Getting Results Award: Group breaks down perceptions on disabilities

Adults get 'job ready' by volunteering with Central Florida charities

ORLANDO, Fla. – Paul Durand, Founder of Alliance Supports Corp., is this week's News 6 Getting Results Award winner.

Alliance Supports Corp., or ASC, provides meaningful day activities for adults with cognitive disabilities.

The program, funded through Medicare waivers, takes the unique approach of offering volunteer services as a daily activity. Durand said it builds a sense of accomplishment and pride for his clients.

News 6 caught up with the group of about 10 adults at Second Harvest Food Bank in Orlando.  

"I'm kind of like the quarterback," Durand said as he directed group activities. "Someone has to call the shots, and I guess that's me."

After a food drive donation arrived, Durand lifted boxes filled with pantry items and set them down on a stainless steel work table. While he checked expiration dates, his clients pulled cans and prepackaged food items from inside, sorting them as they go. It's an important and time consuming step for the nonprofit that feeds thousands.

"The Agency for Persons with Disabilities calls it life-skills development," Durand said. "What I call it is a community-based day program. We don't have a facility. Our facility is different spots in the community. Today, this is our facility."

Durand said the goal is to get his clients job ready. He said he also hoped to shed perceptions, showing that people with disabilities can be an integral part of the community.

"When I started ASC in 2003, the idea was that a good community includes everyone. What I wanted to do was take what Gandhi said, 'The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.' I thought the best way for people with disabilities to show they can give to their community was to just get involved."

Getting involved meant volunteering. 

He plans different volunteering activities every day around Central Florida, from delivering Meals on Wheels every Monday to helping process food at Second Harvest Food Bank and sorting soap donations for Clean the World.  

Friday's are a play day, and the group spends the morning bowling.

"You know, heroes in the community take all shapes and sizes," Durand said as he looked out on the group lost in their work. "I'm around a bunch of them everyday, and I feel very lucky for that."

About the Author: