BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — The Maumee Chamber of Commerce held its monthly luncheon on April 12. Members heard updates from several individuals about organizations around Maumee.
Stuart James, executive director of The Ability Center, was the guest speaker for the event. Prior to his speech, Deitra Hickey was able to update the members on the success of the “Dr. D Live” fundraiser for Ukraine.
“The event itself, along with our generous donor Fred Dannhauser, raised about $45,000,” Hickey said. “We are donating to the Rotary International District 6600, which has a $50,000 match, so our goal is to help contribute to about $100,000 of help along the Ukrainian border.”
Hickey thanked all those who donated and supported the event. Those interested can still donate money to the chamber to contribute to the fundraiser before Sunday, May 1.
Current Toledo resident and native Ukrainian Alona Matchenko was introduced by Hickey and given a chance to speak to the members.
“A little more than five-and-a-half years ago, the pro-Russian revolution prompted me to leave everything I have, with only 45 pounds of luggage, cross the world, and land in Toledo,” Matchenko said. “That was the biggest and scariest event in my life that I have ever experienced, to go somewhere with no money, with no support of family, but I’m so happy to stand in front of you and tell you that Toledo is the best place to be.”
Matchenko explained to the crowd that she has made Toledo her second home and the support she has found here prompted her to start a nonprofit organization, Toledo Helps Ukraine.
The organization has a Facebook page that updates the community on its goals and needed donations.
After the meal, James spoke to the members about The Ability Center and its plans for the next few months.
“We’re going to be launching a new campaign here soon, hopefully in July, called ‘Think Differently,’” James said. “Those of you who know the organization know that one of our goals has been to make Northwest Ohio one of the most disability-friendly communities in the country. We have a couple of challenges – one is physical accessibility difficulties – but that’s not the only way you can make a city disability-friendly. The other way is how you think about disability.”
He hopes to encourage parents and children to dream beyond the boundary of their disabilities because nobody knows exactly what they are capable of, James said.
With the new campaign, the center wants people to begin changing the way they think, to expand on what they previously thought possible and to truly be more disability-friendly as a community. James said he is also working with the center to encourage economic independence as part of the mission.
To support the work of The Ability Center, those interested may visit the website at abilitycenter.org.