Friday, May 31, 2013

Good News Friday!

Participants in Imagine!'s CORE/Labor Source music, dance, and creative writing classes are busy preparing for their upcoming performance (June 21 at 7:00 pm) at The Dairy Center for the Arts, in Boulder. Their interdisciplinary performance will feature collaborations between classes and both Boulder-and Longmont-based programs. Be sure to catch it if you can, and prepare yourself to be impressed and inspired.

Pictured below singing the song “I’m A Believer” (a number one hit composed by Neil Diamond and recorded by The Monkees in 1966) at a recent rehearsal for the performance, are, from the left, performers Robert, Cathy, and Lindsey, with Kirk, the class’s instructor.

The art opening and reception will begin at 5:00 pm, with refreshments provided by the Dairy Center for the Arts. The performance will begin at 7:00 pm. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted. The art work will be available for purchase, with money from art sales to be distributed between the artist who created the piece and CORE/Labor Source to help pay for more materials and opportunities for learning, growth, expression, and integration. Proceeds from the performance will go to CORE/Labor Source.

The Dairy Center for the Arts is located at 2590 Walnut Street in Boulder. Hope to see you there!

Thanks to Kirk Margoles for sharing information for this post.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Kim Holman

Today’s installment of “50 Years, 50 Stories” comes from Kim Holman, who shares a very personal story about her battle with cancer and the support she received from her friends and colleagues at Imagine!. It is quite a testament to our organization and the people who work here.

Thanks for sharing, Kim!

PS - you can read more about Kim’s journey with breast cancer here.

Imagine!: The Right Place to Be
By Kim Holman
Kim while going through chemotherapy, with her two
children, Eli and Bethany.

My fifteenth anniversary with Imagine! was just around the corner when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2009. I couldn’t have picked a better place to be during this difficult time.

There’s a magical quality about this company. It attracts employees who are genuine and kind, people who really care about each other. It’s a place where we can be candidly human with all of our strengths and our weaknesses.

I have attended conferences and heard about the environments in which other people work—cultures of competition where feelings and disease, the messy stuff of life, are marginalized along with the people who experience them. Not at Imagine!.

We’re not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. As with any company, there’s a fair amount of internal strife. That’s just the natural flow of things. But we find ways to get along. We talk, we joke, we laugh, we cry, we discuss, we feel, and we grow together. I think it’s because we hold each other up to a high measure of personal integrity that we’re fifty years strong today.

So when I faced the greatest challenge of my life, I was wonderfully supported in that pool of integrity and trust, and my colleagues surrounded me within the same framework of care and commitment that drives Imagine!.

Sick time was donated, food was delivered to my door, cards were left in my mailbox, friends stopped by, co-workers took up my slack, and most importantly, I wasn’t dismissed. Rather, I was told in no uncertain terms that the most important thing was to rest and heal and get through my treatments so I could return to work when it was all over.

And here I am today—fifty years old—just like the company that has supported my growth as both a professional and an individual for so many years. No words can ever express the gratitude I feel.

Today, I’m healthy and strong and cancer-free, thanks in great part to the wonderful people who work at Imagine!. They are this company, its mission, and the root of its great success. I’m so delighted to be a part of the magic that keeps this company like its employees—vital and resilient.

Happy 50th Anniversary, Imagine!, and thank you for all your support.

Kim today, healthy and strong and

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!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Up For The Challenge

Leadership and inspiration comes in many different shapes and forms, and from different people at Imagine!. Sometimes it is a great new idea. Sometimes it is exceptional service delivery. Sometimes it comes from innovation. Today it comes from a few individuals who are up for the Bolder Boulder Business Challenge.

This opportunity to engage with our community, wearing an Imagine! banner in a crowd of 50,000 while enjoying fun music and festivities is an inspiration for me. Michael Derby from Core / Labor Source; Heather Forsyth from Early Intervention Care Coordination; Sarah Fry, Tory Kennedy, Leanne Woodward, and Anne Slezak all from Case Management; and yours truly bringing up the rear. If you happen to see one of our bibs with the Imagine! logo, give the wearer a shout out. For me, my goal is to beat my age. Sure  - you can ask – but remember, I always tell the truth or something like it. See you in the stadium. … and Dad, this one’s for you.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Good News Friday!

Imagine!’s website development team has been working hard on creating a new website for our organization. As part of the process, they have been collecting some quotes from Imagine! employees about why they like working at Imagine!. They shared some of those quotes with me, and today I’d like to share them with you.

“I like working at Imagine! because the Early Intervention team is dedicated, intelligent, passionate and funny. And, we get to make a positive difference in the lives of families and their children!”
- Jolie Bernstein, Service Coordinator

“I love working at Imagine!. The IT team gives me such great support. If I get stuck I can call any other team member for help, which helps me to give better service. I feel I am making a positive contribution to a staff that is more like family and that really makes a difference in our world.”
- Rick Brown, IT PC Specialist

“I enjoy working at Imagine! because of the supportive, creative, and innovative atmosphere. It is wonderful to work with a group of people who dedicate their lives to helping others while still continuously striving to do more and to do things better. It means a lot to me to be able to see the positive impact that we have on people’s lives and to have the support of my co-workers with programs that are implemented.”
- Lou Ella Price, Innovations Training and Development Consultant

“I love working at Imagine! because some of my coworkers have literally become my best friends. Everyone here is so caring and working towards the common goal of delivering great services to our participants. I also love working at Imagine! because our participants make me smile and laugh every day.”
-  Lisa Hofmann, Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, Out & About

“I like consulting with Imagine! because of their long-standing commitment to support evidence-based Applied Behavior Analysis assessment and treatment approaches, and because they foster interdisciplinary collaboration. These two elements are fundamentally important in the ongoing support of consumers and families that required behavioral and pharmacological interventions.”
- Jeff Kupfer, Ph.D., BCBA-D Licensed Psychologist (Consultant for Imagine! Behavioral Health Services {I.B.H.S.} since 2003)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Jessie Irvin

Today’s installment of “50 Years, 50 Stories” comes from Jessie Irvin. Jessie receives services from Imagine!. More importantly, she is also serving Imagine! and her community through her involvement with the Intersections project. Intersections is a collaboration between Imagine! and Boulder-based Moving to End Sexual Assault (MESA), funded by a grant from the Office on Violence Against Women. The ultimate goals of the grant are to facilitate sustainable system change at both MESA and Imagine!, and to help MESA as well as Imagine! staff and volunteers improve both organizations’ ability to serve people with disabilities who have experienced sexual assault.

Thanks for sharing your story, Jessie!

From Baby To Badass
By Jessie Irvin
Jessie as a baby.

When I was a baby, back in 1988, I actually got services from Dayspring. But for most of the time I was growing up, I didn’t have any contact with Imagine!. When I was 18, I got kicked out of my grandma’s house and ended up homeless, no money, no nothing.

So I got in a transition program, and the Case Manager there set me up with Imagine!. When she first told me I was going to Imagine!, I asked, “Imagine what?”

At first when I was working with Imagine!, it was tough. They didn’t know me, and I didn’t know them. But they have learned that I speak my mind – and I think they respect that. I once told my Imagine! Case Manager, “Either you are with me or you are against me.” It turned out that Imagine! was with me.

With Imagine!, I get Supported Living Services and do activities through Out & About. I first met Caitlin Looney (a Mental Health Therapist at Imagine!) when she was running Out & About’s “Giddy Up” activity. After she got to know me a little, she asked me to help out on a project she was working on – Intersections, a collaboration between Moving To End Sexual Assault (MESA) and Imagine!.

Caitlin wanted me to join one of the workgroups for the project so I could provide a viewpoint of a person with a disability, like letting them know what works and what doesn’t from my perspective. I’m a hard worker, and my mom always told me, “You have a mind, use it,” so I actually ended up joining three workgroups for the project! I offer expertise and tell people how things look through my eyes. I also try to offer ideas to represent the whole system, not just my perspective. I do research for the project and have helped create a Policy and Procedure Review Tool and a Safety and Accessibility Tool. I’m working on helping make services at MESA and Imagine! better.

I’ve learned a lot since starting on this project. I’ve learned that change takes time, but you have to keep going. I’ve always believed that it is important to treat everyone equally, and that takes work. My mom didn’t raise me as disabled; she tried to let me do everything other kids did. I want that for everybody. It should be an equal society.

Everybody is seeing a difference in me since I started working on the project. My moods are better, my health is better, and I’ve even starting dressing better. Knowing I can come into work and get done what needs to be done keeps me more upbeat. I am doing more and more for Imagine!.

I think what I’m doing is very important. All it takes is one voice. I don’t know if I’m that voice, but I’m willing to take that chance.

The only thing I worry about being part of the project is that it might ruin my reputation – people might think I’m too nice! No matter what happens, I will still tell you what I think and how I feel. I’m still a badass!

Jessie today - 100% badass!

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, May 17, 2013

Good News Friday!

Next Wednesday, an ambitious group of young Imagine! clients will be part of a graduation class from Imagine!’s CORE/Labor Source department’s collaboration with Project SEARCH.

The purpose of this collaboration is to provide opportunities for local high school students with developmental disabilities to develop the skills and tools they need for lasting employment.

According to the Project SEARCH website, The Project SEARCH High School Transition Program is a unique, business-led, one-year, school-to-work program that takes place entirely at the workplace. Total workplace immersion facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and relevant job-skills training through strategically designed internships.

The goal for each student participant in this international program is competitive employment. The program provides real-life work experience combined with training in employability and independent living skills to help youths with significant disabilities make successful transitions from school to productive adult life. The Project SEARCH model involves an extensive period of training and career exploration, innovative adaptations, long-term job coaching, and continuous feedback from teachers, job coaches, and employers. As a result, at the completion of the training program, students with significant intellectual disabilities are employed in nontraditional, complex, and rewarding jobs. The presence of a Project SEARCH High School Transition Program can bring about long-term changes in business culture that have far-reaching positive effects on attitudes about hiring people with disabilities and the range of jobs in which they can be successful.

At the beginning of this school year, CORE/labor Source was able to facilitate six interns participating in the program. But such an ambitious undertaking can’t be done alone. Multiple agencies and organizations have come together to make this a reality. CORE/Labor Source’s partners in Project SEARCH include Boulder Community Hospital, the Boulder Valley School District, the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Community Link, the Association of Community Living, and other Imagine! service departments. Additionally, an advisory board has been assembled to assist with networking opportunities for the interns.

A classroom has been set up at the Boulder Community Hospital Mapleton campus. This serves as the meeting place and launching point for the students in the morning. Their day typically begins with one hour of classroom instruction, and then they work with job coaches from CORE/Labor Source to learn their jobs thoroughly and to receive professional training and guidance. As time goes on, the job coaches are phased out of the picture as the interns develop the skills to complete their job duties independently.

Congratulations to the graduates, and thanks to everyone who has worked so hard to make this project a success!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Julie Hartman

This week’s touching installment of “50 Years, 50 Stories” comes from Julie Hartman, who has worked at Imagine! since 1981. Get your hankies out!

The Muffin Man
By Julie Hartman

There are so many stories I can share from my time at Imagine!, but the one that really sticks out in my mind is the story of a gentleman served by Imagine! whom my daughter Haley referred to as “The Muffin Man.”

From what I know of The Muffin Man’s background, mostly gleaned from conversations with him, he was sent to the Grand Junction State Home and Training School (one of Colorado’s state institutions) in the 1950s or 60s. He was probably in his early teens at the time. The reason he was sent away from the small town he grew up in was because he had epilepsy, and his parents were advised by doctors that it may not be possible for him to receive proper care if he stayed at home. He lived with his parents long enough to spend a significant amount of time in the bakery they either owned or worked for, however, and he developed a lifelong love of baking.

Fast forward to the mid 1970s. De-institutionalization had become the norm, and The Muffin Man, like many hundreds of thousands of people across the nation, was taken out of the institution he had spent the majority of his life in so he could live in the community. And like many other people who were moving from institutions at the time, The Muffin Man had some complex behavioral issues, the result of spending his formative years in an environment that was not conducive to developing basic skills needed for community living. The challenge was to ensure that he did develop those skills so he could contribute and be part of his new community.

At first, it didn’t seem like it would work. The Muffin Man was living in a large congregate setting, and was getting in trouble a lot at that time due to various behavioral issues. In the late 80s and early 90s plans were under way to close all larger community congregate facilities and to move individuals into smaller community based settings. The Muffin Man was moved from his home once again. That’s when he came to live at Imagine!’s Manhattan Apartments and became my friend.

When the The Muffin Man moved to Manhattan Apartments, I was working there as the live-in program manager. My daughter Haley was just a baby at the time.

The Muffin Man became quite attached to Haley. When he heard her crying, he would come and knock on my door to make sure she was OK. If he saw that her baby gate wasn’t up when she was running around the apartment, he would take it upon himself to set the gate up.

And most importantly, he began making muffins for Haley every Tuesday.

He later told me that one of the reasons he was so excited to move to Manhattan Apartments from the bigger congregate setting was because he finally had access to a kitchen and could rekindle his love of baking. That love of baking took form in the muffins he made for Haley.

As time went on, The Muffin Man demonstrated that he was able to live more independently, and he was able to move out on his own. But Tuesday was still muffin day, and I had to make sure I went by his place every Tuesday to pick up Haley’s muffins, or I’d never hear the end of it. As time went by, age and complicated health concerns began to catch up with him, and he needed more and more support in his life. Still, he never wavered in his determination to make those muffins for Haley. No longer able to make muffins from scratch, The Muffin Man developed quite a flare for the preparation of Jiffy muffin mixes. And the bond between Haley and The Muffin Man grew deeper and deeper. Blueberry muffins were their favorite!

When Haley was about seven years old, The Muffin Man passed away. But before he passed away, he wrote up his own “will.” In that will, he made sure to leave Haley his rolling pin and muffin tins. Several years later, when Haley went away to college, among the very few items she took with her when she moved were The Muffin Man’s rolling pins and muffin tins.

One of the reasons I wanted to share the story of The Muffin Man is because it shows an important element of our work at Imagine!. When The Muffin Man moved from the institution years ago, he came with a story created by the system – a stigma of years of institutional living, his various diagnoses, his behavioral issues, and what sort of services he needed. Those were important pieces of information, but they weren’t his story. His story is the story I got to know through his affection for Haley and his love of making muffins. I got to hear about his life, his hopes and dreams, from him, not from notes scribbled in a file.

Haley never knew The Muffin Man’s “official” story. She didn’t know his list of problem behaviors, or his strengths or weaknesses or skills (as determined by someone else). She only knew him as The Muffin Man, the person she loved, the person who loved her and made her feel special, the person for whom she drew a window when he was sick in the hospital because his hospital room had no windows and she knew how much he liked to have a window to gaze out of.

Everyone we serve has his or her own story. Our job at Imagine! is to learn the story beyond the paper trail, so that we can assist individuals as they work to find their own purpose in life and so they can contribute to their community through their own unique skills and capabilities. I remain committed to that purpose, and it motivates me every day.

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, May 14, 2013

Shift Happens

There is a shift happening in the world of services for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. It is happening slowly, and in some cases imperceptibly, but it is definitely happening. Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are moving away from being caregivers toward what I’m going to call “environmental facilitators.”

What do I mean by environmental facilitator? I mean that the next generation of providers will be tasked with creating an environment within which individuals with a developmental disability will thrive. To me, being a caregiver is not an accurate way to describe that role.

That’s not a slight against caregivers. Some populations need well trained and compassionate caregivers, and there are many dedicated and skilled individuals who provide those services. But the people we serve need access to the community – which isn’t the same as needing to be cared for.

The individuals we serve face barriers to accessing the community because of their disabilities. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t need services. Our role as providers is to share the knowledge needed to adjust and work around those barriers. Here’s a very simple example of what I mean. Suppose an individual served by Imagine! can’t tie his shoes – and hasn’t been able to master this particular task well into adulthood. Does it make sense for him, and service providers, to spend long and frustrating hour upon hour focusing on teaching that person to tie his shoes? Or does it make more sense to just get him some loafers and then focus on heading out into the community?

I’d argue the latter makes more sense. At a certain point, does it really matter if he can’t tie his shoes if there is an easy work around which results in more time that can be spent on doing the things that really matter to the individual? To me, using the loafers is a way of working around a small barrier so it is easier to meet bigger challenges, and get more rewards as a result. But you have to have the knowledge that loafers exist, and you have to use that knowledge to make the connection between using the loafers and moving forward toward other, more ambitious goals.

Now pretend the loafers are new and emerging technologies. We have to have the knowledge they exist. We have to recognize the frustrations that can be overcome with their implementation. We have to know there is a way to overcome many barriers via the introduction of technologies. We must realize the rewards of meeting the bigger challenges on a person by person basis.

It is time for us to recognize that this shift is happening whether we like it or not. It is also time to create a workforce armed with easy access to knowledge and the ability move information into the hands of those who need it. Too often, I see organizations (including Imagine!) populated with employees who have a great deal of institutional knowledge in their collective heads, but no easy way to share that knowledge with fellow employees effectively or efficiently. That simply won’t work anymore. Having all that information isn’t a desirable quality if there isn’t a way for anyone who needs to get to that that information to access it a quick and timely manner.

We’re not caregivers anymore. We are not shoe salesman either. We are innovators who use knowledge to improve the lives of the individuals we serve by opening more doors to community engagement. It is time to embrace the shift.

Then again, what do I know?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Good News Friday!

Twice a year, at least for the past few years, I have had the privilege of posting videos and stories about University of Colorado Engineering students who work on projects designed to enhance the lives of individuals served by Imagine!. These posts are among my favorites.

Some short background: the students are members of Professor Melinda Piket-May’s Engineering class. A few years ago, she began collaborating with Imagine! to provide engineering projects for her students. Each semester, students form small groups and select projects that have been identified by Imagine! staff members as something that will meet the needs of a specific individual served by Imagine!. The collaboration has truly been “win-win.” The students get real, hands-on experience on a unique and challenging engineering task, and people served by Imagine! get a piece of adaptive equipment designed specifically for their needs.

So today, I am delighted to share some videos demonstrating the final projects produced by students in Professor Piket-May's 2013 Spring Semester class. Please check them out below. You’ll note that several of the projects talk about teaching “cause and effect.” These projects were designed for some adult individuals we serve who I like to call “emergent learners.” These are folks who, because of a combination of significant developmental and physical disabilities, have spent the majority of their lives unable to really control anything in their own environment. By teaching basic cause and effect, as in “if I do this action, then this thing happens as a result,” individuals are taking the first step toward making their own decisions and taking control of their own lives.


Game Changer – this project uses an adaptive controller and game so individuals can play simple, computerized versions of baseball, football, and rugby.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Party Cube - this fun and accessible piece of equipment can assist in teaching cause and effect.

Can’t see the video? Click here. 

Jelly Fish Lamp - another fun and accessible piece of equipment that can make any room instantly awesome, and also has the potential to assist emergent learners.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Artist’s Light Board - an accessible and fun piece of equipment which can assist in creative exploration.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

LED Floor Lamp - an accessible and fun piece of equipment that can also be used to teach cause and effect and provide a sense of control over an individual's environment.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Interactive puzzle - an accessible and fun way to reinforce cause and effect relationships.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Accessible Universal Remote - puts environmental controls in the hands of individuals with disabilities that make using standard remotes difficult, if not impossible.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Interactive Surround Sound Touch Pad - which will help improve cognitive skills with auditory and visual processing.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Many Roles That Help Us Meet Our Purpose

Last year, Imagine! served more than 2,850 individuals and their families, which equals 2,850 unique individual and family stories.

As much as I’d like to, I simply don’t know the stories of everybody that we serve. I was reflecting on this recently, and it started me thinking about the interconnectedness of Imagine! employees. Every Imagine! employee plays a role that helps us meet our purpose, no matter what the employee’s job title or duties.

I don’t want to go so far as to say that Imagine! operates as a Borg-style collective, but we are all reliant upon one another to ensure Imagine! is able to serve some of Boulder and Broomfield counties most vulnerable citizens.


Can't see the video? Click here. 

Some Imagine! employees work in the background, doing the essential work that keeps the organization moving. Imagine! employees accountants, IT specialists, HR specialists, and the like, all of whom play vital roles in ensuring that the people served by Imagine!. They don’t have day to day contact with the people we serve, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a day to day impact. Because of the skill and dedication of these people doing the back office work, the employees on the front lines, the ones providing direct care, have more time and opportunity to do what they do best.

The employees providing direct care are the “face” of Imagine!. They are the ones who know the individual stories, the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of those we serve. Their skill at personal interaction and dedication to the individuals they support “carry” our organization and makes all of our work meaningful.

Because the services provided by Imagine! can only succeed through this “collective approach,” I try my best to use collective descriptors when discussing our work. I don’t like to say “I’m doing this,” instead, I try to say “we’re doing this.” I’m not always 100% successful at this effort, but I am 100% certain it is the correct and appropriate way to discuss anything happening at Imagine!.

So today, I’d like to say “thank you” to all members of Imagine!’s staff. No matter what your job is, no matter what your title or pay level is, you are an integral part of our team. No one employee can succeed without all of us working together toward a unified purpose. Together, we make it happen.

Then again, what do I know?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories – Jan Rasmussen

Today’s “50 Years, 50 Stories” comes from Imagine!’s second longest tenured employee, Jan Rasmussen. Jan is resigning from Imagine! at the end of June, so I thought this would be a good time to share her story. Jan has contributed greatly to this organization and to our community, and I thank her for all she has done. She will be missed.

Never Deprive Someone of Hope
By Jan Rasmussen
Jan Rasmussen in the 1980s
One of my mantras is “Never deprive someone of hope,” and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work in an organization where I never have needed to waver from that view. Families hoping for something better than life in an institution for their children is what got the whole business started to begin with. Since 1979, I have been lucky to travel a large circle through the organization, starting as a Preschool Case Manager, moving to Early Intervention, family services, adult services, and back to Early Intervention and Family Support, watching hope in action. I’ve had the opportunity to follow along with many families working for something good for their children and to participate in the birth of supports for them: Early Intervention, Family Support Services, autism services, family directed services.

One fond memory is the Red Balloon Preschool, Imagine!’s wonderful, short-lived excursion into the daycare business with its innovative business plan of integrating children with special needs and typical children. Parents of children with special needs had the same day care requirements as other parents but, at the time, there was nothing available for them. One of the great things we learned from the Red Balloon was that children are unconcerned about disabilities. They see every child as a playmate and joyfully help a child move puzzle pieces, clap to a song, or even eat their lunch. I am pleased to say we continued our innovation and provided supportive services to local preschools/daycares so that they would begin to welcome children with disabilities into their preschools/daycares. We were so successful that we were able to disband the Red Balloon, successfully integrating children with disabilities into other community settings.

Another striking memory involves a summer when my oldest son (now 21, then 17) worked with Out & About’s summer camp program for kids with developmental disabilities. He could be a challenging young man and, as a parent, I hoped and feared for him on many levels. We were driving home from work together one day, and he turned to me and said; “Now I understand why you get so mad when people use the word “retard” as a casual insult. It’s so unfair and wrong.” I was so struck by his revelation and so pleased and proud that I had to pull the car over for a minute. I firmly believe my son’s experience with individuals with developmental disabilities helped shape who he is, and I could not be happier about how he turned out!

People’s persistence and resilience is astonishing. The thread that stitches together my 34 years and the thousands of families navigating the various incarnations of Imagine! is how privileged I feel to walk along with them and witness their perseverance and determination to do their best for a loved one with a developmental disability. It isn’t that everything is positive. Sad things happen, and sometimes I can’t do anything to help except listen, encourage, support, and make sure families know they are not alone. It helps to remember the wise words of one of my mentors, Lee Coffee, who used to say, “Just because I can’t do anything doesn’t mean I don’t care.” I feel privileged to have grown up with Imagine!, and to have had so many opportunities to intersect and collaborate with such incredible people – individuals with disabilities and their families, Imagine! staff, other organizations, and community members. Happy 50th anniversary Imagine!.

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, May 3, 2013

Good News Friday!

Five years ago, Imagine! broke ground on its very first SmartHome, the Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome in Boulder. This home became the first home in the nation to use technology in a comprehensive way to improve the efficiency and quality of services in the field of developmental disabilities. Not long after, we broke ground on a second SmartHome, the Charles Family SmartHome in Longmont.

Just to bring you up to date, during the five years since the first SmartHome opened, we have:
It has been an interesting five years. We have learned a great deal. And yes, we’ve made some mistakes and some things haven’t worked as well as we’d hoped. But that is what happens when you take the lead on something. There’s no roadmap to follow, so you need to blaze the trail yourself.

I am so proud of what we have done so far with our SmartHomes, but we have only just begun. We plan to continue to innovate, test, and share the beneficial impacts of technology in the lives of individuals with disabilities and their caregivers.

I hope you will join us as we move forward!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Why The Idea That “There Is No Such Thing As A Bad Idea” Is A Bad Idea

I have attended a number of meetings, brainstorming sessions, and retreats where the person leading the meeting will say, “Remember, there is no such thing as a bad idea.”

While I understand the spirit of that phrase, I’m afraid I don’t agree. The truth is, there are bad ideas out there.

Can't see the video? Click here.

When an organization is looking for solutions to challenging problems, a little bit of disagreement, some pushing back, and some challenging of ideas can lead to creative thinking that results in better decision making. That is not just my opinion. Recent research has indicated that debate and criticism actually helps to generate more creative ideas in brainstorming groups. Check out this Harvard Business Review podcast to learn more.

There are two key things that allow critical debate to open the door to creative problem solving among groups. The first is that the debate and critical comments must not be personal. It’s OK to challenge a group member’s ideas, it’s not OK to challenge the individual. The second key element is that the group has established trust among each other that they won’t pay a price for disagreeing, on either a professional or a personal level. There has to be a balance between a healthy mistrust of ideas and a healthy trust of the people presenting the ideas.

I firmly believe that at Imagine! we have achieved that balance. One of the reasons that we have been able to stay at the leading edge of services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities for 50 years is because we have never been afraid to challenge our co-workers and ourselves. We always ask, “Why?” We always push back, and accept and expect that others will push back when we have ideas. We don’t fear that push back because we know it is being done to ensure that all ideas are fully explored and thought out before moving forward.

A room with an “uncomfortable agitator” outside of Imagine! is not always received as well. But maybe a little discomfort will keep the room alive; people might ask, “What in the Sam Hill is he going on about?” A raised eyebrow never does any harm.

No one relishes the role of the person in the room who is left to question the obvious. But if it is left to me, I will. I am willing to take on the role of disruptive innovator. And I am willing to have others do the same with me. That’s when the best ideas come out. Considering all of the changes our system of funding and delivering services is facing right now, there is no better time to ask the tough questions and reject the status quo. That’s an idea I can get behind.

Then again, what do I know?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

50 Years, 50 Stories - Betty Bowar

It is not an exaggeration to say that Imagine! might not exist today if it weren’t for this week’s contributor to “50 Years, 50 Stories,” Betty Bowar. As you will read below, what was to become Imagine! was first formulated by two sets of parents sitting in Betty’s kitchen in 1962. Thanks for the insight into the very beginning of this great organization, Betty.
Imagine! The Beginning
By Betty Bowar

Joe and Betty Bowar at Imagine!'s 35th Anniversary Celebration

What very wonderful memories I have of being involved with Imagine!.

In 1962, what turned out to be the Ruth Wood School started over the kitchen table with Doris and Dwayne Miller in my husband, Joe’s, and my house on 42nd Street in Boulder. In those days, 42nd street was way out in the country and when we got classroom space at the old county hospital on Iris and Broadway, there were only two buildings on the drive down 28th Street from our house. As I recall, 28th Street was gravel. We held classes for five students, including our daughter Christi, from 9:00-11:00 am, Monday through Friday.

Once Ruth Wood became involved, she really spearheaded programs for the kids. She hired Joe to train and supervise a student janitorial crew that cleaned the county buildings. I believe she also put the sheltered workshop in motion, and Christi really looked forward to going there after graduation. Christi always needed purpose in her life, and she really found it at the school.

Once Joe and I retired from the education business, Christi settled into the Adult Day Program which grew into Labor Source where she worked happily for many years. She was already there when John Taylor arrived (as Executive Director) in 1983, and one of my favorite memories of John is his response to our transportation troubles. Both Joe and I were working elsewhere and Christi was using BCBDD (Boulder County Board for Developmental Disabilities) transportation services to get to day program. We had a good deal of trouble with them, and one morning I phoned in, late and irate, and John answered the phone. He asked how he could help, and I told him to meet me at Tanaka Farms, a big farm stand out on Highway 287 and Lookout Roads. John was brand new to Boulder, but somehow he found his way out to that east county farm stand, and when I met him that first time, he was wearing his cowboy boots and big old cowboy hat, and he gave me a big hug and asked me to be patient with him since he was new in town and just learning the ropes. He took Christi in to work, I went to work, and John has been one of my favorite people ever since.

There were so many other friends -- Eva, Caroline, Gary (who still brings me “Pennies from Heaven” from Christi when he finds them on the ground), and our lives were so enriched by knowing so many of the people in Christi’s life.

Christi passed away on June 9, 2003. She was a complete joy.

Christi Bowar (left) at the 1986 College for Community
Living (an early Imagine! adult services program)
graduation ceremony

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!