Giving thanks and supporting our disability community
Many diseases and organizations have awareness days at the state, national and international levels. As the current co-chair of the IDD (Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities) caucus here in Connecticut and the employer of wonderful staff with intellectual and developmental disabilities at my own family business, Flanders Fish Market, I would be remiss not to bring attention to the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD).
Coming up on Dec. 3, the IDPD aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights, and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of life.
I couldn’t agree more with these goals. Did you know there’s an 80% unemployment rate for the I/DD community? Earlier this year, my own family business hired two graduates of The Arc Eastern Connecticut’s microbusiness training enterprises. It’s one of the best decisions we’ve made. These folks have changed the whole morale of our kitchen. They’re driven and task oriented; always eager to learn and do new things.
The Day included our story in their Spotlight on Ability column, it’s a new monthly piece that highlights people involved with the local disability community. Honestly, we’re fortunate to have great employers in eastern Connecticut and great programs to help integrate our IDD neighbors into the community. The Mohegan Tribe has a terrific vocational inclusion program at Mohegan Sun that often leads to employment and Beanz in Avon and Pratt & Whitney also have great initiatives, but we need to do more.
People with disabilities are often overlooked and not heard and many workforce programs are developed without them in mind. We need to change that by bringing attention to their skillsets as well as their needs.
On Dec. 11, The Arc CT will host their annual “Harvest of Hope” Fundraiser. I am honored to participate as a celebrity chef in the event. You have often seen me in my role as a senator here in southeastern Connecticut, but now you’ll see my true passion in the kitchen as I share with you a recipe for a great cause!
At this time of year, we’re always reminded to be thankful. I have had the opportunity to be a voice for people with disabilities in Hartford, raise awareness about the importance of inclusion in the community and now I am able to marry my passion for cooking with my passion for this wonderful group of people through my involvement in the Harvest of Hope event. While I’m leaving office this year, I/we have much to be thankful for. Please support not only this great event, but the advancement of the IDD community in your neighborhood as well.
State Sen. Paul Formica serves as Senate Republican Leader Pro Tempore and represents the residents of the 20th Senatorial District, which includes Bozrah, East Lyme, a portion of Montville, New London, Old Lyme, a portion of Old Saybrook, Salem, and Waterford.