Apartments are dry and stable.

Linden Companion Model also has about ankle deep water in the basement. The contractors in that home are worried about their living situation for the future as well. As is Caledonia Companion Model.

Imagine!’s day services from Out & About and CORE/Labor Source were cancelled yesterday and today. We don’t know of any damage to our CORE/Labor Source facilities in Boulder or Longmont.

Our biggest concern right now is staffing. Like everyone in the area, Imagine! employees are having a difficult time travelling due to many road closures. Many staff members at our residences have stepped up and been absolute superstars, camping in homes, working extremely extended hours, and putting aside their own personal concerns to making sure everyone is safe and sound. I want to extend my sincere thanks to all of them for excelling during this moment of crisis. Administrative staff members are scrambling to make sure shifts are covered. I’m proud to know how this organization comes together in tough times, and it is inspiring to say the least.

I will share more as I learn more, but on behalf of Imagine! and everyone we serve, thank you for your concern and good thoughts. I know we will come through this stronger and I’m already awed at the way our staff members and the people we serve are getting through this with humor and strength.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Long Run

It is a common scenario. I will be talking to parents of an individual served by Imagine! about a particular challenge or issue they are facing with their child, and I will ask what plans they have for the future of their child. Frequently the answer is some variation of, “we are just trying to get through the next day.”

That response is perfectly understandable. Having a son or daughter with an intellectual disability can be challenging. There can be rewards, yes, but there are costs as well. Financial costs and emotional costs. Sometimes living day to day is the only reasonable way to cope.

I believe firmly that one of our roles in support of families at Imagine! is to provide guidance in preparing parents to plan for the long term needs of their children, especially for those parents who are unable, for whatever reason, to do so themselves. We have the knowledge necessary and the infrastructure in place to help them understand not only what needs to be done now, but what needs to be done moving forward. Imagine! has a responsibility to be there to help parents and families understand how to prepare for whatever is next, be it entering school, transitioning into adulthood, or preparing for needs as soon to be middle-aged adults with developmental disabilities age.

This goes beyond just planning, and making sure that parents and families are aware of what’s coming down the pipeline so they can be prepared on all levels. No one getting services from Imagine! should be surprised at what’s next. That is our responsibility.

At Imagine!, we have an obligation to take a look at the long run for everyone we serve.

Can't see the video? Click here.  

Then again, what do I know?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Anna Cliff

This week’s installment of “50 Years, 50 Stories” comes from Anna Cliff, who spent this past summer as an occupational therapy intern at Imagine!’s Dayspring department. Many of the stories that we have shared in this series have come from people with long associations with Imagine!, so I think this is a nice way to share a somewhat different perspective – the perspective of someone who is relatively new to the Imagine! community and is planning for a career in the field of serving children with developmental delays and disabilities.

Thanks, Anna!

Why I’ve Liked Working at Imagine!
By Anna Cliff
Anna Cliff

At the beginning of August I completed my summer internship with Dayspring. Although it was a bittersweet feeling to leave, I know that the experiences I have gained with the Dayspring staff are invaluable and will allow me to continue to provide quality care and occupational therapy intervention services to children and their families. During my experience, I helped young children with a variety of abilities and disabilities participate in everyday activities within their home and community environments. I have learned everything from creating built-up handles on a spoon, to helping a child with self-feeding, to singing songs while bouncing on a ball to help increase a child's strength and balance.

I was even able to partake in the unique opportunities offered by Dayspring such as Messy Play Day, in which I was covered in shaving cream and chalk! Each day I was able to work with talented therapists with varying expertise, but a common mission and goal: to provide educational and therapeutic interventions that meet the individualized needs and goals of children and their families. It has been a pleasure being a part of the Dayspring community, and it has provided me with an invaluable foundation for becoming an entry-level occupational therapist. This experience helped me to understand the role of early intervention and how to build strong relationships with children and families while getting messy at the same time!

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, September 6, 2013

Good News Friday!

Imagine! SmartHome resident and CORE/Labor Source participant Mandy reads one of her original stories at last year’s Fringe Festival. CORE/Labor Source will once again have a contingent performing at the festival on September 22.
In September and October, students taking classes through Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source department will be showing their many artistic skills throughout the community.

For example, some CORE/Labor Source participants will be performing again this year at the Boulder International Fringe Festival on Sunday, September 22, at 3:00 pm. The performance will be at the Performing Arts Center on the main campus of Naropa University on Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder.

CORE/Labor Source will have postcard sized prints of CORE/Labor Source artist/consumers’ art work available to purchase at the performance. To help promote the event, CORE/Labor Source is organizing a flash mob on Saturday, September 14, at 12:45 pm on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall in front of the Courthouse.  I’m not sure if I’m breaking the rules of a flash mob by publicly inviting anyone who is interested to show up for the flash mob to participate, pass out flyers, or just watch, but I’m doing it anyway.

We also have some art shows running now or coming soon featuring works of art by CORE/Labor Source participants.

Throughout the month of September, you can check out some of these great original works of art at Ziggi’s Main Street Coffeehouse, 400 Main Street, in Longmont.

And throughout October, CORE/Labor Source artists will be displaying their work at Boulder Breadworks, 2644 Broadway Street, in Boulder.

There are many opportunities to experience the creativity of CORE/Labor Source artists in the next couple of months, so I urge you to take advantage of at least one of them. I’m sure you will have a good time.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Colette Marie

This week’s installment of “50 Years, 50 Stories” comes from Colette Marie, Director of Imagine!’s Out & About department. In her story, Colette traces the history of Out & About, and emphasizes the importance of community access and inclusion in Imagine!’s services.

Thanks for sharing your insights, Colette!

The Out & About Story
By Colette Marie

Key players in the early days of Out & About include (from l to r):
Lisa Fiero, Colette Marie, Jon Tuschman, Ashley Himber, and Ansley Dickens.

I’m grateful that twenty-nine years of work at Imagine! has translated into a multitude of rich and inspiring learning experiences, at the heart of which has been community.

I’ve had the good fortune to work in a variety of roles, most recently for the last sixteen years as the manager of Out & About (O & A). Though Out & About officially opened its doors in 1997, I can trace its beginnings back to 1983 when the deinstitutionalization movement was in full swing and I was beginning to learn what that could mean. I was new to Boulder, attending graduate school at CU, and moved into a house near Chautauqua Park. I regularly walked down through the neighborhood known as “The Hill” to get to campus. On one of my first walks, I met a young man from Carmel House who told me he wanted a “real job.” As I got to know him better, I came to understand that a “real job” for him meant that he very much wanted to gain entry into the “real world”--my first tangible introduction to the significance of community integration.

A year later, I took my newly acquired degree in English and my developing passion for community integration and went in search of meaningful work that would provide me with a non-academic opportunity to learn for a couple of years. I applied at the Boulder County Board for Developmental Disabilities (BCBDD - an early name for Imagine!) for a Day Program Counselor position. Mark Emery, who was still in his first year with the company, interviewed me. He was challenging the idea of traditional day programming and talking about viable jobs for people historically considered unemployable. I was very pleased to get the job.

My first two years were spent in what was to become Labor Source. It was a very different time. The concept of people with developmental disabilities living and working in the community was new and sometimes considered impossible, crazy, or even wrong. Therefore, our focus was on learning by doing and assuming it was possible. As we moved more into the community, we all learned about the inherent and very real rewards there. For example, one day when the bus broke down, three individuals with developmental disabilities who were part of a work crew willingly walked an extra mile to get to their job—without promise of any extra reward. This might have been the moment when I learned that they wanted to go to work, and my job was more about being supportive and staying out of their way.

A few years and several job titles later, in 1997, the BCBDD had become the Developmental Disabilities Center (DDC). The DDC had completed a survey that indicated there were consumers who, despite the array of services and supports being offered, were not successfully accessing their community. Sterling Wind and I were asked to form a committee to look into the issue. As we interviewed consumers and family members, we discovered that along with transportation being a formidable obstacle, there were many people who needed more instruction and support in order to participate successfully in community activities. We concluded the DDC needed a new service -- one with transportation built in -- which would provide adults (note that there was no mention of children yet) with opportunities to socialize and connect to their community.

In November 1997 Out & About started service delivery. I became the manager with a part-time assistant, two instructors, a van, and a car. In January 1998, Out & About published its first Catalog of activities. Eighteen participants signed up that quarter, compared to more than 100 participants per quarter now.

Ansley Dickens, a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, was hired in the spring of 1998 as an instructor and brought with her knowledge of Therapeutic Recreation (TR), and suggestions on how we could implement it into O & A. TR is now an integral part of Out & About’s service delivery.

Ansley and I opened O&A’s first camp in June 1998 with twelve kids attending. It was only afterwards that I realized we needed Child Care licensure. (Oops!) We went to the state to get approval for both an After School and Summer Camp program and learned that because we are community-based, utilize cars and vans instead of buses, and work with school-aged kids through high school, we are three times exceptional and needed to secure a waiver in order to obtain licensure--which we did.

In 2000, Ansley launched a TR Internship program. Ashley Himber was Out & About’s first TR intern, and eventually became responsible for putting much of the TR framework that is so much a part of Out & About’s service delivery into place. She was also instrumental in helping develop a process for interviewing participants and families in order to evaluate our services and elicit feedback for future planning.

While Out & About has grown and changed tremendously over the years, it has remained a program dedicated to promoting community and learning. I continue to have the good fortune to learn and grow myself and to be inspired all these years later—by participants, parents, siblings, instructors, therapists, and community members, which has everything to do with why that initial 2-year commitment has extended to 29.

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!