FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Renee Dain, SVP, Strategic Partnerships and External Affairs, 410-987-1048
Millersville, Maryland – The Coordinating Center, Maryland’s statewide, premier nonprofit care coordination organization for children and adults with disabilities and complex needs is excited to announce its 2023 Disability Advocacy Award winners. Award winners will be recognized at the 2023 CenterFlix Gala, The Coordinating Center’s 40th Anniversary Celebration and Fundraiser for the Family Resource Fund, which will take place on May 11th at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, MD!
“Disability advocacy is essential to improving the quality of life of people for disabilities and complex medical needs living in our community. The Coordinating Center is committed to recognizing those who have had a sustained positive impact on the quality of life of people with disabilities and complex medical needs living in Maryland,” said Dr. Teresa Titus-Howard, President and CEO, The Coordinating Center.
In 2020, The Coordinating Center established its first Disability Advocacy Award, which was presented to Disability Rights Maryland at The Coordinating Center’s virtual CenterFlix event. This year, in recognition of our 40th Anniversary, The Coordinating Center will award six unique Disability Advocacy Awards to several individuals, groups and/or organizations for outstanding systems advocacy consistent with The Coordinating Center’s mission and person-centered philosophy.
- Distinguished Public Service Award: Delegate Bonnie Cullison of District 19, Montgomery County
- Distinguished Public Service Award: Amanda Harris, former Chief of Services to End and Prevent Homelessness, Montgomery County
- Disability Advocacy Award: Van Brooks, Founder, Safe Alternative Foundation for Education, Inc.
- Disability Advocacy Award: Itineris
- Disability and Inclusion Content Creator Award: Robert Stone, Artist and Advocate
- Employee Choice Award for Outstanding Partnership: The Jill Fox Memorial Fund, Inc., a supporting foundation of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore
- Excellence in Innovation Award: Joshua Basile, Esq.
- Julie Beckett Award for Outstanding Child Advocacy: Jill Pelovitz, Parent Educator, Parents’ Place of Maryland
Meet the Award Winners:
Delegate Bonnie Cullison of District 19, Montgomery County will receive a Distinguished Public Service Award, which recognizes public officials at a state and local level, who have enhanced opportunities for people with disabilities and/or those with complex medical needs to participate fully in all aspects of society. Delegate Cullison, a member of the House of Delegates since 2011, has worked tirelessly to ensure Marylanders have access to the care they need to participate fully in their community. As chair of the Insurance and Pharmaceuticals Subcommittee, she has navigated complicated issues to ensure that Marylanders have affordable and accessible care. She has also been one of the most vocal voices in the Maryland General Assembly for improving our state’s home and community-based waiver programs. This past legislative session, Delegate Cullison successfully sponsored legislation to remove the cap on the number of individuals who can participate in the state’s waiver programs and to improve the communication between the state and individuals on waiver waitlists. Delegate Cullison recognizes the importance of supporting waiver programs to ensure Maryland keeps its promise to support all people with disabilities and complex medical needs in fully participating in all aspects of society.
Amanda Harris, former Chief of Services to End and Prevent Homelessness, Montgomery County will receive a Distinguished Public Service Award, which recognizes public officials at a state and local level, who have enhanced opportunities for people with disabilities and/or those with complex medical needs to participate fully in all aspects of society. Prior to joining Montgomery County, Amanda was the Chief Operating Officer for Pathways to Housing DC and helped to advance Housing First principles throughout the United States, Canada, and Japan. Her experience ranges from direct services, program management, public administration, and advocacy. Amanda is not shy in her approach to solving homelessness and is resolute in her commitment to make homelessness a rare, brief, and one time only experience.
Under Amanda’s leadership, Montgomery County (one of 14 communities in Built for Zero movement to reach functional zero for Veteran homelessness), has largely sustained functional zero and made significant progress in ending chronic homelessness for people with disabilities, housing more than 500 individuals with the most severe service needs. Since then, the community has worked to sustain functional zero for veteran homelessness, while reducing chronic, family homelessness, seniors, and youth on its journey to ending homelessness for all. Amanda developed a strong coordinated entry system to ensure the most vulnerable individuals are prioritized first while creating innovative housing solutions for all households. She successfully established the county’s first medical respite house designed to provide space for homeless and permanent supportive housing individuals to recuperate post-hospitalization, prior to returning to the shelter or home. Amanda obtained increased funding to serve more individuals in need of permanent supported housing and the opportunity for individuals to move up to independent housing though use of Emergency Housing Vouchers, a partnership with Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. During her tenure as Chief of Services to End and Prevent Homelessness, local investment in housing and homeless services doubled resulting in a 31% reduction in overall homelessness, increased exits to permanent housing, and lower rates of returns to homelessness.
Van Brooks, Founder, Safe Alternative Foundation for Education, Inc., will receive a Disability Advocacy Award which recognizes an individual and an organization who work alongside a group or collaboration, which has demonstrated outstanding leadership and sustained positive impact on the quality of life of people with disabilities and/or complex medical needs living in Maryland. Van, a resident of West Baltimore City where he was born and raised, became an advocate for people with disabilities after he was paralyzed from the neck down from a high school football injury. Despite his injury, Van graduated on time from high school and later earned a degree from Towson University. In 2012 Van founded Safe Alternative Foundation for Education (SAFE) and in 2015 the SAFE Center in West Baltimore. Van’s work with SAFE has led to him receiving many local and national accolades including the President’s Volunteer Service Award from the Barack Obama administration. In 2017 Van was also appointed by Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan to serve as the Director of the Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism.
After serving for two years at the GOSV, Van returned to SAFE fulltime with the mission to open a new workforce development center. Van also serves on multiple boards ranging from Loyola Blakefield, Towson University Alumni Board, the Maryland Commission on Disabilities, and the Kennedy Krieger Institute. In 2020, Van was appointed by Governor Hogan to serve as Chair of Maryland’s Commission on Disabilities.
Itineris will receive a Disability Advocacy Award, which recognizes an organization and an individual who work alongside a group or collaboration, which has demonstrated outstanding leadership and sustained positive impact on the quality of life of people with disabilities and/or complex medical needs living in Maryland. Itineris was founded in 2010 by nine families who wanted to create a model program to fill a tremendous void in services for adults on the autism spectrum. Their vision was to develop the supports needed so every person could have the dignity of choice and self-determination, to find meaningful work and to be full stakeholders in the shared life of their community.
Today, Itineris serves 110 adults on the autism spectrum, providing customized opportunities for individuals to obtain gainful employment, be a part of their communities and to participate meaningfully in all aspects of adult life. They are also making significant strides to engage companies in hiring adults on the autism spectrum. Services offered include Community Living, Day Habilitation, Employments Services, Community Development, Personal Supports and Behavior Support Services. Itineris is an active member of the Statewide Advisory Stakeholder Group on Autism-Related Needs and Ami Taubenfeld, their Executive Director serves on the Board of Maryland Association of Community Services.
Rob Stone will receive the Disability and Inclusion Content Creator Award, which recognizes an individual who brings awareness to an issue relevant to disabilities and/or complex medical needs, either in print, digital or social media. Rob is an artist, advocate, and client of The Coordinating Center. After graduating from Walt Whitman High School, Rob wanted to be a health care and disability rights advocate, so he began advocating with Little Lobbyists in 2019. Rob has been part of Capitol Hill press conferences and met with U.S. Senate and House congresspersons and staff. He also works with the Self-Directed Advocacy Network and other groups on state issues and has testified before the Maryland General Assembly. Rob always begins his testimony by introducing himself as an artist and advocate because others need to understand that people with developmental disabilities can have careers.
Rob is a 2020 graduate of The Arc’s Partners in Policymaking program, and also takes classes at Montgomery College. Rob enjoys writing poetry, composing music, and making art. Rob has a unique painting technique, where he paints with his knuckles while using gravity to create brushstrokes. He also sometimes uses his medical equipment to make designs and stamps to create abstract art. You can see more of Rob’s art here.
The Jill Fox Memorial Fund, Inc., a supporting foundation of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, will receive the Employee Choice Award for Outstanding Partnership Award, which recognizes an organization that has been an exceptional partner to the Coordinating Center team and exemplifies a shared commitment to The Coordinating Center’s mission and values. Elinor Jill Fox was a 19-year-old college student, attending Beaver College outside of Philadelphia when she became ill and unexpectedly died in January 1960. Shortly thereafter, Jill’s parents, Dorothy and Louis Fox, established a memorial fund to pay tribute to their daughter’s life. The Jill Fox Memorial Fund’s mission and philanthropic legacy reflect acts of loving-kindness on a daily basis.
For more than 60+ years, the Jill Fox Memorial Fund has provided grants to thousands of individuals and their families, helping them to obtain unmet medical and healthcare needs not paid for by medical insurance or other means (e.g., government agencies, health associations). So many clients of The Coordinating Center have been the recipients of these grants. Over the past eight years, the Jill Fox Fund has focused primarily on programmatic grants to medical institutions, agencies, programs that provide direct services to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, mental health, child obesity and special healthcare needs. The Coordinating Center’s Family Resource Fund, with designated funding to support children and young adults, has been a recipient of Jill Fox Memorial Fund programmatic grants.
Joshua Basile, Esq. will receive the Excellence in Innovation Award, which recognizes an individual for creating innovative product(s), which have had a positive impact on the quality of life of people with disabilities and/or complex medical needs living in Maryland. Joshua, a past client of The Coordinating Center, is an attorney, advocate, entrepreneur, and inventor. Joshua is committed to helping to fight for the catastrophically injured after suffering his own catastrophic injury in 2004. Since his injury, he has founded the Determined2heal Foundation Inc., cofounded SPINALpedia, and invented Slingshot Golf, a device and a new sport, which allows both able-bodied and players with disabilities to play against each other on a golf course. Joshua has also championed a smart phone app called, fuelService, which pairs gas stations available to help pump gas to those users who need assistance. His efforts expanded the app to over 5000 gas stations across the country over the last two years.
Jill Pelovitz, Parent Educator, Parents’ Place of Maryland will receive the Julie Beckett Award for Outstanding Child Advocacy, which recognizes a parent or family member for their voice and advocacy efforts on the ground and in the community, which has brought tremendous change for children and youth with disabilities and/or complex medical needs. Julie Beckett was a trail blazer for the rights of people with disabilities. Julie fought tirelessly and successfully to give her daughter Katie and other children with special health care needs the opportunity to grow up at home with their family, rather than a hospital. Through her efforts the Katie Beckett Waiver was established, which in Maryland became known as the Model Waiver.
Through caring for her daughter Nadiya, a client of The Coordinating Center, living with a rare disease (Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, which is impacted by the very rare KCNB1 gene mutation), Jill Pelovitz, a former Language Arts middle school teacher, became an advocate for other children living with rare diseases and complex medical needs. In 2016 Jill began to work at the Parents’ Place of Maryland, where she was able to use her experience to help other families. Beginning in 2010 Jill has participated on many committees and groups related to special needs children at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, including chairing their Family Advisory Counsel. Jill has advocated for investing in the field of pediatrics, children’s hospitals, the ketogenic diet, and for other numerous issues and programs for families with children with complex medical needs and disabilities. From 2018 through 2020, Jill met with politicians in Annapolis to advocate for increases in Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing services. Through Jill’s advocacy and the advocacy efforts of others, nursing rates were increased by three percent.
Congratulations to all the 2023 Disability Advocacy Award winners who advance inclusion in the community and ensure all Marylanders have access to the care they need to participate fully in their community. Be sure to come celebrate with all the winner on May 11th at CenterFlix!
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Founded in 1983 and headquartered in Millersville, Maryland, The Coordinating Center is a nonprofit organization that provides care coordination for individuals with complex medical needs and disabilities and their families.
Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging:
At The Coordinating Center we aim to dismantle inequalities within our policies, systems, programs, and services by embracing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEI&B) and leading with respect, acceptance and compassion. It’s what makes us exceptional in achieving our mission and drives us to deliver culturally competent and effective care coordination services. We believe we are stronger together.