Blue River Services, Inc. (BRS) is a non-profit organization founded in 1959 by six families that believed that all people are capable of learning when given the opportunity and appropriate support services. With this guiding philosophy for more than 59 years, BRS has consistently expanded its services to meet the needs of community members and help people with disabilities and the general public overcome barriers to independence.
BRS strives to reach its motto of “People Serving People” by providing exceptional services for all ages, from infants to seniors, in all areas of life and levels of ability. In fiscal year 2018, the agency served 25,677 individuals through more than 20 programs in 30 Indiana counties.
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Blue River Services, Inc. leadership hosted Trey Hollingsworth, Rep. in Indiana’s 9th congressional district, at Blue River Industries sheltered workshop in Corydon October 9 to discuss employment choices for individuals with disabilities and the threat they face under proposed changes to legislation.
Hollingsworth, Blue River Services President and CEO Daniel J. Lowe, and longtime board member Bill Harrod, President and CEO of First Harrison Bank, toured the workshop with Kim Perry, Director of Industries, who showed the group just how meaningful sheltered workshops – and the opportunities they provide -- are for individuals with disabilities.
Just ask Michael Ashabraner, who recently celebrated 30 years with Blue River Industries. He greeted the group, shared his excitement to celebrate his birthday with friends and staff at the group home where he resides, and was interested in meeting everyone. He also didn’t hesitate to tell Hollingsworth he loved his job, and he has been doing it for 30 years. It’s certainly not a sentiment everyone can relate to, but it is a clear indication Blue River is fulfilling its mission to help people – no matter the challenges they may face – to live happy, healthy lives in positive environments.
“Most of the people we serve,” explained Lowe, “are people with developmental disabilities.” “Our goal is to place the person into a job in the community. We even have an Employment Services Department that goes out into the community to work with the person as a job coach, but it isn’t realistic in some cases.”
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As the sky grew dim above Country Trace senior housing September 21, a team of volunteers shrugged off the humid air. It was Metro United Way’s Day of Action, and it made a huge impact for the residents at the affordable living community in Palmyra.
Together with volunteers from accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers in Louisville, Metro United Way’s Kim Lansdell, community giving manager, and Blue River housing staff helped transform the eight-acre property in just three hours. After flooding earlier in the year, Blue River Services staff have dedicated their time and efforts to rehabilitating the apartments and getting tenants back home. The assistance of volunteers to complete work outside was much needed and greatly appreciated by agency staff and residents.
Even after a torrential rain, the group continued working to lay landscape fabric, spread rock, shovel dirt, mulch, and plant grass and trees. Dirt also was used to fill in any dips, holes or indentations, especially around sidewalks, to help eliminate tripping hazards.
Metro United Way Day of Action is an opportunity for employers to help meet a need in the community hands-on. The event included more than 500 volunteers in seven counties and more than 30 organizations impacting 5,000 children and more than 20 non-profits in one day.
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From the energy of high-flying comic personalities, to spirited staff, consumer accolades, guest speakers and awards, the 2018 Blue River Services All-Staff In-Service was shrouded in superhero distinction.
When the agency’s nearly 400 employees gather in one room, as well over half did at Lincoln Hills Christian Church in Corydon September 12, the magnitude and impact of teamwork is palpable. It’s then that everyone is not only reminded of Blue River’s mission, but shown.
“As we grow up, we have a choice to make as to what we will do with our working lives,” said Daniel J. Lowe, President and CEO, who welcomed everyone to the mass agency training event. “You have chosen to work to help others live complete and fulfilled lives. Giving one’s own being to the service of others … People Serving People … To me, that is one definition of a hero.”
His words resonating with this year’s theme, “Be Someone’s Superhero,” Lowe also acknowledged the dedication of staff and their passion to serve.
When summoning the crowd to stand if they had been with the agency at least five years, a wave of people responded. To the surprise of many, as the ante went higher –10, 20, even 30 years – there were still people standing. Something Lowe called a true testament to those "who have chosen to dedicate their lives and careers to improving the lives of others and making our world better for all.”
Although there are 151 employees who have been with the agency more than five years, the most notable milestones this year included those of Brian Bowen and Phillip Spaulding, who both reached 20 years with the agency; Kim Perry, Director of Industries, who celebrated 25 years of service; and Julia Baylor, Director of Children’s Services, who marked an astonishing 35 years. Even President Lowe, the agency-equivalent of Batman’s Commissioner Gordon (minus the trench coat and fedora hat), has been working, behind the scenes, manning the BRS Bat-Signal to summon a beacon of service for the last 34 years.