The smile hasn’t left Maurice Hollingsworth’s face since he was called to the stage on April 24 to receive the 2015 Erin Ritchey Memorial Award in the Achievement category. His brother Ray, his Program Administrator and nominator Dan Pratt and friends from Choices In Community Living were at his side as he was honored as part of the annual Developmental Disabilities Hall of Fame ceremonies. The ceremonies were hosted by WDTN News Anchor Mark Allen.
When Maurice came to Choices in 1987 he was strong-willed, independent and with some speech difficulties that made it hard for others to understand him. He was frustrated and always angry. He began in foster care and soon moved to a group home setting, where his independent streak led to aggressive behaviors. He wanted his independence, so arrangements were made for him to live in his own apartment in 1991.
That wasn’t the only change for Maurice. He began to share more about what he wanted and came to understand that people were listening to him. They would be there beside him as he dealt with his anger and the struggles to change his behavior.
Today Maurice is a busy and talented man. He works in a MONCO janitorial enclave two days a week. On Friday he works in the Choices office as a janitor. He has maintained employment for several years, where previously he would become angry and walk away or be asked to leave.
He attends Choices’ Fun-Fit program two days a week. Electricity fills the room at Choices’ annual Talent Show when he takes the stage to dance to a Michael Jackson or James Brown song. Hiding behind that anger all those years was a great sense of humor and a beaming, smiling face. He’s a master at joking with people.
In 2012 as his physical needs were changing due to age, he moved from his apartment to live happily in a home with housemates. That Maurice of 1987 is a memory now, replaced by a man made stronger and happier after winning the most difficult struggle of all, that struggle to leave the anger behind, to become what so many say about him today. That Maurice, they say, that Maurice, he’s just a great guy!
This marked the 27th year for the Hall of Fame and the 26th year for the ERMA Awards ceremonies. The Erin Ritchey Awards are named in memory of Erin Ritchey, the daughter of Kenneth and Nancy Ritchey. Ken served as Superintendent of the Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities and then as Director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities. He also held the same position for the state of New Jersey. He is currently a Senior Partner with Public Policy Impacts of Washington D.C. and New York. He and Nancy were at the ceremonies this year, as they are every year, to recognize and celebrate the achievements of Maurice and other recipients.