FRESNO, CA (September 25, 2013)
Each year, in conjunction with the celebration of October as Disability Awareness Month, the City of Fresno Disability Advisory Commission (DAC) recognizes an individual and an organization that have improved the quality of life for individuals with disabilities in Fresno. The winner of the DAC’s 2013 individual Achievement Award is Dr. Janice Emerzian. The winner of the DAC’s organization Achievement Award is Life Goes On Home Improvement Inc. This year, the DAC expanded the awards program to also recognize City of Fresno staff member Frank Diaz for his positive impact in the community.
Dr. Emerzian is recognized for her years of dedication and service working as the District Director for the State Community College District Disabled Students Programs & Services Department. Emerzian, who will be retiring in summer 2014, is lauded for the creation of multiple unique classes and programs to benefit persons with disabilities and their families, as well as helping to author state and national legislation that has improved the lives of countless individuals with disabilities. Colleague Kathleen Moroney writes of Dr. Emerzian’s dedication to integration of individuals with disabilities, “Dr. Emerzian is always striving to find more opportunities for our students to participate in events with the rest of the student population.”
Life Goes On Home Improvement, Inc (LGO) is being recognized for their efforts in helping individuals with disabilities recognize that regardless of life's challenges, life indeed goes on. In 1988 an accident left Art Olvera a quadriplegic due to a severe spinal injury. After years of personal experience in his own pursuit for independence, as well as observing the struggles of other disabled individuals, Art and his wife Mary formed Life Goes On-Home Improvement, a non-profit corporation in order to help people with various disabilities improve their home environments to maximize accessibility, independence, safety, and social interaction. In his nomination of LGO, David Parker states, “Art does not just provide accessibility to those previously denied it, he personally knocked down his own barriers and overcame his own personal challenges in order that he might enable and encourage others to do so through LGO.”
City of Fresno Solid waste employee Frank Diaz is being recognized for taking the time to make a simple connection with a young boy with autism and his family. While on his regular green waste route, Frank would routinely wave at young Greyson from his truck. One Wednesday Frank noticed Greyson’s mother taking photos of him as Frank passed by. As Frank made his return through the neighborhood, he stopped and asked Greyson’s mother Chrissy Kelly if she would like to take a picture of Greyson in the truck. His act of kindness touched the lives of the Kelly family in such a way that the news spread literally around the world, Mrs. Kelly who writes a blog chronicling her daily life with Greyson and with the effects of autism was able to break through a barrier and for the first time heard her son ask for the truck. “The story has been so touching for so many people who may not be familiar with Autism and because of the story gaining national headlines, it opens the eyes to all of us about the daily challenges of real people just like the Kelly’s,” said Solid Waste Manager Jerry Schuber Sr. in his nomination statement. “The story is a reminder for us all who work in city service, in that we see how some of the simple things we set out to do each day have lasting ramifications on the community we live in.”
“We go about our work, but if we take those extra few minutes to reach out to the people we're working with and really add a personal touch we can make a lasting impact, and that is what each nominee has done. They really embody what it means to 'do your job with joy,'” said Michelle Bronson, DAC Chair and Executive Director of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service Center. Recipients were selected at the DAC’s September 10, 2013 meeting and will be honored October 3, 2013 during the City Council meeting as part of the commemoration of October as Disability Awareness Month.