The annual Able to Serve fundraising banquet was a celebration of the possible.
The gathering of about 300 people was to celebrate the abilities of adults who have developmental disabilities. The theme was learning, growing and serving.
“What I have learned is that no matter what your ability is, God has a plan for you,” said Heather Waliga, a reporter and newsroom anchor of ABC 11.
Waliga, the evening’s host, has a younger sister with Down Syndrome.
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“She is destined for great things and to everyday things,” Waliga told the audience.
Learning to do everyday things is a big part of the program.
Able to Serve, a 501 (c) 3 organization, was started in 2003 with an emphasis of helping adults with developmental disabilities to build lasting relationships, learn life skills and have experiences in the community.
The organization expanded its program to include continuing education, life skills training and community experiences in 2010. It began a three-days-per-week program in 2015.
The banquet featured the singing of Brooks Bristow and former Miss Garner Rachel Chavez and Wayne Sedei on the accordion, but the biggest stars were the Able to Serve participants.
They sang, rang bells and greeted guests. Waliga said she had never been so enthusiastically welcomed. There were high-fives and hugs, waves and blown kisses.
The banquet, which raised in excess of $54,000, also was a celebration of new things at Able to Serve.
The organization, which serves 24 families, announced it is expanding its 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., three-day-a-week program to five days a week after settling in its new facility in the Lord of Life Lutheran Church.
Lord of Life pastor Wayne Dubansky said the program has been a blessing to the church. He said God had a plan that the church membership didn’t know about when the church started the education wing building project long before Able to Serve was founded.
“Twenty years ago our church built the education wing for Able to Serve,” Dubansky said. “No one knew that, but it was part of God’s plan. When our membership voted last year on whether to invite Able to Serve to use the building, it was 100 percent positive.”
Carlton McDaniel Jr., the executive director of Able to Serve, said the program has grown into something far greater than he could have imagined.
Tim Stevens: firstname.lastname@example.org