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Community discusses importance of support for those with disabilities

St. Joseph News-Press - 10/20/2023

Oct. 19—Progressive Community Services invited legislators and residents to have an open conversation about issues that people with developmental disabilities face in the community.

The group, which provides tools and resources for those with disabilities and their families, hosted its annual Community Connections luncheon on Thursday at the Stoney Creek Hotel.

The luncheon is open to many city and state representatives, who come to discuss and listen to testimonies about issues regarding those with disabilities.

This year's luncheon saw a wider variety of representatives than any year before.

"Stakeholders told us that they wanted to hear more from and talk a little bit more with people from the city and people from the county as well," said Heather Weddle, executive director of Progressive Committee Services. "So our invite list was a lot bigger this year, and we were really excited to see a lot of communities, community organizations, turn out school district, turn out folks from the city and county. We definitely had some new presence here this year."

Some of the key speakers were state representatives and parents of people with disabilities who detailed their struggles and the ways that they have been given help.

There were 10 tables full of guests and the testimonies could be felt throughout the room.

"There was a lot of energy in the room," Weddle said. "People learn things from different perspectives and learned and understood the importance of transportation, the importance of employment, the importance of the right level of supports for all people in our community, including people with developmental disabilities. Hopefully we are going to start some conversations that will push forward into some better solutions."

While this is the group's biggest event of the year, Progressive Community Services will continue to work with local groups to help the community.

"We work with several area partners," Weddle said. "The list could just go on and on. We work with organizations like the United Way to help provide human infrastructure in the community and make sure that people are getting what they need."

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