My name is Jackie Ward, and I’ve been raising a child served by the Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities since 2014. Doing this, I’ve had the privilege of seeing services from a caregiver’s perspective for almost eight years now.
I was welcomed as a board member in January of 2020 and elected as vice president of the Board of DD in 2021. In the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to see our mission — to promote opportunities which support people of all abilities — come to life through the board. While my life experiences have shown me the breadth and depth of services for young children, being on the board and listening to the monthly updates from each department helps me understand what services and supports are available for people of all ages living with disabilities.
I see teams of people working tirelessly to ensure those we serve are given opportunities to live in the community with others, build relationships, volunteer, find meaningful employment, have transportation, ensure their safety is a priority, and see that their medical needs are being met. I see an atmosphere where families are receiving support from birth through all of life’s milestones, obstacles, and triumphs. I see events and training that build skill sets and celebrate the diversity of our community in ways that I wouldn’t have seen without this connection. More than this, though, I see how many volunteers and community partners are involved in making our programs successful. The citizens of Shelby County should be proud of how many people and companies support the Board of DD either through financial generosity or by finding value in employing and serving those we serve — giving each person a chance to shine and share their unique abilities.
As I said earlier, I’m only eight years into this journey as a caregiver and two years into my journey as a board member, but I can say without a doubt that I have full confidence that my daughter will have every opportunity to thrive here in Shelby County. I know she is being well cared for and her team is truly looking out for her best interests. What more could I ask for as a parent? I know I can speak for my fellow board members when I say we all strive to make sure other caregivers and individuals served feel this same sentiment.
The writer is the vice president of the Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities.