Puzzle Pieces client Jeff Rhinerson has become a community icon, emceeing popular local events and interviewing Owensboro leaders on his Facebook talk show, “Live with Jeff.” On March 3, 2020, Jeff celebrated his 100th episode of his popular live show, which was commemorated with a celebration at Old National Bank with many of his previous interviewees in attendance.
“Today’s event was more than a celebration of the milestone 100th episode of Live With Jeff,” said Daviess County Sheriff’s Office Detective Brad Youngman. “It’s a chance to come together and celebrate our community and acknowledge the lessons from the leaders that Jeff has interviewed, as well as the impact that Jeff has had on each of us and his viewers.”
Brad was one of Jeff’s most memorable interviews, and evolved into a lifelong friendship for the two. When the viral lip sync challenge videos swept across the social media accounts of local law enforcement, Jeff was asked to participate with the Sheriff’s Office. Donning a brown uniform, Jeff joined other deputies for the fun video.
“It’s amazing when you stop and consider how ‘Live with Jeff’ has evolved into what it is now in terms of collective wisdom and a never ending thirst from Jeff to explore and learn from so many talented and successful people without having deviated from its original format,” Brad said.
Jeff’s first interview was with Friends of Sinners Executive Director Joe Welsh, who admits that while he was honored to be asked to participate, he had no idea how a Facebook live talk show would take off.
“Jeff has done something that we all can learn from and be proud of -- he has brought an entire community together,” Joe said. “As organizations and individuals, we all have different causes and missions we support and favor, but with Jeff, he has been able to bring us all together for the greater good of our community.”
Jeff’s local fame and notoriety stemmed from a conversation with Puzzle Pieces Executive Director Amanda Owen.
“Jeff told me one day that he wanted my job,” Amanda said, noting that he had always been an advocate for others with Down Syndrome. “But after talking with him, I realized what he truly wanted was to be a leader. That’s when I told him the best way to become a leader was to interview different leaders to learn about them.”
And so “Live with Jeff” was born in March 2018.
According to Amanda, her goal was for Jeff to learn that, first, leaders are just people, but also that leadership has a lot of layers and does not always mean being in the limelight. And while Jeff is living out his dream with his self-made talk show, Amanda says he is playing a more important role in the community.
“‘Life with Jeff’ showcases to the community a breakdown of barriers and shows someone chasing his dreams right in front of them,” she said. “It shows us to value our dreams and in doing so shows us that we are all relatable, even to someone with a disability.”
Through the 100 interviews with local leaders, Jeff has gained community connections and relationship building skills that allowed him to tackle his next dream -- pursuing a career. Through Employment Opportunities, a supported employment division of Puzzle Pieces, Jeff was hired at Old National Bank as a branch support associate in November 2019.
“‘Live with Jeff’ is a hobby and passion for Jeff,” Amanda said. “But it helped him find his career at Old National Bank, which was the reason for helping him start his show 100 episodes ago. He has found his purpose.”
You can catch “Live with Jeff” weekly on his Facebook page.
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