Courage marks the day at disabilities luncheon
Matt Rutherford’s never had it easy. Ever.
But he’s never doubted himself.
Rutherford took the audience at the Mayor’s Committee on Disability’s Luncheon Wednesday through his life’s journey as a person with cerebral palsy.
Rutherford had a 10 percent chance of survival at birth, the result of oxygen deprivation during delivery.
“The good news is, it didn’t affect my cognitive ability – although some might not agree with that,” he said, bringing scattered laughter from the audience. The most visible signs of Rutherford’s disability are uncontrolled muscle movements, yet he learned to drive as a teenager, participated in varsity sports, went to college, married and has three children.
And is a motivational speaker. His verbal message was interspersed with videos and a powerpoint presentation that depicted events in his life.
The luncheon, sponsored annually by the Mayor’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities, recognizes not only the disabled but those who work toward their inclusion in meaningful work opportunities and education. The Committee was founded in 1990 by the Rotary Club of Summerville. The club still supports the Committee by attending the luncheon and providing one of the scholarships to students.
Quince Cody served as emcee for the event.
Those honored Wednesday were:
Employer of the Year, Large Business – Cummins Turbo
Jimmy Rushen accepted the award. “It is a privilege to have these clients working with us. They make us a better place to work,” Rushen said. The nomination cited the company’s willingness from the beginning to configure workstations to each person’s needs.
Employer of the Year, Medium Business – OE Enterprises. John King accepted the award saying he didn’t know what to expect when he first began working with employees who were disabled. But it wasn’t long before he was being affectionately called father. “And they call each other brothers and sisters,” King said.
• Employer of the Year, Small Business – Rewined Candles Adam Fetsch accepted the award. Fifty-two percent of the company’s workforce has disabilities. “We would not have been able to grow had it not been for our partnership with Lowcountry Vocational Rehabilitation.”
• Employee of the year was Darlene Warso, who works at the Navy Exchange. Warso, who is deaf, was interpreted through sign language by Connie Vendrick. Warso, deaf since birth, came to Vocational Rehab to find a career path. She loved sewing and now works for the Navy Exchange as an embroidery operator.
• Winner of the Coco Boyd Award, sponsored by Tony Pope Insurance, was Cecilia Chavis of Summerville High School for her work in aiding students to succeed in the workplace and at school. She has gone so far as to purchase clothing and cosmetics out of her own pocket for a student to have as she started an internship, “so she would have what she needed to enter the workplace.”
• Student of the Year was Joseph “Gage” Holsey, a sophomore at Ashley Ridge High School. Holsey was described as having exceptional self-advocacy skills. He has worked with the maintenance/grounds crew in the garden and sports fields at Ashley Ridge, can run all the equipment including the field striping machines, and is a regular A-B honor roll student.
• Alex Rosche’ $1,000 Memorial Scholarship “The ARMS” went to Joshua E. Tucker, a student at Fort Dorchester High School. Despite multiple disabilities, Tucker has earned his S.C. Drivers License, and is described as goal oriented and wants to work in computer security. The ARMS is a scholarship in honor of Alex Rosche, who received a scholarship from the committee in 2010 only to pass away just as he was set to begin college. His parents Debbie and Phillip assisted in presenting the scholarship, which is funded each year by Rita and Jay Torner, to Tucker.
• The William Fetzer $1,000 Scholarship “The Bill” went to Meagen Ploth of Dorchester County Career & Technology Center. Ploth wants to become a paramedic and is determined to not allow her disability to stop her. She wants to follow in her firefighter father’s footsteps. Ploth tearfully thanked her parents and all those who had helped her along the way.
• The $1,000 Dr. Erbert Cicenia Scholarship “The Bert” was awarded to Lucas Montjoy, a student at Ashley Ridge High School. Montjoy has been accepted at The Citadel and plans to study political science. He has an excellent academic and attendance record and is described as motivated to study a subject until it is mastered.
• The $1,500 Summerville Rotary Scholarship was given to Amanda Walters, a student at Trident Technical College. Walters plans to begin at Charleston Southern University in the fall. Teaching and working with children is her passion. She is described as consistently on time and eager to work, “and her tenacity has propelled her through life.”
• Summerville Mayor’s Committee Scholarship had two recipients this year, for $1,000 each: Joshua Mack, a student at Charleston Southern University and William McDaniel Hartzog, a student at Dorchester Academy.
Mack, a former Fort Dorchester High School student, has completed the bridge program at Charleston Southern University and has gained full acceptance in the applied math program. His goal is to become a civil engineer and to work developing systems for Norfolk Southern or CSX railroads. “I keep God at the top of my plans,” Mack said. His acceptance speech and contagious smile touched the audience as they cheered his accomplishments.
Hartzog has been accepted at Orangeburg Calhoun College and is awaiting his acceptance to The Citadel. He does not want to feel different anymore. He sees a future where his disabilities become invisible to others and to himself. His goal is to go to work for Santee Cooper and become involved in their continuing education program.
• The final award of the day was the $2,500 Berlin G. Myers Scholarship which was awarded to JoAnna Jones, a student at Cane Bay High School. Jones has been accepted at the University of South Carolina Upstate where she wants to study education. He career goals include teaching students with special needs and disabilities in kindergarten through third grade independence skills. Jones is described as hardworking, reliable and always pushing herself to learn more.
Mayor Bill Collins offered closing remarks that reminded the attendees of John Kennedy’s Book “Profiles in Courage.”
“This room is full of profiles in courage.”
The luncheon was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Summerville, Goodwill Industries of Lower SC, Robert Pratt ReMax Realty, Knight Law Firm, Robby Robbins, Attorney at Law, Dorchester Habitat for Humanity, Rusty’s Driving School, Lewis & Associates, Tony Pope State Farm, Holiday Inn Express-Summerville, and Firewater Grille. The Committee’s only fundraiser of the year will be their golf tournament on October 18 at Pine Forest Country Club. For more information visit www.summervillemayorscommittee.com.