Sunshine Announces 2024 Slate Of Events To Celebrate 75 Years In The Community

(Left) Sunshine CEO Jason Abodeely discusses the future of Sunshine Communities during a press conference at Georgette’s Grounds & Gifts on February 7. (Right) As a Sunshine individual, Georgette’s staff member and member of the board of directors, Melissa Jender has years of experience with the organization. MIRROR PHOTOS BY KRISTI FISH
(Left) Maumee Mayor Jim MacDonald highlights the importance of longstanding organizations around Maumee, including Sunshine’s coffee shop, Georgette’s Grounds & Gifts, which has been a staple on Conant Street for 16 years. (Right) Tim Schneider, northwest district director for U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance’s office (left) presents a proclamation to Sunshine CEO Jason Abodeely in recognition of the 75 years of service to the community.

BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — For 75 years, Sunshine has been a staple in Northwest Ohio, supporting individuals with developmental disabilities and fostering relationships within the community.

With the catchphrase “from promise to progress,” the organization hopes to embrace more opportunities in the coming years.

The shift toward what is possible and achieving it is what president and CEO Jason Abodeely is most looking forward to. 

“My excitement is about changing the lives of people who aren’t yet actually with Sunshine, who don’t receive our services, people in the community who are not yet working for Sunshine that don’t realize the value they’ll get from employment here,” Abodeely said. “My excitement is about the future. I’ve been here 10 years now and I don’t know that I’ve ever been more excited about where we’re going.”

In order to garner the attention of more residents and people who would benefit from Sunshine Communities, the organization has planned several events throughout the year to celebrate its 75th anni-versary.

On Monday, April 8, the main campus will host an official watch party for the solar eclipse.

“As the moon and sun create a path of totality through our campus for the first time in over 200 years, we will become ‘Un-Sunshine’ that day,” Abodeely said.

Sunshine Communities is inviting residents from all across the area to join Sunshine individuals, staff members and their families at the watch party.

Food and beverage trucks, live music, games and more will be spread around the lawn and parking lot of the main campus at 7223 Maumee Western Rd. in Maumee from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

“Our second signature 75th-anniversary event will take place on May 10 at the Glass City Center,” Abodeely said. “This event will feature a can’t-miss keynote speaker, Tim Shriver, the son of Eunice Shriver and the nephew of President Kennedy.”

Eunice Shriver, the founder of Special Olympics, visited the Sunshine campus in the 1960s and was impressed with the work of Roy and Georgette Engler, who had opened Sunshine as a way to support their five children with developmental disabilities, along with the greater community.

“Roy and Georgette Engler made a promise based on their belief. It began for their five children, whom all had developmental disabilities, and then extended to the greater community, that every man, woman and child should have the opportunity to live a life centered around their own unique needs and abilities,” Abodeely said.

Each event hosted at Sunshine is meant to further foster and build on that promise.

“Our third signature event will happen as the summer begins to fade into fall on September 7. With support from the city of Maumee, we will be closing down Conant Street and hosting a block party uptown,” Abodeely said.

The event will be free and open to the public, with the musical guest to be announced at a later date.

The events meant to draw in the community, however, are not the only way Sunshine is able to pass along its message of “from promise to progress.”

Through Sunshine Studios and Georgette’s Grounds & Gifts in uptown Maumee, residents are able to learn more about Sunshine and the individuals who are supported by the organization.

“(Georgette’s) has been around since 2007, one of the longest-serving coffee institutions in the county. For 16 years, they have been at this location. They’re a great platform for us here in Maumee,” said Maumee Mayor Jim MacDonald.

At Georgette’s and Sunshine Studios, Sunshine individuals are a part of the staff, learning valuable work skills.

According to Melissa Jender, a Sunshine individual who also works at Georgette’s and is a member of the board of directors, her time at Sunshine has helped her connect even more with the community she resides in.

Her time at Georgette’s is highlighted by talking with customers new and old and spreading the word about how Sunshine has helped her.

“I’m most excited to get the coffee out there more. We have a new van that will help us get our coffee out there more. One of our staff will drive it to different events and get the coffee out to more places,” Jender said. “I’m looking forward to another 75 years. It’s a big year.”

The coffee is packaged by individuals supported by Sunshine and sold around the area, including at Georgette’s, Walt Chur-chill’s Market, Monnette’s, Sautter’s Market, Kaz-maier’s Market and Fresh Thyme.

“Each bag that is sold benefits individuals with disabilities,” Jender said. “We are looking to make it easier for the community to help support Sunshine with ‘coffee with a cause.’”

During a press conference hosted by Sunshine at Georgette’s on February 7, MacDonald encouraged attendees to support local businesses around Maumee, like the coffee shop, and to stay involved in their community.

“It is obvious Sunshine lives with the mission every day of bringing more sunshine into the world and into a customer’s life. It is so rewarding to be able to interact and form relationships with the Sunshine community,” MacDonald said.

Also present at the conference was Tim Schneider, the northwest district director for U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), who congratulated the organization for its commitment to the community.

“Senator Vance extends his congratulations to the leadership, the employees, the volunteers and so many others here at Sunshine communities for your hard work, your support and compassion for the individuals and families that it serves,” Schneider said.

In order to support these individuals and their families, Abodeely said the organization will continue to spend the next 75 years focusing on progress in three key areas: investment, innovation and growth.

“Families and parents of the past hoped, they wished, for futures for their children. Now they expect them,” Abodeely said. “We want to deliver on that in ways that have never been done before. Through partnerships, innovative programs and quality outcomes, we plan on doing so.”

More information on Sunshine Communities and its plans for the future can be found at sunshine.org or the Sunshine Communities Facebook page.

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