Category Archives: Community

Saying Thank You to Volunteers

A Malayan proverb says, “One can pay back the loan of gold, but one dies forever in debt to those who are kind.” I find this to be an especially fitting thought for today, which is the beginning of National Volunteer Week. National Volunteer Week is a week to recognize those hardworking souls who give their time and efforts to worthy causes.

All through high school, I watched my mom as she sat on various committees at the school I attended and volunteered for various activities at our grade school. She was so involved and, at certain points of the year, her free time was basically non-existent. You could read the exhaustion on her face, and every year, she would say, “I’m not doing this next year.” Of course, next year would roll around and she would volunteer again to chair the committee and I would say, “Why can’t you just say ‘No’?”

I suspect that my mom never answered that question because she didn’t quite know why she couldn’t say ‘No.’ However, I happen to think that she is just hard-wired to be a volunteer. She has the heart of a volunteer, and is attracted to volunteerism like a moth to a flame. Some people are like that. And this week, we recognize those people, who continually put others before themselves.  

I’m convinced that without volunteers, the world would stop spinning. Tangram is lucky to have a small, but dedicated group of volunteers. Some volunteer at our administrative office, some help with our special event, Summer Sizzle, some give their time as board members, and some have made valuable connections with our clients as friends, a role that gives richness to the lives of those we serve.

So, to all of those selfless individuals who proudly serve Tangram and our clients as volunteers, I would like to say, simply, Thank You. I hope you know how much you are appreciated.


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Filed under Community, Giving, Inspirational

“It’s about time you got a job!”

Remember your first job? My very first job was working behind the meat and deli counters of a family-owned market in Fort Wayne. I loved it. My interview for the job consisted of one question, “How old are you?” When I responded, “16,” the owner of the market looked at me and said, “It’s about time you got a job.” I really didn’t feel like I was too far behind schedule in this respect, but I accepted his criticism and continued with the interview (which consisted of being asked when I could start).

The thing that most appealed to me about having a high school job was that I suddenly had money. I could buy gas for my car, put some in savings, go to the occasional movie with friends or shop a little at the mall—you know, typical teenage stuff.

Now, as I sit behind the desk of my first job out of college, I reflect on the benefits of having a job.

1)      I don’t have to live in my parents’ basement.

2)      I can make payments on my student loans.

3)      I can buy lamps (if you had to deal the considerable lack of light in my apartment, you would understand the importance of this one).  

4)      I can purchase gas for the car and can sometimes afford to have the car fixed when it is broken.

5)      I can buy groceries.

6)      I have entertainment money and money to eat an occasional dinner out.

Raise your hand if you see a theme. That’s correct—I have income. And that income allows me to live comfortably, pay the bills, buy things that I need and some things that I want, etc. After college, I was just plain lucky to get the job that I did. If my boss hadn’t been willing to take a chance on an English major without a lick of experience in the real world, I would have been back in Fort Wayne peddling round steak and potato salad.

Isn’t it time that individuals with disabilities were given the same chance that the rest of us expect? Isn’t it time that more employers hired those with disabilities? Why shouldn’t they be given the opportunity to earn income, pay taxes, pay bills, buy lamps, purchase groceries,  eat at restaurants, buy movie or concert tickets, and so on? Walgreens and Goodwill are known for their practice of consistently hiring employees with disabilities, and they have barrels full of successes to show for it. Let’s follow their lead and welcome a new, more diverse population to the workplace. It’s time.

Until next time,


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Filed under Community, Disability, Perspective

Throwing down the gauntlet

The sky is the limit…

A challenge:

As we begin the final week of 25 Days of Tangram, I offer a challenge. This is me throwing down the gauntlet. (A bit of trivia for those who enjoy nuggets of knowledge: a gauntlet is the armored glove of a knight, which was customarily thrown down to signify a challenge in medieval times. You’re welcome.)

Anyway, back to the challenge. I challenge each of you to share information about the 25 Days of Tangram with 3 people. Encourage each of those people to give $5 to the 25 Days and ask them each to spread the word to 3 people.

See where I’m going with this? This is a manageable, bite-sized challenge, and I am confident that, with a little effort, we can achieve our goal. I will take 5 minutes this afternoon to spread the word to 3 new people. And I will make your job easier, by providing you with all the necessary links and information (see below).

Together, I know we can prove that the sky is the limit! Good luck!          

Learn more about the 25 Days of Tangram

Read Alex’s Story

Give to Tangram

Follow Us on Twitter

“Like” Us on Facebook



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Filed under Community, Disability, Giving, Impact

The hidden powers of hot chocolate

Building community…

I have a younger sister, and therefore, am no stranger to sibling rivalry and a kind of one-upmanship that would make certain reality show families cringe. So, when Emily approached me about fundraising for Tangram, the thought crossed my mind that she had taken her overachieving tendencies to a new level and was trying to do MY job better than I could do it. Okay, that may be a slight overreaction, but 20 years of solid sibling competition will make you believe some crazy things.

Her idea was to speak to the officers of the Purdue Chapter of Sigma Alpha Lambda and ask them if they would like to donate the proceeds of their hot chocolate and candy cane sales to Tangram as part of our big online campaign. They enthusiastically agreed.

Fast forward a little bit and there I was, pitching the idea to my boss, who totally loved it (score one for Emily). Fast forward yet again, and here we are, on the 9th day of December of 2010. Due to weather concerns, our fundraiser was cancelled, but I still wanted to give a shout out to the young men and women of Sigma Alpha Lambda.

The best part about making a connection with the West Lafayette community is that we are building and reinforcing a greater community. When the community is strong, everyone benefits. Who knew that hot chocolate could be such a powerful agent of social change?

I would like to send a sincere thank-you out to the students involved in Sigma Alpha Lambda who generously agreed to partner with Tangram and give us a hand with our 25 Days of Tangram Campaign. Your acts of service are great examples of how to build and strengthen community.



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Filed under Community, Disability, Giving

Please use your “outside” voice

Champion and empower…

As a member of Sertoma (a service organization), one of my duties is to read and judge essays submitted by 5th graders on the subject of freedom for our Freedom Essay Contest. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but after reading about a dozen, I began to understand what I was in for. Almost every essay mentioned Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation (my guess is that they just completed the part of their curriculum that covers the Civil War, so it was fresh in their growing minds).

It seems that what resonates with this particular batch of 5th graders is that Lincoln was an advocate for those without a voice. For many of the fifth graders, freedom is what happened when Lincoln championed an entire population and signed the Emancipation Proclamation. But, let’s not forget those who advocated for themselves—Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and the countless other slaves and abolitionists who spoke out against slavery. Because these people raised their voices, civil rights movements began and our country became the nation it is today.

Today, we have new opportunities for advocates. Be an advocate for someone with a disability. If you are living with a disability, be an advocate for yourself. Raise your voice, stand up for yourself, empower others. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Those who raise their voices today will be the subject of Freedom Essays tomorrow.



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Bears and apples create lessons that stick

Everyone makes beautiful music…

I judge books by their covers. Literally. I can’t help myself. I fall victim to marketing ploys and eye-catching, creative artwork all the time. I buy Cottonelle because of the puppy.

I try my best not to judge people by their “covers.” Let’s face it—nobody is perfect and I am no exception. Whenever I find myself succumbing to judgmental tendencies, I find it helpful to recall a particularly effective Berenstain Bears lesson wherein Mama Bear demonstrates the importance of not judging people by their outward appearance. She shows Sister Bear two apples: one, which is shiny and perfectly red, and the other, which is misshapen and dull. Then, Mama Bear cuts the apples open and shows them to Sister Bear. The seemingly perfect apple is rotten and riddled with worms on the inside. The lumpy and dull apple is a lovely white color inside without any worms, bad spots, or blemishes. The lesson is obvious: outward physical appearance does not automatically indicate what a person is like on the inside.

There are three videos I would like to include in today’s blog, two borrowed from popular culture (how else will I get you to watch them?), and the third borrowed from the Tanrgam website. The first is Susan Boyles audition on Britain’s Got Talent. Pay particular attention to Simon Cowell’s face as he realizes that his original assessment of Susan Boyle (based on her appearance) is incorrect. It is the best part of the video, in my opinion.

The second video is of 23 year-old Liu Wei, winner of China’s Got Talent. Liu Wei plays the piano beautifully—with his feet. After losing his arms at the age of 10, he learned to play the piano with his feet. He then won a popular television talent competition and inspired viewers all around the world.

The third will give you food for thought (and some very poignant music to listen to).

I hope you enjoy the videos. They are a reminder that everyone makes beautiful music…



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Filed under Community, Culture, Disability, Inspirational

What would I do if my car broke down?

Make it happen…

I am chronically late. Every morning, I wake up about 40 minutes before I have to be out the door. In the span of time between my alarm going off and getting into my car, I decide how many more times I can press snooze, whether to brush my teeth before or after I shower, what to wear, what to pack for lunch, what materials I need for the day, whether I should make coffee at home or get some on the way to work, what coffee mug to use, whether or not to leave my heat on, whether or not to take the trash out, etc.

I shudder to think what my life might be like if I didn’t have a car that I could jump in at a moment’s notice. I have the luxury of running behind schedule or being late because I have my own (mostly reliable) mode of transportation and getting myself ready in the morning can take as little as 20 minutes.

For someone who uses a wheelchair and must rely on public transportation to get to where they need to be, planning is a huge factor in their life. Just getting out the door may require a couple hours of work. Then, one must plan around the bus schedule. There is no such thing as hopping in the car to run to the grocery store for that item you forgot to buy earlier in the day.

We all want convenience. Tangram has a fleet of 12 vans to make life as convenient as possible for those we serve. The money we raise during the 25 Days of Tangram will help cover the cost of transportation, so that our clients can get to jobs, volunteer positions, community activities, family gatherings, church, etc.  Consider donating to Tangram today and ensure that these things happen for our clients.  Donate to Tangram



Donate to Tangram


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Filed under Community, Disability, Giving, Impact