Many friends and members of his church were on hand at the Mandalay Banquet Center in April to honor Bill Eakman upon his induction into the Developmental Disabilities Hall of Fame in the area of Community Service. Bill lives at Resident Home Association’s Garber Road home. He works three days a week at Goodwill and two days for MONCO Enterprises at their Jergens Center.
It is what he does away from work and who he is at his deepest core that earned him his prestigious honor. Without giving it a second thought, he is a man who consistently makes the world around him a better place. Every year he participates in fundraising walks for the Down Syndrome Association and Breast Cancer Awareness. He has volunteered in elementary schools in the community in their school reading programs, reading to children and answering questions about his life and his disability. He has volunteered for the Ronald McDonald House, where his duties have included cleaning the facility, preparing meals and helping with yard work. He even helped set a record for the most ‘hands’ sold at a McDonald’s for World Children’s Day. He helped collect 70 teddy bears for Care House. He has appeared in television interviews to advocate for himself and others on behalf of services and programs.
There is this community-minded Bill that we know about, but there is another side of Bill as well, a side that we do not usually equate with a man with Down Syndrome. Bill is a man of deep and abiding faith, with a call to ministry that has been with him since he was a young man. He has ministered at the Jergens Center as part of their Agape group. He is an active member of Cornerstone Baptist Temple and rarely misses a Sunday.
He is part of their choir and while he doesn’t do a lot of singing, his very presence inspires both those who sing and those who listen. As services begin each Sunday, Bill comes forward to stand beside Rev. Jerry Silers. They spend a few minutes talking together, things as simple as what Bill did during the week. These conversations have become something the congregation looks forward to, always touched by Bill’s words and where those words come from. According to Rev. Silers, the right words always seem to come to him. His sense of faith and spirituality is open, honest and deep.
His story focuses on that one sacred area where some of us have not yet given people with developmental disabilities the full measure of our understanding, that sacred place where we see them fully as people of faith, as capable of having a deep personal connection to God, as people God may not only seek to minister to, but people worthy to be called to minister to others.
Bill will tell you that he has known this since he was a little boy – that he has a calling and that his dream is to follow that calling to be a minister, perhaps not realizing that he already is in the way he serves his community and the way he ministers to the spirit of all who come into contact with him. If we should ever struggle to find just the one right word to describe Bill Eakman, what if we just use this one word – faith!
Our community came together on April 25 to be a part of honoring Celeste Boehm for more than 20 years of dedicated and creative service on behalf of people with developmental disabilities served by Choices In Community Living. Celeste was presented the2014 Spirit Award during the Developmental Disabilities Hall of Fame/Erin Ritchey Memorial Awards ceremonies at the Mandalay Banquet Center. It was both a fitting and emotional honor that came just as Celeste retired from her role as a Program Director at Choices.
Her very first job at Choices was cleaning houses. In those days, she did do windows. Based on her initial experiences while cleaning the homes, she found herself more and more drawn to the people who lived in them. She soon became a Direct Support Professional in one home and then moved into a leadership position as a program administrator. As she retires as program director, she oversees and supervises 45 staff who provide services to 30 people in ten homes.
Some of her homes have people with the most challenging behaviors. One home serves men who have behaviors that have placed them in contact with law enforcement. It is not difficult to imagine what their lives would have been like if it had not been for Celeste’s patient and determined intervention.
Another home serves ladies who initially had many difficulties adjusting to living together. She developed a house meeting concept where the women meet regularly and have their individual voices heard. They now live together as family.
Celeste developed the social-sexual guidelines used throughout the agency. She has been the one person to call for behavioral intervention. She has chaired the agency-wide Documentation Committee.
She is the one of the key people who made it possible for people who might have otherwise been cast aside to become members of households, to become independent, each in his/her own way. She has been the source of quiet strength who has turned what initially seemed like impossibilities into life-affirming and life-changing possibilities.
For years to come there will be people living in safe and nurturing homes, who live together as families, who are part of our community and not apart from it, and there will be those of us who remember that they are doing so because once upon a time Celeste Boehm washed windows.
Know this Celeste. We will remember you!
Helene Gordon was one of seven women honored by Beth Abraham Sisterhood during their Fifth Annual Women of Valor luncheon. She was honored for her advocacy on behalf of people with developmental disabilities. Helene worked for the Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities for more than 30 years. Not long after her formal retirement from the Board she was invited to join Kris Bergman and some of the residents of Resident Home Association’s Garber Road home for lunch. That’s all it took for her to continue her advocacy and service. She is now a staff member at our Garber Road Home.
During her time with the Board, Helene was responsible for creating one of the first programs in our community that provided opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to volunteer and give back to the community. She was instrumental in volunteers with developmental disabilities volunteering at Miami Valley Hospital, Dayton Children’s Hospital Gift Shop, Covenant House and the Ronald McDonald House. She created Baskets & More, a mini business within MONCO that provided employment opportunities for MONCO employees. She was an integral and valued member of the Board’s Special Projects team that developed and coordinated a wide array of community events designed to promote awareness and acceptance of people with developmental disabilities.
In addition to her advocacy on behalf of people with developmental disabilities and senior citizens, Helene was also recognized for service on the Dayton Jewish Federation Board and for chairing Jewish Family Services. She is a past chair for the Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Program.) She is an active member of Beth Jacob Synagogue and has served on the board of directors, as well as on its Sisterhood Board. For eight years she was a volunteer advisor to B’nai B’rith girls. She is currently chair of the Federation’s Cultural Arts program.
She is the recipient of a regional Erin Ritchey Memorial Award and the Dayton Jewish Federation’s Past President Award.
In accepting her most recent recognition, she shared with the audience that the most important thing about her years of advocacy and service is not measured in awards, but in the personal connections that have filled the hours, days and years of her life – how her life has been and continues to be blessed – one smile and one hug at a time. Those of us who know her as a friend and shining light know that we too have been blessed – blessed by her smile and her hugs – made better because of her example of openness, full and deep acceptance and radiant joy in having found just where she was meant to be and what she was meant to be doing. She is in every way and in every moment, a true woman of valor!
Resident Home Association and Partners For Community Living extend our deepest condolences to the family of Mary LaFalce. Mary was 79 years young when she passed away on April 30. Mary epitomized everything you think of when you think of a lady. She was soft-spoken, carried herself with dignity, had a great flair for fashion and accessories. She loved to go to the opera and to travel with her sister to visit family in Italy, Arizona and Michigan.
She embraced family. She moved to Dayton in 1988 to be near her sister Vincenzia Krymow and her family. She loved her niece and nephew. In 1989 she became a part of the extended family of Resident Home, living for many years in our apartment program before moving to our Elru home. She enjoyed decorating her own room and helped decorate the entire home for the holidays. She had a great decorating sense as well as her fashion sense. One of her original pieces of art was selected for exhibit in the 22 county Art & Soul juried art exhibit and she beamed with pride as she was recognized for her artistic achievement. One of her favorite things to do was participate in our RHA Senior Group every Wednesday.
She gave fully to every endeavor. She retired from her job at Courtyard by Marriott in 2001. She gave fully to her faith as well. She was a long-time member of the Faith and Light Group at St. Charles Parish. She was also a volunteer with the University of Dayton’s Marian Library. She had been a member of Queen of Apostles Parish, St. Leonard’s Faith Community and, more recently, Precious Blood Parish.
It was hard for those of us who knew her to think of her as a senior citizen or as “old.” She was perennially young. Nothing speaks more eloquently about that then the fact that just this past Valentine’s Day Mary went out on her very first date in her life, a date with Steve Shock. She and Steve participated in Senior Group activities every week and had grown fond of each other.
She was giddy about going out “like they do in the movies” she announced. The Valentine’s couple went to Scene 75 for some mini golf and then to Olive Garden for a romantic dinner, complete with a delicious chocolate dessert they shared together as a couple. She had shared with staff that she was hoping for a good-night kiss. That kiss happened – a very gentlemanly kiss befitting the occasion with such a beautiful lady.
That she had such a moment, that she showed us all that love is not merely for the young, that classic beauty and elegance never go out of style, that she lived a full and rich life touched by the love of her sister and her family and by all of us who consider her our family brings some comfort at her passing. She was softness and gentility and strength and love all wrapped up in one small lady. What a gift she was to us all!