Kim Opsahl of Carmel wins award for lifetime of advocacy
Kim Opsahl of Carmel was honored at Developmental Services, Inc.’s 41st Annual Awards Banquet November 9th at the Commons in Columbus. She was among several award winners recognized for advocacy to individuals with disabilities.
Opsahl received the Paul Roahrig Memorial Advocacy Award for her career of dedication and leadership regarding children and adults with disabilities in Indiana.
“Kim truly embodies the vision and leadership that our former board president Paul Roahrig exhibited for many years as an advocate, professional, and member of the DSI board,” said Shane Burton, Chief Executive Officer of DSI.
Opsahl began her career in the human service industry as a direct support professional while attending college.
Driven by her desire to serve others, Opsahl quickly gained extensive experience helping individuals with disabilities through residential and case management services.
In 2003, Opsahl joined the Indiana Association of Rehabilitation Facilities where she provided support and expertise for some 75 member organizations that INARF represents statewide.
In 2013, Kim was named INARF’s President and Chief Executive Officer.
“Kim has provided exceptional leadership for many organizations that serve people with intellectual and developmental challenges,” said Burton. “You never have to question Kim’s commitment or knowledge to any cause that makes life better for our clients. She is a great resource and a great advocate in this State.”
In 2014, Kim graduated summa cum laude from the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.
This past April, Kim Opsahl began a new career - using her talents to provide consultation, expertise, and advocacy for agencies like the Indiana Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services.
Also at the banquet it was announced that DSI in conjunction with the Heritage Fund of Bartholomew County are establishing the annual Developmental Services, Inc. William K. Hadar Scholarship Fund in honor of Bill Hadar. Hadar, a Columbus resident, retired in 2014 as DSI’s longest tenured Chief Executive Officer in the organization’s history.
The inaugural scholarship will be awarded in the spring of 2017 to a high school student who demonstrates committed volunteer service, academic excellence, and community involvement. Merit for the scholarship will also include the student’s career ambitions toward community and civic service.
“Bill gave 28 of the best years of his life to this organization and has guided DSI through some of its greatest challenges with peerless leadership and celebrated its greatest achievements with magnanimity and humility,” said current DSI CEO Shane Burton of Hadar who retired in 2014. “Bill loves DSI and its mission, its dedicated employees, and the amazing clients who overcome life’s obstacles to find happiness every day.”
“It is DSI’s hope that this financial award will benefit the best and brightest agents of change who will make our communities more diverse, more accessible, and more prosperous. It is also our hope that the leadership and commitment of Bill Hadar will inspire generations to come through the perpetuation of this honor.”
The Scholarship Fund will be administered by the Heritage Fund of Bartholomew County and details of the application process will be available in the coming weeks.
Sandy and Doug Royer of Seymour received the Volunteer and Service Award for their friendship and advocacy of the residents with disabilities served at DSI’s Elm Street Home.
After delivering Thanksgiving meals on behalf of their church to area families in need, the Royers approached DSI several years ago about doing something nice for the residents of the Elm Street Group home.
Since that time, the Royers have made the holidays special by purchasing and delivering gifts to all the clients on Christmas Day. They also attended client events and donated to Special Olympics so that individuals with disabilities could engage in some healthy competition make new friends.
Birthdays at Elm Street were particularly memorable because the Royers would bake cakes and purchase gifts to help the residents celebrate.
This past year, DSI volunteers gave 5400 hours of their time landscaping group homes, sponsoring recreational events for consumers, teaching individuals to cook, and providing clerical assistance. Because volunteer support eases the work load for DSI staff, thousands of additional service hours are available for clients each year.
Kathy Verseman and Sandy Biddinger, co-owners of WTRE radio in Greensburg, received the John McCauley Community Awareness Award for their deft coverage of events concerning individuals with disabilities in Decatur County.
“For over thirty years, WTRE has given voice to many individuals with disabilities whose chance for real independence relies on an empathetic public ear,” said Tom Harpring, DSI Communications Officer. “For the last three years during National Disabilities Awareness Month, WTRE has invited clients from Greensburg to share stories of personal success and challenges.”
“It’s important for our community to hear our client’s perspective first-hand,” added Harpring. “They are respected, but more importantly, they need to be seen as active citizens in our community and treated like everyone else. It is a true blessing to live in a community where the clients we serve are welcomed so wholeheartedly.”
Todd Weatherwax, owner of Mancino's Pizza & Grinders in Greensburg was named Employer of the Year and Morgan Hooten was named outstanding employee at Mancino’s.
“Todd found a hidden gem in Morgan Hooten,” said DSI Executive Director of Programs Mel Fields. “Todd has an open mind and an open heart to people who may have been overlooked because of the challenges they face.
For many DSI clients, having a job and earning a wage represents the pinnacle of achievement in their lives. It is through paid work that individuals with disabilities discover confidence and independence.
However, reaching one’s potential is often directly linked to opportunity. Individuals with disabilities know this perhaps better that anyone. Avenues to dream jobs are sometimes blocked by common misconceptions about lack of ability or desire.
Seven years ago, Weatherwax gave Hooten a chance to shine allowing her to bus tables and clean and give her opportunities to advance and take on more responsibilities.
“Todd is an awesome boss. He’s very respectful of me and all the employees of Mancino’s. He always allows me to have a flexible schedule and helped me build and develop my independence by having a job,” said Hooten.
The Consumer Achievement Award went to Mylinda England of Columbus for program, community and vocational success. England was recognized for advocating for other individuals with disabilities as a member of the Client Council of Bartholomew County.
England is also credited with assisting DSI clients involved in DSI’s Education and Enrichment Program (E & E), giving tours to community guests, and reaching personal employment goals. E & E offers a wide menu of services including cooking and art classes, gardening, wellness, computer literacy, and recreation.
Greta Baker received the Direct Service Professional Award for demonstrating service excellence for six years in the REACH Department. REACH, or Reaching Every Adult and Child's Home, provides in-home or community-based respite services for families and care providers of individuals with disabilities.
According to her co-workers, Baker has become one of the best DSPs in the organization because of her passion for her work and her compassion for DSI clients.
A resident of Columbus, Baker has gained a reputation as a consummate professional and the ‘go to’ trainer and role model for new REACH employees.
In addition to training other staff, Baker’s busy schedule includes taking clients who live in Bartholomew and Brown counties to cooking class and to doctor’s appointments where she is often the liaison with families.
Baker was also cited for motivating DSI clients to be more health conscious and for being relatable and personable regardless of the individual’s age or disability.
Legendary radio broadcaster and banquet emcee, Sam Simmermaker received a special service award for his tenure of presiding as the “voice” at DSI special events for more than ten years.
“Sam has been one of the most talented radio professionals in Indiana for more than fifty years,” said former president of the DSI board Richard Berry. “Sam’s made our events more fun and memorable and he’s never asked for anything in return. He really cares about DSI and is eager to help anyway he can. Sam’s a true professional and a class act.”
Sam Simmermaker, a Columbus resident, has been the voice of Columbus high school sports at WCSI radio for over five decades. Along the way, he’s earned the Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the Governor and has been enshrined in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, the ISSA Hall of Fame, and the IBA’s Fairbanks Indiana Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame.
The Professional of the Year was awarded to the DSI Finance Department.
“The finance department has really come together as a team,” said DSI Executive Director Shane Burton. “They’re very committed to making sure everyone does their part and they keep things loose and personable. Without them, bills don’t get paid, service records are not recorded and there are no reimbursements for programs rendered.”
And in recent years, all of these responsibilities have loomed even larger as DSI has grown to serve 44 counties in Indiana.
At the helm of the fiscal team is Tom Franke, DSI’s Executive Director of Finance and Administration. Franke and his team, Judy Lee, Cyndi Turner, Joe Van Why, Stacey Stillinger, Judi Heubach, Lavonda Hendrickson, Vicki Irwin, Janie Lucas, Amanda Griffin and Bekah Gatchel have handled many challenges including new program data entry and accounting systems.
Seymour-based Aisin U.S.A. MFG., Inc. was named DSI’s Industry of the Year.
“In recent years, there has been a partnership developed between DSI and Aisin that is truly a ‘win-win’ situation for everyone involved,” said Fields. “To assure that the individuals we serve are successful with the work contracts they provide, Aisin has spent a lot of time and resources engineering products that individuals with disabilities can perform and consistently meet quality standards.”
Lorraine Smith of Columbus was recognized for her service on the DSI board of directors. Smith helped shape DSI policy while supporting individuals with disabilities through her expertise and advice.
DSI is a not-for-profit agency established in 1975 and provides services for children and adults with disabilities in 44 counties in central and southern Indiana. DSI’s service menu includes early intervention, respite, family support, advocacy, health and wellness, job training and placement, residential living options, after-hour activities, community involvement, and daily living skills instruction.