Individuals, businesses honored by DD board as local heroes
MOUNT VERNON — Stories of people with developmental disabilities living richer lives with the help of new technology and the presentation of annual awards by the Knox County Board of Developmental Disabilities highlighted the board’s annual Awareness Luncheon.
The annual awards honor individuals for their contributions, organizations and employers who have provided outstanding support and individuals with disabilities who have overcome adversity to achieve or go beyond their expectations.
Presented with the Local Hero Award was Terri Pribonic, Community Services Manager of New Hope Industries. DD Board President Steve Oster said Pribonic “is patient, kind and gives her all to ensuring the staff are well-prepared while serving the support that is needed to staff and the individuals they serve.” He also added, “Her tireless work to overcome obstacles, make accommodations, advocate for individuals and build relationship has created countless opportunities for individuals to move forward in their lives.”
Pribonic said she was surprised and honored by the award. She said she didn’t know about it in advance, but suspected something was up when her husband, daughters and five grandchildren all showed up as the lunch began.
The Employer Award went to Justin Newell, assistant athletic director at Kenyon College. He has “continually exhibited a strategy of openness and acceptance by his employment practices with persons with developmental disabilities,” Oster said, further stating that Newell has “provided many work experiences for special needs individuals in Knox County.”
The 52 local employers who provide more than 80 jobs for individuals with developmental disabilities were also recognized.
Receiving the Community Partner Award, which recognizes any individual, family member, staff person, volunteer or organization “that was worked diligently to create partnerships and alliances in Knox County” were the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County and Mount Vernon Premiere Theatre 7.
The library was recognized for its partnership with a donor from the Community Foundation for the creation of a Play and Learn Sensory Library, from which families can borrow adaptive toys and sensory items to try before making an expensive purchase.
The theater was honored for offering “Sensory Sensitive Movies,” during which the lights are turned up, the sound turned down and families can bring in their own specialty diet snacks. Children and adults with autism especially enjoy these showings as they can enjoy the latest movies and not be overwhelmed by their surroundings.
The Dedication Award went to Tiffany Cagnon, who has worked at Midwest Innovations since 2012 and has been Program Coordinator since 2016. The award recognizes a person, direct care staff, or group of people who are extraordinary in giving their time to help others who have a developmental disability.
Cagnon, said Oster, “has proven to be an excellent role model to all those around her. She does not shy away from challenging others to do what they are capable of doing. She does not hold back on explaining what skills are needed in the workplace and what you have to do to acquire those skills…She can be counted on to get things done. She knows when to use humor and when to be serious.
“She has gone out of her way to work with an individual who is quick to anger and do things that are not appropriate for employment.”
The individual Spotlight Award recognizes an individual with a developmental disability who has overcome adversity to achieve or go beyond their goals and expectations. The winner was Jocelyn Gillardi. She works two jobs, as a teacher’s aide at St. Vincent de Paul School, where she has worked since 2009, and in the produce department at Lanning’s Foods, where she has worked since 2000.
“She is an excellent employee who definitely shows her dedication in all she does,” said Oster.
She also enjoys attending conferences and participates in Special Olympics in track and field, winning medals in walk and softball throw.
Oster also reported on the Harmony Playground, the inclusive playground at Memorial Park in Mount Vernon which was completed this winter. He said that in spite of the cold weather it has already become a popular attraction.
He recognized the donors who made the playground possible and the committee who coordinated the work.
The dedication of the park will take place at 1 p.m. April 25.