Advocates for people with disabilities honored


An organization that has spent more than 55 years advocating for people with disabilities put the finishing touches on another year Nov. 3 in Seymour.

The event was The Arc of Jackson County’s annual dinner and awards program at the Knights of Columbus in downtown Seymour.

The list of those recognized includes a longtime special education teacher at an elementary school on the east side of the city and the city’s police department.

James Shepherd, the organization’s president, said the board puts out a call each year for nominations for each of the five awards.

He said in the case of the Educator of the Year Award, won by Margaret R. Brown Elementary School teacher Mary Smith this year, principals are asked to nominate possible recipients.

Smith had a lengthy résumé, Shepherd said.

He said some of her fellow teachers wrote letters of support for Smith and talked about her 30-plus years of work as a special education teacher.

“They just talked about how much her students love her and how strongly she advocates for them,” he said.

Shepherd said Employer of the Year Award nominations came from service providers that help people with disabilities look for and obtain jobs with companies that want to employ the disabled.

This year’s winner was Executive Management, an Indianapolis-based commercial cleaning company with a branch in Columbus. Abygaile Daniels accepted that award for the company.

Jeanine Wilhelm of North Vernon won the Baxter Service Award, which goes to a direct service professional working directly with individuals with disabilities who does an exceptional job, Shepherd said.

“And goes above and beyond what’s expected of them,” he said.

Wilhelm, who has been with Indiana MENTOR in North Vernon for 11 years, said she just felt blessed to receive the award, named after longtime Arc leader Anne Baxter of Seymour.

Baxter, who died April 8, worked with the local Association for Retarded Citizens, now known as The Arc of Jackson County. She served as the organization’s executive coordinator for five counties and was president of the local chapter.

Founded in 1985, Indiana MENTOR is a home- and community-based human services provider.

Carlus Moss of Seymour received the Melvin Maynard Award, which goes to an individual who maximizes their ability and is doing well, Shepherd said. Moss works at Developmental Services Inc., also known as DSI, at Freeman Field.

Laura Keith, day program manager for DSI, presented the award to Moss. After the program, she said Moss was selected for his positive attitude and because he always strives to be as independent as possible.

“He’s also a hard worker,” she said.

Seymour Police Department received the community service award for establishing Project Livesaver. The program allows people with disabilities and other issues to wear a bracelet that can be tracked by a GPS if they become lost.

“Project Lifesaver has had 3,200 searches over the past 17 years with no loss of life or injuries,” Shepherd said.

During the training sessions, officers were able to find a person within 20 minutes of beginning the search.

The Arc of Jackson County traces it roots to the Jackson County Association for Retarded Children, which was established in 1959. The name later was changed to the Association for Retarded Citizens before being changed again to The Arc of Jackson County in the mid-1990s.

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For information about The Arc of Jackson County, visit


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