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Last fall, Seattle voters approved the Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise (FEPP) Levy. Today, Mayor Jenny Durkan signed the plan into law, as well as partnership agreements with Seattle Colleges and Seattle Public Schools, in a press conference held at Northwest Center Kids at Chinook, downtown.

The goal of FEPP is to provide high-quality early preschool, investments in K-12, wraparound educational services, and tuition support for college to help ensure that every Seattle child will be able to complete a post-secondary education or job training. “If we do right by our kids,” said Mayor Durkan, “we do right by all of us.”

Katrina Caron, Director of Early Learning Programs for Northwest Center, also spoke at the press conference, as did Councilmember M. Lorena González and Seattle Colleges Chancellor Shouan Pan.

“Northwest Center supports children and families of all abilities,” Caron said. “We have an early intervention program, employment services, and businesses that fund our programs. We offer early learning services at two schools including here at Chinook, and our IMPACT™ program is now bringing inclusive early learning to centers throughout King County. We have really enjoyed our partnership with the Department of Education and Early Learning as participants in the Seattle Preschool Program, and we are very excited about the possibility of expanding our partnership.”
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan speaks on the playground at Northwest Center Kids at Chinook as members of Seattle Public Schools, Seattle Colleges, and Northwest Center look on
Seattle Colleges Chancellor Shouan Pan joins Mayor Durkan as she signs the Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise Plan into law
Katrina Caron, Director of Early Learning Programs for Northwest Center, with Northwest Center parent Tesia Forbes and Mayor Durkan
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Northwest Center Founder Cecile Lindquist
It is with great sadness that Northwest Center shares the passing of Cecile Lindquist, one of our founding mothers and a lifelong advocate for the inclusion of children and adults with disabilities at every level of the community.
 
Cecile was inspired to work for the education of children with disabilities when her beloved cousin Tommy, who had Down syndrome, was turned away from school in the early 1960s. “That was my beginning of working on behalf of all children,” she told us in this video, recorded last year: 
Northwest Center: Changing the World - YouTube
​Cecile went on to join with Seattle mothers of kids with disabilities to found Northwest Center, and then to write and pass the very first law in the nation, House Bill 90 or “Education for All,” to mandate public education for children with disabilities. 
 
Governor Dan Evans, who was also Cecile’s cousin, remembered in 2015: “I told all of them the same thing: ‘You have to contact and convince legislators—and there are 148 of them.’ Most organizations would say, ‘Oh, that’s impossible.’ Not Cecile and Katie [Dolan, another of our founders]. Nothing slowed them down.” Read the remarkable story behind this world-changing legislation. 
 
But Cecile’s work didn’t stop there—in fact, it never stopped. This profile of Cecile from 2015 is a classic example of how passionate, dedicated, and hardworking she remained on behalf of all children for her entire life.
 
“Cecile was my mentor and a role model,” says Northwest Center board member Parul Houlahan. “I will never, ever forget how on her own dime and time she toured the entire state and lobbied tirelessly in the late ‘80s for kids from 3-5 years old who needed special education—at the time, early education didn’t begin until age 5. She held so many meetings with parents and local legislators around the state in the smallest places and counties. We won because even the Office of the Superintendent of Public Education in Olympia supported us.”
 
Houlahan concludes, “The best way we can honor our founders’ memories is to do our job to the best of our abilities.”
 
Northwest Center President and CEO Gene Boes agrees.
 
“This is a sad day for everyone at Northwest Center,” he says. “We will celebrate Cecile’s life and her commitment to inclusion by continuing to work for a world that includes everyone. We honor Cecile and will extend her legacy through our work at NWC.”
 
We are grateful to Cecile Lindquist for her lifetime of service. We were blessed to have her friendship. She will be greatly missed. 
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​At just four months old, Noemie was having trouble getting enough nutrition. Her diagnosis was complex: tongue-tie (ankyloglossia), a condition that restricts the tongue's range of motion; acid reflux; food allergies; and sensory processing disorder.
 
Noemie’s pediatrician referred her to a special clinic for children who have trouble getting enough nutrition. As the months passed, she saw other specialists in gastroenterology and nutrition, and began outpatient feeding therapy. And yet, Noemie made little progress.
 
Finally, the pediatrician referred Noemie’s family to Northwest Center Early Intervention’s feeding therapy program, and they began working with occupational therapist Molly Nolan-Jones. The in-home visits were valuable, but after a few months, Nolan-Jones felt that Noemie’s diagnosis was not complete.
 
"At that point, Molly told us what turned out to be some of the most important words: ‘I feel like something else is wrong; you need to take her back to the gastroenterologist,” says Noemie’s mom Nichole.
 
“Molly became more than a feeding therapist,” Nichole continues. “She became a family advocate. She spoke with doctors on our family's behalf, and she was instrumental in helping the doctors find a proper diagnosis: eosinophilic gastrointestinal disease.”
 
Eosinophilic gastrointestinal disease (EGID) makes it painful and difficult to swallow and digest food. Because Noemie’s EGID diagnosis was delayed, she had developed a pediatric feeding disorder. So Nolan-Jones continued to work with the family.
 
“I provided education about how to present food, how to engage in sensory play throughout her day, sensory approaches to food, and mealtime routines at their home,” says Nolan-Jones.
 
When Noemie turned 2, Early Intervention transitioned her occupational therapy services from her home to the Early Learning classrooms at Northwest Center Kids at Greenwood.
 
"Noemie, her mom, and I would join the classroom at lunchtime,” says Nolan-Jones. “Our goal was for Noemie to spend time around other kids who were eating and enjoying food. This was motivating for Noemie, and she would eat more food during these meals.”
 
This past fall, Noemie officially transitioned to Early Learning as a student.
 
“Words can’t even explain how thankful I am to Molly and everyone at Northwest Center,” Nichole says. “It made a big difference in Noemie’s life and saved her from further complications. I couldn’t be more grateful.”
 
Learn about EGID at Apfed (American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders). Visit Northwest Center Early Intervention to learn more about services for children from birth to age 3.
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Spring is finally upon us, and at Northwest Center we celebrate both the successes we’ve achieved and the potential successes soon to come.

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, first designated with a proclamation to “increase public awareness of the needs and potential of Americans with developmental disabilities.” This month we’re sharing stories of children and adults reaching their full potential.

Follow facebook.com/nwcenter, twitter.com/nwcenter, and instagram.com/northwestcenter, and look for the hashtag #DDAwareness19 to see many of the great successes of our clients.

As you help us celebrate those successes, know that we also see the potential in children like Noemie. Working with our Early Intervention team, she’s gone from an infant struggling to get enough nutrition to a little girl who’s thriving in our Early Learning classrooms.

Down Syndrome Awareness Day, celebrated on March 21, is a reminder of the businesses we work with who see the potential for success by hiring people with disabilities. One standout employee is Barbie. She is an accomplished knitter who worked with Employment Services to find the perfect career at Paradise Fibers in Spokane, and she just happens to have Down syndrome.

YOU play a critical role our ability to continue our services for children and adults. Without your financial support, we can’t even begin to touch the tens of thousands of people waiting for services in Washington state. You can make a huge difference by attending The Derby, our annual spring fundraiser, on April 27. Register for The Derby now.

We’ll also be part of GiveBIG again this year—mark your calendars for May 8, and look for more opportunities to maximize your gift to Northwest Center when you #GiveBIG.

We envision a world where individual talent meets unlimited opportunity. Thank you for your continued support in bringing us closer to a truly inclusive society.
 
Onward and Upward,
​Gene
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It’s getting close to post time! Join us on Saturday, April 27 for The Derby, a Kentucky Derby-themed live auction event that benefits Northwest Center. The 8th annual event will take place at the elegant King Street Ballroom with spectacular views of Seattle, 255 South King Street in Pioneer Square.
 
The Derby benefits Northwest Center’s programs and services for people with disabilities. Like Elijah, who was turned away from multiple preschools who had no programs to work with children with developmental delays. Or Katelyn, who had a college degree but had trouble finding work because of her autism diagnosis. Your attendance at The Derby makes it possible for people with disabilities to find the resources and support they need from birth all the way through their careers.
 
Of course, getting a crack at some fabulous auction items is half the fun of The Derby. This year, we’ll be auctioning off the opportunity to be on the field assisting the Seattle Seahawks’s photographer during a home game; a seven-day stay right on Maui’s famed Wailea beach; and a Down Under Answers (DUA Travel) vacation getaway to three stunning cities in Australia.
  
You can also take your chance on two stellar raffles to win a seven-day cruise on Holland America Line to the U.S., Mexico, Canada, or the Caribbean, or a $1,000 gift card to Seattle’s famed Canlis restaurant. 
 
Value Village™ is the premier sponsor for The Derby again this year. A vital partner of Northwest Center since 1967, not only does Value Village make significant contributions to Northwest Center’s programs, the company has an inclusive workforce that includes employees hired through Northwest Center.
 
Join us on April 27! Purchase tickets now at: www.nwcenter.org/derby
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It’s 9 a.m. as Alice arrives to work to begin her shift and says “bello ristorante” or “beautiful restaurant” in Italian when she walks into Tutta Bella, a Neapolitan pizzeria located in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. She’s excited to begin her day as their new maintenance coordinator before the doors open.
 
Alice is the first Northwest Center client hired by Tutta Bella to work at one of their five neighborhood restaurants located around the Seattle area. She prepares the pizzeria before the lunch rush to ensure all the tables are set up, silverware in place and the floors are clean.
 
“It’s a perfect match for me because I love eating Italian pizza and assisting in getting the place ready to open, so the cooks can just concentrate on making delicious pizzas,” Alice says. “It’s so much fun to work here because it gives me my independence and I get paid for what I like to do.”
 
“Alice has been here only a week and is already making a huge impact reducing the workload for the other employees,” says Lindsey Rose, general manager of the South Lake Union restaurant. “She’s amazing, and the staff appreciates her big time.”
 
Tutta Bella has hired people with disabilities from the very beginning through their Supported Employees Program.
 
“When I opened my first restaurant 15 years ago in Columbia City, I wanted to ensure a diverse workforce, especially including employees with disabilities,” says founder and owner Joe Fugere. “Every Tutta Bella location employs people with disabilities as part of our program which has been incredibly successful for the participants, customers and the restaurants. Employees with disabilities not only deserve to be employed just like everyone else, but they’ve greatly enriched each of our restaurants. My hope has always been to inspire other businesses to implement similar hiring practices.”
 
“Let it also be known that our employees with disabilities have a high retention rate, arrive on time and work hard to get the job done.”
 
“Our restaurant reflects the world we live in, and Alice is part of it. We are honored to have her here,” says Rose. “It’s a win-win for everyone,”
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​Why does Connor travel the world to fly kites? Because the Northwest Center client wants to raise awareness about epilepsy and anti-bullying. Connor, who has epilepsy, took his indoor kite-flying performance all the way to the 2010 semi-finals of America’s Got Talent (AGT), beating out 90,000 contestants and appearing in the “Live Wildcard Finals” top 12 in Los Angeles.
 
Connor used his AGT appearance as an opportunity to tell his story on network television and share the benefits of kite flying. “When I’m flying my kites, I never think about having seizures. Nothing can touch me,” he says.
 
Kite flying changed his life—and now he hopes it can help change others’, too. Connor travels the world with “Dare to Dream,” a program he co-founded with his mother Amy Doran, lead job coach at NWC. Together, they participate in kite flying festivals to raise epilepsy and anti-bullying awareness. They also team up with foundations to raise funds for Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy Patients (SUDEP).
 
In April, Connor and Amy will travel to Cervia, Italy for the Artevento Festival, where professional kite flyers come together to share their handmade kites and compete in flying competitions. At home in the Pacific Northwest, Connor also spreads the word about workplace inclusion for people with disabilities—he found his own job at a Seattle Trader Joe’s through Employment Services at Northwest Center.
 
Connor feels he’s living his dream, and he encourages others to believe in themselves and embrace their dreams, too. “If you believe in yourself, you can do anything,” he says. “No matter what type of disability you have or other life challenges, never give up.”
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Inclusive Workplaces: Avni at Value Village - YouTube
​Avni started out collecting and organizing hangers at Value Village, but thanks to Northwest Center job coaches and a supportive store team, he’s expanded his role.

“He had the social skills and interpersonal skills,” says job coach Ronda Noggle, “so we started with the basics: ‘What do you love? What do you want to do?’ The store team worked with us to develop Avni’s skills. Slowly but surely, using his ability to write the alphabet, we transformed that into words and then names, and then now he makes name tags for staff members and hands them out at staff meetings.”

“Avni just brings something to our team,” says Chris Harst, Value Village store manager. “Everybody’s always happy to see him. The benefits of an inclusive workforce, I mean, they’re endless,” he continues. “We hire people with different abilities and they fit right in.” 

Learn more about our partnership with Value Village.
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​Sandy is the “light of the world,” says Sarah Shafter, membership and corporate accounts manager at the Seattle Athletic Club (SAC). “She is someone truly special and an integral part of our team.”  
 
Sandy, a Northwest Center client and women’s locker room attendant “towel folder extraordinaire,” has worked at SAC for more than 12 years. “She’s an ‘institution’ and is loved by everyone at the club—members too,” says Shafter.
 
But last year, something happened that threatened to keep Sandy from the job she loves: a life-threatening stroke paralyzed her left side and affected her ability to talk and swallow.
 
SAC employees were devastated by the news. Sandy was in the hospital for more than three weeks and then was transferred to a nursing home. A few months later, she desperately wanted to return to work at SAC, but was not yet fully recovered.
 
“It looked like she would spend the rest of her life in the nursing home,” Shafter says.  
 
That’s when SAC employees decided to nurse Sandy back to health on their own.
 
“Each employee would take turns to visit her and would bring her back to the club for therapy swims and workouts to build her strength up,” says Lisa Huisingh, housekeeping supervisor and childcare director at SAC.
 
Due to the employees’ efforts, Sandy made progress and began walking again.
 
“We knew if we didn’t step in to help Sandy, she could still be in the nursing home today,” Huisingh says. “We missed her so much while she was gone and it’s a miracle to have her back on her feet without having to use special equipment to get around.”
 
The club was so happy when Sandy came back to work, they awarded her “Employee of the Month.”
 
“She’s taught me so much in life over the years, “Huisingh says. “To always be friendly, that it’s okay to be silly, and to never ever give up. We are blessed to have Sandy back and see her beautiful smile again that lights our world!”
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​“I don’t have Down syndrome; it’s a lifestyle,” Barbie exclaims as she sorts through hundreds of fibers and yarn at Paradise Fibers in Spokane.
 
“My hobby is knitting and being able to work with yarn and fiber; every day is a dream come true,” says Barbie. “Working here makes me feel more independent and I can do stuff on my own and earn money and spend it the way I want to.”
 
Barbie’s dream of knitting and working with fibers every day became a reality right away when she visited Paradise Fibers. Her employment coach scheduled a day for her to meet the entire store team and she was hired on the spot. “We all loved her immediately,” said Karlene Oliver, shipping and purchasing lead at Paradise Fibers. “We decided on that day Barbie was going to be part of the team because of her terrific personality and great smile.”

Not only does Barbie organize yarn in the store among many other duties she has at Paradise Fibers, but soon her own knitting work will be offered as part of the store’s Fiber of the Month Club, a subscription service that sends special yarns and other goodies each month to more than 500 members. Barbie will design the March 2019 box in honor of Down Syndrome Day, and she has requested that all proceeds go to Northwest Center and the Down Syndrome Foundation of Spokane.
 
It’s not the first time Barbie has used her knitting skill to help others. She was so moved by the movie “The Fisher King,” she decided she wanted to help the homeless.
 
“It gets so cold at night during the winter,” Barbie says. “My favorite things to knit are hats and scarves so I can hand them out to homeless people and the elderly, too. I wanted to make sure to keep them warm.”
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