Category Archives: Volunteering

A Christmas Extravaganza

As most people are aware who know me through FIN and the disability community, my daughter Samantha is severely affected by autism. The past couple of years especially, have been a struggle as we help her through some challenging anxiety and medically related issues. For Samantha and many other people in our community with severe developmental disabilities, it can be very difficult to participate in community events and gatherings. Instead of risking a meltdown or maybe not even being able to get in the door because of anxiety, we opt to stay home.
Yet the social, community-loving person in me never gives up and I am grateful to the many organizations and faith communities in Hampton Roads that are striving to be welcoming, understanding and inclusive, making it easier to participate in the community.  From organizations like Virginia Stage Company that is offering a sensory-friendly performance this week (Theater for …

“Putting Faith to Work” and why we need YOU in the Community Conversation, “All Play and No Work”

Last year, the National Collaborative on Faith and Disability released a guide called, Putting Faith to Work: A Guide for Congregation and Communities on Connecting Job Seekers with Disabilities to Meaningful Employment.  I was immediately struck with the realization that not only was my own daughter (who has a disability) transitioning soon to life beyond school, but there are hundreds and hundreds of people affected by disability in our community that cannot find any work or volunteer opportunities. The Putting Faith to Work Project ignited in me an excitement to invite our faith communities to go beyond what they offer for inclusion efforts in their congregations on the weekends and envision how faith communities can have an impact on “the other six days” for persons who live with disability.
The opening letter in the guide states this invitation beautifully; “The Putting Faith to Work project empowers faith communities to support people …

Essay Contest: Blog #3 Colleen Stefanowich

I have known Colleen and her parents through Young Life Capernaum and then The Chosen Ministry for many years and have always appreciated her quick smile and willingness to help.  Colleen is a friend to many, including myself and  my daughter Samantha who has autism.  Whenever we visit Church of the Holy Family‘s Chosen Ministry events and run into Colleen, I can be guaranteed a huge hug and that she will go out of her way to say hello to Samantha, understanding that Samantha cannot respond in kind but accepting and so loving all the same.  
It doesn’t surprise me then, that Colleen is so involved at her church and that she has an incredibly positive attitude. Thank you Colleen for submitting this essay and allowing us learn a bit about you. -K. Jackson
MY INVISIBLE DISABILITY
BY COLLEEN STEFONOWICH
“That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, …

A Call to Encouragement

Last Thursday evening over sixty people from our community gathered at Second Presbyterian Church, Norfolk to support FIN and learn more about the current work and vision of our growing organization. Beginning our 10th year, this is an important and exciting time in the development of our small non-profit, working towards our dream of making the congregations of Hampton Roads the most inclusive and welcoming in the country-envisioning a world where all people affected by disability are accepted, included and celebrated in our faith communities.  Many, many thanks to members of Second Pres., volunteers and supporters who made the reception a wonderful first time event.
In the wake of this successful gathering however, I began to feel extremely overwhelmed.  There is so much work to be done; challenges of time, finances and the daunting task of helping our community in general understand what FIN is about seem almost insurmountable.  I needed …

Graduation

Today I participated in an event not unusual for the month of May; a graduation.  Complete with excited family and friends, musicians ready to perform Pomp and Circumstance and festive decorations, this graduation was like the many, many others I have participated in as a student, educator and parent.  And yet, it was so much more as well. You see, this was a ceremony graduating eight young adults who reside at St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children. http://saintmaryshome.org/
I rushed into the building at 9:00 am to set up the music stands and percussion equipment for the 16 7th and 8th graders from The Williams School http://www.thewilliamsschool.org/ invited to perform.  Some of my students had participated in community service work at St. Mary’s over the past year and were prepared for what to expect at this graduation.  The rest of my students were visiting this amazing residential and educational facility for the first …

How I Overcame my Disability

It doesn’t matter how old we are or what kind of disability we might have. We are still made in God’s image. Going to the Beth Sholom nursing home has shown me that there are lots of different kinds of disabilities. Some of the people have mental, and others physical, illnesses.
But they are all people. They all have souls. They all have hearts. They can all feel happy or sad.
Being a volunteer is part of how I have grown up. I’ve shown my parents that I can be more independent by going to the nursing home. I get there on my own, most days. I take the Handi-Ride.
I myself have learned life lessons from my visits to the Beth Sholom Home. Going to the nursing home has taught me to slow down around the elderly people. I have to go at the elderly peoples’ paces. I listen to their …