LIFEDesigns’ First Newsletter is Here!

We have been through a lot of changes so far this year and are looking forward to an exciting future as LIFEDesigns, Inc.  Options and Christole have combined to become a stronger team to help others achieve what they may not have thought possible!  
A preview of what you might find in the Newsletter:
  • An introduction to our leadership and their thoughts for the future of LIFEDesigns
  • The 2012 Art of Chocolate
  • Our Annual Awards Celebration
  • The Housing Options II ground breaking
  • Our 2012 Legislative Forum
  • Remembering friends of LIFEDesigns
  • Information about upcoming events at LIFEDesigns that you won’t want to miss


Keep an eye out for our Newsletter to come out quarterly.
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A Candidate Forum on Disability Issues

Speakers, candidates discuss disability concerns at forum.

The Herald-Times  7/19/2012

Aaron Smith told a crowd of 150 people gathered at the First United Church for a “Candidates Forum on Disabilities” that because he has autism, he had trouble making friends as a child. He said in middle school he was teased for being different, and in high school he suffered physical bullying. But Smith persevered, graduating from Bloomington High School South in 2003. Today, thanks in part to LIFEDesigns — a Bloomington nonprofit organization that provides services and support to people with disabilities in south-central Indiana — he has several friends, a job at Goodwill and a spot on a Special Olympics basketball team.

“Now I’m looking forward to getting my own apartment,” he said. “I won’t let my disability get in the way of me having a full life.”

Smith was one of several people who spoke about what it was like living with a disability, or caring for someone with a disability. Another was Trish Ierino, Stone Belt’s board president, who is the primary caretaker for her sister, Cheryl Thompson, a Stone Belt client. She said when Thompson was growing up in the 1970s, she was separated from other students in the schools.

“Fortunately, it’s not like that today,” she said. “Special needs children are integrated in the schools.”

Ierino said when she applied for a Medicaid waiver for her sister, it required filling out mounds of paperwork. Then she was told by an official that Thompson was facing a 7- to 10-year wait. “I asked myself, ‘Why does it need to be this difficult getting special needs services in Indiana?’” she said. But when Thompson’s mother turned 80, Thompson was granted a Medicaid waiver. Today she sews, cooks, shops, does yoga, works part time at Stone Belt and the Indiana University Police Department, volunteers at the Monroe County Public Library, participates in Special Olympics, and gets around town thanks to Bloomington Access.

The purpose of the forum was to provide political candidates an opportunity to hear from their constituents about disability issues, and to allow constituents to learn more about the candidates’ commitment to helping those with disabilities.

Nine political candidates participated in the forum — state Rep. Peggy Welch, who is seeking re-election in District 60; Republican Peggy Mayfield, who is challenging Welch in District 60; District 61 state Rep. Matt Pierce; Democrat Mark Stoops and Republican Reid Dallas, who are seeking the Indiana Senate District 40 seat recently vacated by Vi Simpson; Democrat Shelli Yoder, running for the 9th District congressional seat; District 46 state Rep. Bob Heaton, a Republican, along with his opponent, Democrat Jim Mann; and Republican Matt Ubelhor, who is running for re-election as state representative in District 62.

The speaker drawing the loudest applause was Jill Bolte Taylor — a brain scientist, author and motivational speaker who’s appeared on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” — and who has a brother with schizophrenia. “The brain is a beautiful thing when it works well, but when it doesn’t, we have a disability,” she said. “The measure of humanity in any society is how we treat those who can’t speak for themselves.”

Bolte Taylor said concern for those with disabilities transcends politics, citing a plane trip she recently took in which she and a man sitting next to her had a wonderful, hourlong conversation. “He told me about his son who is using the system, and I told him about my brother who is using the system,” she said. “When the plane landed, I asked him his name. He said he was Dave Long, the majority Republican leader of the Indiana Senate. I said, ‘You’re kidding me; you’re such a nice guy.’” Bolte Taylor said the incident taught her a lesson. “If I had known who he was, I never in a million years would have started talking to him,” she said. “But we are humans first, Republicans and Democrats second.”

Most of the political candidates told the audience they were eager to hear their concerns regarding the disabled community, urging them to contact them by phone or email. Some incumbents cited their efforts in the Indiana General Assembly to help individuals with disabilities, and some challengers said they were not doing enough. Republican Reid Dallas went after Monroe County Commissioner Mark Stoops — his opponent in the Indiana Senate District 40 race — saying many of Monroe County’s polling sites are not accessible to people with disabilities, and that Rural Transit deserved more funding. “Monroe County needs a state representative who will not just talk about this issue but actually support people with disabilities,” he said. Stoops countered that Monroe County is doing an outstanding job providing services to folks with disabilities, and said in 2006, when he was president of the county council, the council gave Options, now incorporated into LIFEDesigns, a tax levy that enabled the nonprofit to increase its funding by $300,000 a year.

A common theme of the evening, reiterated by several candidates, is that investing in people with disabilities will save the state money in the long run. “Early intervention is key,” Pierce said. “If we spend money now, we will save plenty of money later.” “Our prison system is the largest mental health system in the state,” Mayfield said. “When it comes to mental illness, it’s pay now or pay later.” Welch said it’s imperative to educate state legislators and the public that mental illness is not a weakness but an illness that needs to be treated — and there must be parity in state coverage for mental and physical illness.

This event was a partnership among Stone Belt, LIFEDesigns, Mental Health America, NAMI of the Greater Bloomington Area and the Arc of Indiana.

By Dann Denny

331-4350 |

Candidate Forum on Disabilities

Tuesday, July 17th from 7-9pm at the 1st United Church.Childcare available by reservation, contact

Meet candidates for state and federal offices, listen to presentations on current disabilities issues ans submit questions of interest for candidate answers.

Make your voice heard as an advocate for the disabilities community!

LIFEDesigns’ 2012 Annual Awards Celebration Results

LIFEDesigns Celebrates the Accomplishments of Employees, Customers and Volunteers at the 2012 Annual Awards Celebration

June 4, 2012

Bloomington, Indiana: LIFEDesigns, Inc. is pleased to announce that its 30th Annual Meeting, now called the Annual Awards Celebration, was held on May 23rd at the Liberty Ballroom. With over 300 people in attendance, it was a huge success! These supporters came together to demonstrate a commitment to partnering with people with disabilities to bring about self-directed and enriched lives by offering opportunities for people to work and live in communities that are inclusive. 

At the event, LIFEDesigns celebrated the merger of two long standing local organizations, Options and Christole, into one new agency that became effective January 1, 2012. The past year, staff worked diligently to bring the two organizations together so that as state funding declines, administrative costs could be cut without cutting quantity or quality of services to customers. Excitement about the new organization showed as customers, staff, donors, volunteers and board members cheered when Chief Executive Officer, Susan Rinne, asked “Who is with LIFEDesigns?” Bringing the two cultures together has not been easy, but it has been worth it. The Annual Awards Celebration brought everyone together to recognize the outstanding work done during 2011 and to celebrate the future of LIFEDesigns.

 The winners of the 2012 LIFEDesigns Awards were:

            Optimism Award – Katelyn Hamilton        

            Lois Edwards Memorial Award- Linda Herzner

            Community Service Awards – Michael Runyan and Jessie Wagers


            Dan Day Employee Recognition Award- John Howell


 Angie Morgan Employee Recognition Award – Joe Connor


DSP of the Year Award – Megan Runion-Hunter


 Bob Magee Volunteer of the Year Memorial Award- Susan Gray


LIFEDesigns’ 2012 Stewardship Award went to Bloomington Moose Lodge #1081. The Moose has graciously donated the space for LIFEDesigns’ Holiday party and other events for many years. Their continued support of LIFEDesigns and our customers shows their dedication to our agency and the work we do in our communities.

LIFEDesigns celebrated the service of many staff members, including Danie Norris, LIFEDesigns’ Support Services Director, and Sandra McKamey, a Direct Service Provider (DSP), who each received awards for 15 years of service. Therese Dovenbarger and Elizabeth Christenberry, Direct Service Providers (DSPs), each received awards for 10 years of service. There were 20 people who received awards for 5 years of service and another 25 people who received awards for 2 years of service.

The mission of LIFEDesigns is to partner with people with autism and other disabilities and our communities to bring about self directed and fulfilled lives through information, education and support.  Our new name reflects our commitment to individualized supports so that people with disabilities design a life of living, working, learning, and participating in their community.

For more information about the services LIFEDesigns provides or to find out how you can help, visit or call (800) 875-9615.

CONTACT: Susan Rinne, or 800-875-9615 for more information or to schedule interviews with awards winners or staff. Pictures of the event will also available upon request or at Also, find us now on Facebook!

LIFEDesigns Annual Awards Celebration

Dear LIFEDesigns’ Friend:

It is time to celebrate our accomplishments, envision the future, and recognize the people who have made LIFEDesigns’ goals into realities this past year.  The LIFEDesigns Annual Awards Celebration 2012 will be held at The Liberty Ballroom on Wednesday, May 23, 2012.

In addition to celebrating the merger between Options and Christole that became official January 1, 2012, we are also celebrating 30 years of service by both organizations to our communities.  The past 30 years have been successful due to the volunteers, staff, and customers who have contributed to the mission of the organizations in 2011 and have helped us form the future of LIFEDesigns.  Celebrating a year of partnering for success, the Awards Celebration is a time to recognize these volunteers, staff, and customers.  To do this, we needed your help.  You thought about those individuals who have made a difference to LIFEDesigns and nominated them

LIFEDesigns Leadership Team, a group comprised of customers, Direct Service Professionals, and other staff members have appointed a subcommittee to review the nominations and have determine which nominees shall receive the awards.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us via phone at (800) 875-9615.  You may also e-mail your questions or concerns to Suzi at or Bert at  Thanks for helping us identify the volunteers, staff, and customers who deserve some extra special attention!

We look forward to seeing you at the Awards Celebration!