Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Coming Attractions

As the year comes to a close, I thought I’d share some issues currently on my mind surrounding the funding and delivery of services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities locally, across Colorado, and across the country. I’m not going to go into details here, but expect to see posts on the subjects below in the coming year. I am going to take the next couple of weeks off from making posts, but I’ll be back and raring to go in 2014.

In the meantime, here’s what I'm thinking about as we look forward to a new year:
  • Contradictions are everywhere in our system and field. 
  • System instability, turnover, and leadership for the future are big concerns of mine. Are we set for another 50 years at Imagine!? Outside Imagine!? 
  • Can we move beyond some of the outdated ideas about training in our field? Does every training need to be live? Can’t we embrace technology to be more efficient and cost effective in how we are preparing our employees for their jobs? 
  • In fact, let's talk more about all sorts of emerging, available, and ignored technologies. We should start including cost benefit comparisons in those discussions. The results may be quite illuminating. 
  • Conflict Free Case Management - let's get the whole picture. 
  • Waitlists for services – is there an end in sight? Should CCBs be managing the waitlists? Should there be waitlists at State Operated Regional Centers? 
  • Where do the best ideas come from? They may be closer than you think. 
What issues or concerns do you see for the coming year? Feel free to post in the comments, and I will talk to you in January!

Monday, December 23, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Ashley Himber

The stories keep coming, so we’ll keep publishing them! This bonus edition of “50 Years, 50 Stories” comes from Ashley Himber, who shares her experiences from the early days of Imagine!’s Out & About department.

Thanks for sharing, Ashley!

When The South Meets West 
By Ashley Himber 

Ashley Himber (center) with Lisa Fiero (left) and Colette Marie.

I, Ashley Himber, am the true Southern Belle. I love my football, mud, and hunting. My personality is that of charm with just a tad bit of sassiness. Well, that was the case until May of 1999, when I joined an organization called Out & About, a division of the Developmental Disabilities Center of Boulder County. Yes, it was still the DDC when I started there! I was Out & About's first Therapeutic Recreation intern, and my supervisor was Ansley Dickens, another southerner from Georgia. I thought, “what's up with this place attracting us southerners to the mountains?” And then I walked into the doors and I knew . . . . a place as open minded and wide as the back ground scenery of the Rocky Mountains. 

I then met Colette Marie, the Director of Out & About, and her fast talking gypsy soul changed my view and outlook on life forever. Colette envisioned Out & About to be so much more than just a babysitting service for people with disabilities, and she looked to Ansley and me to bring in that therapeutic aspect to our community based recreation activities. If I could only count how many hours Colette spent writing, revamping, rewriting, rewording, and rereading Out & About's mission and vision statement to fit the direction of the program's path. 

I will never forget the many experiences and learning’s that I took away while working at Imagine!:
  1. The first being Mark Emery explaining to me why one should always answer “Perfect!” when one is asked how they are. 
  2. The second being . . . NetSuite! Enough said on my part! 
  3. The third being a company purchasing gym passes for their employees. This would never happen in the South. 
  4. The night of the mil levy vote . . . waiting anxiously in the O'Shea room to let out screams as it was passed and the DDC then became known as Imagine!. 
  5. Playing on DDC's softball team in the snow during the springtime. This, again, would never happen in the South. 
  6. AND my last and very least favorite . . . balancing the budget!!! Making non-billable hours justify the importance of Therapeutic Recreation in the Out & About program. 
It has been said that the South is roughly ten years behind as compared to the West when referring to the delivery of services to people with disabilities. And if this is to be true, then I am proud that I was a full century ahead of time, and my experiences with Imagine! converted this Southerner to a WILD Westerner.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Good News Friday!

Once again, I have the pleasure of sharing news about college students working to improve the lives of individuals served by Imagine!.

A group of University of Colorado Engineering students in a 2013 Fall Semester class taught by Associate Professor Melinda Piket-May worked on projects to design simple adaptive technologies that aid increased independence for some of the individuals Imagine! serves. We have been collaborating with Professor Piket-May for more than four years now, and are so grateful for the opportunity.

Here are four short videos of students explaining their projects.

Interactive Money Game
 Can’t see the video? Click here.
Wheelchair Arm Stop
 Can’t see the video? Click here.
3-D Hand Operated Maze
Can’t see the video? Click here.

Interactive Activity Board
Can’t see the video? Click here

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Tom Riley

Yes, I know we have already posted 51 stories in a series that was supposed to include only 50, but we still have one more to share. Tom Riley directs Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source department, and his story provides some great insight into how the once separate departments of CORE and Labor Source came to be a single, integrated department. Tom also provides an excellent illustration of what I think makes Imagine! so special – our ability to see opportunity in the face of significant challenges. I can’t think of a better way to end this series.

Thanks for sharing, Tom!

Stronger Together 
By Tom Riley 

Tom Riley out in the community promoting Imagine!'s CORE/Labor Source department.

I started with Imagine! in 1997 as a residential counselor for Innovations. I was in grad school and needed the $6.50 an hour job so that I could eat. My student loans didn’t cover my expenses like they did when I was in state school in California. A colleague in school worked at Imagine!’s Iris House, which has long been torn down and replaced with the Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome. I walked in my first day and was caught a little off guard. It was very ungrounding. I hadn’t done this sort of work before. 

Funny thing about working with the folks we serve. They quickly become like family -- especially so in a home setting. And, Rick, Wes, Carol, Kim, Fred, Ida, and Andy quickly became family. My favorite thing to do was to take folks out into the community for “day program.” Sixteen years ago, which doesn’t seem that long ago, but in terms of day program it was the dark ages. Activities were not structured and in some cases consisted of van therapy and sometimes even a video from Blockbuster. Well, as time went on I wished for something more for the clients with whom I worked. When I became a coordinator type in 1999 I began planning on how to improve the services of folks that other day programs would not serve. In 2000 (or maybe 2001) I presented to Imagine!’s Board of Directors the idea behind CORE - that the individuals from 19th Street and Iris needed a better day program. One that provided a richness of experience and met the requirements of Medicaid in ways that Blockbuster and van therapy did not. So with a budget of $147,000, CORE was started. We served 9 individuals: Wes, Rick, Kim, Dale, Mike, Vicki, Pam, and Bill. Other day program would not serve these individuals. We were told they were too expensive to serve. That Medicaid didn’t pay enough. 

The idea behind CORE was to provide a rich curriculum of art, theater, dance, and music taught by local artists. We rented some space in the Dairy Center for the Arts and other studios around town. We were a small program and there were many great things about being small. But life got more and more complicated as the state began to get more rigid with rules and funding and we became more knowledgeable about how we wanted things to be. 

We developed a vibrant curriculum specific to the folks we served. Others began to notice and wanted to join. We began to take in people from Imagine!’s Host Homes and other group homes. We grew from 9 participants to 90 in about 3 years. There were many growing pains. And, many, many opportunities. We started to lease dedicated spaces in Boulder and Longmont. In another year we’ll likely get a third site out in Lafayette/Broomfield. 

 In 2005, the state was talking about turning CORE into a fee-for-service model paid in 15-minute increments. At the same time, the CEO of Imagine! was about to retire. Imagine! called and said that CORE and Labor Source had to merge so that it could blend it’s day habilitation and employment services with the hope of saving money by operating things more efficiently. They asked me to not be part of this and instead to focus on residential services. I reluctantly stepped aside. 

Two years later, CORE and Labor Source began to feel the full brunt of what it meant to be a fee-for-service 15-minute billing entity. The practical outcome of this fee for service model was a nearly 50% cut in funding from the state. Where we had received a block grant prior to 2006 that allowed us to serve people from 0 to 18 hours a week, the state changed our services to having to provide 30 hours a week in order to get the same funding. On top of this came the realization that folks were absent 15 to 20% of the time and we would not be paid even though we provided the staffing for services. As the funding shortfalls were realized CORE and Labor Source lost nearly $500,000 in 06/07. Both CORE and Labor Source continued to provide the same quality services they always had. But something needed to be done to allow us to stay in business. 

The opportunity was in employment. Labor Source came into existence well before my time began with Imagine! in 1997. It started in 1984 to be exact. Labor Source was established from the beginning so that individuals could receive community based services and realize their full potential with employment. With the great foundation that Labor Source had put together, we saw that getting folks employed provided the possibility of running a more cost effective service. With this in mind, CORE/Labor Source began to grow employment from within. Any client that was employable was given the opportunity to get a job. So from 2007 to 2010 we doubled the number of clients employed, from 54 to over a hundred. The staff members at Labor Source worked their butts off to do this. At the same time, CORE staff members worked their butts off to get people the foundational skills for getting a job. 

It wasn’t enough to just get people employed. We had to provide more and better structured activities to serve the individuals of CORE. We began a push of curriculum development, and today have more than 90 different classes developed and now offer more than 20 different activities every day. Having such a rich curriculum helps us run a quality program and ensures that our clients receive consistent and sustainable services. 

As we developed the curriculum, people from Labor Source began to receive the blended services of day habilitation and people from CORE began to experience the blended services of employment. It was an adjustment for everyone. When the idea of “choice” came up at meetings across the state the running joke (that wasn’t so funny) was that choice isn’t a need, it’s a “want,” and Medicaid is NOT designed to pay for choice. Well, I believe with the design of our services CORE/Labor Source is able to provide for both choice and what individuals need. 

The state average for the employment of individuals in day program services is 24.5%. CORE/Labor Source is at or near the top at nearly double the state average at 48%. We have representation on state committees for employment services design and for the setting of rates for employment. We serve 254 clients: 234 receive day habilitation and 120 receive supported employment. We have a large volume of lesson plans and the richest curriculum I have seen across the state for individuals in all areas of life. We have a dozen good folks teaching classes and a dozen and a half supporting employment, and dozens more wonderful people supporting our clients in gaining all sorts of life skills in day habilitation activity. We are no longer CORE and we are no longer Labor Source. We are now stronger together and go by CORE/Labor Source. 

Thank you to the staff members of CORE/Labor Source. The good work that they do plays the main role in what we do and how far we’ve come.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Gerald Huang

Yes, I know we have already posted 50 stories, but we still have more to share! If you read the story below, given to us by former Imagine! employee Gerald Huang, you will see why we simply had to include this in our series, even if it means that technically it isn’t 50 stories any more.

Thanks for sharing, Gerald!

The Spirit of YEEHAW! 
By Gerald Huang 

Gerald Huang (left) and his wife Terrie on their wedding day, with good friend (and Imagine! client) Greg joining them to celebrate.

When I first started working for Imagine!, which was known as the Developmental Disabilities Center back then, I did not anticipate the impact it would have on my life. It has been 13 years since I left Imagine!, but I am reminded daily of the influence it has had on my life. 

I was in my early 20s when I first joined Labor Source, the vocational training program at Imagine!. Having just moved to Boulder after college, I quickly made good friends, many of whom I am still close with today. The focus of our work was job training and community integration. Our activities would take us out to the Pearl Street Mall, or working a shift at Eco Cycle, or getting a restaurant like The Hungry Toad prepared for a day of business. 

One day I had the idea of expanding the community participation beyond the borders of Boulder County. One consumer I worked with, Greg, had a fondness for fishing and the outdoors. Unfortunately, he had never had the opportunity to go camping, let alone to leave the state of Colorado. As his birthday coincided with a long holiday weekend, I asked him if he would like to go camping in Moab where he could fish the Colorado River. A long road trip, a weekend getaway, sleeping in a tent. It was an adventure all of us have had, and now Greg and I were having one as well. Of course, I had to coordinate plans with his residential counselor, Terrie. Pretty soon there were four of us on the trip: Greg, his roommate, Terrie, and myself. 

The trip was a success, and not long thereafter we had our next big adventure. This time Greg was headed to Vegas. By plane. With Terrie and me by his side, we endured a turbulent descent into Las Vegas. The plane was silent with the anxiety and quiet anticipation of doom, but at the moment we landed and knew that all was well, Greg channeled the relief of all the passengers by throwing his fists into the air with a loud cowboy "Yeehaw!," filling the cabin with laughter and joy. 

That spirit of Yeehaw has been infectious. It has united a crew hard at work at Eco Cycle, a lunch crowd at North Boulder Park, a campsite in Moab, and a plane full of weary and frightened passengers. And for the past 14 years, it has united my wife, Terrie and me. As our two children run around in laughter and play, I am reminded of that time with Imagine! that continues to bless me today.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Good News Friday!

As the end of the year approaches, I thought it would be a perfect time to share a recap of some of Imagine!’s recent accomplishments. The information below is from Imagine!’s 2012-2103 Annual Report.

During fiscal year 2012-2013 – our 50th year of service to the community – Imagine! coordinated care for a total of 2,590 individuals with developmental disabilities or delays throughout Boulder and Broomfield Counties, helping them to access and contribute to their community.

Imagine!’s Family Support division:
  • provided information and referrals to services to more than 1,400 families providing at-home care of a person with a developmental disability. 
  • provided financial support to the families of 55 children with extraordinary needs arising from developmental and physical disabilities who were waitlisted for Medicaid-funded services. 
  • helped parents of 58 children with autism spectrum disorders to select and pay for services such as psychological counseling, social skills coaching, and behavioral therapy. 
  • helped caregivers of 197 individuals with developmental disabilities living at home to pay for the services and supports that were most important to their families, such as respite care, medical or dental care, therapies, or devices to help the individual with special needs function better at school or work.
Imagine!’s Out & About division:
  • helped 41 school-aged children with developmental disabilities to learn vital socialization skills to help them to participate more fully in society, while affording their parents the peace of mind that comes with safe and appropriate childcare during work hours, through after school, summer camp, and school closure day programs. 
  • promoted the safety, growth, and development of 122 local adults with developmental disabilities by enabling them to participate in special outings and activities in the community. 
Imagine!’s Behavioral Health Services division:
  • provided comprehensive mental health services to 220 individuals with dual (mental illness/developmental disability) diagnoses. 
  • provided a broad range of behavioral health services to 86 individuals, and educated their parents and caregivers about ways to build cooperative behavior. 
Imagine!’s Early Intervention and Dayspring divisions:
  • helped 908 babies and toddlers with developmental disabilities or delays to improve their communication, motor, and/or social skills. 
Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source division:
  • provided job training, placement, coaching, and supervision for 131 adults with developmental disabilities. 
  • fostered the growth, development, and safety of 265 adults with developmental disabilities through enriching and therapeutic day programs and classes. 
Imagine!’s Innovations division:
  • supervised foster placements and care for 40 children whose special needs could not be met by their birth parents. 
  • provided a variety of residential services – responsive to individual needs and capabilities – to 195 adults with developmental disabilities. This number included 21 individuals who required round-the-clock, hands-on staff supports. 
The community’s generosity was especially important to a number of Imagine!’s efforts over the past year. During our fiscal year 2013, with support from foundations, corporations, individuals, municipalities, churches, and community groups, we enhanced the therapies provided to 123 babies and toddlers with developmental delays with 78 Community Calendar Activities (music, play, and fitness activities in a range of settings, led by experienced therapists). Through Family Support Grants we helped 60 families in Broomfield and 139 families in Boulder County to pay for the extraordinary costs of caring for a person with special needs in the family home. We provided limited financial assistance to help 41 individuals with developmental disabilities meet urgent or extraordinary needs not covered by Medicaid or other funding sources through our Case Management Emergency Fund. We prepared to break ground on a new residential facility – the Next Step Group Home – which will allow six low-income seniors with developmental disabilities to live in an integrated community setting while receiving specialized care that would otherwise be available only in a nursing home. Residents of the Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome in Boulder and the Charles Family SmartHome in Longmont (the first residential facilities in the nation to use technology in a comprehensive way to improve clients’ independence and self-sufficiency) continued to flourish and engage with their community through work, creative pursuits, and increased self-reliance.

Thank you to the Imagine! staff members who worked so diligently to make all of the accomplishments listed above happen. Thanks also to the many, many generous and supportive community members who do so much to help us meet our mission every year.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Holding Out For A Hero?

A few months ago, I learned that my good friend and esteemed colleague Gary Stebick would be retiring from Imagine! next year, after spending thirty plus years of his life dedicated to our organization and the people we serve. Gary and I started working at Imagine! at around the same time and we have been close ever since, so his retirement really hits home.

But it isn’t just Gary who is leaving this field of serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in which we work. All around me, not just at Imagine! but across the state and indeed the country, I am seeing people who have dedicated their lives to improving the quality of life of some of our most vulnerable citizens stepping down from positions of leadership. In just this year alone, several Colorado Community Centered Board Executives who have my deep respect have or will step down after years of service. It is happening within advocacy organizations and at the State level as well.

This trend isn’t surprising. Many of the leaders in our field are members of a baby boomer generation that heard the siren call of a career path involving service to their fellow human beings and were unable to resist. They served with dedication and compassion, and created amazing opportunities for community engagement for individuals with cognitive disabilities that would have been unthinkable a few decades ago. But they are reaching the point where they simply can’t continue to serve in leadership roles.

While the trend is not surprising, the lack of meaningful planning to replace these leaders as they head off to new adventures is surprising. Surprising and disturbing, in fact. I just don’t see much happening in our field in the way of developing the next generation of leaders. I’m not sure why this is. Maybe people are in denial. Maybe it is assumed new leaders will develop organically. Maybe they are holding out for a hero. 

Can't see the video? Click here.

The thing is, the heroes are already here. They are already working for us. There are so many intelligent, dedicated, and capable people working in our field who could easily take the reins and take our country even further down the path toward full inclusion for the people we serve. But it won’t just happen. Being a great Direct Support Professional doesn’t mean that a person will also be a great manager or leader. Those are different skill sets, and we need to start developing those managerial and leadership skill sets in our younger employees before it is too late. There is a lot of opportunity for the next generation of leaders to grow, but those of us in charge of making that growth happen have been extremely remiss in cultivating those opportunities.

Even at Imagine!, where we have a Leadership Development Program that I am extremely proud of, we still haven’t fully figured out how to continue to support participants after they complete the program. We must carry the momentum and recognize opportunities for growth especially among those we have identified as potential leaders for our organization.

So I encourage all of us to look more strategically at leadership development in our field. The current leaders have done amazing things over the years to further the cause of inclusion for people of all levels of abilities. But we risk losing some of what we have gained if we don’t make the necessary preparations to ensure that the next generation of leaders can pick up right where we left off.

Then again, what do I know?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Sandra Parra

Welcome to the 50th story in our “50 Years, 50 Stories” series. I hope you have found the stories to be enlightening. I know I have. Taken as a whole, they really provide an astonishing overview of the depth and breadth of what Imagine! has brought to our community over the past 50 years.

For our 50th installment, we thought we’d take a different route. Rather than sharing another story looking back, I thought it would be nice to look toward the future by sharing a story from a brand new Imagine! employee. Sandra Parra recently joined the Imagine! team as a bilingual Children’s Service Coordinator, and below she shares how she came to Imagine!, and what she would like to do in her new role here.

Thanks Sandra, for sharing, and thanks to all who participated in this ambitious project over the past year. It has been an amazing journey.

Coming To Imagine!
By Sandra Parra
Sandra Parra, recently hired as a biligual Children's Service Coordinator at Imagine!.
I am very pleased to be working at Imagine! as a bilingual Children’s Service Coordinator.

I come to Imagine! with 17 years of experience working with families and children. I worked for Head Start for ten years, both in Boulder County and in Texas. I began working at Head Start as a teacher and eventually became a mental health facilitator.

My first connection with Imagine! came long before I started working here. I have three children, and when my youngest son was a year old, I noticed he wasn’t using words yet and was worried that he was behind where he should be developmentally. I was referred to Imagine! and met with a Children’s Service Coordinator. She was very nice, and I had a very positive experience working with her.

At one point, I mentioned to the Service Coordinator that my sister-in-law had a developmental disability. She was an adult but couldn’t speak or do much independently. I was amazed to discover that Imagine! had so many programs for adults with developmental disabilities that helped with lifelong learning, and I wanted to be part of that.

I didn’t get that opportunity right away because I moved to Texas for awhile. But eventually I moved back to Boulder County, and now that I am at Imagine! I am excited to have the opportunity to connect with and assist families who are experiencing the same kinds of things I have experienced. My hope is I can do my part to make sure that people with developmental disabilities can have a future, can be part of their community, and can teach us at the same time.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Colorado Gives Day Is Today!

Colorado Gives Day is today, and I encourage you to participate! Donations made online at www.coloradogives.org/Imagine today will be eligible for partial matching funds. Donating through Colorado Gives eliminates all processing fees for Imagine! for donations totaling up to $50,000 per year.

Colorado Gives Day was a great success last year. Our total was $44,125 from 74 donors, and included $867.28 in partial matching funds from the FirstBank Incentive Fund. This total was nearly four times the amount raised in 2011, thanks in great part to the donation of $25,000 from an anonymous donor for the new Next Step Group Home in Broomfield.

If you are thinking about making a gift to Imagine! before the end of the calendar year, please consider doing it online today. Whether you go through our website (www.imaginecolorado.org) or directly to Colorado Gives, you will end up at the same place. You may also designate a particular Imagine! program in the “Any comments or special instructions” box if you would like. The only gifts that are ineligible are donations for which you receive something in return, such as tickets or sponsorships of our Imagine! Celebration

Thank you!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Good News Friday!

Tonight is Imagine!’s Annual Holiday Party, which means that once again I have the distinct pleasure of recognizing greatness among Imagine! employees by honoring our Employees of Distinction.

This has been a unique year for our organization. The floods that hit us this fall brought out the best in so many employees, and there were many tales of employees acting in extraordinary ways to ensure the safety and well being of those we serve. This made selecting employees deserving of the unique honor of Employee of Distinction an especially difficult task this year. It was a year where “going above and beyond” was just the starting point. The 2013 class of Employees of Distinction truly went above and beyond above and beyond.

Therefore, I am extremely pleased to announce Imagine!’s 2013 Employees of Distinction. You will meet them below, along with a little information from each winner’s nomination to give an indication of why they were selected.

Congratulations to all of you, and thank you for all you do for our organization. I am honored to be counted as your co-worker.

Matt Barnert
“Matt has become key to Innovations. He is mission oriented, the quality of his work never slips, and he always shoots for excellence.”
Lorna Diehl
“Lorna is very approachable and engenders trust in those around her, and she has proven to be an exceptional ambassador for Imagine!.”
Susan Gabriel
“Susan does an excellent job with her day to day duties of supporting families and providers with a process that ensures ongoing services.” 
Mary LaChance
“Mary has a huge amount of enthusiasm and is a consistent positive influence on Out & About staff, parents, and participants.”
Rick Haskins
“Rick’s ability to handle difficult situations is truly remarkable, as is his ability to see the humorous side of just about anything.”
Victoria Kennedy
“It is evident that Victoria loves her role at Imagine! and goes above and beyond expectations to serve her families.”
Sara Ostrom
“Sara builds strong relationships with families. Parents seem to inherently trust her and children quickly respond to her enthusiasm.”

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Breaking The Law

Some of us in the field of serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are breaking the law. Moore’s law, to be exact.

Moore's law is the observation that, over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years. The law is named after Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore, who described the trend in 1965. His prediction has proven to be accurate, and describes the driving force of technological and social change in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In short, technology keeps advancing at a faster and faster pace.

But it isn’t just technology that is advancing. The pace of technology adoption is also speeding up, at least according to the Harvard Business Review. The article linked above demonstrates that Americans are embracing new technology at an ever increasing pace. For example, it took decades for the telephone to reach 50% of households, beginning before 1900. It took five years or less for cell phones to accomplish the same penetration in 1990. The chart below shows other examples.

Sadly, those of us in the field of serving people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities don’t seem to be interested in following Moore’s law. We aren’t keeping up with the pace of innovation or technology adoption that is happening all around us. Providers in our field simply aren’t adopting these tools fast enough, and we aren’t keeping up with the latest possibilities that the advance of technology are bringing. I see it all the time, whether it is social media or remote monitoring or any number of other technologies, providers are dragging their feet when it comes to embracing what the 21st Century has to offer. The real impact (or lack thereof) is on those who use our services.

I think we are past the time when we can plead poverty or complain that “the states won’t pay for it.” We can no longer afford to sit back as the world changes around us. Between the silver tsunami and looming shortage of an available work force, we need to understand these tools and start adopting them at the same pace as the rest of the educated world. We’ve been breaking the (Moore’s) law for too long.

Then again, what do I know?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Susan LaHoda

This installment of “50 Years, 50 Stories” comes from Susan LaHoda, Executive Director of The Imagine! Foundation. The Imagine! Foundation has had a significant positive impact on Imagine!’s ability to serve some of our most vulnerable citizens - to date the Foundation has raised more than $5.5 million to support Imagine!’s programs and the people we serve. How did it all begin? Find out below.

I Think We Can Make This Work
By Susan LaHoda
Imagine! Foundation Director Susan LaHoda and Imagine! Foundation Board President Walt Pounds
I remember clearly where John Taylor and I were – at the foot of the stairs in Imagine!’s Dixon building lobby in the spring of 2000 – when Bob Charles said something like, “I think we can make this work!” He was talking about the brand new, separate fundraising arm of Imagine! to be known eventually as the Imagine! Foundation. It was the “we” that was critical, because he was, in effect, saying that he would take on the lead volunteer role in establishing the Foundation. I believed then, and I believe now, that without Bob Charles the Imagine! Foundation would not be where it is today. I had worked with Bob when he was on the board of the Foundation for Boulder Valley Schools (now Impact on Education) and I was the Executive Director from 1988-1998, so was well aware of Bob’s charisma, commitment, and influence in our community. I remember doing a little fist-pumping and “Yessssssss”-ing when I got to my car after the meeting! It was going to work. We were on our way!

Bob was able to assemble an incredible group for that first small board of six people, including current Emeritus members George Karakehian and Kathy Coyne . That group grew quickly to 13 people, and the Foundation began to fundraise, bringing in $167,748 in its first full year. We also held our first fundraising event that year. Board members George Karakehian and Stephen Tebo both had birthdays in August and decided to hold a birthday party at the new Foothills Group Home before any of the residents moved in. The party was a great success both in raising funds and in introducing community members to Imagine!. I received a check for $1,000 this week from a donor who attended that birthday party and has given a total of $10,000 to Imagine! since then.

What a privilege it has been to work with all of the Foundation board members over the years, including especially our Board Presidents: Bob Charles, Jack Stoakes , George Karakehian, , John Mehaffy, Leona Stoecker, Sandy Bracken, and now Walt Pounds. What an amazing group of people! It is no small feat to take the time and energy to understand the complexity of Imagine! and to devote countless volunteer hours to telling the Imagine! story in our community and asking for support. But all of our Foundation board members over the years have done this with enthusiasm, dedication, and heart.

My story as an Imagine! employee wouldn’t be complete without mentioning those who work at Imagine!. I have been in the non-profit world for about 35 years, and I have never encountered a staff of the caliber of Imagine! employees. Most of my interactions are with the Executive Team, and I have not seen a group of people in a workplace that really functions as a team as much as this group does! At least from my perspective, people are encouraged to voice their opinions, disagreements are respectful, humor is ever-present, people are accountable to themselves and each other, creativity is supported, and hard work is appreciated and recognized. (I think it also helped that early on I asked Caroline Siegfried to have coffee and enlighten me in her wisdom to the personalities of the Executive Team, which many years later I can still see as spot on!)

But the two people I work most closely with bring the real joy to my workday. Heather Sabo has been with the Foundation since 2006 when she saved me from a disastrous hire I made that lasted one day before I realized that it was a terrible mistake. Heather, whose mother Cheryl Sabo worked at Imagine!, then volunteered to work for me for three days for free to see if we were a good fit. We were, and she has contributed immensely to the Foundation’s success and my life ever since. Christina Craigo, our contract grant writer, became part of the team in 2008. I remember that before I contracted with her one of her references told me, “She will not just do an excellent job for you; she will improve your whole organization.” How very prophetic! I now see Christina’s words and ideas ringing throughout Imagine!.

I feel very lucky to have landed here at Imagine! and occasionally pause at the foot of the Dixon building stairs on the way up to my office to recall that first “step” 13 years ago and to marvel at my good fortune.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Good News Friday!

Colorado Gives Day is Tuesday, December 10, and you are encouraged to participate! Donations made online at www.coloradogives.org/Imagine on December 10 will be eligible for partial matching funds. You may also pre-schedule your gift to have it recorded on December 10. Donating through Colorado Gives eliminates all processing fees for Imagine! for donations totaling up to $50,000 per year.

Colorado Gives Day was a great success for Imagine! last year. Our total was $44,125 from 74 donors, and included $867.28 in partial matching funds from the FirstBank Incentive Fund. This total was nearly four times the amount raised in 2011, thanks in great part to the donation of $25,000 from an anonymous donor for the new Next Step Group Home in Broomfield.

If you are thinking about making a gift to Imagine! before the end of the calendar year, please consider doing it online on Colorado Gives Day. Whether you go through our website (www.imaginecolorado.org) or directly to Colorado Gives, you will end up at the same place. You may also designate a particular Imagine! program in the “Any comments or special instructions” box if you would like. The only gifts that are ineligible are donations for which you receive something in return, such as tickets or sponsorships of our Imagine! Celebration. Mark your calendar for December 10—or pre-schedule your donation any time. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - David Schmalhorst

Imagine!’s Communication Coordinator Gary Stebick submitted this story for our “50 Years, 50 Stories” series. The story is of David Schmalhorst, who has been receiving services from Imagine! since its inception. David’s mother and father were among the group of parents who helped establish what was to become Imagine! back in 1963. As you can see from the story, they clearly did a great job raising David, and he has been contributing to his community for his entire life.

David Schmalhorst: aka Cliff Diver
By Gary Stebick
Pictured are Mark Kalen on the left, and David Schmalhorst on the right.
Anyone who knows David Schmalhorst is most likely well aware of his admirable work ethic, (resulting in him being employed for 24 years at Boulder Community Hospital and for more than ten years at Old Chicago on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall), his consideration to others, and his sense of responsibility. However, not many of us have heard the story about David Schmalhorst, cliff diver.

When asked about the cliff diving story, David replied, “Oh yeah, I remember that. I was living at Manhattan Apartments when I did that. Julie Hartman and Mark Kalen worked there. We used to have a group that went rafting together. We did a lot of things together.

“This rafting trip was with Joan Handley and her husband, and I think there were about ten of us. We had to paddle the boat by ourselves. The rapids were pretty intense, and I fell out of the boat. I swam back to the boat, and it was kind of fun. I’m a pretty good swimmer, so that went OK.

“Then we stopped for a while and some of the others climbed up the rocks and dove off a cliff into the water. I climbed up too and dove into the water. It kind of hurt for awhile. I went feet first and had a life jacket on. I did it twice! It was an experience. I was scared, but I did it.

“Then we got back in the boat and went down the river. We camped and cooked over a fire. We made s’mores, and I don’t remember what else we ate, but we had plenty of food, I’ll tell you that. On one of the trips we met a police officer, and we got to go to his house. That was pretty neat, but the rafting was the most fun.”

When asked if he would dive off a cliff again, David replied, “Well, I don’t know. I might. I’d wear a life jacket.”

Mark Kalen, one of David’s counselors from Manhattan Apartments who hadn’t seen David in more than 20 years, was invited to the interview as a surprise visitor. Julie Hartman, who also helped with the interview, had invited Mark, and it was a neat reunion for David and Mark.

Julie, David, and Mark reminisced about their days at Manhattan in the early 1980s. They talked about the food they used to cook together, with some of the favorites being burritos, quiche, lasagna, and macaroni and cheese. And they had parties and a big Thanksgiving dinner that required them to use all three kitchens in Manhattan Apartments. They shared memories about going bowling and playing pool at the CU bowling alley, and about their friend Ted who dressed up as Elvis Presley and who would sing by the camp fire. They remembered when Imagine! Case Manager Phil Pfeiffer was a teacher at the Ruth Wood School. David teased Mark about how Mark used to show up early for his shift at Manhattan and make himself a baloney sandwich and watch Star Trek on TV before he had to start work. “I was modeling independence,” Mark said, as he laughed.

Mark went on to tell David how he teaches a class to elementary school students about Star Trek and emphasizes some of the “lessons” from Star Trek, including the importance of people demonstrating empathy, respect, and responsibility towards others.

Mark added, “David, it was a treat to work with you. You made us counselors feel like we had something to offer. That was good work.”

Friday, November 22, 2013

Good News Friday!

As turkey day approaches, I get another opportunity to make a post about an Imagine! supporter who is making Thanksgiving truly a time for many people served by Imagine! to be thankful.

Dave Query is once again treating Imagine! clients and their families to a traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day. This year’s event will again be at Zolo Southwestern Grill.

Dave is the owner of Big Red F Restaurant Group, including restaurants Centro Latin Kitchen, Bitter Bar, Jax Fish House – Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins, and Glendale, LoLa Coastal Mexican, Post Brewing Company, West End Tavern, and Zolo Grill.

Query 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.

This is the 10th year Dave and the good folks at Zolo have hosted this dinner, and it is immensely popular. There will be three seatings this year, and in all, 360 people will enjoy a fantastic meal thanks to Dave.

Thank you, Dave and Zolo Grill, for giving so many a happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Erica Buller

Today’s installment of “50 Years, 50 Stories” comes from Erica Buller, who is a volunteer for Imagine!’s Out & About program. Erica is volunteering through the Mennonite Voluntary Service, which has supplied Out & About with several volunteers over the years. Thanks for sharing, Erica!

Finding Out About Out & About
By Erica Buller

I graduated from Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas, in May of 2012. Bethel is a very small (500 students), private liberal arts college affiliated with the Mennonite church. I majored in art with emphases in ceramics and metalwork/jewelry.

I ended up at Out & About through the Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) program. MVS connects young adults with full-time volunteer opportunities across the U.S. There's no expectation that young adults in the Mennonite church devote a year to service after college; all the volunteers in the program have chosen to take a year or more out of their lives to work as volunteers. The MVS program asks its volunteers to live simply and in community with other volunteers, and provides a support network through local churches. When I applied to the MVS program, I said I was extremely interested in working with people with developmental disabilities, and the MVS staff immediately suggested Boulder and Out & About. One of my friends had worked with Out & About during her MVS term and couldn't say enough great things about the program. After hearing her talk about her experiences with Out & About, I was confident that Boulder was where I needed to end up.

My favorite part of Out & About so far is the variety, both in whom I work with and what we do. I have really enjoyed getting to know the participants, and I feel like working for Out & About has been a really great way for me to get to know Boulder and the surrounding towns. I've loved having the opportunity to work both in the children’s and adult programs, and I feel like I learn a lot with each shift that I work.

I hope to attend graduate school for Occupational Therapy. I would love to end up at the University of Kansas's Occupational Therapy program in Kansas City, Kansas, where I grew up. I know that, as an occupational therapist, I would like to work with people with developmental disabilities. I would love it if I could end up working in Colorado again – it will be hard to move back to Kansas again after living in Boulder.

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Get On The Bus

Many leaders are familiar with Jim Collins, author or co-author of well know business leadership books including Good to Great, Built to Last, and Great by Choice.

One theme that runs through all of Collins’ work the concept of “getting the right people on the bus.” This concept pictures a company as a bus, and employees as the riders on the bus, and argues that successful organizations don’t start down the road without first getting “the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.”

I am very proud of the fact that Imagine!’s employees are overwhelmingly the right people sitting in the right seats on our particular bus. Yes, we serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but I firmly believe if we were suddenly tasked with doing something completely different, like say, selling shoes, we’d still be successful. The team is strong, and their creativity and skill sets would translate to success in any number of ventures.

A recent company-wide team building effort demonstrated this fact to me quite clearly. Employees across departments and pay grades formed teams to compete in an online nutrition program called “Mix It Up.” What started as a simple competition to encourage healthy eating quickly became very competitive (in a fun and friendly way). Teams tried to outdo each other not only by eating better, but also by coming up with clever team names and uploading humorous pictures (some examples are included here). Rules were studied very closely to see where an advantage might be gained, and the scoring system was analyzed over and over to ensure maximum points for participants. During the contest, you couldn’t walk down a hall at one of our office buildings without hearing some discussion taking place about the contest and what teams were doing. The company as a whole put a great deal of energy, time, and commitment into participating in (and trying to win – even though no one knew what winning meant with respect to prize) the contest.

My point? The team building exercise showed that we already had a strong, creative, hard working, and dedicated team. In some ways, the actual contest didn’t matter. The right people were already on the bus, and the only thing that changed was the destination. It was simply another opportunity for Imagine! employees to be creative, to have fun, and more importantly insure the success of one another.

I also saw how teams would support each other and offer help when needed. The participants were working toward a common goal, and success could only be achieved if teamwork was involved. That is something that I see every day as we work to overcome the obstacles that prevent the individuals we serve from becoming fully participating members of their communities.

It was an enjoyable contest, and very illuminating as to what caliber of employees we have at Imagine!. I look forward to the next one!

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Good News Friday!

Photo fun for Friday.

In the last week of October, members of the student council at Fall River Elementary School in Longmont held a fundraiser to help Imagine! recover from the recent flooding that damaged many of our homes. The fundraiser brought in $494.11! Wow! Thanks to all the students and teachers who participated! Pictured above, Imagine! PR Director Fred Hobbs accepts the check from student council treasurer Mason while Principal Dr. Jennifer Guthals looks on.

Fall River Elementary rocks!

In this photo, Elizabeth Hill, Imagine!'s Volunteer Coordinator, and Chris Skultety, from the The Kiwanis Club Of Longmont, show off some of the 58 wooden toys handcrafted by the Club and donated to Imagine! as part of the Club's Craft Toys for Kids Project. Most of the toys will become a part of Imagine!'s Gift Giving Drive, while four of the toys will be featured in the Imagine! Celebration's silent auction on January 24, 2014.

In this picture, Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source staff member Andy (left) and Zach, CORE/Labor Source class participant, are showing off their healthy muscles at a community activity, “Sports and Games,” which takes place at the Louisville Recreation Center. That class focuses on movement, exercise, learning and playing different sports, and having fun.

If you know Loren, who lives in Imagine!’s Charles Family SmartHome in Longmont, you know he loves music. The photo above is of Loren in an Imagine! CORE/Labor Source music class with Amanda Byrant, who is a Neurologic Music Therapist and service provider for Imagine!. The music class is held in the Music Discovery Garden at the Colorado Music Festival & Center for Musical Arts. The instrument that Loren and Amanda are playing is one of many high quality, durable musical instruments designed by Grammy Award winning musician Richard Cooke, the founder of Freenotes Harmony Park. Freenotes are built to maintain pure and soothing tones through years of rigorous play and exposure to the elements of nature, and are ideal for musical beginners and experts alike. The new Music Discovery Garden has a collection of large, outdoor, interactive percussion instruments that include “Contrabass Chimes,” “The Swirl,” the “Flying Amadinda,” and three “WeeNotes.” These exciting outdoor instruments have been installed on the northwest corner of the Center, which invites you to come over anytime and give their new outdoor instruments a try.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - David Dean and Jack Wainwright

Imagine!’s Communication Coordinator Gary Stebick submitted this story for our “50 Years, 50 Stories” series. The story is about two individuals who receive services from Imagine! and who have been best friends for almost 30 years – David Dean and Jack Wainwright. This is a fun story about two gentlemen who are extremely active in their community. Thanks for sharing the story, Gary, and thanks to David and Jack for being role models and leaders in our community.
David and Jack – Friends For Life
By Gary Stebick
Jack Wainwright (left) and David Dean in their finest Imagine! attire.

David and Jack met about 30 years ago when David needed a roommate at Canyon Creek Apartments. Rick Haskins, Imagine!’s Assistant Director of Case Management, arranged for some people to interview with David, and David chose Jack. They have remained roommates and friends ever since that time.

Both David and Jack are very independent and don’t require a lot of support from Imagine!, but as David put it, “I don’t need much, but when I do, I ask for it. When my mom and brother passed away, Imagine! was there for me. And recently, Mikii (Schoech - an Imagine! Intake Case Manager) helped me out when I got laid off by the government shut down. I didn’t apply for unemployment. I don’t want unemployment, I want to work. I don’t have time to just sit around.”

Jack chimed in, “There are certain bills we don’t understand, and Mikii has always been very, very helpful to us. She’s the one who takes care of us.”

Jack served as a member of Imagine!’s Board of Directors in the early 1980s. “For many years,” he said. “It was very hard work, but it was worth my while.”

In reminiscing, David talked about former Imagine! employee Bruce Reed. “Bruce helped me with my finances, and we became friends. During a conversation with Bruce, we realized we both had something in common that was very important to us, that being softball. Bruce invited me to practice with his team, and 30 years later, I still have some friends on that team, the Black Sox. I rode my bike out to Stazio Field this summer to watch them play, and to cheer them on and give them advice. Last year the Imagine! employee softball team was short a player, and Caitlin (Looney) invited me to play with them. I told her, “Any time you need someone, you just let me know and I’ll be there.”

David and Jack always have been and remain active in our community. Both play softball in Boulder, and both bowl at the Coal Creek Bowling Center in Lafayette. As close as friends as they are, they don’t always bowl on the same team. Currently they are on different teams. They have expanded their circle of friends so much that they both have many options in choosing which team they are going to bowl with.

Both David and Jack are longtime employees at their jobs, with David having worked at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for 37 years, and Jack having worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) for 22 years.

Jack summed up their 30 years of friendship by saying, “David is like a big brother to me.”

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

Friday, November 8, 2013

Good News Friday!

Today I'm pleased to give an update on Imagine!'s newest project: our Next Step Group Home.

Imagine! is building a new group home in Broomfield specifically for aging individuals with developmental disabilities. The Next Step Group Home will serve as a home base for meeting the multiple and varied needs of six low-income seniors with developmental disabilities. This specialized care will allow the clients to live in a neighborhood setting while avoiding the more costly nursing home alternative.

Currently, 327 residents of Boulder and Broomfield Counties who qualify for comprehensive residential services are waitlisted due to limits in State funding for room, board, and supportive services for people with developmental disabilities. As the “safety net” for individuals with developmental disabilities in the two counties, Imagine! strives to address these critical needs and to anticipate future challenges. The Next Step Group Home is an example of both.

Construction on the home has already begun and is scheduled to be completed in late Spring 2014. Below are a few photos of the construction progress so far.

Foundation/basement being excavated.

New road to the home.

Parking area and ramps.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Does Customer Service Mean At Imagine!?

Last week, I was meeting with Carla Rapp, a member of Imagine!’s 2013-2014 Leadership Development Class. She had brought along a book she thought I might enjoy: “Management Lessons From Mayo Clinic,” by Leonard Berry and Kent Seltman.

Now, I have a confession to make. I don’t always love management books. In fact, I think they tend to be a dime a dozen, filled with vague and generic advice, overused inspirational quotes, and tortured analogies. But I felt I owed it to Carla to give it a read, and I am so glad I did. I haven’t even finished the book yet, and it has already made me rethink the way I look at Imagine! and how we deliver services.

The book starts out by describing how healthcare consumers (or customers) are different from customers in other service industries. For example, healthcare customers are usually sick or injured, and under stress. Healthcare customers don’t just enter the healthcare facility, they often end up staying there for extended periods – they live there. Healthcare customers are there to fulfill a “need” rather than a “want,” and often enter into service very reluctantly. Healthcare services are inherently personal and require a more holistic and customized service than in most other service industries. And finally, healthcare customers are at risk of being harmed beyond their existing medical problems when they enter a medical facility.

As I read through that list, I realized how much that list parallels what we do at Imagine!. And because of this, it dawned on me that we can’t interact with the people we serve as if we were trying to sell them shoes. We need to have a much different understanding of their needs and approach to meeting those needs. In many ways we already do that, but in other ways we may be falling short. I look forward to reading more and sharing with you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what customer service means to an organization like Imagine!. And thanks Carla, for introducing me to this book!

Then again, what do I know?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Greg Wellems

Today’s installment of “50 Years, 50 Stories” comes from Greg Wellems, Imagine!’s Chief Operating Officer. Greg’s contribution is short and sweet, and is a perfect reminder of what I often say – we are so lucky to be part of the Imagine! community.

Thanks for sharing, Greg!

Lucky? Indeed I Am
By Greg Wellems

Greg Wellems back in the 1990s.

I was recently talking with some friends when they asked me what I do for a living. I responded with my usual prepared comment that I have worked for more than twenty years for Imagine!, a not-for-profit organization that supports individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in their communities. And while a few my friends responded with the expected generic comments, one of them followed up with the question of why and how did that happen? Poor fellow, he opened the floodgates, and for the next twenty minutes was regaled with how and why I came and stayed with Imagine!.

I did not get the job I wanted when I applied at Imagine!. I wanted to be a weekend overnight counselor at 19th street. It would be a perfect fit for my lifestyle. I was working on my Masters Degree in Special Education and anticipated that the schedule would allow for me to attend to my schooling, a pregnant wife, and the expected birth of my first child. So I showed up in my coat and tie, a polished resume, and the confidence that I would get a job that I knew from experience would not be in high demand. For those of you not familiar with the culture of the ol’ DDC in 1991, I was a tad bit overdressed, overconfident, and not what my interviewer, dressed in his Birkenstocks and cut off jeans, considered a good match. So, only after considerable begging on my part did he offer me a substitute counselor position. OK, I thought, no worries, I was only going to be here a year at the most. Was I ever wrong.

Twenty –two years later I am still with the DDC, now known as Imagine!. What I didn’t know in 1991, was what Imagine!, its culture, its mission and values, and more importantly the extended family it provides, would mean to me. Imagine!’s mission of creating innovative supports so people may live fulfilling lives applies to all it touches. I work for Imagine! because the individuals I work with and for constantly inspire that creativity. The unique supports created over the years - the first medical and senior homes, innovative companion services, Out & About, CORE/Labor Source, Imagine!’s Behavioral Health Services, the ASD program, the FRE program, the Boulder County Initiative, and the SmartHomes are just a few of the innovative programs developed by the stakeholders of Imagine!. I have been fortunate to have been involved in a few of these initiatives, but I know that as we move forward there will be many more. Imagine! creates a culture that inspires everyone to live up to its name.

I am grateful for the opportunity I received all those years ago, so when my friend commented, “You’re lucky,” my immediate thought was, "Indeed I am."

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

Friday, November 1, 2013

Good News Friday!

Some musical good news today.

Some participants in one of Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source classes recently finished recording their very own cover of "Layla," originally by Derek and The Dominos. Instructor Kelly Faus used music technology equipment and software to record the CORE/Labor Source musicians making a variety of sounds, then plugged the sounds into a "MIDI" (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) file, recorded a vocal track on top, and mixed everything into one final track. Check out the song below.

Can’t see the video? Click here. 

The recording features:

Bruce Whitaker on vocals.

Mandy Kretsch on guitars. Kelly recorded a few samples of Mandy plucking a single note on an electric ukulele. This note was then manipulated by the MIDI file.

Scott Scamehorn on drums. Scott played a single beat for the snare drum (coffee can containing a few grains of rice), tom drum (empty coffee can), bass drum (desk chair cushion), and cymbals (metal water bottle). All of these sounds were played according to the pre-sequenced file.

The recording artists are quite excited about this project, and if you’d like to send a supportive comment to them please send an email to kfaus@imaginecolorado.org. Kelly will pass along your comment to the performers.

Great work, everyone!

The band, pictured from left to right: Bruce Whitaker, Scott Scamehorn,  staff member Kelly Faus, and Mandy Kretsch.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Joy To The World

A few years back, before I held my current position at Imagine!, I engaged in an exercise designed to help Imagine! plan for the future. In the exercise, we answered a variety of hypothetical questions about how Imagine! would look in the future. One question, and the answer I gave at the time, really sticks out as I look at where we are now.

The question was, “What do we want our reputation to be like?” The answer I wrote at the time was, “Our customers and families will look forward to their next contact with us. The public will speak of our services with the same enthusiasm as it has of a local winning sports team.”

If you read my blog last week, you know that I am a fan (pun intended) of viewing the Imagine! community as a team. And I think that in some ways, that enthusiasm about Imagine! I dreamed of above has come to fruition. There are many people in our community who embrace our organization with gusto, including individuals we serve, their families, and other supporters.

Now, I’m not naïve. I know not everyone in our community wears an Imagine! logo or feels that way about Imagine!. But many do. And I think a key element in that enthusiastic support of Imagine! comes from a fundamental element of being part of a team – the joy that come arise when the team succeeds.

If a team is doing well, it brings joy to everyone involved. Professional and collegiate sports wouldn’t get the kind of attention they do if a lot people didn’t think it was fun. Even at the highest levels, athletes and teammates express joy when they do something well or they succeed at a difficult task.


Can't see the video? Click here.

When we are able to succeed at Imagine!, it brings a great deal of joy. The people we serve are able to engage in their communities, their families see their loved ones expanding their horizons, and the community sees how individuals with a variety of intellectual disabilities can contribute in many meaningful ways.

I am proud to be part of team Imagine!, and I am thankful for the joy it continues to bring me.

Then again, what do I know?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Bob Charles

We’ve had many great stories in this series so far, but we’ve also realized that there are some people who have stories that should be told, but probably won’t share them on their own because they are too humble.

So Susan LaHoda, Executive Director of the Imagine! Foundation, has taken it upon herself to write up a couple of stories of folks who have stories that simply cannot be ignored. In that spirit, please enjoy the story below about Bob Charles, the Founder of the Imagine! Foundation and truly one of Imagine!’s most generous supporters.

"We" Was "Me"
By Susan LaHoda
This newspaper article from the 1960s demonstrates that Bob Charles has been dedicated to supporting individuals with developmental disabilities for quite some time.
In his typical dry-humored way, Bob Charles likes to tell the story of how the Imagine! Foundation got started in 2000. He says that John Taylor “cornered” him and told him that we were going to create a foundation to raise funds to offset governmental cutbacks and help address some very pressing needs of people with developmental disabilities in our community. Bob says, “I looked around the room and realized that the ‘we” was ‘me’!”

When asked to take the leadership role in establishing the Foundation, Bob was technically “retired” from owning and operating 13 McDonald’s Restaurants in the area, although he was still very active as a volunteer on several non-profit and educational boards and committees. But Bob says, “My heart had already been softened to the idea of helping individuals with developmental disabilities because I had hired several for my restaurants, and I was intrigued with how well they worked.” So he agreed to launch the Imagine! Foundation and, because of the enormous respect he commands in the community, was able to put together a highly qualified and influential board of directors who joined primarily because they had tremendous admiration for Bob and his reputation for generosity, honesty, and commitment. Bob served for three years as the Foundation’s president, guiding and encouraging the fledgling organization all along the way. During that time, the Foundation was able to raise funds for the purchasing and paying down a significant part of the mortgages on five staffed homes for Imagine! clients.

It wasn’t long before Imagine! asked the Foundation if it would help raise funds for two SmartHomes that would serve as laboratories for testing technology to promote client self-sufficiency and improve staff efficiency. At this point, Bob was far past the two three-year terms of service offered in the Imagine! Foundation’s by-laws and was given Emeritus status, but remained as active as ever. He spearheaded the capital campaigns for the two SmartHomes, but, more than that, he and his wife Judy provided the naming gift for the Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome in Boulder, and he and his family, including sons Bob, Jr. and Dale and daughter Janice, provided the naming gift for the Charles Family SmartHome in Longmont. Bob is very involved in the SmartHomes and keeps up with the technologies that are being tested there and the progress of individual residents (even offering challenges to some to learn new skills!).

Though Bob has now served 13 years as a volunteer on the Foundation board, he doesn’t talk about leaving. He says, “Why would I walk away? I’m still very interested in the program and am as excited as I was at the beginning. You almost feel that you would be walking away from the people you are helping.” Bob is quick to give praise to the Imagine! staff, too. He says, “The successes of our clients are a credit to the Imagine! folks who work with them. The staff at Imagine! is incredibly capable. I see the impact Imagine! is having on people’s lives, and I get great satisfaction in seeing how effective it has been.”

Always humble, Bob says, “I think the biggest surprise to me over the past 13 years is how big the Foundation has gotten. I had no expectations. I was actually a little intimidated! I thought maybe we could find four to five people to help us try to raise some money. Who would have dreamt that ‘some money’ would be several million dollars?” (The Foundation has raised more than $5.5 million to date.). But it isn’t the dollars that matter most to Bob. He says, “My hope is that we continue to do well, impact more people, and keep improving people’s lives.”

There is no real way to adequately express our appreciation, Bob, for the difference you have made in the lives of those we serve. On behalf of all of the Imagine! community, we extend our deepest thanks.

“50 Stories, 50 Years” bonus video – Bob Charles speaks at the grand opening of the Charles Family SmartHome in Longmont, discussing the origins of the Imagine! Foundation and why the work Imagine! does is so important.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

“50 Stories, 50 Years” bonus video #2 – a video honoring Bob and Judy Charles as Imagine!’s 2008 Donors of the Year.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

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