10/16/09 — Mayor's Committee honors disabled, those who help them

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Mayor's Committee honors disabled, those who help them

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 16, 2009 1:46 PM

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Sherry Evan Durant, front, was the speaker Tuesday for the annual Disabilities Awards Luncheon celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month. With her from left are Mayor Al King; Naomi Collie, chair of the Mayor's Committee for Persons with Disabilities; and county commission Chairman Bud Gray.

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Honored during Tuesday's Disabilities Awards Luncheon were, seated from left, David Piland, who accepted the Employer of the Year on behalf of recipient Mike Sawyer; Anthony Darden, Employee of the Year; Sandy Pendergraft, Committee Member of the Year; and Larry Jones, Mayor's Trophy. Standing from left are award presenters Lt. Robert Bireley; county commission Chairman Bud Gray; Naomi Collie, chair of the Mayor's Committee for Persons with Disabilities; and Mayor Al King.

Three people were honored Thursday for their contributions to persons with disabilities and another, who is disabled himself, for his work at a local business.

The honors were presented during an awards luncheon at Lane Tree Country Club in celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The event was sponsored by the City of Goldsboro Community Affairs and Mayor's Committee for Disabled Persons.

Honored were Mike Sawyer, Employer of the Year; Anthony Darden, Employee of the Year; Larry Jones, Mayor's Trophy; and Sandy Pendergraft, Committee Member of the Year.

Speaker Sherry Evan Durant urged audience members to listen to people with disabilities and, if needed, for the disabled to be a "pain in the butt" to accomplish their goals.

Ms. Durant, who lives at Golden Living Center in Greensboro, serves on the State Association of Self-Advocates Board and volunteers for local soup kitchens and works at the polls on Election Day or the Kids Vote Project.

She will soon open her own business, Diva Production, promoting her one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces and line of purses and tote bags. She also pursues public speaking opportunities to talk about the importance of self-advocacy for people with disabilities.

"I always knew that I wanted to be an advocate for people who could not advocate for themselves," Ms. Durant said. "I have been to a lot of conferences and most of the time people think that just because we cannot physically do (something) that something is wrong with us mentally. That is not the case. That is not the case. Unfortunately we have those stereotypes out there."

The disabled have to show their caregivers and service providers what they are willing to do, she said. If they don't, then the caregivers and service providers won't know, she said.

"Unfortunately when you grow up like I did trying to prove yourself to people ... but guess what? The sky is the limit," she said. "How bad do you want it? How bad do you want it? What are you willing to do to get to where you want to get to because I will do just about anything to get where I want to with the different projects that I do.

"My illness (cancer) has slowed me down a bit, but if I can do it anybody can do it. It is just another fight that I don't intend to lose. I have to say to God, 'This is what you gave and this how I am going to do it,'" she said.

"Listen to (disabled) individuals and when they say they want to get out ask them, 'How bad do you want it and what can I do to help you get to where you want to get,'" she said. "A lot of them (disabled) feel like they don't have a voice because nobody has ever listened to them.

"I urge you to be that one person who listens to them because they are very valuable people. A lot of (disabled) people think, 'They are not going to listen to me, so why am I fussing and fighting about it?' But unfortunately, you have got to be a pain in the butt. That is how I got as far as I have. I was a pain in the butt."

The awards winners were:

*Employer of the Year: Mike Sawyer is the local project manager for the ARC of the Va. Peninsula that manages mail delivery on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. David Piland accepted the award on Sawyer's behalf.

"He (Sawyer) is a great leader enabling his company, ARC of Va. to help some local folks who have one disability or another perform a great function at the base and be a great asset to the community," said presenter Lt. Robert Bireley. "He looked for ways to make our operation on base more friendly to his new clerks who have their own disabilities and unique challenges."

*Employee of the Year: Anthony Darden attended the Wayne Opportunity Center and is employed as a customer service representative at Carlie C's IGA.

"He chose to attend training every day and made every effort to do whatever was asked of him," said presenter county commission Chairman Bud Gray. "He has accepted job feedback from his coach and has an excellent attendance record and has a great personality.

*Mayor's Trophy: Larry Jones is retired from the N.C. Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Jones has since started his own consulting firm to help companies receive certification from the Commission on Accreditation for Rehabilitation Facilities. Mayor Al King praised Jones for "devoting his life to helping better the lives of people with disabilities. In his position now he is able to travel throughout the United States and help programs offer better service to the people they serve."

*Committee Member of the Year: Sandy Pendergraft has shown a "very great interest in the community,' said committee chairman Naomi Collie. "She is very devoted and advocate for people with disabilities and the committee."

Mayor's Committee sponsors were Case Farms, Empire Mongolian Grill, LIFE, Inc., NC Mobility, RHA-Howell Care Center, Skill Creations, Inc. and Wayne Community College.