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G_commissioner_ehowe By DDS Commissioner Elin Howe

The landscape for individuals with intellectual disabilities is expanding every day. In communities throughout the Commonwealth, emblems of their enthusiasm, participation, humanitarian efforts, volunteerism, and unlimited potential deserve acknowledgement. Through active participation within their communities — whether through voting, advocating, working, or volunteering – individuals with disabilities participate in various activities across the spectrum of civic engagement and community service. At the same time, local communities and the Commonwealth as a whole are greatly enriched by their efforts and examples.

In March, we commemorated Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Throughout the month, the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) was pleased to recognize several outstanding DDS consumers and their contributions:

-          Douglas Russell Jr. of Worcester raised $5,000 for the American Cancer Society.

-          Nick Morse of Cambridge is an artist who has shown numerous art galleries in the Cambridge area. His work is widely recognized for its vibrant colors and forms. Nick has also sold one of his designs to the TJX Companies for a home decor line. For more information about Nick’s work, visit: www.nickmorseart.com.

-          Pauline Bosma of Upton created and leads the Rainbow Coalition, a group of advocates with an intellectual disability who educate others statewide and across the country on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered issues.

-          Jonathan Edwards of Beverly raised money for the Walk for Hunger and has volunteered to register fellow walkers on the Boston Common.

-          Rob Cutler of Arlington works with troubled teens in South Boston providing support as they confront their issues surrounding substance abuse.

-          Mark Nasjleti of Chicopee spreads the message that those with a disability can take charge of their lives through diet and exercise, can strive for self-sufficiency and can even launch their own business, as he has done.  For more information, please visit: www.govoiceforchoice.com.

-          Patricia Quatieri of Arlington advocates to elected officials locally and statewide on the needs of those with intellectual disabilities.

These are community members who have found joy and added meaning to their lives through contributing time and energy towards issues and causes they care about. These are just a few inspiring examples; there are scores of others – many of whom you know! We invite you to share them with us in the Comments section below.

On April 11, DDS is sponsoring “Celebrating our Contributions to Communities” at the State House. This is the agency’s opportunity to acknowledge the individuals, families and organizations that have made an indelible mark with their contributions to communities throughout the state. Through this recognition we can also increase everyone’s understanding and appreciation of all engaged citizens who foster a community focus. The individuals who show their willingness and commitment not only enrich their communities, they play a part in eliminating labels and assumptions.

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