The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation is pleased to announce its Community Champions for the second quarter of FY17. These employees were nominated by their colleagues and are being recognized for their work with local non-profit organizations, where they donate their time and energy to improve quality of life for their neighbors. The Champions’ chosen nonprofits will receive a $500 grant from The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation.
Area Director, Florida MENTOR
Melissa Comeau grew up with horses so when she began working at Florida MENTOR in Avon Park she was thrilled to find that just across the street from the office was Heartland Horses Equine Activities and Learning, an organization that offers equine assisted therapy to children and adults with disabilities.
Melissa volunteers her time at Heartland by doing horse care and grounds maintenance, completing office work and serving on event committees, and leading therapeutic lessons. Lesson plans are customized for each participant based on their interests and abilities. Individuals who are in wheel chairs focus on ground work and taking care of the horses and others may be able to do side walking. The lessons are something that the individuals look forward to and they benefit from them both physically and emotionally.
“I see the good that Heartland actually does,” said Melissa. “From the six years I have been there I have gotten to know many of the individuals and have seen them come out of their shells. It is amazing to watch the progression.”
All lessons for individuals with disabilities are provided free of charge. This is made possible by the volunteers, donations and the funds raised through the horse camps that Heartland hosts where families pay to participate. Melissa’s daughter was once a camper and now volunteers at Heartland alongside her mother.
“Melissa shows that her number one priority is always to improve the lives of those we serve,” said Rachel Durrance, Assistant Director of Nursing, Florida MENTOR. “Her dedication as a volunteer to Heartland Horses and Handicapped just further goes to show her commitment.”
To learn more about Heartland Horses Equine Activities and Learning, please visit their website at http://heartlandhorses.org/.
Program Director, Cole Vocational Services
Tamara Madsen spends 3 nights a week volunteering at Ceres Christian Church.
For the past 5 years, Tamara has been involved with the church’s program, Celebrate Recovery, a 12-Step Recovery Program for anyone dealing with life’s “hurts, habits, and hang-ups.” Anyone in the community is invited to join the group which meets weekly and offers food, worship and recovery.
“The program is something that is close my heart,” said Tamara. “My heart goes out to the broken and lost individuals who need support and do not have the skills to make healthy life style choices. My husband and I are drawn to being those positive supports for those that need help getting their lives back on track.”
“Tamara reaches hundreds of people a year who need assistance and by doing this she makes the community a better place,” said Aron Duda, Area Director, Cole Vocational Services.
In addition to Celebrate Recovery, Tamara sings for the church, cooks meals for groups and provides backpacks to children in the community who may otherwise go without before going back-to-school. She is also instrumental in organizing a women’s retreat and the children’s festival each year. “Our focus is wherever help is needed in the community at the time,” said Tamara. “We are there to provide time, funds, or food!”
To learn more about Ceres Christian Church, please visit their website at http://cereschristianchurch.org/.
Facilities Coordinator, NeuroRestorative Kentucky
Saving Sunny, Inc. rescues dogs through working with sheltering partners, and also assists pet owners whose dogs are at risk of entering the shelter system with basic resources and education. Julie Pritchett began as an intern at Saving Sunny but her work did not end there. Julie now serves as a Board Member for the organization and volunteers about 16 hours a week in the community on behalf of the organization.
Julie connects dog owners with resources and services in the community so that owners do not have to turn their animals over to shelters if they are not able to provide food or medical care.
“With my social work background, I get out in the community and build a rapport with the individuals so they trust me,” said Julie. “This enables me to work more directly with them to remove barriers so they can live more self-sustaining lives which trickles down to their pets.”
Each month, Saving Sunny, hosts a community dog resource center at a local park. There they provide food, spade and neuter services, tick prevention and behavior training. More and more people are coming out to these events since the word is spreading.
“Julie’s passion for animals is apparent what you first meet her,” said Chris Nalley, Human Resources Business Partner, NeuroRestorative. “She always spends time talking or showing photos of her own animals and the work she is doing with Saving Sunny. This work comes naturally to her giving and compassionate personality.”
Visit http://www.savingsunnyinc.org/ for more information on Saving Sunny.
About The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation
The MENTOR Network Charitable Foundation is committed to transforming the delivery of human services through the generation of new ideas and best practices. We seek to advance an agenda based on quality, accountability and respect for the individual. The focus of our giving is on organizations that take a fresh look—through research, innovative thinking, direct care and programming—at how people with disabilities and youth and families facing emotional, behavioral and other challenges are cared for in our society. The Foundation also works to expand opportunity for the people we serve through employment and educational support.