Remembering Jeff

He stood taller and stronger in his wheelchair than most of us will ever stand on our own two feet. We have not yet found the words that can adequately describe who Jeff Vernooy was and what he meant and still means to people with disabilities, including people with developmental disabilities. Kind, persistent, advocate, intelligent, passionate – not one of these words even comes close to capturing the spirit that was Jeff.

That he touched the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of students with disabilities at Wright State University during his time as Director of the Office of Disability Services would have been testimony enough to the significance of his life – that he played such a critical role in making Wright State a place where everyone could find a home, could be valued and welcomed, is a legacy that will endure for generations of students to come.

He was a hero to so many at Wright State. He was a hero and is a hero to us. You could be sitting with Jeff in his office and mention something that you would like or that you might need his help with and he would move from you and go to this telephone. A few minutes later you would have what you needed and more. Few people, if any, ever said no when Jeff asked for something in that soft-spoken and passionate voice.

They said yes to him when we came to Wright State to find an accessible and supportive location for the annual Miami Valley Very Special Arts Festival. Jeff said yes and so it happened. It happened for years and will most likely happen for many years to come – that annual regional event that brings hundreds of children and adults with developmental disabilities to the Wright State campus for a day of interactive arts experiences that they might otherwise never have. Jeff’s hand and his heart were there behind every performance, every song sang, every dance danced, for all the smiles and all the applause.

They said yes to him when he said to them that there was this film documentary and it was about people who lived in state institutions and that Wright State should be involved – and involved they were – with and because of  his leadership. Through his connections and with his charm, there would come money to help with some of the final funding needs to complete the production of Lest We Forget: Silent Voices. With his capacity to bring people together from across so many academic disciplines, there would be the premiere of the film to a standing room audience at Wright State on an evening in fall, complete with the red carpet that he had arranged to have outside for the guests as they arrived. It was something he believed in and when he believed in something, good things would happen.

He would lend his calm demeanor to service on the board of the Disability Foundation, always a voice of reason coupled with compassion, championing what he thought would be best for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

As busy as he was with his duties at Wright State, Jeff was never too busy for a friend (and you became his friend almost immediately upon meeting him.) There would be almost immediate response to phone calls and emails, all wrapped up in this wonderful sense of acceptance and encouragement he so freely shared.

His life was too short to give us enough time to let him know how much we admired and respected him, how we thought of him as more than a partner – how he was our friend – and when you lose a friend like Jeff you grieve because there will never be another like him. The world changed because of him – it became so much better! Just ask all of the students who were guided through their education at Wright State. Just ask those at arts festivals, who were moved to tears during a film premiere, or who were lifted up by encouraging words and that great smile of his. We changed because of him!


Jurors named for 2014 Exhibit

Three area professional artists with national recognition and credentials have been named as jurors for the 2014 Art & Soul Exhibit that will open at the Town & Country Fine Arts Center on April 1, with the opening reception on April 4. Karen Benedetti, Bill Woody and Jessica Roller will select 40 pieces for the Exhibit from entries from a 22-county region. The Exhibit celebrates the artistic talent and achievements of artists with developmental disabilities.

Karen is a member of the Town & Country Fine Arts Center. She works in mixed media and watermedia. Bill is a nationally recognized photographer who has had one man shows across the country, including New York City. Jessica paints in flora and fauna in a primitive manner. She has participated in exhibits across the U.S. and in Canada.

For more information about Art & Soul, visit our Events page.


Summer of scanning at RHA

It’s been Spring and Summer cleaning of a different kind at Resident Home Association these past few months. Due to the quietly determined and persistent work of Sean Kling, boxes (too numerous to count) of paperwork have been eliminated, with all that paperwork now scanned and available on computers. Sean, who is the son of Vicki Servais, one of RHA’s Program Managers, will have stories to tell his classmates when school resumes of what he did on his summer vacation. Because of his hard work, space has been cleared in homes and all those boxes sitting on floors and in corners are now gone, while preserving the critical documentation on all that paperwork that is so important in providing quality of life services for those we serve.


Platinum Sponsors announced

The Greene County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Hamilton County Board of Developmental Disabilities and the Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities Services will serve as Platinum sponsors for our 2014 Art & Soul Exhibit. This marks the 7th year of support for artists with developmental disabilities by the Butler, Greene, Hamilton and Montgomery County Boards. We also welcome the Warren County Board of Developmental Disabilities as one of our Gold Sponsors.  Our Exhibit is funded 100% by sponsorships from these supportive agencies, as well as donations, including $100 donations from those who support our Exhibit as Art Patrons.

Judy and Paul Leasure, Bob and Gloria Archer, Tim and Barb Riazzi and Riverside of Miami County will be Art Patrons for our 2014 Exhibit, with their donations going to help fund the cash awards presented to our top ten artists during the opening reception/awards ceremonies. Our 2014 goal is ten Art Patrons.

Our 7th annual Exhibit will run from April 1 – April 15 at the Town & Country Fine Arts Center in Kettering. The opening reception, which includes honoring the artists and naming the top ten award recipients, will be Friday, April 4. The reception and Exhibit is open to the public at no charge. Art from the Exhibit will be available for sale.

Our Exhibit celebrates the creative expression and talent of artists from a 22-county region in and around the Dayton area.


Resident Home schedules luncheon

Resident Home Association will host our Annual Luncheon on Thursday, September 26 at Sinclair Community College. The Luncheon gives us the opportunity to celebrate another active and successful year of service with the people we serve, their families, staff and Board members.

For more information, please contact Pam Skelly at 937-278-0791.


Congratulations Choices Golfers

Pete James Butch (2)


It was competitors from Choices who came out on top at the Area II Special Olympics Golf Tournament on August 13. Pete Smith (l) came in 1st in the individual category, while Semi-Independent Living Administrator Butch Van Meter (back) and James Howard came in 1st for a team of two. In addition to his administrative duties, Butch serves as Special Olympics coordinator for Choices. Pete and James compete often in Special Olympics Golf and are always in the top finishers.



PAR announces conference theme

Synergy is the theme for PAR’s Fall Conference, sponsored by PAR and ODSA. The Conference is scheduled for October 2-4 at the Embassy Suites in Dublin. This year’s keynote speaker will be Rob Snow. Rob is the father of a child with a developmental disability. He began using his comedy background to create a show called “We Need A Sign” which talks about the humorous commonalities parents share in raising a child with special needs and the obstacles they overcome in their journeys. He also speaks about the ‘R’ word “How to Play It When They Say It.” He uses humor, awareness and compassion in the ongoing struggles with erasing the ‘R’ word.

Other presenters will be Anderia Trail Riley from the Autism Society of Ohio and Randy Shively. Randy will focus on working with people who have a dual diagnosis of mental illness and challenging behaviors. Presentations and activities are open to professionals, parents/guardians, providers, county board staff and individuals with developmental disabilities.

Registration information is available at



Clark County Summer of Fun continues

Ron and Jan Ewers at Special O

Ron and Jan Ewers at Special Olympics

It’s been a summer around town, around the state and out of state for Gary Baldwin, Doug Ball and Ron and Jan Ewers (Choices/Clark County.) Gary left Ohio for a much anticipated trip to Nashville, where he enjoyed a summer afternoon on the river aboard the General Jackson. For Doug it was a short trip up I-70 for his visit to the Columbus Zoo. For husband and wife Ron and Jan Ewers it was a celebration closer to home, as they enjoyed time together at a Special Olympics awards event. Ron and Jan have been married for 24 years.

Gary on the General Jackson

Gary on the General Jackson

Doug at the Zoo

Doug at the Zoo


Foundation announces grant deadline

The Brighter Tomorrow Foundation announces that the deadline for submitting applications for its 2014 grant cycle is November 1, 2013. Guidelines, areas of focus and the application are available on the Foundation’s website at

The Foundation was formed in 1990 to provide funding for initiatives supporting people with intellectual/developmental disabilities. It is a supporting organization of The Dayton Foundation.

Both Choices In Community Living and Resident Home Association are indebted to the Foundation for their generous support for our agencies and Partners For Community Living over the years in such areas as funding to assist with the purchase of accessible vans, furniture, carpeting, appliances and more. The Foundation was also a funding partner for our nationally distributed Lest We Forget: Silent Voices film documentary.


Richard and his birthday milestone

Richard's birthday

Staff and friends from Choices joined together on August 7th to help Richard Boze celebrate his 85th birthday with a big cake and party. Helping him celebrate are Program Administrator Amy Jewsikow, Richard’s Program Administrator Diann Reid and his friend Tom Barnes.

Richard’s engaging smile and endearing personality are testimonies to his inner strength and perseverance. He has faced and overcome many challenges in his life, including years of institutionalization at the Gallipolis Institution. While there were difficult times at Gallipolis, he still has some good memories of that time as well, including the friends he made over the years, chopping wood and other activities.

He enjoys sharing those memories with staff and friends, providing insight not only into what it was like in the institutions but into the depth of that need within all of us to find home and family no matter the circumstances. He reminds us daily that we must never forget that while we think of institutions only in negative terms, that for Richard and his friends, they were the only homes they knew for so many years.

He has also survived cancer. Celebrating his 85th birthday, he is the oldest person served by Choices. He has been a member of our extended family since 1987. Prior to that he lived for 13 years in what was then called the Salvation Army Temporary Shelter after coming back home from the institution.

He has been serving as our Wish List Ambassador this year, his way of expressing his gratitude for his new hearing aides. Soft-spoken, polite and gracious, he is happy to share his home with his housemate Dan. He also likes going to the Senior Resource Connection three days a week and participating in their activities and just visiting with other seniors and sharing stories from his past, stories few of them could ever imagine could have been a part of this gentle man’s life.

He has come through those dark days of institutionalization and illness to be admired, respected and loved for the man he is today at the young age of 85.