Meet Tony, a MRI Day Vocational Training participant. Tony may be blind, but that doesn’t stop him from pursuing his passions, including music. Tony taught himself to play piano by ear at the age of five. However, his musical abilities don’t stop there! Tony can also play keyboard, auto harp and sing.
MRI clients and employees can hear Tony’s music around lunchtime. Monday – Friday from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm Tony plays piano outside the cafeteria so those who are eating lunch can enjoy some smooth tunes. Tony enjoys playing the piano because other people enjoy it. One of his favorite things to do is make new friends and he feels he does this best through music.
Tony used to travel around to various nursing homes and libraries to play piano for the guests. He hopes to start doing that again soon so he can continue meeting new people. His current goal is to create a CD and hear himself on the radio.
When Tony is not playing one of the various instruments he enjoys, he can be found bowling with his friends, hanging out with his girlfriend or watching a classic Western film.
MRI’s Our Voice Through Art has allowed Olivia to gain confidence, make friends and think outside the box. Through the class, she has been able to explore various materials, which has shown her how to look at the world differently.
Olivia’s communication skills have also improved as she becomes more comfortable asking for help, sharing materials and complimenting others’ work. She even carries on conversations with her peers as they complete their artwork.
But most importantly, her mom explains, “she feels a part of something. She feels important.”
The Board of Directors of Macon Resources, Inc. (MRI) announces the selection of Amy Bliefnick to succeed retiring Executive Director, Dreux Lewandowski. Ms Bliefnick is a Decatur native who has served as Director of the Illinois State Fair from 2004 – 2015, Board Chairman and Director of Richland Community College, Director of Development for St. Teresa High School, and Illinois State Special Olympic Board of Directors.
Mr. Lewandowski began his tenure at MRI in 2004 and has been working in disability services for 35 years. Under his direction MRI expanded services to both children and adults in the areas of childcare, early childhood prevention, community living and job training programs.
Our Voice Through Art, a local program providing art classes for teens and adults with disabilities, will now be offered through MRI.
Our Voice Through Art began when Jarrett Sekosky, who is on the Autism spectrum and has very little verbal communication, discovered he was able to express himself through art. Since then, Jarrett, his family and his supporters have been working hard to share this connection with other individuals with disabilities in the community. Our Voice Through Art offers multiple six-week sessions per year, with the next session starting February 7. Each session is led by Argenta-Orena art teacher Jodi England with her assistant Terri Ellis and varying guest artists. Each week, the class focuses on a different form of art ranging from drawing to sculpting and more!
Follow Our Voice Through Art on Facebook to stay connected with what we’re doing. For more information or to register for the upcoming session call MRI at 217-875-8850 or email MBilbrey@maconresources.org.
If you are looking for a unique gift this holiday season, consider shopping local at MRI (Macon Resources, Inc.). Each novelty gift purchased directly supports disability services in our community. MRI offers custom license plate signs and art and engraved signs and coasters. MRI’s Etsy page has a few already made designs, but can take custom orders of any type.
Likewise, MRI Independence Pointe is selling all remaining Ornaments of Hope for $5 each. The Ornaments of Hope, also known as the official city ornaments, depict various scenes around Central Illinois including the Oglesby Mansion (1995), Caterpillar (2011) Wabash Depot (2013) and more. See below for a full list of available ornaments.
Shopping local ensures the money you spend stays within your community. By shopping at MRI, your gifts directly support programs like job training, Autism services, speech & language therapy, day vocational training, home visiting and more.
To order a sign or ornament, contact MRI at 217-875-1910 or visit MRI’s Etsy page.
Available ornaments include:
• 1995 Oglesby Mansion
• 1998 Coles County Courthouse
• 2000 Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center
• 2001 Decatur Memorial Hospital
• 2002 Charleston Carnegie Public Library
• 2004 Celebration of Faith (St. James, First United Methodist, St. Paul’s Lutheran)
• 2008 Abraham Lincoln
• 2010 Central Park
• 2011 Caterpillar
• 2013 Wabash Depot
• 2014 First Responders
With the support of MRI’s intermittent CILA, Larry is able to live by himself in his apartment and maintain his independence.
Larry has lived in his own apartment for four years with the support of MRI’s intermittent CILA. Before living on his own, Larry lived in a strict group home where many decisions were made for him. Things like when to eat meals and when to go to bed were determined by the group home. Larry knew he was capable of making decisions and wanted to live his life the way he wanted to live it, so he reach out to MRI’s intermittent CILA program. MRI’s intermittent CILA allows Larry to be independent and live independently while still providing needed life and safety supports. He is now able to plan his days around what he wants to do. Larry enjoys exercising, cooking his own meals and going to church. Larry is very active in his community and has made many friends during his daily walks around Kroger for exercise, trips to Taco Bell and weekly church visits.
Twenty two years ago Larry made the decision to become a vegetarian. He did so as a way to become healthier and has diligently stuck with it.When Larry began to have health issues because he was not getting enough iron, MRI staff supported him in meeting with a doctor so he could learn how to add more iron into his diet, which he is now able to do. Larry uses his vegetarian cook book to plan meals for himself. During the fall and winter, his favorite meals to make are soups and vegetarian chili because they are easy to reheat he can eat it all week long. It is safe and easy for Larry to cook in his own apartment. If anything were to go wrong, Larry has MRI CILA staff just a phone call away.
Larry is not only strict with his vegetarian diet, but also with his work out routine. He takes daily walks and works out three times a week. This type of organization and precision can be seen in other aspects of Larry’s life as well. He keeps a calendar on his wall and at the end of every day he writes down exactly what he did that day. Because Larry is so structured himself, adding another layer of daily structure does not work. He does best when he has the freedom to organize his day based on what he determines to be priorities in his life, which is what MRI is able to provide.
Now that Larry has an apartment to call his own, he has new goals. He already saved money and bought a new couch. Now he is saving money to go on a trip with his friends this fall. Larry decided to put part of his monthly spending money in the bank and cut back on his trips to Taco Bell in order to save for the trip. With the help of MRI, he is in charge of his own finances, which means he has taken on the responsibility of setting money aside for food and bills.
Larry creates his own schedule and spends a lot of time in the community and with his church family. The staff at Kroger, Taco Bell and his local Subway enjoy seeing Larry about town. Many people know Larry because of his regular visits. In fact, they tend to worry if he does not show up for a few days. Larry has been able to thrive since moving into his own apartment with the support of MRI. He has discovered new things he enjoys doing, new places he had never been and he has made new friends in the community.
“Our lives – especially Elden’s – will forever be more meaningful thanks to Independence Pointe.” -Jenell, Elden’s mother
Just before his third birthday, Elden had been receiving Early Intervention speech and language services through Independence Pointe. As his Early Intervention services were about to end, Elden’s mother, Jenell, was worried about his future. That December, she was invited to Independence Pointe’s Christmas Party. After attending the party and meeting the Independence Pointe staff and other families receiving services, “all those anxieties went away.”
Since that first meeting, Elden has been enrolled in various services offered at Independence Pointe. He is currently in speech therapy, which he began right after turning three. Elden had been non-verbal until he was almost four. Thanks to Independence Pointe’s speech therapy program, Elden spoke his first words at age four. “To hear him now at the age of six,” Jenell explains, “you would never guess he was ever non-verbal.”
“Through his hard work and the guidance of the amazing Independence Pointe ABA staff, his social awareness and skills gave grown leaps and bounds.” -Jenell, Elden’s mother
Shortly after beginning speech therapy, Elden was diagnosed with Autism. That summer, they began Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) at Independence Pointe. Elden spent the summer at Independence Pointe working hard to improve his social skills. He used to enjoy watching other kids play, but now he wants to join in as well! Independence Pointe has even helped out at home. Jenell explains, “we’ve learned more about what triggers his meltdowns and how to effectively calm him down.”
Recently, Elden’s parents also started attending Parents Night Out, a program designed to give parents a night out while Independence Pointe teaches and entertains their children. While the parents get a short break from parenting, the children work on social skills by playing games, enjoying guest performers, and taking field trips into the community.
“Parents Night Out is more than just getting an occasional night out with my husband. Elden gets essential social interaction and play. He gets to experience activities and friends in a setting that I know is safe.” -Jenell, Elden’s mother
Independence Pointe provides services to promote the growth of individuals who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Children’s Autism Services at Independence Pointe include Speech and Language Therapy, Child Care for children of all abilities ages 0-18, Social Skills Camp, Social Skills Support, an Autism Resource Room, and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA provides instruction to improve the day-to-day life of children with ASD or other developmental disabilities. ABA instruction, typically offered in a one-on-one setting to meet the needs of each learner, is focused on teaching skills and decreasing behaviors that interfere with learning.
For more information on MRI Autism Services for children, click here.
MRI will be holding a variety of events to celebrate National Developmental Disability Awareness Month. MRI will also be holding an internal campaign for National Spread the Word to End the Word Month.
The following activities are also scheduled for Adult Day programming at MRI’s main building as part of National Developmental Disability Awareness Month:
Spread the Word to End the Word Pledge Booth – Monday, March 14
“Celebrating Us” Dance Contest – Tuesday, March 15
“Celebrating the Journey” Recognition/Honors Program – Wednesday, March 16
MRI Day Vocational Training Annual Client Conference – Thursday, March 17
Along with structured activities throughout the month, MRI Adult Services will be holding an “I am” Campaign, where individuals receiving MRI services can utilize their creativity in written or picture form to describe who “I am”. The MRI “I am” Campaign reinforces that people should not be identified as their disabilities. We encourage you to join us in celebrating abilities and encouraging self-advocacy.
In October of 2004 Laury suffered a traumatic brain injury, leaving her in a medically-induced coma. When she regained consciousness a few months later, she had a long road ahead of her. The road began with having to learn how to walk and talk again. Laury now reflects on her recovery process with openness and humbleness. She believes that her stubbornness helped her through her recovery; she is grateful for her second chance.
After her accident Laury moved to Decatur, Illinois to be near family and was quickly referred to MRI. When she was ready to return to work in 2006, MRI’s Community Employment Services and Laury’s own “stubbornness” helped her reach her goals. The Community Employment Specialists at MRI helped Laury through vocational interest and capabilities assessments. In the weekly job training sessions at MRI, Laury quickly demonstrated her dependability, ability to follow through and readiness for employment. Laury was placed in a kitchen staff position at St. Mary’s Hospital, where she worked from 2006-2013. This position allowed Laury to have support in her first job after her brain injury, with 3 others from MRI and a job coach on-site.
“When I came to Macon Resources, it was a godsend. They help you as much as they possibly can. MRI gives you all the resources, and you do the footwork.”
When Laury’s kitchen helper position at St. Mary’s was eliminated due to budget cuts, Laury came back to MRI again for help. This time, with years of solid employment under her belt, she needed less support. She got assistance again from Community Employment Specialists to apply for jobs independently. They helped her with job applications, interview preparation and job seeking.
Laury now works for Sodexo Magic at ADM corporate headquarters. After taking career interest assessments at MRI, Laury knows she is in the right field as a kitchen helper; she takes great pride in the work she does.
“I’m the type of person who doesn’t like to sit around much,” Laury explains. “I love working in a kitchen. It keeps my mind busy and makes time go fast.”
In addition to working, Laury enjoys reading books on her Kindle and travelling with her mother. She recently moved out of government-subsidized housing and now rents her own home with the money she makes with her job at Sodexo/Magic. Laury has just purchased her first car since her accident 11 years ago. She speaks with pride on the new house she is able to pay for herself and the work she wants to do with her car.
To learn more about MRI’s Community Employment Services and Eligibility Criteria, click here.
When MRI Kid’s Connection Coordinator, Jessica Gremo, first met Hayden and his family five years ago, Hayden’s mother, Nichole, was working at KFC and was having issues finding childcare. No daycare in the area would take Hayden because he was tube fed. Nichole thought she was out of options. She contacted Kid’s Connection, a program for children of all abilities, to see if she could enroll Hayden.
At that time the MRI Kid’s Connection did not enroll tube fed children; the cost was extensive and there were no staff trained to assist. However, in order to meet the needs of the community and the families we serve, MRI changed the policy. The MRI nurse trained staff on tube-feeding so Hayden could enroll in Kid’s Connection.
Hayden has flourished at Kid’s Connection through companionship from his staff and his peers.
“Hayden is a happy active young man. He has been enrolled in Kid’s Connection for 5 years. He is still tube fed on occasion but he is also able to eat by mouth now.”
-Jessica Gremo, Kid’s Connection Coordinator
With the support of Kid’s Connection After School and Summer Care, Nichole was able to not only keep her job, she was able to go back to school. She is now a nurse, and can work, knowing her son is well cared for at Kid’s Connection.
For more information on the MRI Kid’s Connection Program, click HERE.