“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome” Booker T. Washington
This is the very first post on the new Pike Co. Senate Bill 40 “50@50” blog. Our agency is celebrating its 50 year anniversary of supporting persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in 2020. Throughout each week in 2020, we will post a different “success story” featuring persons served with IDD, and how they have succeeded in life. We will also post video interviews throughout 2020 with both persons served, as well as former staff, board members, and others. We are excited to celebrate our 50th year of making a difference in the lives of Pike County persons with IDD! We hope you follow our blog throughout 2020, so stay tuned for our weekly posts!
Before the world changed a few months ago and our lives were upended seemingly overnight, Pike County said goodbye to a very special lady… Andrea “Andy” Amelung.
A long-time resident of Bowling Green, Andy and her family relocated to Alabama back in March, and took with them the hearts of many. Like many other residents in our area with developmental disabilities, Andy was very well known to the larger Bowling Green community. Andy had extended family at the Pike County Agency for Developmental Disabilities, Champ Clark Service Coordination, as well as her former employer, MeMe’s Pantry.
While she was here, Andy pretty much did it all, from working in a regular job in the community to being Grand Marshal at the Champ Clark Heritage Days festival a few years ago. Andy’s success in life makes a good case for changing the term “Down Syndrome” to “Up Syndrome”; there’s nothing “down” about Andy!
Although she no longer resides in Pike County, Andy’s story of success provides the kind of inspiration we could all use during these crazy times of social-distancing/hand-washing/self-quarantining/face mask-wearing/temp-taking/remote-working/line-standing/TP-hoarding/surface-disinfecting/????-!!!!
Below are some pictures that tell Andy’s “Bowling Green Story”, as well as some comments from staff that she worked with while here. Andy, if you are out there and see this blog post, we miss you! Take care, and come visit sometime.
“I enjoyed Andy so much! She always greeted me when she saw me and often gave me a hug. It didn’t matter if I saw her at the Day Program or at MeMe’s where she worked. She has a big heart and I don’t think she’s ever met a stranger. She is a huge Cardinal’s fan and she loves to travel with her family. They are good advocates for Andy and have made sure she is a well-rounded individual with a good support network. I feel Andy and I are friends for life and we will keep in touch on social media. Andy is successful because she knows how to make friends, she’s a Christian, she has a good support system, and she’s a good employee for MeMe’s.”-
Carletta Sutton, Champ Clark Service Coordination
“I have had the distinct pleasure of being Andy’s friend since 2009 when I became the director of the PCADD Day Program Andy attended two days a week.
I quickly understood why everyone was so incredibly fond of her. That infectious smile and laugh could draw people in, FAST! We quickly bonded over our mutual love of Cardinals baseball, 90’s boy bands and beach vacations! No matter what type of day I was having, or Andy was having, she would always greet me with a big hug, huge smile and some mutual teasing.
After I left the day program, I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to continue to have contact with Andy as her Service Coordinator. We easily transitioned into our new “work relationship”, but the friendship never changed. As many know, Andy is a local celebrity here in Bowling Green and I always considered myself special to be the recipient of one of her hugs out in the community (even if it meant she had to step away from others who also wanted her attention).
It is not an understatement to say that a piece of my heart now resides in Alabama! But, I do plan to take Andy and her family up on their offer to visit and spend some time with her enjoying the beach and a meal at Whataburger!”- Amanda Pruitt, Champ Clark Service Coordination
“Andy has a caring and loving heart and always asks about others; every day when she would see me, she would ask me “How is Jacquiline doing?” My daughter and Andy went to high school together, and played ball together growing up. Andy has a great personality and is always welcoming to customers at MeMe’s Pantry. Andy will be missed by her friends and her community.”- Jody Turner, Pike County Agency for Developmental Disabilities
One of the main parts of writing the “50@50” success stories is gathering as much information as possible on the person being featured from those who know the person best: friends, family members, and support staff. Often many different things about the featured individual come to light, but in the case of Mary Jane McCurdy, one thing was consistently mentioned by everyone… she’s quite the social animal!
Not just any social animal. In the animal kingdom of social animals, Mary Jane McCurdy is the Big Foot of social animals; the T-Rex of social animals… bottom line, she’s just a very social person and likes being around people! If you have ever come within a 50-foot radius of Mary Jane, you have probably spoken to her, and are now on a first name basis with her.
“She’s very social and doesn’t know a stranger”, says Kelly, her support staff at Ruth Jensen Village (RJV). “As soon as she sees someone she’s never met before, she goes up and asks what their name is”, comments Selenia, her support staff at the Pike County Agency for Developmental Disabilities (PCADD). Although she is now enjoying her retirement years, one thing is certain… Mary Jane would be hired on the spot if she were to ever apply for any store greeter position.
Family is very important to Mary Jane. Her parents are no longer living, but she frequently visits their gravesite at Riverview Cemetery in Louisiana MO, sometimes setting out flowers. Mary Jane also maintains close contact with her sister in Vandalia, her uncle in Bowling Green, and her niece in Louisiana MO.
Mary Jane’s hobbies include doing word search puzzles, crafts, artwork, and working on jig saw puzzles. No puzzle is too complicated for her; she often completes 500 and 1,000 piece puzzles!
Mary Jane lives in a very nice home in Bowling Green with two other roommates; three if you count the furry, four-legged K-9 roommate known as “Honey”. Mary Jane’s residential supports are provided by RJV. Staff at RJV support Mary Jane in doing the things she wants to do, both at home and in the community, such as shopping and attending church at Faith Baptist Church in Louisiana. Mary Jane likes to maintain a clean house, and is great with the vacuum cleaner. Mary Jane’s love of family is evident by the many pictures of her family members that are found throughout her room. She also has a great collection of dolls and velveteen rabbits that she has on display.
During the day, Mary Jane attends the PCADD Community Living Skills day program, and is supported by PCADD staff to do a variety of things in the community, such as helping out with the exercise activities at Country View Nursing Home and walking the track at the YMCA in Louisiana MO. Area dollar stores and Walmart are among Mary Jane’s favorite places to shop, and she occasionally gets to go on farther day trips to Hannibal, Troy, and Wentzville to see the sites in these communities. “I enjoy working with her; she very friendly, caring, and thinks a lot of her peers”, mentions Selenia, her support staff with PCADD.
Mary Jane McCurdy is one of a select number of people that we all know in life who make our day just a bit more pleasing by their friendly and easy-going demeanor. This fact alone qualifies Mary Jane as a success story. She’s a social animal, yes, but she doesn’t bite; you might just get a hug, though.
ini·tia·tive | \ i-ˈni-shə-tiv also -shē-ə-tiv \
Definition of initiative: energy or aptitude displayed in initiation of action
Taken from the Merriam Webster dictionary, the above definition of “initiative” very much describes a certain individual by the name of Kristina Spears.
Kristina is someone with boatloads of initiative. She is a young woman who knows what she wants in life and pursues it with relentless energy. It is in part because of Kristina’s initiative that she initially applied for, participated in, and eventually graduated from, the prestigious Partners in Policymaking program with the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council. Partners is a yearlong program where participants meet each month over a period of two days. The Partners program provides leadership training for adults with disabilities and parents of children with developmental disabilities, and involves a considerable time commitment on the part of participants; not everyone graduates from the Partners program. Kristina did not miss a single session of the Partners program, and graduated in 2015.
Of her personal experience in the Partners program, Kristina says, “I met new people and learned to speak up for myself.” Although the Partners program has a rigorous curriculum, it was not all work; Kristina adds that she “got to swim in the swimming pool at the hotel” each time she went!
Kristina is also President of the local chapter of People First, a self-advocacy organization for persons with disabilities. Kristina has been President of People First for over five years, but nobody in the chapter is clamoring to implement term limits; she just happens to do a very good job as President, and the chapter members recognize this. “She is a very good self-advocate, and can be very helpful and an advocate for others” says chapter Advisor Melony Grote. Melony mentions that Kristina’s participation in both Partners and People First has allowed her to blossom as a public speaker, something she hasn’t always had confidence in. “She’s never really afraid to get up and talk in front of people” Melony says.
Kristina’s strong initiative has shown itself in others ways, from helping plan and organize People First fundraisers to deciding where she wants to live and work. Those on Kristina’s ISP planning team do not need to pry to get her to voice her vision for a good life, and what she does and doesn’t want in her life. “She wants to be a part of the community, and she has good ideas,” mentions Melony.
Kristina lives “out in the sticks” in a nice country home in rural Pike County, and this is her preference. Although her home is off the beaten path, the staff in her home go to great lengths to ensure that Kristina is a full and contributing member of the greater community, and does the things she wants to do socially and recreationally. Kristina likes going to movies with friends, swimming, dining out, and shopping. While at home, Kristina likes to cook, read, and play with her dogs. Kristina graduated from Bowling Green High School in 2006.
Kristina participates virtually year-round in athletic activities, including Special Olympics track and field, bowling, and basketball, and Challenger baseball. Kristina is employed at the Pike Shop sheltered workshop, does a variety of different things there, and mentions that she very much likes working there. Kristina’s vision for her future is to have greater control and independence over as many areas of her life as possible.
Kristina Spears is a success story because her self-advocacy and advocacy for others makes her a role model, not just for other persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but everyone! She does not hesitate to voice her thoughts and feelings on those things that are important to her, and has the courage to practice self-determination in her life.
Because of this and everything else we know about Kristina, we are hereby proposing a minor amendment to the Merriam Webster definition of “initiative”:
ini·tia·tive | \ i-ˈni-shə-tiv also -shē-ə-tiv \
Definition of initiative: energy or aptitude displayed in initiation of action
John Ard is someone who needs no introduction to most in the Bowling Green area. Being employed at the Crossroads General Store for over a decade now has allowed John to meet many people over the years. John’s lengthy tenure of employment at Crossroads is due primarily to two things: 1. He is very good at his job as a custodian, and 2. He is extremely dedicated to his job. So dedicated is John to his job that his sister Sonya mentions that if he should miss a day of work for some reason, even if he is sick, it bothers him tremendously. Sonya has encouraged John to occasionally take some vacation time, but this doesn’t appear to be on the horizon anytime soon. As the saying goes, if you like what you do, you never have to work a day in your life, and this is certainly the case with John.
Holding down a regular job in the community like anyone else may lead you to think that John is just a regular guy like anyone else, but there, you would be wrong; John is also an extremely talented artist. Not talented just for someone who happens to have Down syndrome, mind you, but talented PERIOD! John has won many awards for his artwork over the years, and regularly participates in art shows sponsored by the Hannibal Arts Council. John has won the People’s Choice award at the Hannibal Arts Council art show on many occasions, and according to sister Sonya, John’s entry this year may well be one of his best works yet… a painting of Mark Twain inspired from when he dined out at the Mark Twain Dinette in Hannibal after last year’s art show. While at the restaurant, John saw a portrait of the author hanging on the wall, and decided then and there that he was going to do a painting based on the portrait.
Sonya mentions that John owes much of his success as a painter to his art teacher in Louisiana Missouri, Cindy Logan, who is herself an accomplished artist. Those familiar with the quality of John’s paintings are all of the opinion that his star could potentially shine even brighter as a well-known artist, but John is very selective about what he paints and what art shows he participates in. At the end of the day, John is not interested in accolades and awards, he just wants to paint what he wants to paint, no more no less.
John has many talents in other areas, as well. In his younger days, John had an amazing career as a Special Olympics athlete, participating mostly in basketball and bowling. John no longer participates in Special Olympics, but that’s only because he has already won practically every Special Olympics medal known to mankind. John displays his medals on three separate coat hooks on the coat tree in his room, so that people can see them all. An added safety feature of him doing this is that it evenly distributes the weight of the medals around the coat tree; if he were to hang all of his medals on just one coat hook, the resulting weight imbalance might cause the entire coat tree to come tumbling to the floor.
John lives in a nice home with supports provided by Ruth Jensen Village (RJV). The posters that adorn the walls of his bedroom are a testament to his passions in life… horses, law enforcement K-9s, and Chuck Norris, a.k.a. Walker Texas Ranger. John also has an outdoor cat called Tom Tom that he likes to spoil, and even though he lives in his own home now, his family is very important to him.
Outside of his artwork, John’s hobbies include fishing, and, well, working. John’s employment supports are provided by the Pike County Agency for Developmental Disabilities (PCADD).
John is a success in life because those things he does, he does extremely well. His pursuits aren’t wide-ranging, but once he decides to focus on something, he becomes extremely good at it, whether it be his job or his artwork. John’s talents shatter the conventional notions of what persons with developmental disabilities can and cannot do; his artwork is clearly exceptional on any level.
It’s easy to cheer for a winner. Just ask any fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide… like Scott Baker.
Scott grew up near Mobile Alabama in the town of Fairhope. In a state that forces you to decide between cheering for the Auburn Tigers or the Alabama Crimson Tide, Scott is definitely a Tide fan. Scott’s family moved to Missouri in 2010, and he lived for a while in Clarksville MO before moving to Bowling Green MO a couple of years ago.
Scott has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, but this has never defined who he is as a person. With a combination of supports provided by Ruth Jensen Village (RJV) and the Pike Co. Agency for Developmental Disabilities (PCADD), Scott lives life to the fullest. Some of the things he likes to do include seeing movies at the Hannibal and Wentzville movie theaters, dining out at Saints Avenue Cafe in Bowling Green, and going to thrift stores. Last year, Scott even had the opportunity to visit his family back in Fairhope Alabama with the help of RJV staff.
Although his mom is still a big part of his life and lives nearby, Scott now lives in his own home in Bowling Green MO with two other roommates. Scott is not currently employed but is looking into volunteering his time at the YMCA is Louisiana MO, and enjoys attending camp each summer at Wonderland Camp at the Lake of the Ozarks.
Scott uses technology to enhance his independence, including an impressive control panel that he uses to operate his brand new big screen television system that would be the crown jewel of any man cave.
Scott still bleeds crimson red in support of his beloved Crimson Tide, but his blood may now have a tinge of blue… since moving to Missouri, Scott has become a big fan of St. Louis Blues hockey. Scott was able to attend the second Blues game of the current season, and of course, they won. Scott is also now a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals.
A huge passion of Scott’s is the NASA space program. He would like to one day visit the Kennedy Space Center museum in Cape Canaveral Florida, although he may start closer to home by visiting the Omnimax Theater at the St. Louis Science Center, where an Apollo 11 documentary is scheduled to start in February.
One of Scott’s goals for the immediate future is to start taking classes for his GED, and afterward, attend college and study astronomy.
Yes, it’s easy to cheer for a winner… which probably explains why Scott Baker has so many people cheering for him.
Owning a 1967 Camaro would be a dream come true for many teenagers back in the early 1970s. For Deryl Edmond as a 16 year old, this was in fact no dream, but a reality. The dream quickly turned into a nightmare, though, on a cold rainy night in September of 1973. As he was driving his Camaro on a lonely stretch of highway north of Curryville MO, Deryl topped a hill, and lost control of the car; the Camaro overturned several times, ejecting Deryl into a ditch. It was not until later the next day that a passing motorist found Deryl, mistakenly thinking he was dead. As Deryl tells it, “my face was as blue as my Camaro.” A hearse was originally summoned to the accident scene, but when they realized he was still alive, Deryl says they quickly transported him to Pike County Memorial Hospital in Louisiana MO, and later to Blessing Hospital in Quincy IL. Deryl mentions that he was in a coma for 12 weeks, and when he eventually woke up, he “had to learn everything all over again” due to the head injury he had sustained. “I wasn’t supposed to walk or talk again”, Deryl says. His doctors at the time said he would be “a vegetable” for the rest of his life. “I guess I heard them say that when I was unconscious, and I wanted to prove them wrong”, Deryl says.
Did he ever!
Not more than a year or so after his accident, Deryl was walking across the stage in 1975 at Bowling Green High School to a standing ovation as he received his diploma. Today, Deryl is enjoying retirement in his own home that he shares with two other roommates in Bowling Green MO. Throughout the years, Deryl has never allowed his head injury and the physical and mental challenges this has presented to prevent him from being successfully employed in the community and living his own life. He has worked as a custodian at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Monroe City MO as well as at St. Clement Catholic Church in St. Clement MO. Darrell recently retired, but does keep busy doing things he likes to do.
Deryl is an avid outdoorsman, and although he is no longer an active turkey hunter as he once was, he mentions that fishing is something he may still be up to doing on occasion, and a trip or two to Bass Pro may also be in his future!
Deryl likes to attend the Bluegrass Festivals in Curryville and looks forward to visits with his family who live in the Curryville area. Deryl likes to play cards and do word search puzzles while at home. He attends the Cowboy Church in Bowling Green and is also an active member of People First, a self-advocacy organization for persons with developmental disabilities.
Deryl receives residential supports in his home from Ruth Jensen Village (RJV) and Community Integration supports from the Pike County Agency for Developmental Disabilities (PCADD). These supports enable Deryl to be an active and contributing member of the greater Pike County Missouri area, and allow him to do the things he wants in retirement.
Deryl Edmond is a success story because he has proved all of the naysayers wrong. Not only did he survive a terrible car crash when he was young, his dedication and work ethic to rehabilitate his body and mind after sustaining his head injury eventually led to him to being successfully employed, living in his own home, and living life on his own terms.
If there is any truth to the adage that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, Deryl Edmond might just be able to go toe to toe with Superman at this point!
Adrienne Becker is a very talented young lady… just ask anyone who has seen her artwork! Adrienne’s art includes everything from painting and coloring to diamond art and string art. On any given day while at the PCADD Community Living Skills (CLS) program, Adrienne can be found either diligently working on her artwork or getting ideas from Pinterest using an I-Pad.
“Once she learns something, she just does it by herself” comments Deann Myers, her support staff with PCADD. PCADD staff initially introduced Adrienne to the world of arts and crafts, and have nurtured her interest in this area ever since. Deann also mentions that Adrienne has a real interest in exploring new forms of art, and this keeps staff on their toes.
Artwork is her passion, but Adrienne has also seen success in other areas of her life throughout the years. Although content in her current situation in the PCADD CLS program, Adrienne has been successfully employed in the community in the past using supports provided by PCADD, and does not rule out pursuing employment again in the future, if it is a good fit for her. Adrienne has also volunteered her time with organizations such as Head Start and the Salvation Army.
Aside from honing her art skills while at CLS, Adrienne is also supported in accessing the community, doing things such as shopping and dining out. Adrienne lives in the community in a home with supports provided by Ruth Jensen Village, who also support Adrienne in accessing the greater Bowling Green area while she is at home.
As far as future goals are concerned, Adrienne would like to attend formal art classes or an art school to further develop her skills as an artist. Although her artwork is just a hobby right now, Adrienne states, “I might want to try and sell it someday”.
Mr. John Hinten probably has the single most important job within the PCSB 40/PCADD administrative offices… keeping the soda machine stocked.
If it weren’t for John, staff would not get their regular caffeine boost, and productivity would grind to a halt. Payroll wouldn’t get done, bills wouldn’t get paid, reports wouldn’t be completed… ok, maybe a slight exaggeration, but you get the picture.
Keeping the soda machine well stocked is something that John is good at and takes pride in, but it is just one of the many things he does that makes him a success in life. During the summer months, John volunteers at Cancer Memorial Park in Bowling Green, helping the keep the fountain full of water. With the support he receives from PCADD’s Community Inclusion program, John is an active and contributing member of the greater Bowling Green and Pike County community. Some of the things that John likes to do with his support staff include going to the YMCA in Louisiana, hanging out at the library, shopping, and eating out at restaurants.
According to his support staff Marcia L., one of John’s greatest achievements over the years has been learning to communicate using picture cards. Although he does not communicate verbally, John has absolutely no trouble whatsoever in getting his point across and letting others know what he wants, and the picture cards have helped him tremendously with this.
John ALWAYS wears a smile, and his fun-loving and mischievous demeanor can brighten anyone’s day. John also has a great collection of t-shirts that he likes to show off; his favorite designs include American flags, St. Louis Cardinals shirts, and deer shirts. John has many passions and hobbies that include airplanes, tractors, school buses, watches, and bikes.
John Hinten is a success in life for many reasons… he has overcome significant barriers in communicating with others that he once faced, he volunteers his time doing things he wants, he uplifts the spirits of others, and he is an active and contributing member of the greater community. The fact that he is indirectly responsible for the high productivity level of our staff is just icing on the cake!
According to a recent Career Builder survey, the seven most common qualities of good employees are:
Strong work ethic;
Good communicator; and
The people at Career Builder may as well have been describing a gentleman by the name of Mike Hager. Mike has been employed as a custodian with Pike County Connections (PCC) for the past 12 years. Mike’s positive attitude shines through in many ways; if you should happen to say something that is generally accepted as the unvarnished truth, Mike will heartily exclaim, “that’s right!”.
Mike’s primary responsibilities with PCC include cleaning the employment services and community inclusion offices with the Pike County Agency for Developmental Disabilities (PCADD). This includes the staff offices, conference room, and restroom. Because all PCC employees are paid at or above the minimum wage, Mike brings home a decent paycheck every couple of weeks. At the end of his shift each day, Mike walks over to the PCADD administrative offices, where his favorite administrative staff are treated to hugs, and then he gets the PCADD mail before heading home.
Mike resides in a nice home with supports provided by Ruth Jensen Village (RJV). With assistance from his RJV support staff, Mike is actively engaged in the greater Bowling Green community, and enjoys going out to eat and attending church at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Mike is also on the Special Olympics bowling team, and once bowled a 150!
Mike’s dream is to one day travel to Hawaii. This blog writer would like to be the first to volunteer to personally accompany Mike on this trip should it happen.
When asked what he is most proud of, Mike says this is being employed at PCC for the past 12 years.
When it’s all said and done, Mike has a lot going for him… he is employed in a job that he likes making a good wage; he lives in a very nice home; he is actively engaged in the greater community; he has a network of valued friends; and he has hopes and dreams like anyone else. In short, you could say that Mike is a success story by anyone’s standards…