Before Faith began volunteering for Disability Network, she lacked confidence and didn't have many social connections. “I got out, but it was minimal. I was always quiet, and never felt like I was really needed,” she said. Now, Faith serves as a Volunteer Community Advocate for Disability Network.
“I wanted to work with children, yet my physical challenges prevented me from performing CPR if needed, so that wasn’t an option,” shared Faith, a Petoskey resident. Because of the barriers she faced due to Spina Bifida, Faith’s job coach suggested connecting with Disability Network. Now, nearly five years later, she has found the perfect position.
Faith explained, “Thanks to Disability Network’s help, I’m able to work with kids. I go into high schools and grade schools, and talk about disabilities.” She enjoys presenting to students, talking to youth about her disability and those that are not obvious, such as learning challenges. “It helps students understand disabilities better, and gets them to ask questions and learn how they can help others. By the time they leave, they understand that even though a person has a disability, they can still be successful.”
Faith has also found her voice in the community. “I get out and just let people know that Disability Network is here. That people with disabilities want to interact with our community. That we want to enjoy the same things, even though we might have to do it a different way,” she stated.
As a Disability Network Volunteer, Faith has also been instrumental in making beaches accessible in Charlevoix and Emmet Counties. “One of my greatest moments was finally being able to put my toes in the sand and get into the water at Petoskey State Park Beach,” she shared. Last summer, Faith was presented with an award for her advocacy efforts.
Faith is currently working on making Zorn Beach in Harbor Springs and Wilderness State Park in Emmet County accessible. “I see myself more as an advocate now. I feel like I can finally give back to my community here in Petoskey. I’ve had a lot of people come up to me at the beach and say ‘Thank You’ for helping get the pathways installed.” she said.
Faith also organizes monthly meetings for Char-Em residents, with and without disabilities, to learn about different resources in the community and to also provide peer support. “Last meeting we invited a State Trooper to speak to us about safety. He explained what we could carry with us to make us feel safe. That was really appreciated by everyone,” she said.
Faith shared, “Community is about accepting people, including those who have disabilities. We want to feel like we belong, we really need that. If people don’t feel accepted, they don’t feel like they are a part of their community. It’s something we all need, and it was something that I needed. Disability Network helped me learn how to be a part of my community and that I’m an important person in my community.”
For more information about Disability Network, contact Renee Louvierre-Mitchell at 231.922.0903, ext. 18.
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