The gift of being known for your contribution ~ with Julie White and Angie Breeden

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If you ask Julie White what it’s meant to her to be part of the On-Purpose project, she doesn’t mince words:  “It was a life changer.”

Founded in fall 2019, the On Purpose Project has had an eventful first year. The program was started by Angela Breeden with the goal of demonstrating that people with disabilities could join in with their non-disabled neighbours to participate in civic improvement projects and make their community a better place. When COVID hit, they worked hard to keep the social spirit of their town of 10 000 people alive – and they succeeded. Starting with some city flower beds that needed sprucing up and gathering momentum from there, the On Purpose Project has raised the morale of St. Albans, West Virginia, through some very trying times, Angela says – all while giving residents with disabilities the chance to make the town they love a better place.

Julie White, one of the participants and the chair of the advisory board, says that opportunity has made a huge difference to her. She’s gotten a chance to show off her event planning skills, to develop her creativity, and to forge meaningful relationships within her community. Having the opportunity to show what she can do and to make a difference in her town means a lot.

As far as Angela and Julie are concerned, that’s what it’s all about: giving everyone in a community the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution, and to gain a sense of purpose and of belonging.

Join me as I hear about their vision for the next three years, the lessons they hope will spread to other communities, and their event planning dreams and successes.

Thanks for Listening!

Resources & Links Mentioned:

On Purpose

Email Angie

On Purpose Facebook Group

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Special thanks to Julie and Angie for joining me this week. Until next time!

Genia Stephen (00:03):
Welcome to the Good Things in Life podcast. I’m your host Genius Stephen. Today I’m joined by Angie Breeden and Julie White. Angie is the executive director of the On Purpose Project, that has a goal of building inclusivity into the cultural landscape of St. Alban’s, where she lives with her husband Tony and their four children. Julie is a participant, and she’s the chair of the On Purpose advisory board. She works in retail marketing and in her free time is a cosplay artist, and an anime enthusiast. She created and is running a Halloween photo booth for her community. Angie — Angela — and Julie, thank you so much for joining me today. I am very much looking forward , to our conversation and to learning more about On Purpose. Um, Angela, why don’t you get started by talking a bit about how you became involved in, um, On Purpose, how you, uh, know, and your relationship to people with disabilities and their families and, um, just what the organization is all about.

Angela Breeden (01:12):
Sure. Thank you, Genia. Um, well I’m a parent of four children who all have disabilities and I’ve been navigating, you know, what we refer to as the disability service system for about 20 years. And I learned early on that, you know, that that service system could sort of take over your life. And people say things like, uh, you know, your children are lucky to have you and God only gives special children to special people. And while those things might be well-meaning, the truth of the matter is disability is a natural thing that happens to all kinds of people, and I have the same 24 hours that everyone else has. I only have more, um, sometimes responsibilities related to disability. And I came to the realization that I was going to have to be intentional about creating space for those good things in life, for my family and myself.

Angela Breeden (02:11):
And through that, I started, um, attending a lot of trainings and I attended a training where I was introduced to social role valorization. And it just sort of set my mind on fire about what the possibilities were for my family. And I began to read and study and learn everything I could about SRV and about person-centered planning. And I realized this was how I wanted to raise my children: to have the room and the space to follow their passions and to make connections with others. And then I came to a point in my life where I realized I wanted to go bigger. And I wanted that to be something that was here in our community to make it part of our town and the bigger picture of St. Alban’s and who we are. And that was when we founded On Purpose with the idea of, you know, involving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, into community improvement projects with just everyone else in our town. And I had met Julie, and she is a very much a natural leader, and I wanted her to be a part of the project immediately, and she became our chairperson and she has been a wonderful leader and role model.

Genia Stephen (03:25):
And can you just explain a little bit more about what On Purpose is?

Angela Breeden (03:29):
Yes. We are a grant-funded project through our state developmental disabilities council to demonstrate how people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can join in with their non-disabled neighbours to create community improvement projects in our town. And we have, uh, 15 people who have disabilities, who are involved with us, and we have had, um, we’ve had a lot of projects. Now we, of course, were derailed by the COVID virus. We had, you know, we just got started in the fall and when COVID came in March, it sort of derailed a lot of what we had. So we had to work with what was still available after that point. And we have, you know, been involved with our city flower beds, with working at our farmer’s market, just whatever was still available. We created opportunities for people to come and work alongside others, to make our town a better place. And what we’ve seen through that is, you know, people just making these great connections, these relationships, and just overall the morale of the city going up from, you know, everybody getting a chance to contribute.

Genia Stephen (04:45):
And how big is St. Alban’s?

Angela Breeden (04:48):
It’s about 10,000 people.

Genia Stephen (04:50):
So, small town, small town. And you said that the morale in the city has gone up. Can you talk a little bit about how the community improvement projects are contributing to that?

Angela Breeden (05:03):
Yeah, we had, you know, of course our town is a very, it’s a very social place. We have a lot of festivals, um, a lot of events and all that was canceled by COVID. So it was kind of getting pretty, you know, lonely. People — and people miss each other, you know, we’re used to seeing each other all the time. So because we were able to still organize and do some things safely and outdoors, you know, we were able to bring people back together and give them that connection that they were missing. Um, one of the things that we have, we have a man who started a walking club and it got a lot of media attention and we’ve had a large group of people coming out to walk and I’ve got the comments over and over from people about how much they enjoy being able to connect again. And then we had some city flower beds that were kind of, um, you know, they had fallen out of shape because, you know, our city was closed down for several months at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. So when we got those, um, you know, cleaned back up with our garden club, uh, I’ve had so — I mean more emails than I think I can count of people showing gratitude for how good it looks and how nice it was to have, you know, the beautification in our town.

Genia Stephen (06:12):
Hmm. And what is the impact been for the people who have disabilities, who are participating in the community improvement projects?

Angela Breeden (06:20):
Well, we have a goal of, you know, building, making this a sustainable thing so that you don’t just come and you show up and you, you know, get to do a project and look good and then you just disappear back into your life. You know, we want to build, you know, actual relationships and connection. So we focus a lot on things where people come together over and over again, like meeting every week or every month. And what we have seen so far is when we began the project, most of the people that we were involved with had very little to no civic involvement and just measuring at the end of this year, how much their civic involvement has changed, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in how much time they’re spent in volunteer work and community and civic involvement involvement. And the other thing that I can say has changed is a lot of people in our project had graduated within the past few years, but were not in the workforce.

Angela Breeden (07:14):
And this was a chance for them to reconnect with, you know, people that they knew when they were in high school that they had lost contact with. So we’ve seen some, you know, reunions and we’ve seen a lot of new relationships over shared interests. Um, Julie is a good example of that. She loves, absolutely loves Halloween and our community runs a haunted trail at our city park every year. And Julie hasn’t been involved with it before. And so we facilitated her getting involved with that haunted trail and when she has been attending the meetings, and she can speak about that too if she wants to, but when she’s been attending like the meetings and the planning for this event, which starts Friday, um, she’s connected with people that she’s known in the past. And also she’s in a group of a whole bunch of other people who love Halloween too. So they have that shared interest to bond over

Genia Stephen (08:01):
Mm-hmm, mm-hm. Yeah. I, um, Julie, I can’t say that I share your interest. I have zero desire to be frightened or frighten other people I’ve always, um, kind of, kind of avoided that kind of thing, but here’s the thing, um, you know, the, one of the things that you mentioned, Angela, that is really powerful about this type of project is that, um, there are going to be people out there who share your interests, even if they’re really, uh, you know, really specific. And even if they’re things that other people really don’t want to get involved in. So you’ve been able to really explore your, um, or not just explore, but participate in, um, a project that really speaks to your creativity and your interests and, um, and your talents. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about, I want hear about your role on the advisory board, but right now I’d just like you to tell me a little bit about the project that you’ve been involved in.

Julie White (09:03):
I’ve been in, um, I’ve been involved with the Halloween project because, um, I want to make it like real big. So we have an eight feet tall castle with, um, like skulls and hay, and then we’re gonna put like pumpkins. It’s just going to be wonderful. Normally that I am grateful and thankful for, um, just like the, um, trail and sky and everybody just supporting me through all of it. And it’s just hard work and dedication, you know?

Genia Stephen (09:51):
So Julie, how many people in your community, like, is it only a few people who will end up using this? How, like, uh, taking advantage of the Halloween trail or like how big of a role is this trail going to play in your community this year?

Julie White (10:07):
Uh, it’s going to be big, because we’ve got a lot of staff members that are coming and I have one of my girls coming. Um, she does cons and conventions with me.

Genia Stephen (10:22):
Mm-hmm, what’s that?

Julie White (10:22):
So she, um, her name is Lydia Miller. She is quite a big role in this,

Genia Stephen (10:35):
But you just said, I, maybe I misheard you, but I think it’s just a term I don’t know. You said something about, um, she does cos-what? Cause and —

Julie White (10:44):
Um, it’s called cons and conventions where, um, you go ahead and you dress up any way you want to, whether it’s anime, whether it’s Halloween or not.

Genia Stephen (10:56):
Okay. All right. Yeah. Yeah. So you’ve got some connections there. And is this something that the families in your community are likely to access this year on Halloween?

Julie White (11:06):
Yes. Um, it’s family-friendly, family-orientated, and if they don’t want to do the haunted trail, they can come and actually do like, um, free photos.

Genia Stephen (11:20):
That’s the photo booth, uh, project that you’ve been working on. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I know that in, in my community. So I live in a town of about 22,000, so twice the size of St. Alban’s, but still a smaller, you know, smaller city. And I know that we’ve got, um, one of the churches in our area always has, um, a family-friendly, uh, safe event on their property at Halloween. And because of COVID this year that they’re having to adapt it. But because people are nervous because of COVID about going house to house, um, these community-based Halloween events are massively attractive for families because they know they can come, that the community has come together to offer, offer a safe opportunity for their kids to enjoy Halloween. Um, and, and that, it’s a, it’s a significant contribution to people feeling like they are able to both connect with their community, but also that they, they don’t have to give up yet one more thing because of COVID. So I imagine that in st. Albans, the project that you’re working on is going to, you know, maybe even be one of the single biggest Halloween attractions, um, in your community. Um, so that, I think that’s, uh, that’s fantastic.

Angela Breeden (12:46):
Yeah. It is a very popular event. Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to cut you off. I was just going to say, yeah, Parks has ran it for several years. It’s always been a very popular event. And with this year being outdoors, when there’s so few things still able to take place, we anticipate, you know, being extremely popular.

Genia Stephen (13:03):
Yeah. Yeah. That’s massive. Yeah. Um, Julie, I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about your role on the advisory board?

Julie White (13:12):
Um, what I do is I make sure that, um, people have events. I’m more of an event planner. So I like to plan events and make sure that, um, this event is, uh, successful, keep the ball rolling, and be so devoted to what I’m doing in the community. And with this project, I can literally show them what I can really do.

Genia Stephen (13:50):
Right. Yeah. And that that’s related to the, to the project that you’re working on specifically right now, right?

Julie White (13:56):
Yep, yep, yep. Yep.

Genia Stephen (13:57):
But you also serve on the advisory board for On Purpose, right?

Julie White (14:04):
Mm-hmm, yep.

Genia Stephen (14:04):
You’re a member of that board. So on that board of directors for On Purpose, what is, what’s your job on the board?

Julie White (14:14):
I am the chair advisor on the board. They, um, what they do is they give me a plan to make sure that I know what I’m doing and I just go with it.

Genia Stephen (14:29):
So you’re provided with, um, some materials and some, um, like outlines for what’s expected and what’s on the agenda. And then you lead from, from there, with that support.

Julie White (14:40):

Genia Stephen (14:40):
Yep. And how often does the board meet?

Julie White (14:49):
Um, we meet like every, we used to meet like every once a month, but not, but, um, with COVID we had to literally, uh, go ahead and have like Zoom meetings and now the coffee shop’s open, we can have our annual meetings now.

Genia Stephen (15:15):
Right, right. And, um, maybe Angela, you can speak to this, uh, this question. What is the, um, what’s your vision? So you said you started in the fall, right. You just started in the fall of 2019, is that correct? Yes. Correct. So in five years, what do you, what does On Purpose hope to have accomplished?

Angela Breeden (15:39):
We, what we wanted to do was we have a three, well, we have, this is year two. We’re expected to go for a three-year demonstration. So what we wanted to do was in year three, we wanted to take what we learned about, um, including people in community improvement as a town and go out to other towns and teach and share it. So what I’m hoping is that we can take what we learned. We are developing products with like four target audiences. That’s people with disabilities, themselves, parents and family, uh, parents and family, um, direct support staff and service providers, and then also communities and towns. And we want to go out and teach people if they want to build this into their community, to be able to take what we, we created and learn from it, to do it for themselves. So my hope is that other communities will pick up the ball and run with it and take the initiative to make sure those doors are open for people with developmental disabilities, to be able to be involved in the community and be a part of civic life.

Genia Stephen (16:46):
That’s great. And how are you going to, and this might be something that you haven’t even really developed any plans around. I don’t know. But do you have, um, like you talked about the, the importance of having, um, projects where people are getting together over time, so that you’re building the opportunity for relationships to build. Do you have an idea of how you will over time measure the longer term impact for people with disabilities?

Angela Breeden (17:17):
Um, what we, well, for our, for our project, you know, we have 15 people who are involved. So what we want to see is at the end of our project, that each of those 15 people is connected with a peer who has a commitment to maintain their ability to continue to participate so that when our project ends everything doesn’t just disappear for the people with disabilities. We want someone who’s committed to, you know, calling Julie for example, every year and saying, are you, you know, this is when the meetings are going to be the haunted trail this year, are you going to come and, you know, be a volunteer? We want someone committed to making that change for them or making that connection for them. So you’re a year in, um, Julie, I’m going to ask you this, this question and then a version to, to Angela. Um, you’re a year in, Julie. You’ve been involved. Have you been on the advisory board right from the beginning?

Julie White (18:19):
Yes. Right from the start.

Genia Stephen (18:22):
Okay. And how, how has your role, so I know there’s the project role and then there’s the advisory board role. So each of those, how has the project impacted your life so far?

Julie White (18:39):
Um, impacted drastically. It was a life changer and I just had to keep, kept the ball rolling. When I went there, I was like, okay, I’m going to do this. And they’re going to go ahead and keep it going with me. And I mean, Angie changed my life. So I like, I’m so devoted to all this. And like, it’s a great way to just like, you know, be a part of the community and do stuff for it. Cause I never got to do something like this. And this is just so amazing of what we accomplished, what we have done and achieved. And I’m so proud of like the team and the effort and the work that we put in to stuff like this.

Genia Stephen (19:52):
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Genia Stephen (20:32):
One of the things you just said, Julie, I think, um, is really important. And I, I want to make sure that I am actually hearing you correctly and I’m not misinterpreting you. But one of the things that I just heard you say was that, um, you hadn’t had an opportunity to really be somebody that’s making a big contribution in your community before. And that that has been really significant being able to actually do something that is making a contribution. Is that, am I understanding that point correctly?

Julie White (21:08):
Yep. Yep. You’re understanding it so completely, honey.

Genia Stephen (21:13):
And so I just, uh, what does it feel like, you know, from, from being, having, um, being a young woman with all of these really interesting talents and interests and strengths, but not being, having a way of actually contributing to your community, what is the difference in how you feel now that, you know, you’re actually making a difference in the community for, for other people and for the community as a whole?

Julie White (21:44):
I just, I just feel happy and excited and like we’re almost in our second year, and I’m looking forward to, uh, what’s going to like be for next year and for more stuff to come, um, more events and just go ahead and go with it.

Genia Stephen (22:11):
So it sounds like you’re feeling pretty hopeful and you’ve already said you’re extremely committed to the work of this organization and to your involvement in projects as well.

Julie White (22:24):

Genia Stephen (22:25):
That’s great. Um, thanks very much, Julie, Angela, what, so you’re a year in now. So looking back at the year, what have you learned about what it takes to make this work? That’s a hugely open-ended question, I know, but I just like the, it’s a lovely idea. Well, we’re going to have people, you know, we’re going to have people with disabilities, you know, contributing to community improvement projects and, um, you know, that, that’s a lovely idea that I could imagine could very easily fail or turn into something really twisted, right? Like not something that you’re proud of. But you are proud of it!

Angela Breeden (23:12):
[laughs] I am very proud.

Genia Stephen (23:13):
And, and it’s working, you know, like you’re making an impact both on the community and um, on, you know, the community members, including people with disabilities. So, um, I imagine, and maybe again, you’re so new, like it’s just been one year, so maybe you haven’t had time to really think about and reflect on this, but I’m just wondering if you have any thoughts about, um, things that were important in actually making this —

Angela Breeden (23:43):
Yeah, uh, I have quite a few, actually. Um, one of the things that, uh, we learned is, you know, it’s really easy for things to turn into disability-only events like become a special needs, you know, in quotes, um, thing. So you have to target your marketing towards the community in general and make sure what you’re working on is something that people want to do themselves. You know, we have, uh, you know, we had like our garden club, I’m going to use that as an example. Um, that was something that existed before we came along and it had kind of fallen by the wayside because, um, the people involved had, you know, they had retired. So this was something that was really easy to resurrect because there were people in the community who wanted this. And so it was just a matter of finding, you know, the people who missed that and wanted to be involved with that. So they were, you know, back at it.

Angela Breeden (24:39):
And then we have, you know, a woman who, um, Leslie, who’s been working with us who is interested in doing that. She wanted to work in the gardens and learn gardening and be a part of that. And so she has been. And so that is one thing I will say is that you do have to use some caution with i- not becoming a disability only event where all the, you know, quote unquote, special needs, people are going to go and do a community project. So you have to make sure that you are making this for everyone and, you know, and meaning it. And then another thing that has become very clear is one of the bigger hurdles that we come up against and will be very relevant to, to your audience is that a lot of times everything becomes a mom’s responsibility and the weight of adding one more thing to your child’s life becomes, you know, the parent’s responsibility to get them there and to provide support and being able to get that support for people is a really big deal because, you know, families, like I said, we have the same 24 hours everybody else does, everyone else still has work and other commitments.

Angela Breeden (25:42):
So making that time, you know, people, families and support staff have to be intentional about making that time to be able to get there and provide the support so that the person with the disability has a chance to become known by the, by the community and become a part of the project. Because if you’re only showing up once in a while, it’s probably not going to be a real opportunity to build a relationship. You know, you can come and do a special event that doesn’t, you know, create that connection. And then it becomes more like, like an outing as opposed to something that has a ritual element to it, where you’re coming together over and over again, with the same kinds of people for a shared interest. Right. Um, the other thing I would say is that, you know, the biggest, biggest issue is you cannot be afraid to just ask, you know, if you need an accommodation, if there needs to be a modification so that a person can participate, you know, ask for those things many, many times. I mean, we’ve, we’ve asked for lots of things and most of the time the answer is yes. I mean, I would say the community is extremely accommodating. You know, our town, St. Albans, kind of already had a reputation for being kind of, you know, an inclusive place to begin with. And so we were just building on that. So, you know, each town has its own, you know, personality, so to speak, but, you know, for the most part, people are open, people are welcoming and you just, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.

Genia Stephen (27:11):
Has anybody, um, experienced so far the ability to have their support, their paid support or their family support take a bit of a step back in the projects.

Angela Breeden (27:23):
Yeah. Um, we, we’ve definitely had a few projects where, um, the community members are supporting the person they are getting dropped off and taking part in the activity and whatever supports they need are being provided by the people who are there. Um, you just can’t, I would say don’t go in with that expectation of happening super fast. I mean, we’ve had a very limited time to work because of COVID. We had a long hiatus, so we were very fortunate in that we had some connections that already existed, that we could leverage to provide to where everybody was comfortable with that situation. But, you know, you need to be able to, you know, work specifically on building that relationship to where the person is comfortable being there without, like, their parents and where the community is comfortable providing the support the person needs. Um, you know, that is something that you, you build by showing up consistently.

Genia Stephen (28:19):
Right. I think that’s incredibly wise. And, um, and I think it’s quite an accomplishment actually that especially given the COVID hiatus, that people have been able to see that kind of, um, relationship and naturally, um, given support kind of surface and manifest itself. Um, and I think for, for many, many families, that’s actually a hard thing to imagine that that could happen, that they would, that their son or daughter would be able to, um, you know, develop those relationships and, and be a contributing member of a community group who would so want them there that they would, you know, pick them up, drop them off, provide the support that they needed while they’re there. So I think that that’s a really, um, powerful and important, um, success and possibility for, uh, for people.

Angela Breeden (29:18):
Yeah. And I would, I would, sorry, I would add to that, that, um, you know, it’s okay to let people make mistakes, you know, within reason, you know, if somebody is, you know, you, you know, I feel like myself as a parent, like I get really, like, I feel like almost have to micromanage the situation and, you know, you know, like set all these things up so that everything’s perfect and no mistakes are made, you know, but if it’s an otherwise safe situation, it’s okay. If your child is noisy, you know, it’s okay. If some of these social faux pas get made, I mean, people generally, you know, understand that and we’ll roll with it and you don’t have to be, you know, super afraid of everything being perfect.

Genia Stephen (30:02):
Thank you for that. So what, um, as we move into the, the winter months, you are, you are not in the Southern States. Um, so as we move into the winter months and the inclement weather, how is On Purpose thinking about, and, and likely, and other, you know, increasing waves just with cold weather and things like that, what, um, what are you thinking about how you’re going to keep momentum going, understanding that COVID measures and weather will, will be a challenge.

Angela Breeden (30:38):
Yeah. We are going to continue to facilitate things outdoors, as much as we can over winter, we do get some like, uh, spells of warmer temperatures during the winter here. So we’re going to try to take advantage of those, to keep things going. And also we do use, um, zoom and video calls and Facebook to keep people connected and we’ll continue to do that.

Genia Stephen (31:00):
And Julie, you know, you’ve got this Halloween, uh, project, the haunted trail and the photo booth. And, but that is going to that, like, Halloween will be over in a couple of weeks. Um, what comes next for you as far as your involvement, either with that group of people or with another project?

Julie White (31:24):
Um, well, we have the gard — we have the, um, last night of the garden club. And then, um, we also would do the last bit of the Jimmy walk and then that’s it for fall, but we don’t know what’s going on for winter. Really. We have no idea.

Genia Stephen (31:48):
And will you, um, will you be reaching out to the people who have been involved in the, in the, uh, Halloween event to be talking to them about what you all might like to do for a winter event?

Julie White (32:03):
Yeah. Um, what we did last winter was, um, we did hot chocolate and cookies for Santa. We don’t know if we’re gonna do that again or what we’re going to do.

Genia Stephen (32:19):

Angela Breeden (32:21):
Yeah. She’s referencing, I just want to add, she’s referencing, you know, our Parks and Rec does typically do events year round, and they are not canceling anything until they know what the guidelines are going to be. So at this point, those events should still take place, but we don’t know.

Genia Stephen (32:37):
Right, right. Excellent. So, um, Julie, if you had sort of one message that you wanted to, um, make sure that the people listening to this podcast heard from you, one important thing to you that people hear, um, what would that message be?

Julie White (32:57):
A message would be, um, follow your heart, follow your dreams, because it can really change or whatever really can come true in a blink of an eye. And also just stay true, be you to yourself.

Genia Stephen (33:19):
Thank you, Julie. Thank you.

Julie White (33:20):
You’re welcome.

Genia Stephen (33:22):
And Angela, same question. Um, if you had sort of one kind of message or takeaway that you really wanted to impart to listeners, what would that be?

Angela Breeden (33:33):
I guess that as a, as a parent, you need to remember that your child exists outside of the context of a client or a student or a patient. Um, you, you know, you, your family, your community, your culture, you know, your child still exists in those contexts regardless of having a disability. And you need to, you know, be intentional about creating space for those important things that make life worth living.

Genia Stephen (34:02):
And, um, thank you for that. I totally agree. I mean, I think it’s an, it’s an interesting thing that we collectively, I think, you know, um, often lose sight of this expectation that we typically have for our kids, that they will go off and contribute to our community and exist outside of us. And sometimes that doesn’t happen for our kids with disabilities, but they still are needed by our community, um, to make a contribution. So, uh, Andrea, if people wanted to learn more about On Purpose, how would they find out more?

Angela Breeden (34:42):
Um, one of the best ways is to go to our Facebook page, which is, you know,, like St Albans. And then we also have a website, um,

Genia Stephen (34:56):
Excellent. And, um, if people are interested, um, you said that by year three, you’re hoping to be reaching out to other communities and supporting, um, the creation of similar projects in other communities. If people are interested specifically in thinking about how they might be able to create something like On Purpose in their own community, um, how would they reach out and request that support? Is it still through the website or are there timelines around that?

Angela Breeden (35:26):
Yes. And you can email us at On Purpose. Um, my email is [email protected] WV like West Virginia. Um, yeah, we really be doing that until the end of, um, 2021, but at that point, we are definitely open to working with anyone that wants to work with us.

Genia Stephen (35:45):
That’s great. Thank you so, so much both of you and you and Julie for, for joining me today for sharing the really fantastic work that you are doing through purpose and, um, Julie, thank you so much for sharing your experience as well of, um, you know, as you said, life-changing, um, the, the life-changing experience of making a contribution and being involved in your community. Thank you both. So, so much.

Julie White (36:11):
Thank you.

Genia Stephen (36:12):
After we stopped, we realized that we hadn’t covered a really important topic. And so we hopped back on to record Angie talking about this really important aspect of the work that On Purpose is doing.

Angela Breeden (36:29):
Okay. Um, so one of the things that, uh, that I feel like we should talk about is, um, the gift of being known and not being a stranger in your own community. Um, that was one of the things when we first moved here, we’ve been in St. Albans for, I want to say about nine years, you know, when we first moved here, we didn’t, we didn’t know anyone. The children didn’t know anyone, but, you know, once they were enrolled in school and, you know, Cub Scouts and all these other local things, you know, things began to change. And now that one of my children has reached adulthood, like that has been a very important part of his life is being known in the community. Being able to go out to the farmer’s market and have people come up and know who you are and remember you.

Angela Breeden (37:11):
And then when we’ve asked for things like, you know, we were looking for a job for him, you know, pre COVID, you know, people knew who he was. They knew who, how polite he was and how, what a good worker he was, and that facilitated, you know, more opportunities for him. And even if you’re not looking for work and things, you know, we have people who’ve joined the project who really had not been involved in anything in our community. And now people people know who they are, you know, they’re, they know that is the person who loves horses, or that is the person who, you know, likes to garden. You know, they have this, you know, feeling of being known and being connected and really being part of the fabric of, of who our community is.

Genia Stephen (37:58):
Here’s what I love about this project, about On Purpose. It’s small, it’s about connecting one person with a disability with others in the community around a shared interest. It’s about making a contribution and it’s about creating opportunities that exist over time. It’s not an activity, but it’s a role that people play for at least a period of time. And that creates all kinds of opportunities for relationship-building, for a sense of belonging, for connection. Um, and that is really powerful. Some of the topics that Angela was talking about around, you know, providing those ongoing opportunities for, um, for coming together and how that supports relationship building, this is exactly the kind of, um, you know, strategies and, and deep thinking about what it takes to build opportunities for relationship that has covered in the state connected, um, challenge, which is a series of, um, five days of resources around relationship building for people with disabilities that is freely available at So if building relationships — during COVID, not during COVID — um, either way is something that you are recognizing, um, or if relationships you’re recognizing or lacking in your son or daughter’s life, then I highly recommend this day connected challenge. It is a great place to start. Again, you can find that at I look forward to talking to you again soon. I hope that you are well and safe. Take care.

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Genia Stephen
Genia Stephen

Sister, mother, midwife, writer, speaker and perpetually curious. Dedicated to bringing you the voices, ideas and conversations of world class mentors and thought leaders in the field of disability.