Friday, November 29, 2013

Good News Friday!

Colorado Gives Day is Tuesday, December 10, and you are encouraged to participate! Donations made online at 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 ( 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 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 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 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 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.