One of the best parts of my role as the SOAR Ohio Project Coordinator is being able to get our entire team together for our yearly meeting, which provides SOAR Ohio Specialists opportunities for professional growth and development.

During this year’s meeting, we also honored the top performing SOAR Ohio specialists around the state.

We value strong partnerships and collaboration with our national, state and community providers – a primary contributor to the success of SOAR Ohio in the communities we serve. During the 2017 annual meeting, Jennifer Haywood, an expert on Motivational Interviewing, led a training session for our specialists, and Ron Luce, a well-known authority on Trauma Informed Care, also gave a presentation. Other guest speakers included: Jeannette Welch, the Ohio Dept. of Medicaid HOMEChoice Grant Administrator, and Michelle Rinehart, Professional Relations Officer with the Division of Disability Determination.

The heart and soul of the SOAR Ohio Project are the individual SOAR specialists who assist some of the most vulnerable community members throughout the state. If it were not for the hard work, dedication and excellent service provision from these specialists and their agencies, this work would not be possible. COHHIO is proud to announce the SOAR Ohio specialist top performers for State Fiscal Year 2017:

  • Laurie Casati, Findlay Hope House for the Homeless
  • Matt Kittle, Coleman Professional Services in Kent/Warren
  • Candace Talty, Community Support Services Inc. in Akron
  • Diondra Hutchins, Freestore Foodbank, Cincinnati
  • Sarah Fuller, Beach House – FOCUS, Toledo

COHHIO gave each top performer a small token of appreciation. Since we are a nonprofit and SOAR Ohio is a grant-funded program, I had to get creative in searching for a donor, and this led to an amazing story that reaffirmed for me the value of the work we all do in our communities.

I stopped by a local grocery store and asked the manager if they ever made gift card donations for a good cause. I described how SOAR Ohio serves people who are homeless who may also have a mental health diagnosis or physical disability. I recalled how I used to work directly with clients through the Faith Mission, SSVF Team and that working with Columbus’s homeless population has been a passion of mine for many years.

At this point the most amazing thing happened. The manager went into the stock room and returned with an employee who had been helped through that same program. In fact, this honorably discharged veteran was a past client of mine whom I had assisted through the shelter process and into housing. His manager told me he was one of the best employees he had.

I was so touched by the news of his success. Getting to see a former client go from homelessness to being stably employed and housed was an incredibly moving moment for me. We don’t often hear about these kinds of stories in the media, but the data tells us that this is just one of many similar stories happening throughout Ohio, thanks to the hard work and dedication of our SOAR Ohio specialists and others working in the homeless system. Keep up the good work!

-Amy Lamerson, SOAR Ohio Project Coordinator