The world of disability services has shifted drastically over the years, with increased emphasis on inclusion and community-based services. Easterseals was founded on the ideals of inclusion, and has thus taken a strong leadership role in this national transformation. But the success of this shift relies on community members who share the same passion and drive for recognizing the inherent dignity of all people, and the affirming power of work.
And so, for March, which is Developmental Disability Awareness Month, our Easterseals Hero is the YWCA Hamilton and their Fund Development & Community Engagement Director, Ben Powers.
The YWCA Hamilton has partnered with Easterseals as part of the Neighborhood Hub program in Hamilton. Easterseals participants visit the YWCA weekly to hone their employability skills while performing janitorial services. They also have the opportunity to participate in events and classes, and are building positive social relationships with the YWCA staff and guests.
The relationship began when Jill Cates, Business Development Manager for the Easterseals Hub programs, met Ben at the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. As they discussed the work of their own organizations, they began seeing opportunity for collaboration. The YWCA Hamilton’s maintenance staff is a team of one, and the individuals in the Easterseals program have proven to be adept at learning janitorial tasks. Recognizing the benefits to be enjoyed by both parties, the partnership was soon established.
Brianne Riffle, Team Lead for the Hamilton Hub, praises the care and attention that Ben gives to everyone he works with. “Ben escorts us around the Y if we are working on the residents’ floors,” she explains. “Since this is a place for women in need, they need to feel safe, and having unknown people where they are living could make them feel unsafe.” At the same time, he always makes sure that the individuals have everything they need in order to do their jobs.
An official statement from the YWCA Hamilton declared, “Our organization is on a mission to promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. Our organization has found that dignity is often found when we are able to serve others and give others the opportunity to serve, as well. We have been proud to partner with Easterseals to provide opportunities for their clients to serve with us in fulfilling our mission.”
“The YWCA Hamilton is delighted that we have been able to partner with Easterseals,” said Board President Liz Hayden. “We are proud of Ben’s efforts to find opportunities for clients to spend their valuable time with us."
Ben’s impact extends beyond his time at the YWCA, though. He has visited Easterseals individuals when they are working at other neighborhood sites, like setting up a meal at a local church. He also invited Jill Cates to her first Fairfield Chamber of Commerce luncheon networking event. The simple act of an invite meant a lot to Jill, as she explains, “It has offered me a great opportunity to talk about the Hub program and speak with local businesses to seek out opportunities that could benefit the individuals of the Hub.”
Despite the compliments and thanks being directed his way, Ben remains humble and mission-focused. “There’s a quote from Red Green,” he says. “It says, ‘We’re all in this together and I’m pulling for you.’…It’s good for everybody if we work together.”
Ben has been with the YWCA for more than one year, and he is deeply proud of the work the organization does. “We have the only domestic violence shelter in this area,” he says. “We work with other organizations to help women with mental illness, who are homeless or low-income, to move them to a place where they can be as independent as possible….We also have an education department…so hopefully they won’t need many of our services later.”
It all aligns perfectly with the way he interacts with the individuals from Easterseals. As Ben describes it in his own words, “There’s a value to them, as individuals and their quality of life, and to the community who gets to see and be a part of that improvement.
Thank you, Ben, and thank you to the YWCA Hamilton, for the opportunities you are creating and the support you provide. You are changing the way the world views and define disability by making a profound and positive difference in people’s lives every day. You are Easterseals Heroes.