10/21/12 — Disabilities luncheon honors those who overcome, help others overcome

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Disabilities luncheon honors those who overcome, help others overcome

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 21, 2012 1:50 AM

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Five awards were presented Thursday at the annual Mayor's Committee for Persons with Disabilities luncheon, held at Herman Park Center. From left are Goldsboro Mayor Al King; Alfredo Moreno, representing Case Farms, employer of the year; Tyler Edmundson, president of the AKTION Club, Mayor's Trophy recipient; Leigh Anne Sizemore, employee of the year; Jermaine Parks, assistant manager at Walmart, most accessible business; Naomi Collie, the committee member of the year; and Jeff Whitener, chairman of the event.

Disabilities exist in many forms, but all with one thing in common -- hurdles to overcome.

Tyrone Starkie has had more than his share.

Born with a form of muscular dystrophy, he has spent the bulk of three decades in a wheelchair.

"Coming up, I remember my mom telling me stories of why I wasn't developing the way I should," he said Thursday at the annual luncheon for the Mayor's Committee for Persons with Disabilities. "I knew my road wasn't going to be as easy as the next man, but that did not stop me from what I knew I had to do."

From being in a special classroom to taking remediation classes, the hurdles have been a staple in his life. When it came time to graduate from high school, it became even more apparent.

"I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do," he said. "All I knew is that I had this limitation and I didn't see people out in the community working with limitations -- when I went to the bank, I didn't see people in a wheelchair, I didn't see people on TV in wheelchairs."

Despite that, he blazed his own trail, graduating from Wayne Community College, going on to earn his bachelor's and master's degrees.

Then came the next obstacle -- finding a job that he would enjoy.

"I knew that I was still special needs -- who would be there if I fell out of my wheelchair? If GATEWAY didn't get there on time, how would I get to work?" he said. "The whole mindset is changed when you have hurdles that you have to deal with."

For the past two years he has found his niche, as pre-curriculum achievement coach at Wayne Community College. Last year, he was recipient of the employee of the year award by the Mayor's Committee.

"Special needs or not, you have to have the mentality of, 'Life's not easy,'" he said. "There's always going to be some heartache, there's always going to be tribulation, setbacks, but on the flip side of the coin, there's going to be success, tears of joy, trophies on the wall.

"Don't give up hope. Keep that fire and desire that you have and work from there."

Five awards were handed out at this year's event, held at Herman Park Center.

Employer of the year was Case Farms.

"This is an honor," said Alfredo Moreno, complex HR manager for the company. "At the same time, we want to tell you, we are here for the citizens of Wayne County."

John Chance, Wayne Opportunity Center president, presented the employee of the year award to Leigh Anne Sizemore, who became job placement specialist at the center four years ago.

He pointed out that she may not fit the profile of what a handicapped person is perceived to look like, but nevertheless had much to overcome as a recovering substance abuser.

"She lost everything -- she had a good job with the airline, was married, had a wonderful home," Chance said. She even had legal problems and at one point worked three different jobs to get her life back on track, he said.

"I didn't appear to have a disability but I do," said Ms. Sizemore, who has been in recovery for seven years. "Thank you so much for helping people like myself, to employ them because as our speaker said today, he went through so many obstacles for people to accept that he could do more than they thought he could do."

Named most accessible business was Walmart, for being advocates of the handicapped by such efforts as helping customers unload groceries.

Jermaine Parks, assistant manager, made use of the opportunity to represent the company.

"We truly thank you for this award and like they say, 'Save money, live better,'" he said.

Committee member of the year was Naomi Collie, director of admissions and records in the continuing education department at Wayne Community College.

Pat Yates, also a member of the Mayor's Committee, praised Ms. Collie for her spirit, sense of style and integrity while serving on the committee.

The Mayor's Trophy went to the AKTION Club, a service organization formed by the Sunrise Kiwanis Club five years ago for those with physical or mental disabilities.

"Thank you for the Kiwanis Club of Goldsboro for their support for the AKTION Club," said Tyler Edmundson, club president.