The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation is pleased to announce its Community Champions for the first quarter of FY15. These employees were nominated by their colleagues and are being recognized for their work with local non-profit organizations, where they donate their time and energy to improve quality of life for their neighbors. The Champions’ chosen nonprofits will receive a $500 grant from The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation
Behavior Specialist, NeuroRestorative Rhode Island
Bonnie Winsor is a proud member of The Little Rhodie Bully Breed Club (LRBBC,) an organization dedicated to aiding shelter pit bulls in Rhode Island. The club works to educate the public on this breed of dog by providing educational workshops, trainings and demonstrations on how pit bulls can be trained into good companions and pet therapy dogs.
Bonnie became involved with LRBBC in 2013 when she began training dogs through the club’s Dynamic Dog Training program. Her own dog, Heidi, went through the program and received her ACK Canine Good Citizenship certification, enabling her to serve as a fully certified pet therapy dog. Upon gaining this certification, Bonnie began a partnership between the LRBBC and NeuroRestorative Rhode Island by bringing Heidi in to provide pet therapy for individuals with brain injury at 3 NeuroRestorative locations. Using games and exercises specifically designed to strengthen memory, motor skills and affection, Heidi provides a very unique kind of therapy to the individuals served.
“My biggest motivation for continuing this partnership is seeing the faces of our individuals when they interact with Heidi,” says Bonnie. “It’s amazing to see a participant recalling a memory by spending time with a pet. It’s incredible to see how sharply memories can come back to individuals with brain injury when they are related to animals. When Heidi and I walk into a room of participants, they might not know my name, but they definitely know Heidi’s!”
In addition to her therapy work with the dogs, Bonnie fundraises for the club and promotes awareness of pit bulls in need of homes. This past May, Bonnie and Susan Parker, the President of The Little Rhodie Bully Breed Club, presented the benefits of pet therapy to hundreds of participants at the Brain Injury Association of Rhode Island’s Annual Conference in Warwick, RI. Bonnie also works with Susan to coordinate events such as the organization’s first annual “Pup Crawl,” an event that allows the public to visit various shelters and meet adoptable pets, with a party afterward to celebrate. The event was a huge success, helping place 10 dogs in adoptive homes.
“Bonnie lives her life in a way that reflects her passion to serve both animals and individuals with brain injury,” said Rosemarie Coffey, Program Director at NeuroRestorative Rhode Island. “She puts an incredible amount of time, energy and effort into learning about ways she can help, and is fully committed to the success of both The Little Rhodie Bully Breed Club and NeuroRestorative.”
Visit their website to learn more about The Little Rhodie Bully Breed Club and Dynamic Dog training.
Administrative Assistant, REM Iowa Community Services
Polly DeLange dedicates her free time volunteering at a local non-profit organization called Winnie’s Wishes, a resale store in downtown Davenport, IA. Winnie’s collects gently used clothing, jewelry, formal dresses, furniture, appliances and many other items to sell at the shop, and donates the proceeds to Winnie’s Place, a shelter for women and children who are homeless and/or victims of domestic abuse. When these women are ready to move on from the shelter, they are invited to the shop to select furniture, dishware, lamps, and other items to furnish their new living spaces. Some women even become volunteers at the shop.
Polly became involved with Winnie’s Wishes 3 years ago, right around the time the shop opened. She was looking for a way to help people in her free time and Winnie’s was the perfect fit. Now a seasoned volunteer, Polly serves as a Team Lead at Winnie’s, managing and recruiting volunteers in addition to running the shop two Saturdays a month. Polly has encouraged nearly all other colleagues at REM Iowa Community Services to support the shop in various ways: staffing the store, donating items, attending special events, etc.
“I just love working at Winnie’s,” said Polly. “You can feel the love the women there have for each other, and it’s inspiring to work alongside other volunteers who share the motivation of supporting a common cause. It is a truly heartwarming place.”
“Polly has great passion for helping people in need and has been a community champion for many women and children in our area,” said Brenda Isenberger, Area Director of REM Iowa Community Services. “Her caring attitude and friendly smile are contagious, and she can inspire hope in individuals who do not have any. Without volunteers like Polly, Winnie’s Wishes would simply be just a wish.”
To learn more about Winnie’s Wishes and Winnie’s Place, which are ministries of Churches United of the Quad City area, please click here.
Direct Support Professional, REM Ohio
Joesef Kahr plays an integral role in the success of REM Ohio’s “Seeds of Change” program, which provides job training and volunteer opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities served by REM Ohio’s Cincinnati location. Joe works with local organizations to identify volunteer opportunities in the community that allow individuals served by REM to enhance their motor skills, hand-eye coordination, self-confidence and the chance to develop job experience working in real-life environments. Joe has dedicated 6 years toward enhancing the program through the creative and strategic development of community partnerships, and the Seeds of Change program has truly flourished under his direction.
A little over a year ago, Joe helped implement a Seeds of Change program in collaboration with Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati, OH. Every Wednesday, Joe takes a team of individuals from REM Ohio over to Vineyard Church to participate in a variety of volunteer tasks. Joe’s team helps wherever they’re needed most that day—spreading wood chips, cutting branches, cleaning and performing janitorial work, and helping prepare meals are just a few examples of the duties his team takes on.
“They enjoy the work mentally, physically and emotionally,” says Joe. “Seeds of Change allows individuals to develop employment skills while simultaneously giving back to their community, benefiting both parties. It’s been a wonderful learning experience to see how we can all make a difference in the lives of others.”
Another location Joe brings his men to work at is Matthew 25 Ministries, a church that offers additional volunteer projects for Joe’s team to participate in. Activities at Matthew 25 include recycling bottles and cans, assembling care packages to send to third world countries, painting apartments and separating clothes and donation items.
“I like to keep the guys interested,” says Joe. “I strive to present healthy, safe, and interesting opportunities for our individuals to participate in. Some days, that’s a challenge. But it’s worth it to see their faces light up when they get into a project. I also try to incorporate fun outings when we go out to volunteer, such as stopping at the park to play dominoes, which our guys love.”
“Josef Kahr leads by example and is someone that we can all look to as a role model,” said Jarod Hopkins, Area Director at REM Ohio. “He provides consistent support and has worked diligently to give the folks at Seeds of Change an opportunity to be involved in, and give back to, the community.”
Visit their website to learn more about the Vineyard Cincinnati Community Church.
About The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation
The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation is committed to transforming the delivery of human services through the generation of new ideas and best practices. We seek to advance an agenda based on quality, accountability and respect for the individual. The focus of our giving is on organizations that take a fresh look—through research, innovative thinking, direct care and programming—at how people with disabilities and youth and families facing emotional, behavioral and other challenges are cared for in our society. The Foundation also works to expand opportunity for the people we serve through employment and educational support.