September President’s Update

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Greetings Families and Friends of the DSANWI!

I am extremely excited and honored to be the Current President of the Down Syndrome Association Northwest Indiana. Some of you know me from the 27 years I have worked as a teacher and administrator for the Lake Central School Corporation supporting individuals with disabilities.

I am currently an Assistant Principal at Lake Central High School in charge of Student Services. I am married with three amazing children and the aunt of a fabulous five-year-old with Down Syndrome.

Charlotte is definitely part of the reason I become involved with the DSA, but my life‘s work has been committed to improving outcomes and providing meaningful life opportunities for individuals with disabilities. I hope to continue that with the DSANWI.

As many of you are aware, the DSANWI has endured some major challenges over the past year. These include the significant betrayal of the past president and director, the loss of our Highland location and cleaning up the governance of the organization.  Not to mention the hours and hours of work done by a few dedicate members so that the organization can continue for the all.

Some families and individuals have shared their concern with the current direction of the organization and expressed reluctance to participate at the level they did in the past. This is understandable. The trust given the former leadership was betrayed.

However, when given the choice of closing the doors forever or making sure there is a resource in NWI for generations to come, we chose to move forward–no matter how difficult or how much work had to be done.

First, keep in mind, we do not have paid employees managing the day-to-day operation of the organization. Despite this, we have made significant strides forward. We have fully cooperated with state law enforcement and county prosecutors toward charges being filed. The board approved the investment in civil charges being filed. We have eliminated the excessive spending, signed a lease on a new space, demolished the space, had architect’s drawing approved by the state of Indiana after several drafts and modifications to meet the code in both the state and the town, secured over $30,000 in donated lighting, cable and supplies for the rebuild, are working with local unions on possibly donating much of the labor necessary to rebuild the space, secured commitments from subcontractors willing to oversee the construction, priced signage and are in the process of gaining approval from the town and landlord so that the new signs can be installed, are obtaining competitive bid pricing from subcontractors where we do not have donors or volunteers, have secured over $8000 in unrestricted donations to help purchase the items that are not donated for the building, maintained the relationships with large donors who continue to support our mission, maintained the relationships with community foundations that have given us grants in the past and are in the process of fulfilling the requirements of grants still outstanding, researched and secured a web developer to design a website that will allow transparency for donations and give us a fluid design to grow with the needs of the organization, had a successful flower sale that netted us over $3,000 in May, responded to the concerns of families and cancelled in-person activities like the Easter Egg Hunt and Zig-Es Summer Picnic, partnered with the Suncrest Compassion Team (planning, executing, promoting and providing financial and other resources) to put together events while we are rebuilding the location and putting together a plan for moving out of the location in Highland.

Despite this progress within a pandemic and with conditions unlike any in recent history, parents are telling me they are unhappy with the direction of the organization, that they don’t have a voice and are unwilling to support the DSANWI.  I want to change this.

To respond to these concerns, I hope to be able to survey families about what they believe the priorities of the organization should be. I am hoping that now that school is back in session and face-to-face activities are starting to resume, we can schedule regular family meetings.

To keep updated, create a free user profile on the new website and include an email address and cell phone number. We are working on building a list of families interested in moving forward with us. Transparency and keeping members updated is extremely important.  I am  inviting you all to volunteer to help with the rebuilding necessary to enable face-to-face events at the new building. There is a button on the landing page that will take you directly to the events page. We will do our best to post links on Facebook and Twitter.

I hope that you will support the Mum Sale https://dsanwi.org/event/mum-sale/   and invite you to register for the Buddy Walk.  If  you aren’t yet comfortable soliciting donations, for $20 each registrant, you will get a 2020 Buddy Walk t-shirt and can participate in virtual events throughout October to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Register by clicking here through September 27th: https://dsanwi.org/buddy-walk/#bwregister

If you have suggestions about hosting events elsewhere prior to the building being completed, feel free to reach out to [email protected].

The new website and user profiles will be used as the primary means to communicate with families, ask for volunteers and share information. If you have construction resources for the new building or want to help on a moving committee, let me know.

I look forward to working with all of you.

Mary Rebey

Board President, DSANWI

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