Kari Montgomery has a personality people flock to, but it’s her patience and commitment to the people she supports in her programs that allows them to trust her and make positive changes.
“Everyone deserves a full life,” said Kari, who first began advocating for others at the age of 18. “I’m going to do everything to help them get that life.”
Prior to college, Kari worked at a sheltered workshop for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She continued serving people while in college through special education classrooms, the Special Olympics and part-time work at an institution for children.
When she came to REM in 2012, she saw many familiar faces from those places. She also saw how REM positively changed their lives and she fell in love with The MENTOR Network’s mission. Many of the individuals Kari supports are nonverbal, so she is constantly working with staff to look for the little things—the signs that say they want this or that, or like something or not. More importantly, she finds ways to help those individuals communicate for themselves.
“I am drawn to the challenging cases because you get so much reward,” explained Kari.
Teams of guardians and social workers rave about Kari’s performance.
Not long ago Kari did what few thought possible. She provided a home—REM Wisconsin’s first specialty home for people with autism—to a man who had suffered abuse an ocean away in Hawaii and whose mother was desperate for help. From Kari’s first look at his mother’s call for help online to the day the man moved into his current home in Wisconsin nearly two years later, Kari worked tirelessly with teams across the state. His mother has called Kari an “angel” and her work a “miracle.”
“I am inspired by Kari’s compassion, knowledge, and fearlessness every day,” said Deja Rasmussen, area director at REM Wisconsin and Kari’s nominator. “She pushes us all to be better—not just better employees, but better human beings.”