It’s a beautiful, crisp autumn morning at Battelle Darby Creek Park.
Rita Hager opens the doors of her van, and out comes Harvey, Josh, Eugene, and Calvin: The Friday Walking Group.
Rita smiles. “I love this group, and I love walking with them,” she says. The mood is exciting, and everyone is ready to get going. A pleasant breeze sweeps by as the group decides where they’d like to walk first.
Rita, affectionately known as “grandma” by those who know her, is bright, energetic, friendly, and talkative; she’s probably the youngest 80-year-old you’ll ever meet. Walking around the park, she says hello to passers-by and is quick to make conversation with the guys in her group.
Back in 1992, Rita left her career in quality control at General Motors and eventually retired “for good” in 2010. It didn’t take long before she realized that retirement wasn’t for her. Chuck, her son, works for Open Door and told her to come and work part-time as a Direct Support Professional (DSP). He told her, “You’ll love it, and I’m tired of seeing you on the couch!”
Rita has now been a DSP with Open Door for 11 years. She’s successful because she cares—always willing to take time to get to know everyone in her group and connect with them on a personal level.
“The real secret of Rita is the way individuals respond to her,” says Amy Yerian, Program Director of Career Activity Community at Open Door. “When she walks into a room, they start smiling and making gestures for her to come see them.”
Recently, one individual who does not touch or get close to anyone gave Rita a high-five. Another will vocalize at certain points and Rita will say he understands what’s going on.
During the pandemic, Rita learned to FaceTime on an iPad with an individual, Ronnie, from another provider. Their staff was not sure if the individual would respond to the iPad, but they were willing to try. When Ronnie heard Rita’s voice he began smiling and laughing. “Oh, he remembers you!” the staff said. After that, they arranged weekly calls.
Rita is always excited when she comes back from an on-the-go adventure and wants to share her experience with others. “I don’t think there is a negative bone in her body,” says Amy. “She is kind, generous, warm, comical, and is one of the truest people I have ever met.”
Rita was surprised—she never thought about winning anything for just doing her job. She attributes her award to the success of her team, including the hard work of her co-workers.
For about three years, the Friday Walking Group went to the YMCA three times a week. But they had to cut that out when the facility shut down due to COVID. Now, when the weather is nice, they take regular trips to parks like the one at Battelle Darby Creek to get their exercise.
“What do you want to do? You want to go swing?” she asks. It’s a quick ‘yes’ from the group, and off they go.
Much of the walk is spent trying to keep up with Josh, who is regularly out ahead of the pack. All the guys love to be with each other, love to be getting exercise, and most importantly, love being with Rita.
Everyone in the group has different interests. Some days she’ll ask them, “What do you want to do today?” Then after the group gives their input, they’ll take a vote and be on their way. If it’s up to Calvin, the group will probably go bowling. Eugene is known to be an easy-going guy and will happily go wherever the group wants.
Rita focuses on free or low-cost activities and is aware of the difference those small things can make. She always appreciates it when they receive a pass to a local community event, such as COSI or the Franklin Park Conservatory.
And that’s her biggest challenge: figuring out where to go and what everyone can afford. “Harvey is a history buff. If you want to know anything about presidents, or anything else, he’ll give you all the details! He loves museums. That’s the kind of stuff we need more of,” she says.
Many times, DSPs will pay out of their own pockets to cover costs for the individuals in their group that need help. A couple weeks prior, Rita found her group in a similar situation and helped an individual pay their way into a local museum.
Even with these challenges, Rita is undeterred. “I love the name, ‘Open Door.’ And the phrase ‘What door can we open for you?’ That’s what we do for each other. And trying to inspire their journey inspires me!”
Her advice for newer DSPs?
- Be ready to help wherever and whenever you can
- Support your co-workers because they’ll need you
- Remember that everything you do is focused on the individuals
“This will be your challenge for the day,” Rita says during the group’s next walk on Cobshell Trail as the rising sun begins to warm the air. “You can always find something in nature, right? See if you can find anything unusual.” The guys point to colorful leaves and uniquely-shaped branches. It’s an adventure, and everyone loves it.
They eventually spot another group from Open Door at the park. The groups meet up and exchange pleasantries. Rita turns to the other group and smiles. “We got our mile in, did you?” she asks.
Rita doesn’t plan on retiring again. “This is the greatest job I’ve had in my life,” she says. “I’m out five days a week—they’re my extended family and I love them to death.” She tries to follow the example set by leadership at Open Door who don’t ask her to do anything that they won’t do themselves. To Rita, a leader is someone who’s always willing to pitch in and help wherever it’s needed, even if it’s not in their job description.
For lunchtime, Rita sprawls out a tablecloth and finds a picnic table where the guys can eat. It isn’t long before the scent of peanut butter sandwiches, chips, and pop lures some bees over towards the group.
Minutes later, the bees are multiplying and quickly becoming a lunchtime disruption. Rita doesn’t take this lightly. She turns to the group. “Ms. Rita will keep them away from you, okay? You just eat.”
They’re coming after the sweets. The group chats about what the bees are most interested in, and if it makes any difference to bees if foods have real sugar or artificial sweeter. Rita has a plan. She pours a splash of a Diet Pepsi on the opposite end of the tablecloth, rolls up an old magazine, and waits.
One by one, the bees become infatuated with her trap, land, and then receive their punishment. Whack, whack, whack! For the next fifteen minutes, the group shares stories, eats yummy sandwiches, and thinks of where they’d like to go next. Rita chimes in on the conversation as well, all while playing the role of judge, jury, and executioner with a dozen or so of the buzzing pests.
When the meal is done, the group gets up to leave. While Rita couldn’t get all the bees, the picnic table leaves behind plenty of visual evidence of her work. The group had eaten their lunch, and no one got stung. Nothing noteworthy; it was just Rita being Rita.
Now they can start their next walk.
“You only get so many chances in life to be thrown off a robotic steer.” – an old proverb, probably
Our Open Door Fun Fest had something for everyone: carnival games, bounce houses, a bungee trampoline, live music, free food, and prizes. Oh, and how could we forget the line of people waiting for their chance to ride the mechanical bull?
Our big community event served two big purposes:
- To honor the incredible dedication of our direct support professionals (DSPs), and
- To officially unveil our new name, Open Door, to the public
About our DSPs
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of our DSPs. Their impact on our organization, the individuals we support, and the community are immeasurable; without their countless hours of personalized care, there’s simply no way we would be able to fulfill our mission to inspire life journeys. The Open Door Fun Fest brought back the DSP raffle, where we gave away big prizes to those who dedicate their lives to serving others. We gave away big screen TVs, bikes, appliances, gift cards, and much more. It’s something we look forward to every year, and we can’t wait for 2022!
Why did we rebrand?
We’ve always been a progressive organization. In fact, we were founded to provide community-based residential care for individuals transitioning out of institutional settings – a revolutionary idea that did not exist in our area at the time. Over our 38-year history, we have continued to be at the forefront of change, advocating alongside the people we support for their right to full inclusion and equality by offering a wide range of innovative, community-focused programs and services; all designed to inspire their unique life journeys.
But, despite the great work we were doing, we consistently heard from others outside our organization that our name was misleading and did not accurately convey what we do. In addition, our old acronym, CCHS, was often mistaken for other schools and organizations, which only added to the confusion. We agreed with these sentiments and made the decision to pursue rebranding.
Our goals for were two-fold: create a brand that could unite the diverse ranges of programs and services we offer under one umbrella, and most importantly, ensure that the new brand would be truly reflective of who we are and what we do. We soon came to realize that we already had a great brand that met both of those goals – Open Door. By repurposing the Open Door brand, which was more widely recognized by the greater community, we will raise awareness and generate additional engagement and support for our other great programs and services.
Meet the New Open Door
Our new logo features two intersecting doors – one representing our organization, and the other representing the people we support. This intersection represents the relationship between us, creating a door of opportunity.
We are so excited to continue inspiring life journeys and cultivating valued roles for all people as Open Door!
Open Door Art Studio Ramps Up Community Exhibitions
Artists are thriving with recent opportunities to showcase their work
From the Columbus Metropolitan Library to the Columbus Museum of Art to Wild Goose Creative, the artists we support at Open Door Art Studio & Gallery have had many recent opportunities to showcase their work in the community.
Exhibiting is important for all artists; it’s almost like the final puzzle piece to the act of creating. You pour your heart and soul into your work—essentially giving it all of yourself—and then you finally get to share it with the world. (And hope the world receives it well!)
The artists we support are no different than any working artist. They dedicate themselves to their creative process and want to share the result of that process with others. Community exhibitions give them the platform to do just that. They also help to broaden their audience base, connect them to the overarching arts community, and promote them as working artists. And there’s nothing more rewarding than making a sale!
Some of these opportunities come from personal connections that staff members have with local artists, organizations, and venues. Others have come from word of mouth or community experiences that we have structured for our artists.
Artists have a lot to gain from just being able to talk to other artists in the community and observe their work.
“Providing our artists with opportunities to connect the dots from creation to exhibition is priceless,” said Sean Moore, Program Director of Open Door Art Studio & Gallery. “The connections they’ve made while taking part in community experiences often lead to new opportunities for programming and exhibition. Our artists have so much passion for what they do, and that is infectious; people want to be a part of it!”
The artists we support are thriving with the recent opportunities to showcase their work. Ron started attending our studio space three days a week and had very little art-related experience. It took him a couple of weeks to get into the groove, but after that, there was no stopping him. He experimented with a few different mediums before landing on acrylics, and within no time developed his own unique artistic voice. His works are filled with movement and personality.
When representatives from Wild Goose Creative visited the studio to select pieces for the exhibition they were hosting, they were immediately drawn to Ron’s work.
They ended up selecting two of his pieces to be featured, and Ron was able to attend opening reception for this exhibition. The following Monday when he came into the studio, he was so excited to talk about his experience! He continues to make amazing pieces and jumps at the chance to take part in every exhibition opportunity that comes his way! He’s one of our breakout stars, and we see big things on his artistic horizon!
Open Door Art Studio also hosts regular in-house exhibitions. Every October, we try to formulate some exhibition that has a costume or dress up element. This year, we thought the concept of ‘Decades’ would be a fun new twist that would also lend itself well to a costume-themed exhibition opening.
The goal was to have artists create works exemplifying their favorite decade and then attend the opening reception dressed in the era-defining fashion.
The artists chose a wide variety of decades to honor! Chris Padilla’s watercolor piece, “Open Your Mind,” is centered around the counterculture of the 1960s, while Brooklyn Gary’s “Sonny and Cher,” is the perfect example of 1970s popular culture. Brittlynn Burkett went all the way back to the 1920s with her acrylic portrait of a chic flapper.
All the pieces for this show are amazing and we were thrilled to see all the decade-themed costumes that made an appearance at our Decades opening reception on October 9th!
This exhibition will be on display through November 5th. All works from this exhibition are available for purchase at Open Door Art Studio & Gallery located at 1050 Goodale Blvd. in Columbus, and you can find more great works on our website at opendoorcolumbus.org/shop.
Experiences Are Everything | Fall ’21
From the art studio to the garden to events all around central Ohio, see what we’ve been up to lately
Interested in Volunteering?
We’re looking for great people who want to share their time and their talents with the individuals we support!
October 21st from 5:30-8pm! Guests can enjoy a hayride through our greenspace and garden, travel through our “haunted” tunnel (if you dare!), and collect sweet treats from Open Door staff! This event is open to the individuals we support, our staff and their families, and members of the community! Click to learn more!
Setting goals is a way of telling your story. It helps answer the question, “Who am I, and where do I want to go?” For the individuals we support, goal development is a crucial way to express themselves and give a clear direction of where they want their story to go next.
So, how can we help people achieve their goals? Maybe a picture really is worth a thousand words.
In each edition of our newsletter, we’ll have a conversation with Becky Sharp, Chief Executive Director of Open Door, who will share her thoughts on the progress our organization is making in a variety of areas.
In this edition, she talks with Andrew Stinson, Marketing Coordinator at Open Door, about the strides we’ve made in updating our goal development process, the impact of cultivate circles on individuals and staff, and ways we can work with community leaders to continue achieving successful outcomes.
Andrew: Goal development at Open Door has changed a lot recently. How did we used to do goal development, and why did that need to change?
Becky: One of the problems that we noticed was that sometimes the individuals weren’t even invited to take part in the process, or they were unable to communicate at the goal development meeting. Often, folks weren’t even engaging with them. They were talking ‘about them’ but not ‘with them.’ Sometimes the plans were being cut and pasted, meaning literally the same goal for 13 years.
Andrew: Wow, doesn’t that sort of defeat the whole point of goal development?
Becky: Right. And then the goals became a ‘task’ that we had to have in the plan, not something the individual would say. For instance, you would see goals like “learning to tie their shoes” or “brush their teeth” and when you ask the individual, they’re like, “I don’t care, I have Velcro shoes, I don’t need to tie my shoes.” So, they were way off base. And then other times, the goals were focused on their weaknesses as opposed to something they said they wanted to do. Also, with that, a lot of the families were dictating what their lives would look like as opposed to the individuals saying, “This is what I want in my life.”
Andrew: Did you notice that other providers were having similar challenges?
Becky: In visiting with other providers, we noticed this was a system-wide issue. We were seeing the same things. The whole premise of cultivate circles was built on a model from Starfire in Cincinnati. They use “community conversations” and invite whoever the individual would like in the room. They showed us a method to build upon. From that, we decided we were going to do cultivate circles.
Andrew: So, cultivate circles are a better way to document goals?
Becky: Yes, but it’s more than that. Part of the cultivate circle is also drawing and digitally recording what they’re saying, so that also applies to an individual who’s nonverbal, or a new staff member who might be really shy. They all can express themselves. And essentially, the first three to five minutes is just brainstorming about what they want in their life, their dreams, goals, desires, interests—the things they say they want to accomplish in the next year. And then when they digitally record them, the second section is three to five minutes on keying on one of those things to focus on.
Andrew: What have you noticed from the individuals we support after we implemented these new cultivate circles?
Becky: In particular, I think of Ron. His plan had a lot about him being homeless in the past, a lot of weakness-based things in the plan. But if you talk to Ron, he will say, “I love Elvis. I want to go to Memphis. I really want to do art.” He stands out because he started going to Open Door Art Studio, and within two weeks had two pieces selected for the Franklinton Art Show. And we never knew he had any art skills until he participated in the cultivate circle. By using pictures, he showed us what he wanted to do in his life. What’s great is that picture can be applied to their room, their refrigerator, or their staff’s refrigerator as a constant reminder of what we’re helping them work towards.
Andrew: Having a visual representation of a goal like that can make a big difference, yes?
Becky: Absolutely, I think it’s helpful to see a visual as opposed to having 41 pages of documentation! Also, the staff can go on the JotForm and upload the experience to show that it’s actually done and can share these stories with families through an email and a picture. That has been especially helpful during the pandemic when families haven’t been able to visit all the time.
Andrew: That’s great! From a regulatory perspective, does completing a cultivate circle fulfill all the necessary requirements?
Becky: Actually, the DODD surveyors came in to review this. At first, I was a little afraid of their response; after all, we’re in a system that’s very driven by paperwork. But the experience form met all the requirements for the DODD documentation rules, and they were very impressed to see actual pictures of the individual accomplishing an outcome and how the outcomes changed based on the individual achieving one. In the past, you might have seen ‘tying their shoe’ year after year, and you’d never see any progress. But here, you see the progress and then you can do another cultivate circle for the next step, and so on.
Andrew: It sounds like accountability.
Becky: Yes, it’s accountability! It’s also empowering for the staff to see that they helped the individual achieve the goal, and I think it’s a great way to talk to the community about our services in a positive manner. When people can see those pictures on social media, our website, and our newsletter, we often get feedback like, “this is great” or “you’re doing great things!”
Andrew: How did we start the process of implementing cultivate circles?
Becky: We started through training with staff, and part of that was staff actually doing cultivate circles for themselves. And then we decided we would start applying this to their individual plan meetings, and we’ve been doing that for about two months now. With the outcomes that we were seeing from the individuals, we started to implement that in orientation on Day 1 with the new staff coming in. The workforce issues are huge, as everyone knows. So, connecting with those DSPs was one of our priorities. Instead of doing all the rules and regulations right away for new employees, Day 1 is spent getting to know them and what a cultivate circle would look like for them. What goals are they working towards, and how can we as an organization help them with that?
Andrew: What impact has this had on newer staff?
Becky: So, the new employee might identify that they’re going to school, or they really want to be a finance manager, and then we take it a step further and connect them with someone who can help them with that goal. For instance, one of our new employees was going to EMT school, and it just so happened that somebody on the team where she was going was a prior EMT. We paired them together on Day 1, and she felt like we were trying to help her reach her goal. Her comment was, “I never found a company that cared so much, that connected me to my dreams and the things that I want to work on.” She thought it was admirable that Open Door was connecting with staff and making them feel like they matter.
Andrew: What role can cultivate circles play going forward? What would you like to see happen?
Becky: I’d like to take the cultivate circle a step further and invite community members in that can help us achieve some of the goals we draw up. I think that will be key: linking them to community resources. Sometimes, we’re so caught up in what we can do here, as opposed to the resources that are already available in the community. For example, somebody’s goal might be to be a barista at Starbucks. It would behoove us to have somebody in the community that works in that setting come in and be able to connect as opposed to us starting with no leads. Maybe create a community advisory group of businesses that want to participate.
Andrew: Overall, this seems like such a great process.
Becky: It’s been a positive light for us despite all the negativity going on, from the pandemic to workforce challenges. Our goal development process before took an hour and a half. Now, it takes ten minutes and people are saying how much it means to them. So, if we can spend our time doing meaningful things that have an outcome, we’re on the right track.
Open Door Direct Leadership Certification Program
How the ‘power of moments’ helped our staff grow as leaders
A full-time employee spends at least 2,400 minutes at work each week. But how many of those minutes are spent creating moments?
“There is a big difference between minutes and moments,” said Bethany Toledo, Executive Director at Ohio Alliance of Direct Support Professionals (OADSP). “Minutes are a measurement of time that come and go as the hands on the clock move. We rarely recall what happened to those minutes at the end of the day. Moments, on the other hand, have the power to redefine and shape our lives and the lives of others.”
Select staff from all our program and service areas were invited to participate in our Open Door Direct Leadership Certification Program, which focused on the power of moments. This program, created and facilitated in partnership with OADSP, was designed to educate, inspire, and grow our next generation of leaders.
A portion of the curriculum explored four types of moments: elevation, pride, insight, and connection. Participants were each given a large mason jar at the beginning of the program with a stack of post-It notes to capture the various types of moments they created and experienced between sessions. Those moments were then shared at the beginning of the following session.
The ‘moments’ theme helped tie together the various experiences of the participants. For instance, you can ask any Open Door participant about the popsicles on the first day, the drum circle, or the scavenger hunt, and they’ll be able to tell you all about those moments.
OADSP programs are research-based and designed to inspire growth outside of the classroom walls. They have trained and hosted tens of thousands of DSPs, frontline supervisors, and other leaders through various programs and events over the past 20 years.
Both Open Door and OADSP are passionate about developing future leaders, as well as inspiring current leaders to stretch and grow. This program is unique—it’s just as much about building on one’s personal leadership skills as it is about building long-term relationships between colleagues.
Kim Ahern, Human Resources Assistant, didn’t consider herself to be a leader before attending the program. She thought of leadership as something for people with higher-up titles and positions. Now, she understands leadership is something we can all participate in. “It’s about how you live your everyday life and treat others,” she said.
“To be a leader, you must understand how to motivate people,” said Ashley Oiler, ISP Manager in Supported Community Living. “So, to be an effective leader you must think outside of your own scope into someone else’s to achieve an objective.” The piece of the leadership program that really impacted Ashley was the languages of workplace appreciation, which helped her understand that different people can feel appreciated in different ways.
Participants have learned a lot about themselves. Victoria Davis, Program Director of Open Door in Union County, learned how to be more aware of others’ needs. “I am a servant to people, and I really have learned to serve each staff individually with their needs and meet them where they are.”
These lessons have helped improve personal and professional relationships for our leaders. Even better, the only cost for each participant was an open mind.
As the Open Door Direct Leadership Certification Program concludes in November, everyone is working on discovering their ‘why’ and using that to become better leaders going forward. Bethany Toledo’s journey started when she answered an ad in the newspaper for a “Residential Care Coordinator” at age 19. Now, as Executive Director of OADSP, she’s discovered that her ‘why’ is to support others to see just how much potential they have and give them tools to do so.
We’re excited that our leaders now have the tools and resources to make these discoveries as well!
Shanna Korneagay, a beautiful, reserved young lady, has been a member of our Dirt Devils gardening group for about two years.
Shanna has an unusual goal each year: to experience and explore a color of her choosing. Our challenge, then, was to find the many ways the Dirt Devils could help her do this. Staff members Teresa and Zahra were determined to bring this pearl out of her shell.
In 2020, the color Shanna chose was white…that sounds easy enough, right? The group planted white angel baby begonias in our greenhouse and started Shanna’s year off with a bang! She perused seed catalogs and garden magazines searching for further inspiration. Her fellow Dirt Devils kept their eyes open for white flowers to share with Shanna. We found variegated plants (leaves that had green and white leaves), and we all learned about hostas, geraniums, and sage.
Shanna found a couple of white strawberry plants at the garden center, and we brought them back to our AccessABLE Community Garden. Not only did Shanna develop knowledge about these flowers and plants, but she also taught others along the way. And our newest Dirt Devil became a friend to us all!
This year, Shanna chose grey as her color. Now, this presented a problem: we had a terrible time finding grey flowers. We did have a few grey plants, but nothing that really felt like it fit in well enough with the “grey” theme.
One day, Shanna became very excited while flipping through a seed catalog. This quiet and reserved woman came rushing over to Teresa and grabbed her hand. Looking Teresa intently in the eye, she said, “I want grey oyster mushroom spores, May 9th.”
How could we refuse? Shanna had only spoken a few words since joining the group and this was such a specific and well-spoken request, we ordered them right away! Shanna helped care for the mushrooms and before we knew it the whole group was munching on delicious chicken marsala with oyster mushrooms we prepared from Shanna’s crop.
Shanna repeated her request for oyster mushroom spores several times and was successful in growing many to share. In the process, she became much more vocal and engaged in the gardening group. She is a valued member and friend—we’re thrilled she’s a part of our group!
Shanna has already picked the 2022 color of the year: PINK.
She made her announcement about a month ago. “We will go to Lowe’s next May,” she said, taking Teresa’s hand in hers, “and get watermelon seeds and strawberry plants.”
When we talk about “inspiring life journeys,” that means doing whatever we can to help individuals achieve their goals. It means we listen first, even though some individuals might not have many words to say. You never know how your actions can make a difference in someone’s life.
Remember the Dirt Devils and the AccessABLE Community Garden as you put your own beds to sleep this Fall. If you have any seeds or plants with pink fruit or flowers, please send them to Shanna and the Dirt Devils! We still have a lot to learn about pink!
Career, Activity, & Community
Offering one-on-one and small group adult day support, Career, Activity, & Community gives individuals with disabilities the opportunity to live their own powerful life story.
An Ode to Fall
You’ve read all the way to the end! Thanks for that 😊
So, how’d we do? Send us your thoughts on our new newsletter at email@example.com
Is there something you want to know about Open Door? Just ask! We’ll be answering reader questions in our next quarterly issue, so be on the lookout for our next edition in early January 2022!
See all the ways we inspire life journeys!