Our Dear Friend Betty

Betty is a total standout at Hi-Hope. She is kind and warm and welcoming. Here is a bit about Betty so we all get to know her a little better.

Betty was born and raised in New Delhi and is a quick conversationalist when it comes to the delights on Indian desserts, especially gulab jamun. Ever the intrepid traveler, Betty's dream is to one day visit France to learn about the people and the local culture.

Betty is a big fan of the science fiction and action genre when it comes to film. She likes X-Files and has spent quite a bit of time chatting with Volunteer Coordinator Nick about their favorite episodes. She also likes the shows Supernatural and Flash. Her favorite movie is Back to the Future, which we think makes Betty AMAZING! Speaking of the arts, if you want to boogie down with Betty, your best bet is to crank up the pop music, especially Backstreet Boys.

Her favorite holiday is the Fourth of July because she loves the flags and fireworks. Thankfully, Hi-Hope has a great relationship with the LongHorn Steakhouse near the Mall of Georgia who helps us put on a fantastic 4th party. 

Speaking of Hi-Hope, Betty really enjoys the parties we throw, especially the annual Christmas party and individual birthday parties. She also likes shopping, but doesn't think that's anything special. "Everybody does shopping," she says. She is particularly fond of our DSP Kalandra. She reflects, "she is a good teacher and nice. She teaches me money skills and I am learning a lot."

When asked why she likes Hi-Hope, Betty said, "when I first started I met people like Ms. Linda, Janis, Kim, all the different staff and I just knew I would like it." We sure are glad she did because Hi-Hope simply wouldn't be the same without our Betty.

A "Greater" Way to Spend the Day

Greater Atlanta Christian School (GACS) holds an annual service day and for several years Hi-Hope has been one of the partner organizations for the 7th grade program. While these students traditionally visit Hi-Hope to put on an activity, for the last two years we have flipped the proverbial script and taken a small group to visit the school. See, last year we were brainstorming an activity and it dawned on us that we still had the films we screened at the Sprout Film Festival. Furthermore, several of our individuals were unable to attend the festival because it was on a weekend. We started thinking about a space big enough to show the films at Hi-Hope, but were struggling because of the renovation. Our contact at GACS, Lori, came up with the solution: "Why don't you bring your group over here? We have a ton of space to set up a small movie day." And so we did.

Our film rights allow us to do small screenings so for the last two years we have set up a mini film festival that lets some of our folks see the movies while paired up with a 7th grade student. It is also a great educational opportunity for the students who get to see the films and talk about them with people that make up the intellectual and developmental disability community. These dialogues do a lot to dispel stereotypes and break down barriers.

The students, teachers and parent volunteers who help with the event do it up big-time. They literally rolled out a red carpet and set up a rope line so that when our folks enter the event, there is a crowd on both sides cheering for them and taking pictures (pretending to be paparazzi). Each individual is paired with a student that gets to be their host for the day. This year we started by watching roughly half our films in their fine arts center. Afterward, we did some arts & crafts and then took a short stroll across campus to the dinning room for lunch where everyone ate together. The day ended with a group photo shoot outside.

Everyone said they had a great time and it was pretty obvious that our folks made some fast friends over the course of the morning. One GACS staff member remarked that her son had participated last year and her 6th grade daughter was already asking if she could do it when she's in 7th grade. We look forward to keeping this tradition alive as a great activity that gives our folks a chance to be ambassadors of our work out in the community.

Coffee Hour

Once a month a marvelous thing happens at Hi-Hope. Shane comes by the Development office looking for Nick. See, a few months back Nick and Shane bonded over a shared love of coffee and Nick suggested that perhaps he and Shane could do a monthly coffee hour. And so it happened. Nick picked up some fancy coffee and cookies and on the last Friday in April, Shane showed up in Nick's office to brew a pot. Shane also brought along some provisions: creamer and packets of sugar he picked up at McDonald's.

Shane ran the full operation, from setting up the coffee maker and setting out cups, setting the "table", and pouring both Nick and himself a cup. "So now what should we do," Nick asked and Shane immediately replied, "Michael Jackson videos." After about an hour of 80s rock videos, a couple cups of coffee, some snacks and good conversation, Shane helped Nick clean everything up and then rejoined his group. This simple moment of two guys bonding has now been repeated almost every month since April and it's something both Nick and Shane really look forward to doing.

Some of the highlights include the following:

  • having an excuse to buy the good coffee (not that Nick knows the difference as he will take instant coffee any day)
  • having an excuse to buy "fancy," top shelf cookies
  • getting to rock out to the likes of Michael Jackson, Kenny Rogers, and the Top Gun soundtrack at least once a month
  • watching the occasional episode of the 80s sitcom Webster
  • bonding over shared interests between friends

The real beauty of the coffee hour is that it came together so effortlessly. It is so simple and yet really has an impact on the lives of these two guys. So, think about those little pleasures that pepper your daily lives and consider bringing one to Hi-Hope. Maybe host a high tea for a small group or bring in some popcorn and your favorite movie to play for some folks. Or, perhaps you would consider hosting a potluck at your house, church or place of work. It's these easy things that really add up and make for meaningful lives.

Why the Film Festival Matters

If you follow Hi-Hope's social media platforms, visit the website, or are on one of our major mailing lists, chances are you have heard about our upcoming film festival. The Sprout Film Festival Atlanta was an exploratory project for Hi-Hope last year and, despite some technical difficulties, it was well received. This convinced us that this was the type of thing that we wanted to continue. It's unique, allows us to touch new and different communities, and its genuinely entertaining. But, there is more to this film festival than the experience (which is very important) - there is the "artistry" behind it.

In case you don't know what I am talking about, Hi-Hope is hosting a film festival at Oglethorpe University's Conant Performing Arts Center on September 30th from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm. We will be screening "12 entertaining and memorable short films featuring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities." What's more, this event is the only film festival in the entire state of Georgia that boasts a lineup of films featuring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). We added to the experience by including a moderated response panel of I/DD sector experts after the show.

Why call it "Sprout?" There is actually a little bit of a story to the name. See, a while back our CEO, Susan Boland Butts, was at a conference where the keynote speaker was a man named Anthony Di Salvo. Mr. Di Salvo is the founder and Executive Director of Sprout, a New York-based nonprofit that offers innovative programming related to the field of I/DD. In 2006 he created the Sprout Film Festival and in 2009 he launched Sproutflix - a distributor of these films. Sproutflix is now the mechanism by which several Sprout Film Festivals exist all over the country. Susan was inspired by the presentation and brought the idea to Hi-Hope and it took.

Last year we partnered with Emory University's Disability Studies Initiative to host the festival in the Harland Cinema at Emory. It was extremely important to find a real theater venue for the event to create a true, shared, theater experience for festival goers. It is a way of showing respect to the artists that created the films - they are well done pieces of art created to be experienced as films. By hosting the film festival, Hi-Hope can ensure that we feature each piece at a nice event with a genuine theater for the venue. Volunteer Coordinator Nick Reynolds had this to say about the festival: "I think people assume these are going to be like home movies or 'let's pity these folks' documentaries, but they really aren't. These films are very well done, they are real celebrations of art and creativity and vision. Anyone that attends the festival will experience these movies as movies and not some sort of intellectual exercise. That being said, they are very thought provoking and make for some really good dialogue after the fact."

The film festival is important as art. It is important as a form of advocacy for inclusion. It is important because it gives a historically "silenced" population a voice. Aside from the narrative films and music videos, many of the shorts are relatively unscripted giving the stars control over the direction of the films and the messaging. The audience gets a real honest look at the subject matter. The festival is important because it focuses on a significant part of our society that is regularly ignored.

So come to the festival this year and experience it in person. Come without expectation or objective. Come and enjoy the artistry and have a good time with your Hi-Hope family.

Family Gathering

Two weeks ago Hi-Hope celebrated our community by throwing a cookout. The event was cosponsored by our friends from the Shah Law Firm. This impromptu event came together in a sort of magical way - a combination of coincidence, luck, and the fact that the world really is a small place.

See, a couple months ago one of the lawyers from the Shah Firm reached out to our Janis Hunter to inquire about services for a friend. In her inquiry she mentioned that her group loved to volunteer and had recently hosted a game night at Side by Side Clubhouse in Stone Mountain. Janis passed this information to our Volunteer Coordinator - Nick Reynolds. As it turns out, the Development Director at Side by Side is married to Nick. So Nick went home and asked about the Shah folks and his wife gushed about them: "they are amazing and so generous. They genuinely want to help and really go the extra mile." The very next day Nick and Hi-Hope's Chief Development Officer, Keith Fenton, brainstormed the idea of the Midsummer Blast - a casual cookout to bring our community together for some food, socializing and fun.

And that is precisely what happened. To get a visual idea of the evening, visit our Facebook page and check out the Midsummer Blast album. However, if you are Facebook-averse, we can tell you that it was a fantastic party despite the heat and the sun forcing us to rework our layout a little bit at the start. We served hot dogs and hamburgers, potato salad, beans, chips and watermelon and had plenty for everyone (tons of leftovers). Some folks sat at our picnic tables and got to know each other better while others took to playing corn hole and doing chalk art. We even had a few folks meander inside from some foosball and airhockey action. Suffice to say, it was great and the fine folks from The Shah Law Firm helped with pretty much everything. There was also a silent champion for the event. See, since we started the renovation we got rid of most of our extra tables and chairs and were lacking enough of those to accommodate the 100 some people who RSVPed for the event. Thankfully TLC Rents down in Atlanta loaned us all of that stuff for free so everyone had a place to sit and relax and chow down.

So, thanks to The Shah Law Firm, TLC Rents, the family members, Keith Fenton who did almost all the cooking and everyone who came and made our Midsummer Blast and evening to remember. And if you missed it, don't worry. We are already thinking about the next family event to bring our family closer together.