Impact Story

How We Are Helping People in Need During COVID-19

Despite the many disruptions caused by COVID-19, including our entire staff working from home, we are fortunate to continue making an impact in our community by helping people live independently.

Izzie is a 37-year-old woman who spent time in ICU with double pneumonia, acute bronchitis, and unspecified respiratory failure, all exacerbated by a bad asthma attack in late March.

After Izzie’s transfer to an area nursing and rehab center, she was connected to Jeanette, our Nursing Facility Transition Services Specialist. Izzie wanted to return to her own home as soon as possible, but did not have family in the area who could help her do so safely.

Thanks to the internet and online shopping skills, in less than two weeks, Jeanette had arranged to have the carpets deep-cleaned to eliminate allergens, furniture delivered, and several needed items purchased online, including an air purifier and humidifier to aid in Izzie’s healthy breathing.

Like many others leaving the hospital or a rehab center, returning to the community with a weakened immune system in the middle of a pandemic was a very real fear for Izzie. We are so happy we were able to help.

Izzie reports she is feeling much better and, not surprisingly, is thrilled to be home! Her gratitude shown through in her numerous messages to Jeanette. “Thank you so much… I was just speaking to my counselor about getting home and your help made it so much easier!”

Learn more about our Nursing Facility Transition program here.

Disability Impact Story

Monthly Highlight | Mission Moment

Why am I so passionate about supporting the Invest in Ability Dinner?

Because throughout my life, I frequently experienced being dismissed, excluded, ignored, unable to access buildings or recreational areas, and not welcomed because of my disability.  

Even more heartbreaking, I saw, and continue to witness, so many who encounter daily obstacles to live independent lives.  

I was born in June of 1949. Six months later, in December, the polio virus struck and my right leg affected. I grew up in a hospital amongst other babies and young children suffering from polio, blindness, congenital diseases, deafness and/or disfiguring burns. I remember when no parent was around, I looked into their saddened and frightened eyes, and empathized with them. 

Living with a serious limp and increasing limited mobility due to Post-Polio Syndrome has its’ challenges. I live in a home without steps and wide hallways and doors. I use a scooter to get to an outing that has mobility barriers.  

My friends and others with a physical challenge voice their complaints too:  

  • Most homes have steps; 
  • Inaccessible bathrooms; 
  • Broken sidewalks; 
  • No curb cuts; 
  • No automatic door openers into buildings, stores, or restaurants;
  • Narrow pathways in retail establishments; 
  • No tactile paving or audible street crossing signals for those experiencing seeing issues; 
  • Few audible descriptions or touch experiences of art or sculptures; 
  • No accessibility directly into the lake and river waters.  

Sadly, the list is ongoing. There are too many obstacles that prevent us from being independent and enjoying the experiences. I often state it is not the number of persons with disabilities we see in our community, but the increasing numbers who remain home in isolation that should concern us.  

I mention the obstacles to bring awareness. I mention the obstacles because Disability Advocates of Kent County works toward all of them in order to improve accessibility in West Michigan. I am committed to the organization’s mission, “to work alongside people with disabilities as they seek to lead self-directed lives and to advocate for accessible and welcoming communities.”

Independence, Employment, Affordable Housing, Transportation, Accessibility, Acceptance, Daily Dealing with a Disability and Health Issues, Advocating for Systems Change — that is why I support Disability Advocates of Kent County and especially the annual Invest in Ability Dinner!  

Please join us on October 23, 2019 to make our community truly accessible and inclusive for all.


Jenny Wood Shangraw, Community Volunteer, Advocate and Friend

Disability Impact Story

Impact Story | Nursing Facility Transition – Allyson

Allyson spent three months in a Nursing Facility following heart surgery. Unfortunately, the stairs in her previous apartment made it unsafe for her to return to the home she knew. While in the Nursing Facility, Allyson applied for several senior apartments and was placed on waiting lists. Once she was approved for an apartment, Disability Advocates’ Nursing Facility Transitions (NFT) team worked to coordinate many aspects of her transition.

We assisted Allyson in the following ways:

  • Moving her personal possessions to her new apartment
  • Financial assistance covering portions of her security deposit and first month’s rent
  • Purchasing furniture, including a recliner and stools
  • Purchasing groceries and various household items and supplies
  • Application assistance for a Bridge Card
  • We also collaborated with Disability Advocates’ Occupational Therapy department to provide Allyson a shower chair                                                                                      

Allyson moved to her new apartment at the beginning of March. Since then, our Transition Coordinator Amanda has continued to follow along with Allyson on a weekly basis to ensure she is receiving the support she needs to stay independent in the community.

Allyson shared that she was thankful for the NFT teams help with the “physical and emotional heavy lifting” involved with the transition and the move to her new apartment.  Allyson was happy to have choices and thankful for the role of the NFT team in bringing her goals of living independently in the community into reality. 

If you would like more information about the NFT program, please give us a call or click here. 

Disability Impact Story

Impact Story | Ramp Build – Juanita

By working with Home Repair Services and the Home Builders Association of Greater Grand Rapids, Disability Advocates was able to complete another ramp build for a low income senior who was not able to enter and exit her home safely or independently. This ramp build was part of the HBA’s 25th annual Community Repair Days.

Juanita received her new ramp and says, I feel safer now. My family won’t have to carry me down the steps in my wheelchair anymore when I go to my doctor appointments.

This is one more testament to the way our Adaptive Home Solutions program has helped those that have limited ability to enter and exit their homes. It’s a great feeling to contribute our time and energy while working alongside other local organizations to help a person with limited ability gain safe and independent access to their own home and community, says Renee Thompson, a Certified Aging in Place Specialist at Disability Advocates.

Over the last several years, our Adaptive Home Solutions program has helped many individuals remain safe in their homes by providing home assessments for wheelchair ramps, bathroom modifications, and adaptive equipment.

While it would be ideal to work with builders on new construction, the majority of the individuals and families that we work with have a strong desire to stay in their own home. The bulk of our work is modifying existing homes and providing tools that make everyday life easier and safer, thus we call our program Adaptive Home Solutions!

Disability Impact Story

Impact Story | Robbie

Robbie was happy to learn about the numerous community support programs and services available that help him live independently, and says, I’m excited and having fun!

Robbie’s mom, Deb, shared that Robbie’s Autism has created some challenges for him in managing his everyday life skills. She recalls her frustrations in trying to find help in the past, For years, I have been searching for programs to help Robbie, and kept running into roadblocks or meeting people who couldn’t help him with anything, but one specific area of his life. This was all very exhausting and frustrating for both Robbie and me.”

Thanks to Family Support Services, Robbie now has Medicaid, Social Security, food benefits and has connected with Network180 for their Community Living support services. He enjoys the one-on-one time with his worker learning how to cook, ride the bus, manage his finances, and keeping up on his computer and writing skills. He also won three awards in his Toastmasters group for providing the best topic speech!

Robbie is a devoted advocate, and readily shares with others what it is like to grow up with Autism. Through sharing his experience, combined with some of his recent adventures in learning, Robbie has grown a strong sense of confidence which allows him to thrive in his community. He is enjoying full-time employment at D&W as a Produce Associate, which fits him perfectly. He loves the opportunity to interact with a variety of people. His co-workers have nicknamed him “Three-in-One” because he does the work of three people!

Disability Impact Story

Impact Story | Kelloggsville Work Group

The students of the Kelloggsville Employability Work Group on their certificate day.

Disability Impact Story

Impact Story | Theresa White

Theresa White attended the Employment Readiness Workshops where she mastered the tools necessary and gained the confidence needed to find and secure employment. During the time Theresa was involved with the workgroup, she was fully engaged, learned a ton, and has since landed a job working for Enterprise.

Each of our Employment Readiness Workshops consists of a group setting where individuals work together to increase their employability. The meetings focus on resume preparation, job hunting, interview skills, job site accommodations all of which help develop the confidence to succeed.

After completing the coursework, each student practices skills they learned by participating in mock interviews. The group also works together to submit online job applications which can be overwhelming to do on your own due to the level of detail required.

“When participants work together and learn from one another, it’s that moment when you see a higher level of confidence that makes every class rewarding. Theresa is a great example of the hundreds of people that we have helped” says Denise Borges, Employment Specialist at Disability Advocates of Kent County.

Note: Disability Advocates connected with Theresa through Michigan Rehabilitation Services.

Disability Impact Story

Impact Story | Quinn Shideler

We are thrilled to share the story of one of our consumers, Quinn!

Quinn has, “wowed,” us with his determination and perseverance and we are thankful that our Family Support Services Program had the opportunity to play a part in his story.

Our staff enjoyed working with Quinn to develop many skills related to Independent Living. Our work included guidance to Quinn and his family in obtaining the needed supports while seeking meaningful employment, tips for working with other organizations, as well as strengthening and improving socialization skills. Quinn and his family were able to connect with the right services and get those services in place. Recreation was incorporated as well — Quinn attended Indian Trails Camp (IKUS) for the first time and absolutely loved it!

We are excited for Quinn as he landed his first job at his local branch of the Kent District Library. We know he is going to be a great success! Quinn’s mom, Allison, summed it up beautifully, “Without people like you all, I probably would have given up by now. What you do matters. A lot.”