The Good Neighbor Awards recognize REALTORSŪ who've made an extraordinary commitment to improving the quality of life in their communities through volunteer work. Five winners will receive $10,000 grants for their cause. The 2009 deadline will be May 22.
2008 Good Neighbor Finalists Announced
Good Neighbor Finalist Finds Homes for the Disabled
For 26 years, Ouida Spencer has actively volunteered with the United Cerebral Palsy of Georgia, which serves people with developmental disabilities also including Down syndrome, spina bifida, mental retardation, epilepsy and autism.
Spencer, UCP of Georgia’s current chair, is a tireless advocate for housing rights of the disabled, traveling throughout Georgia and the Carolinas to identify single-family homes that can be adapted for three or four disabled adults. With the help of UCP care providers, the residents will be able to live full lives in their own homes and interact as part of a neighborhood.
For many UCP clients, who have lived in a nursing facility or under their parents' care, this is the first time they have been able to do simple things for themselves, from learning to feed themselves to choosing the music they want to listen to.
“To see someone get so excited about having their own bedroom or being able to do the laundry for the first time … that’s what keeps me going,” says Spencer. “It’s the excitement of seeing someone who’s able to say, ‘This is my home.’”
Spencer says her commitment stems from knowing that in the blink of an eye, anyone can become disabled. Developmental disabilities usually occur before or shortly after birth, but they also can be the result of a head injury.
“I’ve always been able to put myself in other peoples’ shoes and treat them as I would want to be treated in a situation,” says Spencer, who has has helped UCP of Georgia establish six day-habilitation locations, which provide life skills training, dexterity therapy, job training and employment mentoring.
During her tenure, UCP of Georgia has grown from serving 100 people in Atlanta to providing daily services to more than 1,000 individuals in Georgia and the Carolinas. In addition to her work finding housing, she recruits volunteers who put in thousands of hours every year and is one of the organization's most successful fundraisers--bringing in more than $100,000 last year.
Spencer is so effective because people who know her simply can’t refuse, says Jeanne Black, a bailiff for the Georgia court system who Spencer recruited as a UCP volunteer more than 20 years ago.
“You don’t say say ‘no’ to Ouida because you know that she’s working twice as hard as you are, and that she’s already done all the ground work,” says Black.
“I think all of us want to make a difference at the end of the day and at the end of our lives,” Spencer says. “I'm proud that I have been able to make a difference in the lives of the people served by UCP.”