MOUNT VERNON — It’s all too easy to drive past the entrance of the Mount Vernon Developmental Center on Vernonview Drive without giving it a passing thought. Most of the 11 buildings within the rolling 310-acre facility are set well off the road. But while they may be out of sight, it is hoped they will not be out of mind as March marks Ohio Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.
The statewide theme for the month is “Our Community is Better Together,” and the local slogan is “I Achieve My Dreams Thanks to Knox County.” Members of the developmental disability community were joined by civic and business leaders for the kickoff of the month Thursday, as well over 100 people gathered in the administration building’s Great Room for a luncheon and awards ceremony.
Facility administrator Ernie Fischer began the program with a brief multi-media presentation, and the audience was then addressed by Steve Oster, Knox County Board of Developmental Disabilities superintendent.
Oster introduced Mayor Richard Mavis, who issued a proclamation making March Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in the city. Other civic leaders in attendance included Knox County Commissioners Teresa Bemiller, Roger Reed and Allen Stockberger; and State Rep. Margaret Ann Ruhl.
Five awards were presented by Oster and KCBDD Community Services Director Theresa Vernon.
Edith Baker, aka Silly Lilly, was named Volunteer of the Year. A key supporter of VIP Clowns Inc., Baker and her family volunteer their time for events including area parades, Silly Sunday and the Columbus Buddy Walk. VIP Clowns “help our friends with special needs improve their quality of life through the fine art of clowning with love and laughter.”
Winnie McDonald was announced as the Support Professional of the Year, an award given annually to an outstanding direct-care employee. McDonald was described by one person as “one of the most caring, consistent, trustworthy and conscientious providers I’ve ever known,” and she was commended for encouraging those she serves to stretch boundaries and expand their social connections.