By Rob Phillips
The Cincinnati Enquirer
LEBANON - Children in two more Warren County schools were educated about disabilities last year thanks to funding through a Warren County United Way Venture Grant.
"They get the chance to learn that developmentally delayed students are really no different than them," said Liz Bucalo, Warren County coordinator for Discovering Abilities.
Abilities First, a part of Discovering Abilities, works to provide educational support, training and materials to students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
"If they can understand what the disability is about, then they won't be afraid of it," Bucalo said. "They have the same feelings, the same dreams and the same hopes just like anyone else, and they don't want to be babied."
Each school involved in the program has a coordinator who is instructed by Bucalo about the program. The coordinators then forward the information on to volunteers who present it to the children.
"They learn that these developmentally delayed children are going to be a part of society when they grow up and they may work right next to them," Bucalo said. "They need to realize that they are people, too."
Hunter Elementary in Franklin City School District and South Lebanon Elementary School in the King Local School District recently began using the Abilities First program.
In Warren County 10 schools now use the Abilities First program and 15 more are being pursued , Bucalo said.
"Without the United Way's assistance, we wouldn't be able to reach into other school districts," she said.
Money was used to expand kits used in the schools to include new books, Braille cards and blindfolds.
Discovering Abilities was one of 10 programs receiving a Venture Grant. In total, $43,246 was awarded.
Warren County United Way is looking for applicants to receive Venture Grants in 2003. Applicants should have nonprofit status, articles of incorporation, bylaws, a list of board members and minutes from the last six board meetings.
"The purpose of the Venture Grant program is to help new initiatives in the community that are going to address the priority needs of Warren County," said Jim Pottebaum , executive director of Warren County United Way. "Also, they help new and innovative programs already existing that need financial support."
The program started 15 years ago in Warren County.
"It is just another avenue that the United Way board feels that we can contribute back to the county and pursue our mission," Pottebaum said.
The other organizations benefiting last year from a Venture Grant were Little Miami Young Marines, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Warren County, Citizens Against Domestic Violence, Community Media Services of Southern Ohio, Healthy Visions, Camp Lebanon, Camp Joy Outdoor Recreation Center, Hannah's Treasure Chest and Franklin First Back on Track.
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