PASSAGES OFFER HONORS: Organization salutes Peabody Public Library, local law enforcement at annual meeting

Representatives with The Peabody Public Library pose for a photo after receiving Passages’ Community Partner honor. Pictured (from left) are Amanda Brennan, Greg Hockemeyer, Peabody Director Mary Hartman and Christie Carnahan Whitton.
Staff Writer

Each year Passages, Inc. hosts its annual meeting, and this past Tuesday more than 100 community members, clients, staff and others came together to support and learn more about how the organization helps those with disabilities.
Several spoke out, thanking the clients for choosing to be a part of Passages and thanking various individuals and organizations who support its efforts, but the majority of the evening was spent recognizing DSPs (Direct Support Professionals).

Direct Support

Passages, Inc. employs over 90 DSPs whose job it is to support each client with a variety of tasks, overall working to help them become more independent.
“With the help of DSPs, I have learned how to be more independent – and how to trust people more. A DSP is polite, there for you, caring and are committed to what they do,” remarked one Passages client.
“They take us to several events, they give us suggestions, encourage me to stay healthy, are very helpful and staff are always there when I need them,” shared another.
“Tonight we recognize our DSPs,” began Donna Dake, senior director of Community Support. “You guys work so hard and do so much . . . you are the backbone of Passages.”
It was noted that there is a nationwide shortage of DSPs. To support recruitment and acknowledge those who work so closely with individuals with disabilities, this year lawmakers passed a bill diverting dollars to increase DSP wages.
“Thank you to Senator Andy Zay and Representative Christopher Judy for their support on the rate increase,” said Jason Meyer, president and CEO of Passages.

Looking to the future

“One of my favorite parts of my job is going out to communities and meetings to see the room filled with people who support our local chapters and mission,” began Kim Dodson, executive director of the Arc of Indiana, a partner of Passages. “We thank the DSP for all you do. This (rate increase) – starts education on what we can do to support our DSPs.”
She shared that recently a task force was put together, whose membership includes Jason Meyer, that is looking at the services that are currently being provided and the next steps.
“We haven’t done this since 1997,” Dodson remarked. “This task force is looking at supports and services and where we need to be going. Everyone in the nation looks to Indiana on how to do things right for individuals with disabilities – we have certainly done a lot, but now it’s time to do better.”

Passages’ new mission statement

For Passages, this means continuing to advocate and support its clients.
During his speech, Meyer discussed a recent retreat with the Passages Board of Directors, where a new mission statement for the organization was approved.
The mission statement is, “Passionately leading or assisting people with disabilities into a thriving and meaningful life.”
Additionally, the new vision statement is, “To enable people with disabilities to discover their potential and achieve a meaningful day.”
Passages offers a wide variety of programs and services including housing,the Creative Learning Center, the Bridge 333 Art Studio (newly re-named), Spotlight Avenue performers, job assistance and hosting various local events.
Each activity helps the organization integrate their clients further into the community and build lasting partnerships.

Community Awards

Each year, awards designed by Passages clients, are given to organizations and individuals in the community that go above and beyond in their service to others and to Passages.
This year, the Community Partner Awards were given to the Peabody Public Library, the Columbia City Police Department and the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department.
The final award was the Fleck Advocacy Award,presented by Jim and Kay Fleck. The award is given to an individual or organization that has been a “true advocate,” and this year the award was given to the Anthony Wayne Services Foundation.

Getting Involved

Passages, Inc. has been operating as a resource to help individuals with intellectual disabilities or other challenges flourish in the community since 1954. It began as a school for children and over the years has evolved into a multi-faceted organization.
With its various programs, there are several ways that community members can be involved with the organization.
Besides donating dollars, the Bridge 333 Art Studio, for example, is always seeking art materials for their program.
Additionally, volunteers for various events and programs are welcome.
Medicaid is an integral part in the care of individuals with disabilities. During the meeting, several brought up the recent bills before legislators that could result in the loss of Medicaid funding to many in the nation.
Leaders encouraged community members to write their legislators to support protecting individuals with disabilities.
For more information about Passages, or to get involved, call 260-244-7688 or visit