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Co-directors aim to help people with disabilities

POSTED: November 23, 2007 5:03 a.m.
GAINESVILLE — A local organization serving young adults with disabilities has two new co-directors dedicated to improving their quality of life.

In September, Brad Whitmire and Margie Sinclair joined the staff of Our Neighbor Inc., a nonprofit organization that aims to give independence to young adults with physical disabilities.

"We want them to become truly independent, where they don’t have a full-time caregiver," Sinclair said this week while sitting in the cheery yellow kitchen of Randy’s House, a home for disabled young adults.

Sinclair, a certified public
accountant by trade, has lived in Murrayville for seven years. Before becoming co-director of Our Neighbor, she had extensive volunteer experience at Hopewell and Highlands United Methodist churches, as well as My Sister’s Place, a women’s shelter.

Originally from Ringgold, Whitmire moved to Gainesville in 2004. Within five months, he was working as a peer supporter for the Disability Resource Center, helping others with disabilities.

As co-director, Sinclair does most of the administrative and accounting duties for Our Neighbor. Whitmire makes sure Randy’s House is running smoothly. Fundraising and helping people with disabilities find resources are also facets of the job.

Whitmire can relate to the young adults he is helping. A 1988 car wreck left him in a wheelchair.

"It’s something that changed my entire life," Whitmire said. "It took a lot of help to get where I am now."

Whitmire bought his own home in October 2006 and has his own van. He wants to help the residents of Randy’s House be successful and live independently, as he does.

Randy’s House, which is associated with Our Neighbor, provides young residents with a secure home of their own with accessibility features specific to their needs.

The current residents of Randy’s House are Jeremy Knauth, Jason Hare and Mike Reno.

"They love it here," Sinclair said.

Both Sinclair and Whitmire have big goals for Our Neighbor, as well as the residents of Randy’s House. Randy’s House is looking for another house, and even property for apartments. There is already a waiting list for people who want to move in.

"There’s just a big need," Whitmire said.

The organization also wants to help its residents find meaningful employment.

"People with disabilities are really afraid to go out and get jobs," Whitmire said.

He said one of the challenges of being physically handicapped is feeling unappreciated and unimportant.

When people with disabilities work, he said, they can feel they are truly making a contribution to the community.

Our Neighbor is working on a solution that will help the residents of Randy’s House showcase their gifts, talents and personalities.

They are looking at property in the Brenau University-downtown Gainesville area to open Our Neighbor’s Porch, which will be home to Books ‘n Beans, a coffee shop and library where the men would work.

The vision is to have coffee, smoothies and other goodies, as well as 10,000 used books to borrow, read there or buy. There also will be live entertainment, an art gallery and frame shop.

Sinclair and Whitmire said they will continue fundraising efforts in order to make that dream a reality for the residents of Randy’s House.



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