Although 2020 has brought its fair share of negatives, one big positive came out of this year. Our nonprofit was able to hire a Behavior Services Director to better serve our clients and address the growing need we see in our community.
Amanda Owen, executive director of Puzzle Pieces, the Owensboro-based nonprofit that serves individuals with intellectual disabilities, has been appointed by Gov. Andy Beshear to the Kentucky Employment First Council. This Council includes people with disabilities, family members, employers, government agencies, and other stakeholders, all with the shared intention of improving competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities in the Commonwealth.
While 2020 has not been the year anyone expected, it has brought a lot of joys and successes to Puzzle Pieces. November 15 marks one year in our new facility, which has given us the growth and momentum we dreamed of when we decided to make this big move last year.
When Amanda Owen launched Puzzle Pieces in 2012, she aimed to bring opportunities and inclusion for Owensboro’s disability population. Inspired by her brother, who has a rare chromosomal disability, Amanda knew what she wanted to offer through Puzzle Pieces -- the programming, socialization and stimulation that her brother did not have. According to Amanda, health and nutrition were and continue to be a top priority.
Going to the dentist can be a worrisome, even scary experience for a lot of young people, but for those with intellectual disabilities, a dental exam can be traumatic. But for Puzzle Pieces’ client, Trent, who has autism, going to the dentist is something he looks forward to because of local dentist Dr. Jay Crews at Pediatric Dentistry of Owensboro
Puzzle Pieces is excited to announce the future installation of a fully inclusive sensory outdoor museum/playground at its campus on New Hartford Road. This playground will be the first of its kind in the nation and a product line of Miracle Recreation Equipment Company.
In the two years since Puzzle Pieces launched Employment Opportunities, our team has placed 17 clients in successful employment with 12 more in job development ready to be placed. Two of those recent placements have been at the south Frederica fast food chain Zaxby’s.
In the eight years that Puzzle Pieces has been serving this community, this is by far the most difficult time we have faced. More challenging than launching our nonprofit in 2012 and relocating our campus in 2019, surviving the Covid-19 crisis has proven to be our biggest obstacle. And while we are confident that we will overcome this months-long hurdle, we believe it is important to share with you our struggles as we strive to continue our services for those with intellectual disabilities.
The bottom line: We are open, but we are not OK.
Despite the onset of a global health pandemic, there have been shining examples of people showing up for their neighbors, for their community or even for complete strangers. Locally, social media groups quickly formed, offering help to those in need. Restaurants gave away free meals to the hungry. Sewers, or just those willing to learn to sew, handcrafted masks to protect frontline healthcare workers. And while this positive spirit has been witnessed across the community, we have seen it in our Puzzle Pieces family just as much.
As the world closely monitors the spread of Coronavirus and makes decisions to protect the health and safety of its citizens, I can’t help but think about the domino effect. While many are scrambling to stock up on toilet paper, Lysol wipes and re-scheduling their spring break reservations, I can’t help but go deeper in the effect it has on those families raising a child with special needs. Not just because some may be more vulnerable to the virus due to a compromised immune system, but because the disruption in the school schedules and now everyday life events.