Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Able Trust - FAAST - Florida Crown:
An alliance helping Floridians with disabilities get fair employment opportunities

Able Trust's hands on Board Chairman, Richard Cole, speaks with the prize winners as Mrs. Cole looks on.

Yesterday afternoon, December 14, 2011, an alliance between Florida's Able Trust, FAAST, and Florida Crown enabled 3 students from Lake City and one from Fort White to receive early Christmas presents complements of this three way alliance. The Chairman of The Able Trust, Mr. Richard Cole, was at Florida Crown and presented the students with laptops. Each student had to write an essay showing how a laptop could assist them in meeting their educational and career goals. Three Columbia County families were chosen to receive one of the 21 laptops given out throughout the state this year.


The winners and the rest of the story

Brian Fontaine, one of the special children was awarded a laptop for his essay which explained why he wanted to be a chef. Mr. Fontaine spoke his essay to his mentor/adult supporter, Pam Baker.

Mr. Fontaine's essay described his goals and how a laptop would help him achieve his goals this way:

My goal in life is to become a chef. I think a laptop will benefit me by helping me take notes, look up recipes, find new dishes, and make up my own menus. This laptop will accommodate me within this culinary art field.

Ms. Baker said this about the young Mr. Fontaine: This is an incredible and determined young man. He never lets his disabilities stop him from accomplishments.

Sally Ash of the Able Trust said there were about 60 essays from across the state, which made the essay contest competitive, as 22 of the applicants were awarded laptops.

Michael Wynche was another happy laptop winner. His winning essay was the following:

I would like to major in the field of business accounting. A laptop will help me achieve my goals by taking quick notes, learning to use the internet for accounting purposes, and to gain more knowledge on the subject of accounting. In the future I plan to attend Gateway College.

Created by the Florida Legislature in 1990 (FS 413.615), the Florida Endowment Foundation for Vocational Rehabilitation, parent organization of The Able Trust, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public/private partnership. Its mission is to be a key leader in providing Floridians with disabilities successful opportunities for employment.

Sisters Tierra and Kierra Jones were the third area winners in the essay contest. They plan to share the laptop by using it on alternate days.

Tierra Jones, who has dreams of being a nurse, wrote:

I plan to go into the field of CNA. I feel this laptop will benefit me by letting me take notes in class, look up different ways to help the patients keep up with the different way of ever changing CNA so I won't make mistakes. I need this laptop to provide me with help I need to get through college. I can get a email address.

Ms. Ash said, "It is the partnership between two state level agencies, The Able Trust and FAAST, the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology, whose missions are to improve the quality of life for all Floridians with disabilities through advocacy and awareness activities that increase access to and acquisition of assistive services and technology, that makes this program possible."

Kierra Jones wants to become a daycare professional. Her winning essay was the following:

I want to go into daycare. This laptop will help me gain valuable lesson in the field. It will also help me with my class work for the different classes in college that I'll have to take. I feel the help I will receive online will benefit me to gain a lot of experience. I also want this laptop to help me find different daycare site[s] located here in Lake City so I can volunteer more and have that experience help too. I can get a email address.

Florida Crown's Workforce Investment Act (WIA) program manager, Elizabeth Wetherington, manages the tutoring program in which these children were involved. Florida Crown has been involved with the program since 2005.

Florida Crown's number two in command, Anna Schneider told the Observer, "I am really proud of this program. It keeps these special children involved and gives them the chance and inspiration to succeed."


The partnership effort between the Able Trust, FAAST, and Florida Crown Workforce Board represents the best of what America is about.

Able Trust's Chairman of the Board, Richard Cole, received obvious pleasure driving around the state personally awarding the laptops to the contest winners.

Mr. Cole, an attorney, harks from Pennsylvania and told the Observer that a lot of his practice was devoted to people with disabilities.

Mr. Cole was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush and reappointed by Gov. Crist. He became the Chairman of the Board of the Able Trust two years ago and is up for reelection.

Mr. Cole shows off his bionic leg. He is pointing to the control.

While standing around the water cooler, Mr. Cole had a surprise of his own.

He told the Observer, "Between the time I applied to the Governor to be on the Board and the time I was appointed, I was involved in a motorcycle accident and lost my right leg. For years I represented people with disabilities (laugh) and then I acquired one."

The Observer asked, "Is this one of the most rewarding things you've ever done?"

The effervescent Chairman of the Able Trust said, "Not one of the most. It is the most rewarding thing I have ever done, it really is."

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