Kiwanis Club Adds to Their Family

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March 12th, 2013 - 

Livingston County Daily Press and Argus, Page 4

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The Brighton and Howell Kiwanis Clubs are joining together to charter an Aktion Club for Livingston County in conjunction with Special Ministries of Livingston County. Aktion club is another part of Kiwanis International family of organizations that support the children and adults of the world. Aktion Club is a commu­nity- service group composed of adults who live with disabilities, inspiring them to take on lead­ership roles Members do proj­ects for themselves, work with the local Kiwanis clubs on joint projects, and work on projects for the community. This helps adults living with disabilities to discover their talents and put them to use, helping them discover that their disabilities can be abilities, and that they can give back to the community.  The club is in the organizing stage and meets on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. They meet at the LESA building in Howell. The next meeting is March 13. Every one interested in joining them in this new organization for Livingston County is encouraged to come. 

Contact Cathy Herbert 810-599-1285 or Diane Mosey 810-360-5317 with any questions, or you can also find more information on the Aktion Club website http://www.aktionclub.org/

 

 

Willing and able: Livingston County Special Ministries aspires to meet special needs
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September 19th, 2012 - FRONT PAGE!
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Mark Owens can do lots of things.

Photo by GILLIS BENEDICT/DAILY PRESS & ARGUS

At 45, the Brighton resident lives on his own. He has held a steady job at Meijer for more than half his life, and he has a passion for cooking and board games.

For all Owens can do, some activities, like socializing and maintaining friendships, are extraordinarily difficult for him because he is mentally challenged.

But you'll still see Owens in cooking classes, rolling strikes in his bowling league and hoping for holes-in-one at any of several local miniature golf courses, all the while making friends, developing communication skills and thoroughly enjoying himself.

None of this, though, would be possible were it not for Special Ministries of Livingston County, a local nonprofit program for people of all ages with mental and physical disabilities.

Owens participates in weekly interactive sports, activities and social events through Special Ministries, along with around 250 other handicapped individuals in Livingston County. With the Livingston Essential Transportation Service program on board, Special Ministries provides transportation for its clients, too.

"I don't know what we would do without Special Ministries," said Nancy Hall, Owens' legal guardian.

She and her husband, Bob, have looked after Owens since his adopted mother -- Hall's sister -- died. They assist him with things like grocery shopping.

"One of the issues with a lot of people who have disabilities is socialization, and that's important for us, because it isn't easy for Mark to make friends -- he has acquaintances through work, but it's tough for him," Nancy Hall said.

For more than 10 years, Owens has participated almost weekly in Special Ministries events. Sometimes, Hall said, Owens even assumes a leadership role during Special Ministries' game nights, teaching others how to play and even playing along with them when they forget or neglect the rules.

"It was the first time I saw that side of him, and I'm thankful," Hall said. "I can't thank (Special Ministries of Livingston County) enough for all they do. As guardians, it's helped us a lot, too."

The United Way-supported program will host the first of what it hopes will become its signature fundraiser Oct. 24. The event, called A Taste of Michigan, will be hosted at The Opera House, 123. W. Grand River Ave. in Howell, will run from 6:30-9:30 p.m. and celebrate the group's 40 years of service in the community.

The fundraiser includes a catered dinner, wine and beer tasting, a silent auction, a 50-50 drawing and entertainment with Kitty Donohoe.

Tickets cost $45 at the door or $40 in advance at www.special-ministries.org or by phone at (810) 229-6661.

"As an organization, we log hundreds of volunteers and thousands of volunteer hours per year, and our advisory committee decided we should do a signature fundraiser we could have every year," said Diane Mosey, executive director of Special Ministries.

Special Ministries is based out of St. George Lutheran Church in Brighton.

"We very much want to get the community involved," Mosey said. "Our mission is to provide programs and opportunities for the whole person. We'd like to see the whole community get involved."

Special Ministries hosts and organizes numerous events for the disabled, including miniature golf outings, bingo and classes in computers, arts and crafts, cooking and numerous other areas.

There is no age limit, and Sherry Burns, 65, is glad about that.

As a result of mistakes made during her birth, Burns was left with little hearing, cerebral palsy and an IQ in the 70s, according to her proud older sister, Sandy Dubisky.

Burns recently moved to Howell after living in Brighton for 27 years, and though she lives on her own, prepares her own meals and loves spending time with her big white cat named Beaver, she continues to participate heavily in Special Ministries activities.

"She's so happy to be out with other people," Dubisky said about her sister. "Special Ministries activities are her own activities, and she's able to have her own friends on her own time, and that's important to her independence. It's a really important program and they deserve all the positive attention they can get."

For more information on Special Ministries of Livingston County or its fundraiser, visit www.special-ministries.org or call (810) 229-6661.

Contact Daily Press & Argus reporter Frank Konkel at (517) 552-2835 or at fkonkel@gannett.com

 Evening of Beer, Wine, Fun,             will assist nonprofit

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October 21st, 2012 - Front Page of the Lifestyle section!

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A Livingston County nonprofit that serves the needs of residents across the community with physical and mental disabilities is ready to uncork a new fundraiser.

Special Ministries of Livingston County hosts A Taste of Michigan from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Wednesday at The Opera House on Grand River Avenue in downtown Howell. The evening will feature a catered Michigan-themed dinner, live and silent auctions of Michigan-related products and items, a 50/50 raffle and live music from Ann Arbor-based singer-songwriter Kitty Donohoe. The highlight of the night will feature beer-tasting and wine-tasting of products from Michigan breweries and vineyards.

"It's our first signature fundraiser," explained Diane Mosey, executive director of Special Ministries. "It's all Michigan-themed items and Michigan-made products. ... It's also something we're doing to celebrate our 40th anniversary. We've never really had a celebration, and we have a goal as an agency to increase our fundraising capacity. We need help with more staff, more transportation and more programs. ... We've had some smaller fundraisers in the past, but we are looking for something bigger."

Organizers said at least 10 wines and 10 beers from across the state will be available for sampling during the evening, coming from such places as the Spotted Dog Winery in Saline and the Arbor Brewing Co. in Ann Arbor. The auctions will include signed sports memorabilia from Michigan teams, gift baskets, dinner and a round of golf at Oak Pointe Country Club in Genoa Township, a hot-air balloon ride for four people and a bottle of wine signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

A Taste of Michigan is the first big event organized by the agency's new advisory committee, which was created to help Special Ministries meet some of its goals through a bigger fundraising push.

"Our responsibility is to raise funds and increase the variety of activities for the participants," said Sandy Dubisky, advisory committee member. "This has almost been a full-time endeavor to get the fundraising going. They need money. It's monumental, the time and the work Special Ministries does. If we can get some money to pay for the transportation or for more activities, it would all be worth the effort. I can't say enough about what these people do and how hard the people involved work."

Committee member Nancy Hall said the advisory group formed about a year ago, and A Taste of Michigan has been the committee's focus for about the past 10 months.

"We're pretty excited. We knew we were having it in the fall, and Michigan is such a great state in the fall," Hall said. "It's really a toast to all things Michigan. Yes, we have Michigan wines and beer and a Michigan-themed meal, but it's really saluting all the things we do here."

With this being the first advanced fundraising effort for Special Ministries, the committee is hoping to learn from this experience and tweak its fundraising efforts in future years.

"There are so many other organizations that have been doing this for a long time, and we have no experience fundraising," Dubisky said. "We tried hard to find a time when nobody else was having a fundraiser, and we tried to find a theme that was different. Michigan presented a variety of options. It seemed like a natural."

Plus, organizers were well-aware of how the sour economy across the state has made fundraising more difficult for all organizations seeking to get by on the generosity of the communities they serve.

"There's a competitiveness out there. Everybody fundraises," Hall said. "We do it because we believe in the cause, just like everybody else does it because they believe in their causes. You pick the things that are important to you."

"We really want to make this well-known, and we want to make it fun for the people who buy tickets," Dubisky said. "I think we did that."

That's good news because Special Ministries of Livingston County hopes A Taste of Michigan grows into an event that the community looks forward to each year.

"We very definitely want this to be an annual event," Mosey said "Just the theme alone is so much fun. Michigan is great as a theme."

A special mission

A Taste of Michigan participants will only be having a sampling of the fun Special Ministries has provided to the special-needs community in Livingston County for the past four decades.

"We serve anybody with any type of disability. It can be mental or physical," Mosey said. "Our mission is to meet the needs of the whole person.

Much of that is met through sports activities, whether it's bowling, softball, biking or walking.

Special Ministries goes beyond physical activities promoting health and fitness to also enhance the mind as well as social capacities. That, Mosey explained, includes everything from a book club and computer classes to programs designed to help individuals get along with a roommate and getting people to and from church.

"Everything we do is kind of a social recreation because the biggest thing they deal with is making friends and getting out," Mosey said.

The agency serves roughly 250 people each year, organizing about a dozen activities and events each month. That, Mosey said, includes providing transportation to and from events through a partnership with the Livingston Essential Transportation Service.

It's a far cry from the humble beginnings of Special Ministries.

In 1972, a single person reached out to that county's special-needs community, and her initial effort has made a world of difference in countless lives. The wife of the minister at St. George Lutheran Church in Brighton started St. George Special Ministries, which was renamed Special Ministries of Livingston County last year. Mosey said the initial group was focused on residents with Down syndrome. Eventually, the organization partnered with St. Patrick Catholic Church in Brighton.

"I think the minister's wife had a relationship with someone from there," Mosey said. "I think it was growing. St. George was small, and they needed some help because it was growing."

As the county grew, so did the mission of St. George Special Ministries. By 1980, it was a 501(c)3 nonprofit. The next year, it was a member agency of the Livingston County United Way. Mosey joined the organization in 1987. She was named executive director in 1995, taking the agency — which is still housed at St. George Lutheran Church — to new heights in what was to become not just a job, but a rewarding a fulfilling passion.

Mosey said her experience with the agency is the typical one.

"The people just love it. We do a lot of variety. So many people put so much into planning things because it just calls to them," Mosey said. "We have one full-time position, which is me; a handful of part-time staff; and we have a lot of volunteers. We can do a lot with a little."

Yet a little only goes so far, which is why there is a desperate need to grow with the community.

"Diane works her head off," Dubisky said. "The things she does to organize all these activities, I swear, she must work 40 hours a day."

Special services

Yet Special Ministries of Livingston County isn't just about the people in the community the organization serves.

Many of the volunteers with Special Ministries are people who have been directly affected by the organization's work.

"My sister, who is 65 years old, has been a participant for probably more than 25 years," said Dubisky. "We wanted her to be active and for Special Ministries to be her own private life."

Dubisky's sister suffers from dystonia, a neurological disorder that causes uncontrolled muscle movements. Her sister is also hard of hearing and has issues with her speech. A lot of patience is needed to understand her, Dubisky said. Many people, she added, don't take the time to listen to her sister and try to understand what she is saying.

"She can take care of herself, but she doesn't drive and she doesn't have a lot of friends. Special Ministries has given her those friends. It gets her out," Dubisky said. "Otherwise, she would sit in her apartment day after day with her word-search puzzles and watching TV.

"It's given her a life," she continued. "If she didn't have Special Ministries, she would just have her apartment, the cat and family activities."

Because Special Ministries gave her sister that life, Dubisky knew she wanted to give Special Ministries something in return.

"Now that I'm retired, I can help fill that need (as a volunteer)," Dubisky said. "There is a need there. I see it, and we're trying to make people aware of the group and the work they do. It's such a hardworking group, and people need to know about it."

Hall has a similar story with her 45-year-old special-needs nephew. When Hall's sister died, Hall became the guardian of her nephew.

"We had him in Special Ministries during the time his mother was in the nursing home, and it was wonderful for him," Hall said. "If it weren't for Special Ministries, he would have nothing but family. We would be his constant entertainment."

Special Ministries has given her nephew a wealth of world experiences such as camping, bowling, dining out, going to the movies, biking and walking.

"He enjoys it because he knows he's doing something outside of his apartment," Hall said.

Hall said she was impressed with not only how active Special Ministries kept its members but also by its thoroughness. If a scheduled event or activity was canceled, not only would Hall's nephew receive a call about it, so would Hall.

"Everything with these folks involves more attention, more telephone calls, more follow-up than with a typical group," Hall said.

In addition to the experiences in her personal life, Hall was aware of the work of Special Ministries in her professional life, too, through her former job as the director of the Brighton Senior Center. Special Ministries used to come to the center on a regular basis for lunch or bingo.

"I knew them in that way as well. I knew what they did, and I knew they could never pay for enough help," Hall said of her decision to volunteer for the advisory committee. "Fundraising is really important, and I knew they didn't have the time to fundraise because they didn't have the staff for it."

For Judy Britt, another member of the advisory committee, it was also a family connection that brought her to Special Ministries.

"I have a cousin with Down syndrome," she said. "He lives in Illinois, and he benefited greatly from a similar group. After my kids went off to college several years ago, I decided to volunteer."

A special event

Because Special Ministries is entering new territory with A Taste of Michigan, organizers are keeping expectations on the conservative side. Dubisky said the group has no specific fundraising goal from the evening.

"We're grateful for every cent we can gather," she said. "Since this is our first fundraiser, we didn't know how many people would buy tickets, and we didn't know how many people would donate things. So, we were kind of flying blind."

"We know this is our trial run," Hall said.

However, if ticket sales are any indication, the hard work will likely pay off in a big way.

Organizers said A Taste of Michigan was planned for a maximum of about 190 guests, and last week, tickets were nearly gone.

"I think it will be a great inaugural event, and we're hoping to make it an annual event," Britt said. "We've been very, very thankful for the outpouring of support from the community."

That outpouring will help support the social needs of an often overlooked portion of the community. It's the portion that the volunteers of Special Ministries do all of it for — and they know how much their long hours and hard work are appreciated by the people they serve.

"You can see the joy in their faces when they see each other and see you," Britt said. "It's just from the heart, their gratefulness."

Daily Press & Argus copy editor Christopher Nagy can be reached at (517) 552-2826 or at cnagy@gannett.com.