DD Awareness Month: Two views on inclusion

Young woman holding vegetables from the garden

Each March, advocates work together to raise awareness about the many ways people with and without developmental disabilities come together to form strong, welcoming and diverse communities. The following essays from two perspectives – a senior citizen who has developmental disabilities and a church striving to be neighborly to everyone – help show how inclusion benefits us all.

Community garden yields a bumper crop of friendship

Late in the 2020 growing season, Gahanna Community Congregational Church (GC3) established a community garden with the intent of donating the harvest to Gahanna Residents in Need (GRIN), our local food pantry. We considered our first year a huge success, donating about 100 pounds of produce.

As we moved into the 2021 season, we realized our project had the potential to grow. But that was only part of the idea. The larger idea was to nurture relationships within the community, so that we could become a partner, resource and all-around good neighbor. Our vision was to be a place where people could gather to feel they belonged, and where they could connect with others.

One of our long-time members began talking about her work with Goodwill and we realized immediately there were great opportunities there. Their volunteer work would be a huge help to us, and we could spend time with them working, sharing, teaching and just living in the community together. The exchange seemed wonderful for everyone.

And it is! Our Goodwill volunteers helped us to harvest more than 1,300 pounds of fresh produce, which we donated to the pantry. Their work played an important role in this accomplishment.

During the time we have spent together we have planted seeds, watered, weeded and harvested peppers, tomatoes, squash, Swiss chard, onions, radishes and more. On rainy days that were too hot to be out, we stayed indoors and played board games.

Goodwill has brought us opportunities. An afternoon of indoor games brought out about 10 of our senior members who might not otherwise have the opportunity for exercise and physical activity. We all enjoyed getting to know each other a bit better.

Now that the growing season is over, we host our Goodwill partners for games, crafts and other activities. We value our relationship. And as spring comes, we will again move outdoors and work – together – in the garden.

New community job and friends lead to sense of belonging

First of all my name is Stephen Segal. In April 2020, on Easter Sunday, my mom passed away. I had moved out of her house in July that year and was staying with a friend of hers until the end of December 2020.

Then in January 2021 I moved into a community apartment in Upper Arlington close to Giant Eagle, where I have worked for four years. And God has a purpose for everything, because there is a Wendy’s right around the corner, and I started going there and hanging out.

I met friends there and they are like my adopted brothers and sisters and my Upper Arlington Golden Bears adopted family. They are loving and caring toward me when I am hurting on the inside. Or when I’m depressed, they know how to cheer me up.

I do something brand new now, too. I also work at Wendy’s. I clean the walk, do the dishes, take out the garbage, roll up the baked potatoes and also do the dining room. I really love working with my Golden Bears adopted family and they are glad to have me around. They told me I am one of the best workers.

I feel very special. Upper Arlington is a friendly and nice community to live in.