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Disability Network of the Lakeshore honors '25 at 25'

• Dec 11, 2017 at 12:00 AM

HOLLAND — To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Disability Network/Lakeshore (DNL) will recognize 20 individuals and five corporate organizations as part of its 25 at 25 initiative, which honors those who have made contributions to increasing the quality of life for those living and working with disabilities within the lakeshore region.

The first 10 people/organizations recognized were listed in Saturday’s Tribune. The next 10 are:

Keith Van Zoeren: Van Zoeren worked at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services for 30 years and served on the Ottawa County Community Mental Health Board for eight. He is also a former board chairman for Friends of Kardelen, a ministry in Turkey caring for orphaned children with disabilities; and Benjamin’s Hope; and is active with three granddaughters with physical disabilities.

Donna Bunce: Bunce is a past recipient of the Ability Award and is a parent of a child with a disability who is passionate about including young adults with disabilities in community life. She founded and directs Compassionate Heart Ministry, which provides both social and service opportunities for teens and young adults. Through Compassionate Heart’s year-round drop-in center and through two weeks of Summer Serve mission trips, families are finding a safe harbor and places of support and engagement, and young adults with disabilities are forming lasting relationships with typical peers from the community.

Elizabeth Schultz: Schultz is a long-time advocate for people with disabilities who lives with cerebral palsy and speaks personally and courageously about the “silent epidemic of abuse.” Through Ottawa County Community Mental Health, she teaches a class twice a month to those who have been hired to be caregivers to people with disabilities. She has traveled to Washington, D.C., and Lansing to advocate for better laws and programs for people with disabilities, and chairs the consumer board of Macatawa Area Transit.

Martie Bultman: Bultman has led a movement at her church to build a sensory room, provide tools for worship and educate staff about children with disabilities. She has a servant’s heart and is passionate about caring for those who are vulnerable. Her background includes 24 years as a special-education teacher and 15 as the adult coordinator of Holland’s Special-Education Ministry. She is a curriculum author for people with developmental disabilities and a disability leader in her denomination.

Elhart Automotive Group: When employee Rob Schwarz’s life was changed by his illness, Elhart took immediate action to make physical modifications to their dealership facilities to accommodate their friend. Schwarz was able to provide Elhart customers the excellent service that they grew to expect. Customers noticed and shared their appreciation for the sensitivity shown to Schwarz and his disability from his co-workers. It is that sensitivity and drive to take action that continues to propel the Elhart family and business to embrace those with disabilities, including debilitating diseases such as mental illness. Wayne Elhart was the visionary behind the creation of opportunities for those faced with physical challenges, incarceration and substance abuse within the Elhart company. It remains the family and company’s mission to bring mental illness awareness and suicide prevention education to West Michigan and beyond to fulfill Wayne’s wishes.

Phil Meyer: Meyer has worked tirelessly as director of Community and Neighborhood Services for the City of Holland. In that role, he has championed the concept of livable communities and complete streets. Holland is a city that has a better understanding and embrace of complete streets and livable communities and what they mean to all citizens regardless of one’s ability. With current and future street projects now done with these concepts in mind, barriers are no longer part of Holland’s future.

Helen Brownson: Brownson has a heart for those marginalized, institutionalized and often forgotten. Advocating for, engaging and empowering her two children with disabilities, she has also reached out to others in roles with Holland Public Schools, Heritage Homes, Community Mental Health and Christ Memorial Church. Her reciprocal approach works with those with disabilities rather than deciding for them.

Deb Stanley: While teaching at Grand Haven High School, Stanley started a transitions class and brought presenters from various agencies, careers and backgrounds to speak with the students in the classroom. As a result, before the students graduated, one third of her classroom had employment. Stanley resigned from her position at the school to start the non-profit Transition Bridges, with a goal of connecting adults with disabilities within the community to resources and employment. Stanley hopes Transition Bridges can act as a community liaison that supports and creates profiles so that employers see the person they are hiring with a set of unique gifts and skills, instead of someone with special needs. She is also a past Ability Award recipient.

Sandy Baker: As both visionary and executive director of Gracious Grounds, a non-profit organization that is developing housing opportunities for people with disabilities, Baker has committed the past three years of her life toward its creation. A teacher, educator, administrator and entrepreneur whose dogged determination has turned her dream into reality, she understands the value of inclusion and is driven to give all people the best there is to offer. Baker is also a past recipient of the Ability Award.

Haworth: DNL recognized Haworth and the way in which the company demonstrates their values through commitment to community and inclusion by partnering with local agencies and exploring ideas to address barriers and provide job opportunities to individuals living with a disability. Haworth has a legacy of supporting community programs developed to assist the underserved in local communities, including programs that focus on individuals with disabilities, refugee resettlement and employment placement, veterans and returning citizens. Specifically focused on outreach for individuals with disabilities, Haworth has partnered with Lakeshore Clubhouse through Community Mental Health, Michigan Career & Technical Institute through Michigan Rehabilitation Services, and Juniper LLC. All are local organizations that provide training, support and employment placement assistance. Lakeshore Clubhouse has placed individuals at Haworth in both a manufacturing and office environment. MCTI trained individuals to operate machinery in the Haworth wood manufacturing plant and Juniper has also placed individuals in Haworth’s manufacturing environment.

The final round of 25 at 25 honorees will be announced in the coming weeks.

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