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Randy and Friends helps individuals with disabilities succeed
Connie and Dale Derham spend 20 hours a week at Gainesville-based nonprofit
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Karl Reising restores a footrest Wednesday morning at Randy and Friends. The Paint Brush is a woodworking shop inside the nonprofit where Reising and others spend hours bringing broken pieces of furniture of all types back to life.

Randy and Friends volunteers needed

Mission: Help an individual with a disability reach his or her goals by teaching them skills to work and live independently. Volunteers with skills in in computers, business management, writing, miscellaneous office work and driving are needed. They may also assist in classes, help with fundraisers, write grants and make phone calls.

More info: 678-943-2400 or www.randyandfriends.org/index.html

Magical Memories with Friends

What: Randy and Friends second annual banquet and auction

When: 6 p.m. March 3; Doors open at 5 p.m.

Where: First Baptist Church Family Life Center, 751 Green St. NW, Gainesville.

Cost: $50 per person or $350 per table for 8 people; Reservations must be made by March 1.

More info: Call Connie Derham at 678-429-6767

No matter how her day is going, Connie Derham always leaves Randy and Friends with a smile.

She and her husband, Dale, have been volunteering at the nonprofit for a little longer than a year. They joined the volunteer staff shortly after moving from Cumming to Gainesville to be closer to their daughter in July 2015.

If Connie is having a bad day at home and comes to Randy and Friends, her mood instantly changes.

“When I come here, I walk in the door and we’ve got all these friends that have disabilities, but they’re never down,” Connie said. “They’re always ready for a hug ... and a smile.”

As a ministry that supports and encourages spiritual growth, Randy and Friends works with young adults with special needs, Randy and Friends Director Dennis Scheidt said. The friends, who typically range in age from 19 to 40, are assessed by skills and interests upon entering the program. Then they are coached in developing skills, and the nonprofit helps them find jobs or uses them inside the Randy and Friends organization.

“The whole hope of this thing is to develop an independent lifestyle,” Scheidt said, adding most of the friends come from various living situations.

He explained some friends have caretakers, live with family or live independently. But the ultimate goal is to have them “attain their best” in their lives, Scheidt said.

Brandon is one of the friends Dale works with in the woodworking shop. Brandon suffered an aneurism as a teenager and wound up with one side of his body impaired.

“Brandon, even though he only has his right arm to use, with a little help, is taking a saw and ripping plywood to help with shelves,” Dale said.

The 31-year UPS employee said working with Brandon and others with disabilities and helping them get back on track is rewarding.

“It gives them more empathy, self-involvement and confidence in themselves,” Dale said.

He said seeing growth and progress in the people drives him to continue.

“It’s not a great big world success, but it’s a success for that person’s world,” Dale said. “And when you had just that little bit to do with it, it feels better.”

Dale helps several friends with that feeling. As facility manager, he helps with repairs and painting and works in the shop teaching friends to refinish furniture.

Scheidt hopes the woodworking shop will develop into Randy and Friends’ own internal industry at some point, in which the finished products can be sold online or in a storefront.

Scheidt said woodworking can provide its clients instant gratification. Friends often come into the program feeling as if there is nothing left for them to do. When they are working on a project, they can see the benefit quickly as they construct beautiful pieces. The early sense of accomplishment gives friends confidence they have capabilities and motivation to do more, Scheidt said.

While Dale laboriously works with his hands, Connie spends most of her time completing administrative work. The former bookkeeper and nursing home employee logs checks to deposit, enters data in the computer system or shuffles paperwork. She takes pride in her work.

“It’s a great place to come in and be fulfilled in your life,” Connie said. “To know that you’re helping somebody else and giving back to them.”

Scheidt is glad he has a volunteer like Connie, who is willing to do the mundane but important tasks to keep the place running like a well-oiled machine.

“They’re very valuable to us,” Scheidt said. “We’re proud to have them as volunteers in our program.”

As volunteers go, Dale and Connie log about 20 hours, or three days, each week. About 15 people volunteer in different capacities at the organization. The hours worked varies on the season and what’s needed at the time.

The friends at Randy and Friends are grateful for the help, which has a positive effect on its volunteers and friends.

“They enjoy seeing us,” Connie said. “It makes all of them happy. It’s a good-feel place to be. It’s almost our home away from home.

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