INSPIRED IMPACT™ is an ongoing blog series that gives voice to social entrepreneurs and leaders of mission-driven organizations who are making an impact in their communities, industries, and around the world.

 



 

Jennifer HendrickJennifer Hendrick is the Executive Director of the Laradon Laradon Foundation headquartered in Denver, Colorado. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter and learn more at laradon.org.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?
Laradon is an organization that provides services to children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As an organization that started as a school in 1948, Laradon has grown exponentially to offer different programs in Early Intervention and Adult Day services that educate and offer employment opportunities to people with disabilities.

 

WHY DO YOU DO IT?
In 1948, Joseph and Elizabeth Calabrese were struggling to find a school that would educate their two sons with disabilities, Larry and Donald (Lara-don), so they decided to create one of their own. Since then, Laradon has become a beacon of hope for those with developmental disabilities who wish to be more active and connected to their communities. Laradon’s Person-Centered approach to services ensures that each person is having their individual needs and goals met.

 

WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
Laradon serves nearly 700 children and adults with developmental disabilities each year. With 14 individualized programs, Laradon focuses on each person’s wants and needs. We give them the tools and training they need to be more self-sufficient. We work hard to make sure individuals with disabilities are valued, contributing members of society by providing ample opportunities for them to engage with their local communities.

 

WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
The people we serve, and their families, are truly inspiring. We also draw inspiration from our founders, the Calabrese family, and the Colorado Elks Association for their continuous involvement and passion for Laradon. Without their dedication and willingness to create something new, Laradon wouldn’t be where it is today. As we move forward and continue to innovate, we always have the Calabrese in mindand remember the core mission of Laradon from its beginning.

 

WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
Our big dream right now lies within completing our capital campaign which is currently expanding and renovating our historic campus in order to better serve people with disabilities. This is the biggest capital project in Laradon’s 70-year history. We’ve already seen great progress with our new school building which opened this past July. Our students and staff are pleased to work and learn in a space that was designed specifically for them with newly upgraded classrooms, additional sensory features, and adaptive technology. We have one last phase of the campaign to go and are looking forward to completing an affordable housing complex which will include 91 housing units with 25% of them reserved for people with disabilities. With $4 million of $6 million raised from our generous donors and supporters, we are well on our way, but still need more community funding to finish our project.

 

WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE?
As Laradon continues to innovate to provide the best services possible to people with developmental disabilities, we are seeking community partners, thought leaders, collaborators, and philanthropists who would like to make a transformational gift to Laradon.

 

WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
Some of our biggest challenges include trying to find quality employees who are willing to do the hard work that is necessary to serve this population. Providing direct support services can be a tough job, but at the end of the day, it is one of the most rewarding careers you could have. We like to address this problem by not only providing a competitive pay and benefits package, but offering employee appreciation events and activities throughout the year that enhance a healthy team atmosphere.

 

WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
My advice would be to take the time to invest in the people you serve, which is exactly what we’re doing at Laradon by expanding our services through our capital campaign expansion project. Another piece of advice is to listen to the community you serve. At Laradon, we’ve taken the time to listen to our people and we are partnering with other organizations to bring in better access to health care, education, affordable housing, and other needed resources.

 

HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
People can support us by donating or volunteering with us – learn more at laradon.org. We’re also looking for partners that would like to address community needs with Laradon.

 


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