AVON PARK — Ridge Area Arc held its annual awards celebration May 16 at the Grogan Center at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church.
The theme “Grow the Arc” was selected to honor clients who have made achievements during the past year, and the volunteers, staff and community partners who assisted them.
Barbara Kircher was named the Life Skills Training Consumer of the Year. She has cerebral palsy, has made major improvements in her physical abilities and works hard to keep her body limber by engaging in exercises.
The Residential-Supported Living Consumer of the Year was Sue Randolph. With the help of her supported living coach, she has made the decision to lead a healthier life. Less fast food, portion control, healthier choices and exercise have made it possible for Randolph to lose weight and improve her health.
The Arc Employment Consumer of the Year honor went to Kristina Bocanegra, who has been employed at Winn-Dixie in Wauchula since June 27, 2012. She works faithfully with her job coach, and has made huge improvements in her social and communication skills. Bocanegra is confident and promotes customer service with a smile.
The People First! Advocate Award went to Jenny Sykes, employment liaison with the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. She advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to achieve gainful employment throughout Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties.
Sykes works closely with Ridge Area Arc’s supported employment team to identify barriers and various misconceptions that employers may have with hiring individuals with disabilities.
CareerSource Heartland (formally known as Heartland Workforce) was the organization chosen to receive the Community Partner Award. CareerSource Heartland offers a variety of programs and services to assist individuals looking to get back into the workforce.
The Arc Hero of the Year recipient was Heartland Horses & Handicapped Inc., an organization that provides services to children and adults with a mental, physical or developmental disability.
John McClure, of Sebring, was named the Volunteer of the Year. McClure served on the Ridge Area Arc Foundation Board of Trustees from September 1998 to May 2014. During that time, he served on the Foundation’s Investment Committee overseeing the financial advisors entrusted with the donated funds. He also assisted donors with planned giving and charitable bequests. McClure has given countless hours of donated legal support and advice to Ridge Area Arc.
Gary Ingalls and Stephen Ashley, representing Knights of Columbus Council No. 14717, surprised emcee Rhonda Beckman when they presented her with a simulated check indicating the results of their recent Tootsie Roll drive.
Arc employees were also recognized for their years of service. Five years of service: Ruby Thomas, Danita Lewis and Susan Rodriguez. Ten years of service: Nicole Stephens, Emma Hadnot, Ruby Young, Gussie Coleman and Tyeise Caldwell. Fifteen years of service: Maria Rivera. Twenty years of service: Lisa Williams and Fannie Hoppes. Together, the represented 120 years of service to the Arc.