Friday, November 27, 2015

Good News Friday!

Yesterday was a day of thanks, and in that spirit, today I’d like to thank some businesses who are supporting Imagine! in some fun and creative ways.

Finkle and Garf Brewery

Let’s start with the awesomely named Finkle and Garf Brewery. Dan Garfinkle, the owner and manager, was contacted by Imagine!’s Out & About department to chat about their “Thank Goodness Its Saturday (TGIS)” program and the possibility of the brewery hosting a few parents for a casual afternoon (after holiday shopping at Flatirons Crossing) of socializing on December 5th. Dan volunteered to host our parents from 2pm-4pm that afternoon and provide a few pitchers of beer. Then, Dan made a surprise suggestion: "Let's make it bigger." Aside from donating pitchers of beer to TGIS for the parents with our group, he offered to donate 10% of net proceeds from December 5th to Out & About! We are so blown away by his generosity and cannot believe how awesome this is for Out & About! So please support Dan and Out & About by heading to Finkle and Garf Brewery (5455 Spine Rd, Unit A, Boulder, CO 80301) for some outstanding craft beers on Saturday December 5. We’ll see you there!


MOOV is hosting a “Kettlebell Swing-a-Thon” on Dec. 12, 2015 to raise money for Imagine!. Donations/pledges are on a per-swing basis (i.e. $0.25/swing). Participants will complete their swings between 1p and 4p on 12/12/2015 and will receive an email on their specific start time 24 hours prior to the event. My muscles are burning just thinking about it! If you are interested in participating click here. You can also learn more on the Kettlebells 4 Christmas Facebook page. MOOV was born out of boredom with the normal gym experience and a love for functional fitness and alternative therapies, and was founded by a team of fitness enthusiasts who wanted more from their training. This event clearly demonstrates their creativity, in addition to their commitment to their community.

 Jensen Guitar Company and The Willow River Music Emporium

Jensen Guitar Company and The Willow River Music Emporium (pictured above are Don Jensen and Sandy Farnsworth) made a generous donation of a guitar to Imagine!’s Charles Family SmartHome as part of their "Gift of Music" Giveaway program. Music is a staple at the Charles Family SmartHome, and the new guitar will be a great addition. It's so heartwarming when a small local business gives back so generously, and we are most appreciative. In fact, the residents of the home created a “thank you” video for Jensen Guitar Company and The Willow River Music Emporium. Check it out below.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Strider Sports

Strider Sports International donated two Strider bikes to Imagine!’s Out & About department as part of their Rider Fund program. Last year, Strider donated a total of more than $300,000 through the Rider Fund, of which more than 75% went to individuals with special needs. Strider representative Marty Martinez even came out to Lafayette to give a clinic on the bikes for Out & About participants. “Out & About is thrilled to have received the donation of two Strider bicycles to use in both Children and Adult programs,” said Megan McKean, Out & About Therapeutic Specialist. “We believe the use of these Strider bikes will help our participants increase balance, stability, and confidence. We are so thankful Strider has shared the learning tools with us to help our participants achieve success in this wonderful and fun experience.” To learn more about Strider’s bikes may benefit individuals with special needs, click here

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Technology Tuesday

Here’s another example of how Imagine! uses video making tools such as GoAnimate to share information with our stakeholders in interesting and easy to understand ways – a video created by our Family Support team to explain Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Medicare, and the Waiver system.
  Can’t see the video? Click here.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Good News Friday!

Today, I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to Dave Query, who is treating individuals served by Imagine! and their families to a traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day. This is the 12th year Query has hosted this event, which will again be at Zolo Southwestern Grill, 2525 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder.

There are three seatings, and all three have been filled already! That means a lot of folks will be the recipients of Dave's generosity.

Dave is the owner of Big Red F Restaurant Group, including restaurants Centro Latin Kitchen, Jax Fish House – Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins, Glendale, and Kansas City, LoLa Coastal Mexican, Post Brewing Company, West End Tavern, and Zolo Grill. Dave is donating the makings for a delicious Zolo-style repast with all the trimmings, and the wait staff is volunteering its time. There is no charge for the meal, and no tips are necessary.

Dave Query (in the center in the back) with family and Zolo staff members at a recent Thanksgiving feast for individuals served by Imagine!

I continue to marvel at the kindness of Dave and the Zolo staff, they are generous beyond words.

In a related good news story, Dave was recently honored with the Boulder Chamber of Commerce’s Entrepreneur Legacy Award, for building a lasting tradition of success, bold vision, and values that is a model for other entrepreneurs and businesses to follow. I couldn’t imagine a more deserving recipient, and offer my hearty congratulations on top of my gratitude for his continued support of the people we serve.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Colorado’s Constitutional Conundrum

In a post last week, I pointed out the sad irony of those of us trying to provide services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the state of Colorado: irrespective of how the economy is doing, the rates for providers always seem to get cut. I left you with the promise to let you know why – and that’s what this post is all about.

A simple overview came to me a couple of weeks ago from our expert in government affairs:

While the economy in Colorado has rebounded there are large cuts to many state departments and services in the Executive budget request. A combination of conflicting constitutional budget amendments, Federal requirements, and the anticipated TABOR refund have caused significant budget pressures and we are now at a crossroads in Colorado. 

Let’s go a little deeper into that topic.

I’ll start with TABOR. In 1992, the voters of Colorado approved a measure which amended Article X of the Colorado Constitution that restricts revenues for all levels of government (state, local, and schools). Under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), state and local governments cannot raise tax rates without voter approval and cannot spend revenues collected under existing tax rates without voter approval if revenues grow faster than the rate of inflation and population growth. Revenue in excess of the TABOR limit, commonly referred to as the "TABOR surplus", must be refunded to taxpayers, unless voters approve a revenue change as an offset in a referendum.

By all accounts, TABOR is the most restrictive tax and expenditure limit in the country, making budgeting and changing budget priorities in Colorado an extremely difficult task for lawmakers. So even legislators friendly to the needs of people with I/DD don’t have many options when it comes to provider rates.

But TABOR is only part of the issue. Now let’s talk about Colorado’s Amendment 23. In 2000, voters approved Amendment 23, a constitutional amendment intended to guarantee annual increases in funding for public elementary and secondary education. However, during the Great Recession, the required increases in funding were set aside by the General Assembly based on an interpretation of Amendment 23 that limited required increases to just a portion of per pupil funding (base per pupil and categorical funding) allowing the creation of a budget reduction tool referred to as the Negative Factor.

And here’s another constitutionally based challenge to our state’s budgeting process: the Gallagher Amendment. A 1982 constitutional provision, the Gallagher Amendment has weakened the property tax base of school districts and other local governments and has forced the state to pay a larger portion of the total bill for educating children. That, in turn, has reduced money available for other areas of the state budget, such as human services, Medicaid, etc.

So what’s the deal? I can’t help thinking that Colorado voters are unintentionally (at least somewhat) engaging in self-abuse. We have one of the longest constitutions in the country. And new amendments often seem to work in opposition to others. As this thoughtful editorial from the Denver Post points out:

As a proposed amendment is developed and then brought to the ballot, there is no process for relating the measure to existing provisions already contained in the constitution. The result is a document characterized by internal conflicts and unintended consequences. For example, it is not likely that supporters of constitutional Amendment 23 intended that additional funding for K-12 education should come at the expense of higher education. However, that's essentially what happened when Amendment 23, the TABOR amendment and an economic downturn came together. 

I think the situation here is one where voters have said to our politicians, in a loud and clear voice, “We don’t trust you.” When you look at politics these days, that sentiment is understandable. Unfortunately, that lack of trust, and our collective exercise in self-abuse, has dug our state in to a massive budget hole. The hole is there when the economy’s bad, and the hole is there when the economy’s good.

I question whether the current state leadership has the skills or capability to bring us out of the hole. Instead, we just go deeper into it. The result is an inability to find extra funds for many of our state’s pressing needs, including services for people with I/DD.

There may be a way to pull ourselves, at least partially, out of the hole, however. I’ll describe that option on this blog in a couple of weeks.

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Technology Tuesday

For today’s Technology Tuesday, I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to the Safeway Foundation for a grant that will help us implement more technology into our services.

With the generous support from the Safeway Foundation’s grant of $3,100, Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source department will purchase electronic tablets, equipment and applications to help prepare participants for work assignments and to foster their success in specific jobs. Participants will use the electronic tablets in developing general skills to facilitate job placement, including reading and basic mathematics. The electronic tablets will also benefit participants in learning specific job-related skills to facilitate independence. Examples include task prompting, video reminders of the steps involved in certain tasks, and communication with offsite job coaches of changes in job duties. Ultimately, the end result are participants who are engaged, have increased self-worth, and an enhanced quality of life.

Thank you, Safeway Foundation, for partnering with Imagine! to ensure access to technology for all!

Pictured below are (left) Susan Morris, Safeway’s Denver Division President and Michelle Conkey, Imagine!’s Grant Writer.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Good News Friday!

Can’t see the video? Click here

Imagine! believes in the potential of all. We believe in babies, toddlers, families, and adults at work and at play.

Colorado Gives Day is December 8, 2015, and it is a great opportunity to support everyone's potential through a donation to Imagine!. The Colorado Gives Day $1 Million Incentive Fund will boost your donation, making your dollars do more to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Incentive Fund is a pool of dollars, provided by Community First Foundation and FirstBank, to boost every donation made through on Colorado Gives Day. For example, if Imagine! receives 10% of the total donations made on Colorado Gives Day, Imagine! also receives 10% of the $1 Million Incentive Fund.

You can even preschedule your donation! When prescheduling, be sure to select “Dec. 8” as your donation date to have your contribution qualify for the Incentive Fund boost.

Preschedule your gift today, or think of us when making your donation on December 8! 

Thank you in advance.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

It Just Doesn’t Matter

  Can’t see the video? Click here

It just doesn’t matter.

Today, I’d like to share some words (you can judge if they are “of wisdom” or not) that I shared with members of the Board of Directors of the Imagine! Foundation back in 2010:

The Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting has proposed another 2.0% rate cut in July of 2010. We place no blame for our current economics, but rather seek to understand the meaning in our world of services. In some areas of the economy, you simply spend less with lowered revenue. A typical family budget would react this way. Our contracts with the state however, expect us to do exactly what we are doing today, with less revenue. Next year that projection is about $750,000 less. The advice I give my teenagers is, “Don’t buy a car that you can’t afford to insure and maintain.” Our service systems in Colorado were designed in a time when the state thought it could insure everyone eligible would be served and maintenance of the system was affordable. Now the state owns an old car, without enough seats, and the car is in bad need of repair. 

My second issue is with regard to our economic recovery. I am optimistic that we will see a slow recovery. However, because of the growing number of adults who are eligible for service, and existing TABOR restrictions, I am predicting a couple of events that together will not work in our favor. When the state can afford to appropriate more dollars to address citizens with developmental disabilities and their needs, they will first serve more people, instead of restoring the rates we enjoyed two years ago. They will only be able to grow this appropriation at a pace allowed by TABOR, thus never catching up to the number of people who are eligible. Growing the rates will be a very difficult public negotiation, considering the number of people without needed service. Our available workforce will migrate to businesses that will enjoy the return of good economic times. By virtue of the state’s design of service delivery, we will be challenged to maintain a workforce to deliver services without improved rates. 

Though I don’t expect anyone to have forgotten, just a reminder: at that time, Colorado and the nation remained mired in a deep recession, which many used as an excuse to cut rates for providers of services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in Colorado.

Fast forward to 2015, and here’s what I wrote in my most recent report to the Foundation Board of Directors:

In my January 2010 report to you, during the heart of the recession the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting proposed a 2.0% rate cut in July of 2010. We navigated through several years of rate cuts during the recession. The State expects the same level of service no matter what the rate we are paid. Curiously, this week, during a booming economy, the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting again proposed a 1.0% rate cut for our services. 

Last year, while our rates increased by 1.7%, the cost of doing business rose 2.7%. Combine this news with our dwindling workforce (Boulder County is reporting a 2.7% unemployment rate), and any available workforce is migrating to businesses that are enjoy the return of good economic times. We are again challenged to maintain a workforce to deliver services with inadequate rates. 

Now we have a good economy, but we’re still seeing cuts. One could argue that it just doesn’t seem to matter how the economy is doing, the State’s budget cutting compass always points to services for I/DD like we are the magnetic north.

Economy’s bad? Cut rates. It just doesn’t matter.

Economy’s good? Cut rates. It just doesn’t matter.

So why is this the case? Check out this blog next week to find out.

Or don’t. It just doesn’t matter.

Then again, what do I know?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Technology Tuesday

Below is an example of another application for iPads used by Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source team during its Foundations of Communication class. The app being used is called Finger Paint with Sounds. Essentially, this turns the entire screen of the iPad into a vibrant environment of color and sound. This is an excellent tool for bringing the artistic experience to life for individuals we serve.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Good News Friday!

Imagine!’s Care Coordination Team did something truly remarkable over the past two years. Watch the video below to learn more.

Can’t see the video? Click here

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Technology Tuesday

Susan, who lives in Imagine!’s Manhattan Group Home, diligently makes use of any tools available to increase her independence. Here's a picture of her taking advantage of the house desktop to navigate Via's website in order to quickly and easily schedule her transportation for the week! Keep up the great work, Susan!