Fifth Annual DAC Achievement Award
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.
Fifth Annual DAC Achievement Award Media Release (word, pdf)
2012 Achievement Award
Fourth Annual DAC Achievement Award
Each year, 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 2012 winner of the individual Achievement Award was Jim Santos, and the winner of the organization’s Achievement Award was Arc Fresno.
Mr. Santos has served as Director of Athletics for Special Olympics International in Washington DC, and has directed two Olympic Games. Locally, he is involved with schools, the community and volunteers in many local sporting events especially those related to children with disabilities. He is very active promoting the Universally Accessible Park in Fresno and is working with Resources for Independence Central Valley to raise funds for its development and maintenance. Jim has also served on many boards and committees, including serving as chairman for disabled committee of the Fresno Mayors Council of Fitness, the Sequoia Area 8 Board, and others.
Arc Fresno has developed one of the largest and most active Aktion clubs in the Country. ARC provides individuals with developmental disabilities an opportunity to be part of a Community Service Leadership Program and part of the larger Kiwanis Service Organization. Since 1953, ARC has provided high quality services to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families in Fresno County. They serve over 550 individuals. Arc is the premier service provider, always responding to the ever changing needs through creative and innovative programming with a highly skilled staff and dedicated board of directors.
“We have amazing individuals and organizations that promote equality and well-being for people with disabilities, and it was difficult to select just one individual and organization. We are so impressed with each nominee’s accomplishments, and while all are deserving of the award, we are pleased to recognize Jim Santos and ARC Fresno,” said Michelle Bronson, chair of DAC and Executive Director of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service Center. Both recipients were selected at the DAC’s September 11, 2012 meeting and honored October 4, 2012 during the City Council meeting as part of the commemoration of October as Disability Awareness Month.
2011 Achievement Award
Third Annual Achievement Award
Each year, 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 2011 winner of the DAC’s individual Achievement Award was Mr. Bud Breslin. The winner of the DAC’s organization Achievement Award was Snacks To You, a program of Vocation Plus Services, Inc (VPSI).
Mr. Breslin was recognized for his dedication and service on behalf of individuals with a variety of disabilities. He has been the Executive Director at the Valley Center for the Blind for the past year and a half. Because of his dedication and determination to keep the center’s doors open, Mr. Breslin has never taken a paycheck. Mr. Breslin is actively involved with Break the Barriers, an organization which provides and promotes inclusion for all people through sports and performing arts. He is a former Executive Director of the Fresno Area Down Syndrome Society. Mr. Breslin has an extensive volunteer background including service as a Licensed Minister of the Congregational Church, over 20 years as an active Kiwanian, and involvement with the Boy Scouts of America since 1949, during which time he was awarded the Silver Beaver by Sequoia Council. Additionally Mr. Breslin was an active Marine Reservist until retirement in December 1990.
Snack To You, a program of VPSI, was recognized for providing employment and vocational training to people with disabilities, allowing for community integration and skills development for their employees. Snacks To You is a lunch catering business which began in 2002 as a creative alternative means for revenue to continue programs and services in the face of funding cuts. VPSI is committed to maximizing the quality of each consumer's life by providing opportunities for employment, integration and independence in the community. In 2009 Snacks To You was given the Exemplary Employer Award by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. In March of 2011 VPSI was honored by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities as a Best Practice and invited to Tucson, Arizona to give a presentation on the Snack To You program.
“DAC is very proud to recognize Bud Breslin, Executive Director of Valley Center for the Blind, and Snacks To You for their dedication to serving people with disabilities,” said Michelle Bronson, chair of the DAC and Executive Director of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service Center, Inc. “Both Mr. Breslin and Snacks to You are committed to empowering people with disabilities to realize their full potential and to take pride in their employment.” Both recipients were selected at the DAC’s September 20, 2011 meeting and honored October 6, 2011 during the City Council meeting as part of the commemoration of October as Disability Awareness Month.
2010 Achievement Award
Second Annual Achievement Award
Each year, the City of Fresno Disability Advisory Commission recognizes an individual and an organization that have improved the quality of life for individuals with disabilities in Fresno. The 2010 winner of the DAC’s individual Achievement Award was Ms. Rosemary Diaz. The winner of the DAC’s Achievement Award for an organization was Fresno City College Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSP&S).
Ms. Diaz was recognized for her advocacy on behalf of individuals who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing. She is the current President of the Board of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service Center (DHHSC). In addition, Ms. Diaz is a Certified Deaf Interpreter, an instructor at CSUF in Deaf Education and Deaf Studies, and the former Executive Director of DHHSC. Ms. Diaz has developed programs to address sexual assault and domestic violence within the Deaf Community, trained first responders to better serve the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and volunteered extensively, including serving as a member of the Fresno County ADA Advisory Committee. She received the DAC Achievement Award at the October 28, 2010 City Council meeting.
Fresno City College’s Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSP&S) office was recognized for their enduring contributions to the educational achievement of individuals with disabilities in Fresno. DSP&S was established in 1970 to provide supportive services for students with learning, physical and/or psychological disabilities.
It became a landmark program and Fresno City College earned the status of being the first community college in California to offer a comprehensive disabled students program. DSP&S currently serves over 2300 residents of the greater Fresno area. Dr. Janice Emerzian, the District Director of Disabled Students Programs and Services for the State Center Community College District, accepted the DAC Achievement Award at the November 4, 2010 City Council meeting.
“It is an honor to recognize the achievements of Ms. Diaz and the DSP&S program,” said Rachelle Taylor, DAC Chair, “we look forward to their continued service to our community.”
2009 Achievement Award
2009 marked the first year that the City of Fresno Disability Advisory Commission (DAC) recognized an individual and an organization that have improved the quality of life for individuals with disabilities in Fresno.
The 2009 individual recipient was Dr. Edwin Eames. Dr. Eames received numerous nominations commending him for his many years of work as an advocate people with disabilities, public transportation and service animal education.
The organizational recipient was LARCS. LARCS is a local orgination with a 52-year history of serving people with developmental disabilities and providing support to organizations like ARC, Addicot School, Break the Barriers, Special Olympics and RATA school.
"I am honored to get to recognize LARCS and Dr. Ed Eames for the extensive work they have done in helping people with disabilities to become full participants in our community" said Bob Hand, Chair of the DAC and Executive Director of the Center for Independent Living. "The type of dedication that both LARCS and Dr. Eames have demonstrated is an inspiration to us all." Both recipients were selected at the DAC's September 14, 2009 meeting and will be honored as part of the commemoration of October as Disability Awareness Month.