Possibilities: A KenCrest Magazine Issue 4

Page 1


Inclusivity At Kimberton Wholefoods



Editor-in-Chief Marian Baldini, CEO & President Executive Editor Jim O'Connor, CHRC Copy Editor Lauren Tilghman, Director of Strategic Communication & Marketing

a New Path After The 04 Finding Military a Part of Their 08 Becoming Community


Inclusivity In The Workforce


A Beloved Friend: Rev. Harvey Paul Davis


Finding Visibility in The Disability Community


Getting Career Ready With Merck


Inclusivity At Kimberton Wholefoods


Apollo's Journey With Cerebral Palsy

COVER: Danny Atkinson outside his place of employment, Kimberton Wholefoods. // Cover photo by Sydney Kerelo

Contributing Writers Sydney Kerelo, Creative Content Manager Olivia Riordan, Planned Development Specialist Grace Dow KenCrest Centers Board of Directors Jim Andrews • Steven F. Bell • Steven Brenneman • Merri Brown • Mona Zander Kevin P. Dougher • Colin D. Dougherty James Garvey • Carol Hammarberg • Charles W. Horn III • Scott McCloskey • Lauren McDonald • Sean Outen • Eric Rahe Stephen Van Osten KenCrest Services Board of Directors Sheila Bruce • Mona Zander • Patricia Bush Hal Davidow • Tracey Jasey • Mamta Maini • Sean Outen • Jim Van Horn • Stephen Van Osten Design Sydney Kerelo, Creative Content Manager Aubrey Hoffert, Digital Media Manager Photography Aubrey Hoffert, Digital Media Manager Sydney Kerelo, Creative Content Manager Russell Stewart, Director of Development Possibilities is published by KenCrest Services, 960A Harvest Drive, Suite 100, Blue Bell, PA 19422 How to Reach Us 610.825.9360 kencrest.communications@kencrest.org KenCrest is a 501c3 non-profit human services provider throughout Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Delaware. www.kencrest.org Our Mission KenCrest’s mission is to support community development by exploring possibilities, mobilizing resources, and empowering dreams. Published: October 2023



Dear Friends, For many of us, employment plays a significant part in our lives. Jobs provide income, opportunities, growth, and connections. At KenCrest, it’s more than just employing our staff gainfully; it’s ensuring that the hundreds of men and women we support in our programs, obtain meaning-filled jobs too. Whether it’s days or nights, full time or part time―when we are all given the chance to contribute to the workforce, possibilities can grow for everyone. In this edition of KenCrest’s Magazine you’ll discover the joy of working as a Community Coach; the impact that our business partners are having on young adults who are preparing to enter into the “working world;” and the immeasurable pride of those in our Employment and communitybased programs as they support at local businesses and organizations throughout our region. As you read the stories I hope that you too will be inspired by the positive impact employment can have on the lives of so many, and the possibilities we can create together, one job at a time.

Sincerely, Jim O'Connor Chief Human Resources Officer



Finding a New Path After the Military By Sydney Kerelo

A service-related head injury led this Navy Veteran to civilian life and the chance to discover his passion: helping people with disabilities.


fter a four-year career in the United States Armed Forces Navy, Veteran Doug Jones discovered a new calling, working with individuals with intellectual or developmental

disabilities. Jones joined the Navy fresh out of high school in 1984 with a spark in his eye and a dream of adventure. His first deployment took him through the Pacific Ocean, where he docked in Guam, the Philippines, and Korea. While his second deployment brought him a little closer to home, stationing him on a ship in California, on the West Coast. However, Jones suffered an accident on the boat that severely injured him, leaving him without hearing in his left ear. As he recovered in a Department of Veterans Administration(VA) hospital, Jones would walk along the corridors, stop into different rooms and chat with other patients, nurses, doctors, and medical staff, searching for meaningful connections Two months passed before Jones was discharged, but he wasn’t allowed back on the boat. He was given shore duty, a position Jones didn’t enjoy, and paid even less. Eventually, Jones left the military and joined his stepfather in real estate, where he sold houses on the west coast for years while raising his son. But he quickly realized the fast-paced real estate setting wasn’t for him, so he searched for a new path. Jones knew he wanted to work with people with disabilities from the start but initially wanted to be in a VA health program. But before he got the chance, Manor Care in


Pottstown recruited him, and he worked with people with brain injuries or disorders, including a gentleman with Alzheimer’s. This fellow would follow Jones around the hospital, just chatting about his day, and Jones loved it, but it didn’t feel like enough. Until one day, when a client of his spoke of KenCrest’s day program—centralized location that encouraged the people we support to come together and connect through fun activities. But within a few years of Jones starting at KenCrest in 2016, COVID shut down allday programs, and he transitioned to a Direct Support Professional (DSP) worker at KenCrest’s Welsh group home. “Ronnie is the first person I ever met when I came to KenCrest,” says Jones about one of the people he supported at the Welsh home. “I was being interviewed at Robinson Street, and he approached me and asked, ‘Do you have a radio?’ (Which, if you know Ronnie, is his favorite topic of conversation) and I just laughed; I thought, this is perfect for me.” Little did he know that shortly after that first encounter, he and Ronnie would become close friends while Jones worked at his group home.


Community Connection Coach Doug Jones. // Photo by Aubrey Hoffert Recently, however, Jones made another career change; he is now a Community Connection Coach, working with a handful of individuals KenCrest supports one-on-one. His new role allows him to take the people he supports into the community to do activities that are fun and meaningful to them. Now, he supports three individuals, John, Kurt, and Scott, two of whom are roommates. Jones initially supported John solely, taking him mini-golfing or on long hikes. But as the fun progressed, his roommate became intrigued. “I grew up on a farm, so I’m outside most of the time, and when I was assigned John, I learned that he would play on the swings but wouldn’t do much else,” says Jones. “So, when I got him, I tried to do different activities with him. We tried golfing, but it didn’t work out; most things we tried didn’t work. But he has sensoryseeking behaviors and loves touching stuff, so that I would start with small hikes, and he

loved it. Now we go on six-mile hikes, and he stands behind me, walking along singing the whole time and touching stuff like a tree or a trail sign.” John’s roommate Kurt saw all the different activities Jones and him were doing and wanted to join in. Now, John and Kurt enjoy outdoor activities; they even took a trip to Dorney Park together and are learning to play baseball, thanks to Jones. “It’s the happiest I’ve ever been. The hours are great, and I get to do something meaningful. I always tell my girlfriend, do you believe I’m getting paid to do this?” laughs Jones heartily.

Are you considering making a career change? Consider working for KenCrest! Visit KenCrest.org/Careers to apply today! KENCREST.ORG 05

Thank you to our sponsors and supporters for joining us at RiverCrest Golf Club & Preserve to celebrate our community during KenCrest’s sixth annual Masters event last May. With 18 holes of gold on RiverCrest’s Sam Snead-designed course, mini golf for casual players, and an art class taught by a person we support, this year’s event had many opportunities to engage and learn more about KenCrest.




Nick posing outside Steel City. // Photo by Aubrey Hoffert


Becoming a Part of Their Community Two KenCrest participants regularly volunteer in Phoenixville and Pottstown to learn new skills and develop lasting friendships in their communities. By Sydney Kerelo


ince the early 1700s, going back to the founding of the United States, volunteerism has been a hallmark of the Country’s democracy and culture. The first volunteer firehouse opened its doors in 1736, followed by a slew of volunteerism in social reforms like the women’s rights movement, child labor, and the abolition of slavery, all to help improve the lives of others. Today, volunteerism continues to be an essential part of the Country’s culture and helps to promote community engagement and relationships between citizens, businesses, and institutions of government. Western Connecticut State University states, “Unpaid volunteers are often the glue that holds a community together. Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. Even helping with the smallest tasks can make a real difference to the lives of people, animals, and organizations in need.” KenCrest understands the importance of volunteering and actively participating in one’s community. Many people supported and employed by KenCrest actively volunteer and participate in their community, like Marie and Nick. Marie has volunteered at TriCounty Active Adult Center in Pottstown for four years, wrapping silverware, setting lunch tables, and preparing the exercise classes. The Adult Center originally opened in 1976 as the Pottstown Area Seniors’ Center and began operating out of the Christ Episcopal Church’s basement. By the end of that first year, the Center had more than 200 members, with many visiting daily for a hot lunch and recreational programs.


COMMUNITY VOLUNTEERING After 40 years, the Center offers more than a daily lunch. With more than 100 weekly social, recreational, educational, and exercise programs, including chair volleyball and bingo. “My favorite activities I do at TriCounty is playing dominos and bingo,” says Marie. “I have made many friends there and hang out with them even outside of volunteering.” Marie isn’t the only KenCrest client who enjoys participating actively in their community. Nick volunteers and works at numerous businesses across the Phoenixville area, including Sweet Brew, Foxfield Flowers, Frog Hollow Farm, and Steel City Coffeehouse & Brewery. While Nick does receive paid employment at a few of these businesses through KenCest’s Employment program, he continues to go above and beyond by becoming friendly with every customer. One of Nick’s favorite things to do is greet the customers and start a friendly conversation with each person. “We know how important meaningful work is for Nick; it keeps him on the right track and lets him meet new people,” says his father, Claus Sproll. “Nick knows the Mayor of Phoenixville (Peter Urscheler), a local representative, and even the police department.” As an incredibly sociable person, Nick loves working and volunteering at various places around the area, meeting new people, and trying new things. When he started working at Frog Hollow Farm and Foxfield Flowers in Phoenixville, PA, they taught him how to mow the lawn and tend to the flower beds. With two greenhouses and two acres of land, Foxfield Flowers offers organic, locally grown flowers and provides social and job training opportunities to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities through the Camphill School. While at Steel City, a local coffeehouse and brewery in Phoenixville, Nick learned how to wash the dishes, clean the cutlery and ensure that he could be a helping hand to the customers. Nick even paints, displaying his artwork throughout his home and at the Phoenixville Rec Center. “In the winter, Nick works with an artist at what used to be the Phoenixville Art Center, but now since they changed studios, he works at a private studio,” says Claus Sproll. “One of his paintings hangs at the Phoenixville Rec Center.” For Marie and Nick, volunteering and working in their community is essential. It's not only a chance to learn new skills but to gather socially, meet new people, and become a part of something bigger.


TOP: Marie smiling in her home. // Photo courtesy of Marie. BOTTOM: Nick posing with his boss inside Steel City. // Photo by Aubrey Hoffert


Inclusivity in The Workforce By Grace Dow

Writer Grace Dow breaks down inclusivity in the workforce for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.


ave you heard about efforts to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace? Perhaps you have even seen these initiatives in your community or at your place of work. Many employers are increasingly becoming public about the importance of diverse and inclusive professional settings. In the summer, Disability: IN released its annual “Best Places to Work” Disability Equality Index, and many well-known companies, like Amazon and Nestlé, received a perfect score, but that doesn’t mean they’re an inclusive place of employment. Over the past few years, investigations by The New York State Division of Human Rights, found that Amazon has denied reasonable accommodations to employees on several occasions in New York. In one instance, they forced an employee to take unpaid leave after injuring herself at work, according to Reuters. In the state of Pennsylvania, reasonable accommodations are supposed to be provided to disabled employees. They can only be denied under certain circumstances, and if they must decline accommodations, they must determine whether an accommodation would create an undue hardship. Undue hardship occurs when providing the required accommodation would be extremely difficult or expensive for the employer, alter their business operations, or would result in the loss of crucial job functions. If a company can show proof of these difficult hardships, they are not required to provide them. However, there are instances where an employer denies accommodations essential for employees. For example, as a person with Cerebral Palsy, I require help with activities of daily living, such as using the restroom and setting up my lunch. But according to The Job Accommodation Network, unfortunately, employers are not required to accommodate personal assistance services, for people like me

with specific disabilities, which is perhaps the most crucial. Without my personal care assistants, I wouldn’t be able to work, and by denying access to personal care services in the workplace, employers are missing out on an entire segment of the population. People cannot perform well at work if they don't have a way to take care of basic needs while there. What would it be like if you couldn't eat lunch or use the restroom at work? My personal care assistants also assist me with transportation because I cannot drive. So, without them, I couldn't get to and from work. With the rise in remote work, many disabled people find it easier to do their jobs, according to Bloomberg. In the future, I hope to find a remote position that will allow me to work from home most of the time so I can have more independence and work in an environment that’s already accessible to me. In addition, many disabled people rely on Medicaid for health coverage, which provides healthcare services and a wide range of home and community-based services. Unfortunately, Medicaid adds another complex aspect to inclusion in the workplace due to income and asset limits that Medicaid beneficiaries must meet. If people make too much money, they often risk losing their benefits. I hope the labor market will continue to become more accessible for people with different disabilities. Disabled people can be outstanding employees, and data has shown disabled people are creative, hardworking, and reliable, bringing so much to the workplace. Grace Dow is a writer from Massachusetts with Cerebral Palsy who has been covering topics on disabilities for several years. She has been published in Easterseals and the Westfield Voice. Check her out at GraceDowWrites.com KENCREST.ORG




Photo of Reverend Harvey Paul Davis' obituary and two of his published autobiographies. // Photo by Sydney Kerelo


A Beloved Friend: Rev. Harvey Paul Davis At 96, Reverend Harvey Paul Davis passed away after a lifetime of supporting people in need, and KenCrest honors his memory for it. By Sydney Kerelo


ooking back on her childhood as one of four growing up in a small West Philadelphia townhouse, Paula Davis only recalls moments of happiness. Many of them recollections of Saturday afternoons spent in the kitchen as her father, Reverend Harvey Davis, cooked his world-famous (in their opinion) spaghetti; or Sundays watching her father deliver empowering sermons to the clergy at their small church in Germantown, Philadelphia. And all those good memories were because of her parents, their dedication to seeing the good in every situation, and always advocating for those in need. Growing up, Paula watched her father thrive as he was appointed pastor in their church, worked for the Naval Depot (now the Philadelphia Shipyard), and became the first Equal Employment Opportunity officer at the Depot. Later, he was promoted to the Regional Director of five mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia. From a young age Rev. Harvey Davis was passionate and dedicated to helping as many people as possible. Born in 1926 as the sixth child of eight, Harvey understood what it meant to struggle. Coming from West Philadelphia with no money and a slew of prejudices shoved in his path, he fought constantly to see the good in everything. “He was taught to think and to be educated,” says his daughter Paula. “He made the most out of the circumstances and learned to pivot. He learned that it has to be a choice, it has to be intentional because things can wear you out, things can beat you down, but you have to be grateful in life.” Growing up in the Depression era, Harvey

experienced bias, discrimination, racism, and more, but he never let it affect him. He always sought to help others who didn’t have much, and he instilled that desire in his children. He reminded them to always do well with whatever path they took, no matter what level of success that meant; much of which was taught to him by his mother, who emphasized the importance of being kind to one another. Everyone deserves respect and consideration, and for Rev. Harvey— that started within his family. His mother used to tell him, “You are no better than anyone else, but no one else is better than you.” The first rule in his home was, to be honest and sincere in everything, which was essential when dealing with anyone. At just 15 years old, Rev. Harvey started working and, shortly after, registered for the 1944 draft. After entering military life, he was stationed first in Germany and then in Le Harve, France, where he fell in love. In the 1980s, Harvey and his late wife, Sally, bought a second home in France, where they hosted numerous friends and traveled to Vienna, Prague, Thailand, Egypt, and South Africa. He lived part-time in France for nearly 30 years before he couldn’t travel anymore. Rev. Harvey Paul Davis passed at 96 after a lifetime of helping others. For years, Harvey worked at KenCrest as a volunteer in the Development office working with churches. During that position, Harvey noticed families KenCrest KENCREST.ORG



supported who lacked funds and gifts during the holiday season. So, he took action, and created the Family Fund to raise money and gifts for struggling families. “He went around to his friends and started getting volunteers and money from donations,” says board member Carol Hammarberg. “He would talk about KenCrest at his doctor's office, his church, anywhere to get donations towards this Fund.” Harvey did this year after year, gathering a list of families in need and then asking those in the community to either adopt a family and purchase gifts for them, or to donate money towards the cause. And year after year, the Family Fund grew to include as many 200 families yearly. “We were good friends back then,” says Hammarberg. “He would come sit in my office and talk and talk and talk. He was insanely sociable, and every person he met he made feel important. His lack of judging people and his acceptance of everyone, no matter who they were, amazed me. For having lived the life he did, and encountered all the obstacles he did, and to come out with such a pleasant demeanor was incredible.” Rev. Harvey Paul Davis was an incredible man who would drop any and everything to help someone in need. He was caring, considerate, and one of the best people who always made the most out of any circumstance. “One thing that has stuck with me is something his daughter Paula highlighted for me that I used in my eulogy sermon for his memorial service, which was that he was all about service, equality, and family,” says Reverend Dan Smith from the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Arbor. “Those will be it if you have three words to describe him.”

For more information on how you can support the Rev. Harvey Davis Family Fund, please visit KenCrest.org/FamilyFund.


Photos courtesy of the Davis Family



By Sydney Kerelo


Kelly and Oliver. // Photo by Russell Stewart

Finding Visibility in The Disability Community

THE EFFECTS OF LANGUAGE For generations, the disabled community has fought to have their voice heard, and they are doing it again by advocating for a language change.

There are many people in this world who live with invisibility, either because of their disability or mental health,” says Dr. Autumn Dae Miller, KenCrest’s Director of Behavioral Health Supports & Services. More than 26 percent of adults in the United States have a disability, whether intellectual, developmental, or physical, according to the National Institutes of Health. And despite anti-discrimination laws, they still experience employment, education, income, housing, and healthcare inequities because of their disability. But that doesn’t stop their fight for equality. In 1974, the United States hosted its first selfadvocacy conference, which sparked the “People First” movement advocating for and empowering individuals with a disability by emphasizing their individuality and personhood rather than their impairments. And since then, disability culture has shifted drastically to allow for deeper inclusion of those with disabilities. But while it has shifted the focus off their disability to who they are as a person, many disabled self-advocates oppose the person-first language approach and instead promote using an identity-first approach. This asserts their disability as an essential identifier and a diverse cultural experience. According to the University of Kansas, person-first language has been said to separate the disability from a person’s worth by suggesting that the disability is inherently harmful, like a disease, rather than something that makes that person who they are. “[As the world changes], we have to figure out a way to be with each other, recognizing our needs, our strengths, and giving people whatever is necessary for them to have equity,” says Marian Baldini, KenCrest’s CEO and President. “There’s more than one way to be successful. There’s more than one way to do something that will work, and we need to help people move into a space where they can create their future, not create the future for them.” The National Library of Medicine says that several self-advocates in the Deaf and autism communities publicly reject person-first language but embrace identity-first language because it views a person’s disability as an integral part of their identity. Having these communities take this stand is vital because the decision was made by themselves, not by society, scholars, or editorial boards. An individual KenCrest serves through Supported Independent Living, Kelly regularly advocates for

herself and others, claiming everyone deserves to feel special and not to have labels define who they are. “My gut tells me that you’re not disabled but special because you have special needs,” she says. “You’re just a person with a right to the same things any other person does, and you should be the person you want to be. Don’t let people hate on you or control your life, be who you want to be.” People have used language for generations to categorize different aspects of society, including people with a disability, whether intellectual, physical, or developmental. For example, when it comes to a person’s medical needs, using labels like ‘autistic’ or ‘Deaf’ allows them access to the necessary support services or accommodations. If you are labeled as Deaf, then you’re legally entitled to some communication support like an interpreter or card system. But using those terms to describe a person’s medical history is entirely different from discussing who they are as a person. There is so much more to a person than their disability. “People in society have decided what they want to call others,” says Dr. Miller. “And it’s not that disabled folks are not communicating regularly, but it’s that the public has decided in each society how everyone should communicate, and part of the marginalization of the disabled community is that people are going, ‘well, you’re not communicating in a way I like,’ and changing the way they see language.” “When we give something language, we give it space and depth,” she adds. “We add more meaning to it. So, the more language we pay attention to, the more language we have access to and the more meaning our lives and those around us have.” If that person wishes, they can be called an ‘autistic person,’ or they can choose not to have that label. It’s their decision and shouldn’t be affected by society. People want to have the same access to work, travel, healthcare, promotions, friendships, and romantic relationships as anyone else, but language, at times, can keep barriers up. But it can also break them down and allow individuals to feel seen or heard within society. “I hope we can use language in a good way, and if we change the language, we will have more possibilities,” says Baldini. “Changing the language will help us see each other as valued, gifted, and respected.” KENCREST.ORG


Getting Career Ready With Merck By Olivia Riordan



Merck partnered up with KenCrest to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities prepare for the future.

A Project SEARCH Intern at the Career Ready Day. // Photo by Sydney Kerelo


n June 7th, the Blue Bell branch of the Wissahickon Public Library housed its first Career Readiness Day, where young adults served by KenCrest’s Employment and Supported Independent Living programs stopped by to better prepare for their future careers. The event, facilitated by volunteers from Merck’s Human Resources team, included professional headshots, resume reviews, practice interviews, and a “Charting the Life Course” station. Corporate volunteer days with organizations like Merck—a multinational pharmaceutical company—allow businesses to give back to their local communities, while strengthening connections with their teammates. Why would a company decide to participate in a corporate volunteer day? “Volunteering is something that my Human Resources team takes great pleasure in doing,” shared Merck HR Business Partner Dan Kesnick.* “As a team, we wanted to find a volunteering opportunity to use our knowledge and expertise to help our local community.” “While volunteering is not a requirement at Merck, it is one of our core values,” added Mark Geiger,* Associate Director and HR Business Partner. The Merck team excitedly assembled in the Library’s back room and helped other KenCrest employees set up for the day's events, Mark and Dan supported several interns from Employment’s Project SEARCH program, at the resume review station as they reflected on their past experiences, career interests, and ways they could bolster their resumes. “[A few of the interns] asked me questions about Merck, my career, and what I enjoy about my job,” shared Geiger. Across the room, at the headshot station, KENCREST.ORG

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For more information on KenCrest's Employment program and how to be Career Ready, visit KenCrest.org/Employment LEFT: An employment intern learning to chart his Lifecourse. RIGHT: KenCrest Digital Media Manager, Aubrey Hoffert taking headshots of interns. // Photos by Sydney Kerelo

KenCrest’s Digital Media Manager, Aubrey Hoffert, took profile photos of everyone who attended. Hoffert professionally edited each image so that they could use them for their visual resumes or LinkedIn accounts. While at the interview prep station, volunteers prepped individuals on what questions they might hear during an interview and the best ways to respond. The last table at the Career Readiness Day, focused on “Charting the Life Course;” a series of tools that provide people with disabilities with the framework needed to discover what is most vital for them to live their best personal and professional lives. Several elements from this framework were available to participants to help them reflect on finding a career that aligns with their interests and environment preferences. The job search and application process can be stressful for anyone; however, it can be even more trying for people with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only “21.3 percent of persons with a disability were employed” in 2022. Despite their desires to work, many people with disabilities searching for employment opportunities face challenges when getting hired. But employment programs and support from one’s local community can make the job exploration and application process go much smoother. KenCrest’s Employment team provides services that help match their interests and personal strengths to prospective job opportunities with businesses that value diverse abilities. And working with various KenCrest community partners, like Merk, to practice job interview skills and resume prep 20 POSSIBILITIES | ISSUE 04

gives neurodiverse community members the confidence to excel in any professional setting. “I have multiple years of HR and recruiting/hiring experience, and events like this allow me to share some of that knowledge,” says Kesnick. “Hopefully, I was able to give people some knowledge and confidence to land their next or first job. [The Career Readiness Day] impacts the people KenCrest supports because they get to hear a different perspective and practice some of the core pieces to applying to and ultimately getting a job. The most impactful part for me was just being able to offer some advice/feedback and see the people listening, understanding, and hopefully the end goal of them gaining something that will help them out.” Although Merck’s team has volunteered at many career-themed events, Mark Geiger explained that KenCrest’s Career Readiness Day differed from other career days they’ve participated in previously. “In the past, I’ve attended career events where the attendees didn’t come across as enthusiastic or excited about their future careers,” says Geiger. “I was quite happy that the KenCrest attendees were excited and passionate about their careers. They were friendly, motivated, prepared, and passionate. It was a pleasure to meet and work with all of them.” The community at KenCrest was thrilled to gain valuable career readiness preparation and advice from the Merck team, as well as a new circle of support. While none of us know what the future holds, we know the future for our new young job seekers is bright and full of opportunities. *Last names have been changed to respect the privacy of the volunteers and their professional networks.

Danny posing outside Kimberton Wholefoods. // Photo by Sydney Kerelo

Inclusivity at Kimberton Wholefoods By Sydney Kerelo




For 19 years, Danny Atkinson has worked for Kimberton Wholefoods in Phoenixville through KenCrest’s Employment program.


ulling up to the Kimberton Wholefoods in Phoenixville, customers are met with a charming store. There’s an old-time enchantment about the sunflower embellishment on their sign and flowers displayed out front of the former hardware store, in Kimberton Village. But the real magic happens once you enter those sliding doors. Beaming with pride in the store's front room stands Danny Atkinson, a KenCrest-supported employee who works at Kimberton Wholefoods. He works at the grocery four days a week, greeting every customer who walks through those front doors with a brilliant smile, cheerful disposition, and incredible kindness. He has worked at Kimberton Wholefoods for 19 years and is known for his incredible stories and ability to bring joy to every patron. “I think he’s one of the oldest and longest working employees there,” laughs Nancy Atkinson, Danny’s mother. Born with severe conjunctivitis so bad he had no tear ducts, Danny struggled with many things growing up. He had trouble eating, walking, and talking, so he was taught at various Pennsylvania schools that offered the proper support for him, like the Child Development Centers, K.D. Markley Elementary School, and West Brandywine School before high school. “Cat Pickering (Technical College High School Pickering Campus) was where he graduated from high school, and he did really well,” says Atkinson. “Cat Pickering had a worker’s program where they would transport him to work during the day. That’s how he got to Kimberton Wholefoods, and in 2004 when he graduated, we went to KenCrest to get paid for his work.” Danny joined KenCrest’s Employment program to access the proper support he needed to work. Starting in 1984, the Employment program built employer partnerships and connected the people we support with paid employment throughout Pennsylvania’s various communities. Now, 39 years later, the Employment program focuses on people's skills and preferences, letting them find work they want and enjoy, which is what Danny found.


He works at Kimberton four days a week on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday for 12 hours total because, as Danny says, “I need a day off!” During his shift, he sorts the recycling into the proper bins, helps restock shelves, and, his favorite part of the job, greets the customers. When at work, Danny is the light in the dark; he is constantly chatting with customers, making them smile and laugh with his charming jokes. He is always around to lend an extra hand to any team member and truly loves doing the work. “He’s like one of the greatest assets to our company,” says Grocery team member Brian Cahill. “I feel like everybody knows when Danny’s here; it’s a better day.” “Having an employee like Danny shows the rest of the team and our community how much we care; it gives us a different perspective on the workplace and teaches us how to communicate differently,” adds Cahill. Kimberton Wholefoods has been the pillar of its community since 1994 when the store opened its doors. Since then, it's grown to include a garden and gift shop, the Kimberton Café, and an endless supply of organic produce, raw dairy, humanely raised meats, gourmet foods, baked goods, household items, and so much more. According to their website, Kimberton’s mission is to “serve as a community market with a passionate commitment to integrity, sustainable agriculture, and fair trade.” Since its opening, the Store has abided by its values to care for the earth by promoting organic and biodynamic farming methods, building cooperative solid ties within the community, supporting each person’s quest to learn about conscious, healthy living solutions, and honoring each customer with outstanding service—something Danny actively achieves daily. “We live in this community, and Danny knows more people than I do,” laughs Nancy. “All the customers know him now; whenever we go into the post office or a local store, everyone’s like ‘Hi Dan!”

TOP: Danny and his mother Nancy Atkinson. BOTTOM: Danny stacking shelves. // Photos by Sydney Kerelo

For more information on KenCrest's Employment program visit KenCrest.org/Employment




At three-years-old Apollo and his parents, Sana and Zach, navigate Spastic Quad Cerebral Palsy with help from KenCrest’s Early Intervention team.


n a sunny Monday afternoon at an Ardmore apartment complex resembling the White House, one three-year-old, Apollo, wheels into his living room with a brilliant smile. Arriving home f rom preschool, sweaty and happy, Apollo beams at his parents while recounting his day. Two years ago, the family moved back to the Philadelphia area f rom New York with hopes of finding the best medical support for Apollo, who, at only nine months old, was diagnosed with Spastic Quadriplegia Cerebral Palsy (CP)— a form of CP that varies from mild stiffness to severe pain or paralysis, and uncontrollable muscle spasms in both arms and legs. At four months old, Apollo began showing symptoms of CP when he started having seizures. A month later, he underwent testing during an overnight hospital visit. They performed an electroencephalogram or EEG and analyzed him for months while witnessing his motor milestones regress and weight plateau, finally diagnosing him with CP. They referred him to an Early Intervention provider in New York, where they lived before the family moved to Ardmore when Apollo was 20 months old. He was later referred to KenCrest, receiving physical, occupational, speech, and special instruction. At 11 months old, Apollo began using orthotics and learned how to use a gait trainer at two and a half years old. This device helps children walk properly, maintain momentum, build muscle skills, and become more accustomed to orthotic devices. Since he began using it, Apollo’s head and torso control have improved significantly. “I’m naturally optimist but when Apollo was first hospitalized, everything went black. It was tough to pull myself out of that but one day I realized that I wouldn’t to wait any longer to be happy. I just decided to be happy, no more wallowing, I would return to living in the light. At that time, I also made a deliberate decision that I wouldn’t talk about Apollo by leading with the medical stuff. I would talk to people about who he is as a person.” Since his diagnosis, Apollo’s parents, Sana and


Apollo's J With Cer By Sydney Kerelo

Apollo playing UNO with his mother, Sana, and father, Zach. // Photo by Sydney Kerelo


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Zach, constantly advocate for him to live an inclusive life. They consistently take him out into the community, play games with him, and involve him in all manners of their lives, including gardening. As an avid gardener, Sana rents a plot of land at her local community garden, growing various vegetables and plants. She brings Apollo to the garden and sits with him either between her knees or on her lap to do hand-over-hand with him as she teaches him how to garden. They use the hand-over-hand method for everything, including playing Uno together as a family. “My husband and I are just playing like we’re three years old all the time with him,” she laughs. Apollo even loves to play what he calls “classical music” on his toy piano and sing along to cheerful tunes. For weeks, he was obsessed with Frozen and would sing all the songs at the breakfast table. His parents would even freeze cups of ice for him to chisel at as the ice choppers in the movie do. Before Apollo graduated from KenCrest’s Early Intervention program, he worked closely with physical, occupational, and speech therapists to learn how to move his body and use mobility assistive devices like the gait trainer. His special instructor worked with him to learn to play with his classmates and advocate for his needs. “He goes to a mainstream preschool, and so he’s the only kid who doesn’t have full motor use of his body,” says Apollo’s mother, Sana Garner. “So, with a special instructor, it was important for us always to maintain his self-esteem and appreciate the good things about him. We wanted someone to help him navigate that mainstream school environment, and our special instructor from KenCrest helped us do that.” “And since he’s been receiving therapy, he’s grown a ton,” she adds. “He now has the ability to open and close his hands deliberately; we even have a video of him doing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.’” Since the family moved back to the Philadelphia area more than two years ago, they found better access to medical support but needed a community environment. They noticed that whenever they went to the playground with Apollo, there was never anyone with disabilities like him present. And they wanted to change that. So, Sana started Creative Movers, a monthly playgroup for kids with motor differences and medical complexities—that allows children with disabilities to play freely with one another and parents to connect with each other. “Apollo recently got to play with a little girl his exact age, who also uses a gait trainer, for the

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first‌time,” exclaims Sana. “He now sees other kids in wheelchairs and those who transitioned from a gait trainer to a walker, which is amazing.” “We support our kids by maximizing their lives and letting them be kids,” adds Sana. “Our children have so much structured activity that it's so precious when they can play unstructured, and we want to create an environment where they can do that.” The playgroup has anywhere from four to seven families attending each month, and various playground locations like Freedom Playground in Haverford or CADES Inclusive Playground and Music Garden in Swarthmore, a new accessible playground that’s designed for people using mobility aids to play together. According to Sana, one family recently emboldened by the playgroup brought their child’s gait trainer to the park for the first time because they finally felt like they had a safe space to bring it. “It’s been amazing to see the webs of community that are happening now and our playgroup being a part of it,” Sana says. “We got really lucky with our support system at KenCrest; we had such a great team that felt like a cooperative, collaborative group and set us up on the right foot.”

For more information on KenCrest's Early Intervention program visit KenCrest.org/EarlyIntervention


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