Shout-Outs!

Those that are making a difference!

The power of female relationships is truly at the heart of include(her). With a focus on the value of friendship, Emily Garness (founder), shared this as the catalyst for establishing the organization. From her own experiences as a sister of four girls to the relationships she has developed as an adult, Emily is a “Huge believer in the power of female relationships and the strength in learning from other women.” This belief became even more evident for Emily as she reflected on her relationship with one of her best friends, Abby.

Emily and Abby

Emily met Abby at Special Olympics Minnesota (SOMN), where they both work. They were paired as unified partners in the SOMN SOfit Health Promotion Program. A partnership, that quickly blossomed into an amazing friendship. As Emily describes, “We started hanging out socially, I got to know her friends, and she got to know my friends. Our social circles grew, both of our lives changes for the better, it was a win/win.” The authenticity of this relationship cannot be missed. Their relationship is real and genuine, where each contributes to and gains from its value.  

Recognizing this value, Emily began to wonder why this isn’t more typical. Why should women of any ability lose out on friendships, experiences, having other females to lean on and learn from? Hence, the inception of include(her), an organization that provides opportunities for women of all abilities to meet other women, develop relationships, and just have a good time. Beginning with their first meet-up for pizza in St. Paul, MN, May of 2018, include(her) has been continuing to organize monthly events for women to connect. 

We had the opportunity to attend the most recent event, a joint venture with Thrive Mighty, at Surly Brewing in Minneapolis, MN. The night was filled with good food, good beer, and most importantly, good people. We left with that familiar sense of happiness that comes from spending an exciting night out meeting new people. The socialization was mutual and genuine, typical of any event we might attend.

Make no mistake, include(her) events are NEITHER a charity, NOR a volunteer opportunity. Instead they are genuine, they are real, they are simply a Girls’ Night Out, which is exactly why include(her) deserves a Shout-Out!

Kindly,
Christina and John


For more information:

https://includeher.org/

includehermn@gmail.com

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While on vacation in Las Vegas, Nevada we had the amazing opportunity to tour the Ralph and Betty Engelstad campus, of Opportunity Village. To say we were impressed would be an understatement. Amazed would be a more accurate description.

Opportunity Village was founded in 1954 by families that were looking for resources for their children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Since, it has evolved into an internationally recognized not-for-profit organization that supports the continued development of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Funded primarily through fund raising events and many generous donors, there is no cost to individuals or their families.

Comprised of four campuses throughout Southern Nevada, Opportunity Village provides a positive, supportive, person-centered environment where individuals of all abilities can pursue their passions, gain life and job skills, and feel a part of a community. This connection to community is in our opinion one of the reasons Opportunity Village is so successful. Simply because, their community is not limited to Opportunity Village. Instead, there is a concerted focus on inclusive employment outside of the campuses within businesses throughout the Southern Nevada area. 

The sheer number of opportunities available for inclusive employment astounded us. Many hotels along the Las Vegas Strip as well as Nellis Air Force Base are just two examples of businesses and organizations that work in collaboration with Opportunity Village to ensure inclusive employment. Programs such as Job Discovery Program, Pathway to Work, Entry, and Fine & Performing Arts provide opportunity for individuals of all abilities to discover and pursue their interests in employment. 

“Many of the individuals at Opportunity Village collect a paycheck at the end of the week and are just as happy for the weekend as anyone else.”

Ashton (marketing Tour Guide)

In addition, Opportunity Village has business services such as Kitchen Creations, Button Brigade, Paper Pros, and Rags Reclamation. Businesses that provide employment opportunities on the campuses of Opportunity Village, yet they still maintain strong ties and connections to the Southern Nevada community. 

One such example is the Rags and Reclamation business, where used towels that would have previously been thrown away, are now donated from businesses within the Las Vegas area. Shelia (pictured below), an employee of Rags Reclamation, helps to repurpose the used towels into rags so that they can be sold back to the businesses. 

Fun Fact: Shelia shared with us that she also helped to make Elvis Presley’s silk scarfs while he  performed in Las Vegas. A request made by his manager Colonel Tom Parker, after touring Opportunity Village.

Throughout our entire tour, the strong sense of community within Opportunity Village and beyond could not be missed. There is a genuine feeling of acceptance and belonging. We felt so welcomed by both Ashton and Marty (marketing tour guides) as well as all of the ambassadors that took time out of their busy schedules to give us their card and welcome us. One in particular was Amanda (pictured below). Her smile was contagious and she has the charm to match. She told us that her dream is to become a talk show host just like Ellen. With the support of Opportunity Village Amanda has been able to hone her host skills by interviewing co-workers at Opportunity Village as well as local celebrities on her own talk show called Afternoons with Amanda.

Amanda hopes someday meet Ellen and be on her show. #EllenyoumustmeetAmanda.

Amanda and Shelia are just two of countless examples of individuals that are respected, encouraged, and supported while pursuing their passions and maintaining employment at Opportunity Village. This is why we feel Opportunity Village deserves a Shout-Out!

Check-out the Opportunity Village website for more information about tours, resources, programs, volunteering, employment, and donating.

Ralph & Betty Engelstad Campus
6050 S. Buffalo Dr. Las Vegas, NV 89113
Office: (702) 262-1550
Fax: (702) 362-6530

Kindly,
Christina and John

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Our next Shout-Out goes to legofortheblind.com, founded by Matthew Shifrin. When we heard about this website we couldn’t wait to learn more, as LEGO’s have always been a family favorite.

Legofortheblind.com has free detailed text instructions (to be used with a screen-reader) for many different Lego sets. We reached out to Matthew to find out all we could about this fantastic resource for individuals that are visually impaired.

I want every blind person to feel that the once impossible is now possible; that he or she can now build a miniature LEGO world.

MATTHEW SHIFRIN – ABOUT LEGOFORTHEBLIND.COM

What was your inspiration for creating legofortheblind.com?

I was inspired to create the Lego For The Blind site after my friend, Lilya Finkel, brought me a set of instructions she brailled for a Middle-eastern Lego palace. She had created a special vocabulary, describing every type of piece and telling me what pieces I needed, where each part should be placed, and what the finished set would be like. After I built my first set using her instructions, I wanted to give back to blind children, and give them access to an essential part of childhood.

Most important question! What is your most favorite LEGO structure that you have built so far and why?

My favorite structure I’ve built so far is the Lego Fairground Mixer. I’d often been on amusement park rides, but didn’t know how they worked, since I’m blind. The Fairground Mixer gives a fantastic and realistic depiction of something blind kids have experienced but haven’t fully engaged with, i.e the county fair, and is also great from an engineering standpoint, since it teaches them about gearing and gear ratios, since the ride actually spins.

What LEGO structure have you found to be the most challenging and why?

The Tower Bridge was a very challenging but rewarding set. It has over 4000 pieces so concentration was paramount to assembling it. It took a few months, to finish but it’s my proudest Lego achievement.

While reading through some of your instructions, we loved how detailed yet concise they are. How long does it typically take to create instructions for one LEGO set?

It depends on the complexity of the set. 10-dollar sets take about an hour to adapt, but larger sets can take weeks, or sometimes months to make accessible.

We noticed your link to LEGO.com. Are you working directly with the company now?

Yes, I’m working directly with Lego. I’m honored that they’ve taken up this project. They recently released text-based instructions for 4 of their sets, and will increase the number of accessible sets to 50 by the spring of 2020. You can learn more about their instructions at legoaudioinstructions.com.


We asked Matthew if he ever takes requests to make instructions for specific sets. He said that he does however it has been slow going the past couple of years. We are saddened to share that his friend Lilya passed away two years ago and now he has had to make the sets on his own. This is very difficult without continued sighted help. He is working on organizing a network of sighted volunteer instruction-writers. If you are interested in volunteering your sight and time for this wonderful cause you can contact Matthew at matshifrin@aol.com

We are thrilled to be giving Matthew and legofortheblind.com a Shout-Out! Thank you for making the world more accessible!

Kindly,
Christina and John

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We would like to give our very first Shout-Out to 21 Roots Farm. This idyllic hobby farm is nestled on 21 acre’s in Grant, MN, about 8 miles northwest of Stillwater. Upon arrival there was serenity that could not be missed. We could hear the clucking of the chickens, baa from the goats, and the rustle of the leaves from a gentle breeze. All sounds of nature that contributed to an overwhelming sense of calm. In a word, 21 Roots Farm was very “chill”. It was apparent that the farmers felt this vibe as well and took full advantage of all of the benefits that come with just relaxing in nature.

However make no mistake, this is also the beginning of a fully functioning farm. One where farmers also come to work. Caring for the animals, gardening, and harvesting honey are just a few of the many chores available. 21 Roots Farm is a community where farmers can work side-by-side, play, and enjoy the fruits of their labor all in an afternoon.

So who are the farmers?

The farmers are individuals of all abilities. Brittany Wiitala and Amy Peterson, the founders of 21 Roots Farm, have not only the skill-set but also the desire to ensure that the farm is inclusive and accessible. A place where individuals can gain skills and feel a sense purpose from their efforts. Everyone is welcome and supported at their ability level to ensure this opportunity exists.

When asked what the catalyst for this farm was, why Brittany and Amy decided to do this? Well… we will let you hear it directly from Amy.

Why not!

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, why not! This mindset is exactly why we are giving a Shout-Out to 21 Roots Farm!

If you are looking for a place to visit where you will feel calm, happy, connected to nature, and accepted for exactly who you are, 21 Roots Farm is the place for you! We have provided a link to their website below where you will find more information about their programs, how to schedule a visit, donate, and even volunteer.

21 Roots Farm
10361 110th Street
Grant MN, 55082
(651)-504-6821
info@21rootsfarm.org

Kindly,
Christina and John

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