President Obama Makes “Rosa’s Law” Official

by Eric Pudalov, Community Events Coordinator


Rosa's Law

In January of 2010, President Barack Obama signed an act known as Rosa’s Law, which officially changed references in federal law from “mental retardation” to “intellectual disability,” as well as rewording “mentally retarded individual” to “individual with an intellectual disability.”

Rosa’s Law, according to AllVoices.com, reproduces a law recently adopted in Maryland.  It is named for Rosa Marcellino, a nine-year-old girl with Down Syndrome; she and her family combined efforts with a state representative to pass the law in the Maryland General Assembly.

Some might ask, “How does changing the wording of a law change a disability or the perception of it?”  While the condition itself doesn’t change, the wording can make a world of difference in perception.

Think of some of the other words that we no longer use (or are now considered offensive) in polite company.  The “N-word,” for instance, was once so common that it was hardly considered a disparaging term.  The same could be applied to words like “cripple,” referring to those with physical limitations, “Oriental,” referring to people of Asian descent, “redneck,” implying an ignorant white person, “Pedro,” referring to anyone of Latin-American descent, “Hymie,” referring to someone Jewish, and “queer,” referring to homosexuals (male or female).

Oddly enough, at one time, these words were all commonplace.  Of course, even today, people still use them, usually out of ignorance; in some cases, of course, people refer to themselves using slurs, in an effort to “take back” the terms.

In ‘I Just Didn’t Know’: The Power of Language, guest blogger Julie Hertzog, Director of the PACER National Center for Bullying Prevention, talks about the use of such words, especially by children and teenagers, and the impact they have on those they target (as well as the casual attitude some people adopt toward using them).  In addition to the “R-word” (i.e. “retarded”), she discusses the term “spaz,” which children and teens often use toward peers who are uncoordinated.

Unfortunately, the above name also targets those with physical disabilities, as Jonna, a girl on PACER’s advisory board, points out.  Jonna, who has a six-year-old sister with severe physical disabilities, created a video to express just how cruel such words can be, and said that she refuses to use them in her daily speech (specifically replacing the above term with “the SP word”).  While it may be saddening to read real-life stories of people who have been affected by such hurtful words, it’s also encouraging and heartwarming to see steps being made toward change.

The fact that the use of the “R-word” is being stricken from federal law is a huge step forward.  Of course, it is one thing to change a law; it’s another to change people’s perceptions and habits.

As one user commented on Allvoices.com, “I only wish the signing into law of ‘Rosa’s Law’ would really change the perception so many have of individuals with disabilities…seen and unseen.  But, as my grandmother told me, ‘If wishes were fishes, we would all be fishermen’.”

The Duchess of Abrantes once said, “Prejudice squints when it looks, and lies when it talks.”  While various readers may interpret this differently, I believe that its message is clear: we can all do better to open our eyes a bit wider, figuratively speaking, and breathe the truth in our speech.

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A Holly, Jolly GCSS: Holiday Party 2010 (Special Thanks to Victoria’s Secret)

by Eric Pudalov, Community Events Coordinator (with contributions from Amanda Duckworth, Community Relations Associate)

Victoria's Secret Logo

On Tuesday, December 7, 2010, we here at GCSS held our annual Holiday Party for the people we serve.  Our office, for the moment, became a winter wonderland, where you might even say magical things were able to take place.

And this year, GCSS weren’t celebrating by themselves; this particular event was a successful collaboration of efforts between The Excitement Committee, the marketing department, a local business, and a board member.

A bit more about the Holiday Party: each year, GCSS organizes this event specifically for our individuals who have little or no family involvement. Yvette Peavy, formerly with Wal-Mart, is now with Victoria’s Secret, and contacted GCSS to see if they could “give back” this holiday season.  We told them about the efforts of the Excitement Committee, and they jumped at the opportunity to help.

Yvette and her team arrived with 6 carloads of gifts, food, desserts, and cheerful employees ready to make the holiday special for our individuals.  10 members of the VS team served food and delivered gifts.

Also of note: jolly old St. Nicholas, hardworking man that he is, was gracious enough to make an early stop at our party (pre-Christmas, that is) in order to help fulfill the holiday wishes of some of the people we serve.  They had the chance to sit on Santa’s lap and, in true Christmas tradition, tell him what they wished for this holiday season.  Thanks for popping in, Santa!

This couldn’t have come at a better time for both the individuals and the staff at GCSS.  The teamwork from everyone made this “early Christmas” celebration a beautiful one.

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One More Time: Happy Thanksgiving, GCSS!

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Image via Wikipedia

Every year on Thanksgiving, but even more so in the past few years, I’ve really taken a moment to reflect on what I’m thankful for.

Last year, on our old BlogSpot blog, I wrote an entry entitled A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, not only in reference to the Peanuts special that’s shown on TV yearly, but to the feelings that Thanksgiving engenders.

Having played a significant role in the Excitement Committee this past year, as well as many other aspects of GCSS, I’m thankful that much of what I’ve done has visibly benefited other people in some way.

Back when I was in high school, I enjoyed being a part of my synagogue’s youth group in Massapequa, New York.  Nevertheless, one incident stood out in my memory that bothered me: I had been sitting in a circle with a group of six or seven kids about my age, and the group leader said, “I’d like to know…how are you all giving back to your community?”

Most of the other kids in the group responded that they volunteered at hospitals, or worked for charity organizations of some kind.  When it came to my turn, however, I said that I wasn’t currently involved with any charitable organizations; rather, on an individual basis, I tried to help people however I could.  While I certainly don’t think that was a negative response, upon reflection, I felt I could do more.

Since then, as I’ve stated in my “About the Author” page, I’ve worked with quite a few charitable, humanitarian, and educational organizations.  Among them are Sylvan Learning Center, Hands on Atlanta, the Atlanta Jewish Community Center, Causes on Facebook, and, of course, GCSS.  Although I worked with some of these groups for only a short time, I still feel that in some way, I helped make a contribution to others’ lives.

So that’s one thing that I’m thankful for this year: my willingness to give.  Nonetheless, I also think that in the coming year, I should be easier on myself as well, and forgive myself for the mistakes I make.

And beyond that, I’m most thankful for this breath, the gift that allows me to continue living and experience the joys of life.

What are you thankful for this year?  Feel free to share; happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Atlanta, Blogging, BlogSpot, Fall, Fundraising, Movies, Nonprofit, Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Donations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There’s No PR Like Good PR

Social Media Strategy Framework

Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

by Eric Pudalov, Community Events Coordinator

Yesterday afternoon, The Fight Against Destructive Spin published my guest blog post, entitled For Nonprofits, Social Media is the Message.  It discusses the role that social media like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs can play in promoting nonprofit organizations.

However, that’s not all – the post has been picked up by some major PR web crawlers, such as Twingly and Social Media Informer! So, once again, I encourage you to read it, and leave a comment if you feel so inclined.

Posted in Advertising, Blogging, Business, FADS, Hot Blogs, Networking, Nonprofit, SEO, Websites | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Future Feature: The Fight Against Destructive Spin

by Eric Pudalov, Community Events Coordinator

In several earlier blogs, I’ve mentioned a site called The Fight Against Destructive Spin, the PR/marketing blog of Arment Dietrich, Inc.

Arment Dietrich and their CEO, Gini Dietrich, are among today’s leaders in public relations, external communication, internal and employee communication, and online marketing.

I’ve been informed via an e-mail from Arment Dietrich’s Community Manager, Daniel Hindin, that tomorrow, at approximately 1:00 PM EST, a guest blog post that I’ve written will be published on Spin Sucks (the alternate name for the above blog), specifically about how nonprofits are utilizing social media. In this case, GCSS is the primary example, but the same can be applied to other nonprofit organizations as well.

So, to all our readers, thank you for tuning in to our blog, and being among our supporters! And, of course, thank you to those at Arment Dietrich who have been a wonderful source of expertise and inspiration.

Posted in Advertising, Blogging, Business, Disabilities, FADS, Hot Blogs, Networking, Recognitions, Websites | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Big Thank-You to Costco!

Costco

Image via Wikipedia

by Eric Pudalov, Community Events Coordinator

Continuing with our Thanksgiving Food Drive, I would like to announce that Costco has agreed to contribute food items to the cause (specifically dinner rolls, green beans, and corn) to help us meet our goals.

Speaking of which, Costco, on October 28, opened a new location in Brookhaven, GA, specifically at this address:

500 Brookhaven Ave.
Atlanta, GA 30319

Their regular hours are:

Mon.-Fri. 10AM-8:30PM
Sat. 9AM-7PM
Sun. 10AM-6PM

We here at GCSS would like to thank Costco for giving back to their community by providing Thanksgiving dinners for individuals in need. They are a fine example of what a business can be, and we in turn wish them much success with their new location.

We also look forward to being their customers in the future; the help is much appreciated, Costco!

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It’s in the Squag™: Parents of Teens with Autism Take Note!

Major brain structures implicated in autism.

Image via Wikipedia

by Eric Pudalov, Community Events Coordinator

DISCLAIMER: Georgia Community Support and Solutions is not affiliated with or funded by Squag.com, or Squag.org Inc.; the opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Georgia Community Support and Solutions, Inc.

If the name sounds “different,” that’s because it is…but think of the word “different” here as meaning “extraordinary.”

Squag™, as defined on their official site, is “a new application designed specifically for teens and tweens on the autism spectrum.” Its creators’ goal is to smooth the progress of natural relationships through the actions of the users (with support from their parents or guardians).

The application, according to the site, was built on three guiding principles: sensory, security, and community.

Sensory: The “sensory” element comes into play by filtering out external noise, and simulating a comforting, sun-filled room with images that are simple and calming. Squag™ also screens out pop-ups and other kinds of ads; in their place, the creators have put what they call “Squagpads™” that help users focus on building a stable sense of self and forming friendships with others.

Security: Because security is often a concern to parents whose children surf the Web, Squag™ states that safety is their first priority.

To clarify, parents are in charge of site membership, and are required to provide a credit card in order to download the application. Parents also create usernames and passwords for their accounts, and only after registration is complete can their child access the site. Also, a reporting section on the parent site keeps a log of the child’s online activity, for the express purpose of ensuring their safety.

Community: Although raising a child in the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) community is a challenge, it’s called “community” for a reason: there are many others to reach out to. Squag™ believes that kids can benefit from the same kind of system, which is why they’ve created “Squag&trade,” a place where autistic children can connect with one another after a stressful school day.

The Creators

Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles of children with autism created Squag™. To help show their love and support for these wonderful individuals, they’ve invented an entertaining, secure place that gives kids the chance for self-reflection, expression, and connection with peers (without someone speaking on their behalf).

At the same time, however, they are very clear that Squag™ is not therapy; it’s a form of “recreation and communication,” and a healthy alternative to video games and the overstimulation of the Web. Its intent is to build confidence, social relationships, creativity, and a sense of self that will benefit them in the present, as well as later in life.

Your Opinion, Please?

Although I, personally, do not have autism, and haven’t signed up for Squag™, I would still recommend that parents and family members of children on the autism spectrum give it a try.

I have met many adults with autism who didn’t have the opportunity to use such technology growing up, and while I can’t speak for everyone, there’s a chance that it may have helped them. It seems like a great, positive tool that has the potential to do wonders for children coping with ASD.

Of note: there is a $7.99/month charge to use the service (after a free 1-month trial period), but that seems small in comparison to its possible advantages.

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Posted in Autism, Disabilities, Networking, Opinion, Squag, Technology, Websites | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thanksgiving: Donations Still Open? (Contact Info. Included)

by Eric Pudalov, Community Events Coordinator

Happy Thanksgiving!

As announced in our Oct. 20 entry, How is GCSS “Giving Thanks” this Thanksgiving?, we are still collecting donations for our Thanksgiving baskets, which are being designed by members of the Excitement Committee.

We recently received the “Heavy Duty Storage Boxes” that will be used as material for the baskets, so construction will begin today. Volunteers from our Art and Food program have come to the main office to work on the project – we may have pictures soon!

And, as stated in the earlier entry, the cutoff date for donations is Monday, November 15, so there’s less than a week left!  Donation containers are still available at our main office; our Art and Food program in Marietta; the Marietta Enrichment Center (MEC); the Gwinnett Enrichment Center (GEC); Our Place; and the Georgia Adult Autism Program.

Your help is appreciated!  Thank you.  Here is the contact info. for the above programs, in case you need it:

Georgia Community Support & Solutions (Main Office)
1945 Cliff Valley Way NE
Suite #220
Atlanta, GA 30329
404-634-4222

Adult Autism Day Program
1955 Cliff Valley Way NE
Suite #120
Atlanta, GA 30329
404-329-1041

The Marietta Enrichment Center (MEC)
1395 S. Marietta Pkwy.
Building 700, Suite #700
Marietta, GA 30067
678-354-9144

Art & Food
2060 Lower Roswell Rd.
Suite 150
Marietta, GA 30068
678-560-3215

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Posted in Advertising, Atlanta, Business, Disabilities, Disability Benefits, Events, Fall, Georgia, Networking, Nonprofit | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Howling Halloween Hundred: Update

Original text and stats provided by Amanda Duckworth, Community Relations Associate; published by Eric Pudalov, Community Events Coordinator

Howling Halloween Hundred

Good afternoon!  We wanted to give you a brief update on GCSS’ First Annual Howling Halloween Hundred cycling event.  It was a beautiful day for a bike ride in Gainesville; it was a low 45, high of 68 and not a cloud in the sky!  Below are a few pictures* from the event.  Here are some stats from the weekend:

Riders: 117 (93 forms)
Cities: 35 different cities represented
States: 3 (Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina)
Bike shops contacted: 66
E-mail blast: Approximately 7000
Flyer distribution: Approximately 15,000
New donors: 93
Sponsors: 15

We also want to thank the volunteers from GCSS that dedicated their beautiful Saturday morning and afternoon to the race.  The riders were very happy with the race, and the SAG stops expressed an interest in doing the ride again next year.

Thanks,

The Community Relations Department

Photos:
Get ready...
Next to Publix
Get set...
Go!
CEO Whitney Fuchs announcing at Fit2Tri

Posted in Atlanta, Business, Causes, Events, Fall, Fundraising, Georgia, Howling Halloween Hundred | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Radio One 30th Anniversary Feature Up Now!

Hot 107.9 Banner

by Eric Pudalov, Community Events Coordinator

As I announced in the Oct. 26th blog entry, “Congratulations Are in Order!”, Georgia Community Support and Solutions has been selected as one of 30 organizations recognized in October by Radio One Atlanta.

As a follow-up to the previous post, Radio One is temporarily featuring us on Praise 102.5: Atlanta’s Inspiration Station, Hot 107.9, and Majic 107.5 and 97.5: Atlanta’s Best Mix of R&B. Click any of the links to read more about us!

And if you have the chance to visit the site, please read about some of the other great organizations making a difference as well. Thank you for your support.


Posted in Atlanta, Business, Nonprofit, Radio, Recognitions, Websites | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment