Noah’s Ark Encourages Residents to Live, Laugh, Love–and Get Active.

3 Dec

Local nonprofit organization provides a plethora of activities for individuals with developmental disabilities.

Just over four years ago, Jeff Albro began his journey for freedom and independence. His developmental disability would no longer prevent him from fulfilling his dreams. Yet his new life soon came to an abrupt, unexpected halt. After a few months of living autonomously in a Plant City public housing project, Albro was beaten and robbed—an experience that left his body bloody, broken and bruised. However, the severe emotional distress that resulted from the incident affected Albro more than the temporary physical damage.

An Outside look at a Noah’s Ark home. | Photo Credit: Chelsey Lynn

“He became a recluse,” said Agnes Albro, Jeff’s mother. “He closed the shades. He didn’t meet neighbors. He was scared.”

In fact, Jeff Albro was so afraid to leave his apartment it cost him his job.

Desperate to find a better life for her son, Agnes, along with her husband Gordy Albro, contacted several organizations dedicated to assisting individuals with developmental disabilities. After hours of searching for help, one woman presented Agnes with the greatest blessing her family would ever receive: “I’ll give you this number. It’s Jack Kosik.”

Jack Kosik is the executive director of Noah’s Ark of Central Florida, a nonprofit organization committed to empowering people with developmental disabilities. Not only does Noah’s Ark provide affordable and accessible housing for individuals with mild to moderate impairments, but, unlike most institutional and group settings for the disabled, Noah’s Ark hosts a large number of social and recreational activities for residents to enjoy.

“We try and offer an array of activities in an effort to appeal to the interest of as many people as possible,” said Kosik. “We recently had a sock hop party with 50s-themed dancing and karaoke where ‘Elvis’ performed. We served hot dogs and hamburgers. I believe we had 84 people attend.”

The Noah’s Ark neighborhood has also hosted a prom and a Hawaiian luau—complete with a pig roast. In addition, craft nights draw large crowds as attendees learn new artistic skills during each session, from oil painting to jewelry making.

Kosik also encourages residents to enter into the surrounding community, to experience life outside of the intimate Noah’s Ark neighborhood. For example, the organization has coordinated trips to Lakeland Flying Tigers games, Lakeland Center arena football contests, PicassoZ Art Cafe ceramics classes, and local movie theaters. Residents recently visited the Confusion Corn Maze where they zigzagged among giant tangles of corn stalks, enjoyed a hay ride and ate popcorn. Furthermore, they were invited to a Thanksgiving Celebration at the First United Methodist Church on Lake Morton Drive.


Although Noah’s Ark residents enjoy these special community-building events, the athletic activities offered at Orange Bowl Lanes, Kelly Recreation Complex, and First Tee Golf Course are more popular choices for recreational fun.

“We found that bowling, basketball and golf had larger and more consistent participation, so we made them our “almost weekly” activities,” said Kosik.

Along with these physical activities, monthly tennis lessons and aerobics classes encourage Noah’s Ark residents to practice healthy lifestyles. In fact, medical professionals affirm regular recreational activity is extremely important for individuals with developmental disabilities as they are more prone to heart disease, stroke, respiratory problems and other chronic conditions. However, many health care providers fail to acknowledge these facts, believing most developmentally disabled individuals are incapable of handling even mild physical activity.

Find out more about how physical activity benefits individuals with developmental disabilities. Video courtesy of  the Sollar Wellness Center in the New England Village.

“Learned helplessness is truly the greatest crippler anyone can experience,” said Bob Williams, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Assistant Secretary. “Many people with disabilities have unfortunately learned to be passive, if not completely disengaged, where questions of their own health and well being are concerned.”

While many people with developmental disabilities are trapped in an institutional setting that offers little physical, emotional, social and intellectual stimulation, Noah’s Ark is committed to creating a safe environment where residents can grow holistically.

“Noah’s [Ark] creates a community,” said Kosik. “A place to belong, a place where you are accepted for who you are, a place where your neighbors care about you and watch out for you, a place to grow.”

Many people, including Charlene Schultz, are beginning to see the growth occurring in Noah’s Ark residents. An instructor at Southeastern University, Schultz teaches several residents in her classes.

“Students who live at Noah’s Ark and are in my class are more likely to make their own decisions and to do so with more confidence,” said Schultz. “Their daily experiences, requiring decisions and acting on those decisions, reinforce that sometimes they may make a wrong decision, but that they can keep going and learn from those mistakes.”

No one, however, recognizes more growth than Agnes Albro. Four years ago, after his tragic encounter, Jeff Albro entered the Noah’s Ark program, head down and heart broken. Yet because of the countless activities and loving atmosphere provided by Jack Kosik and the Noah’s Ark program, Jeff finally gained freedom and independence.

“He has friends and activities,” said Agnes Albro. “His horizons have been broadened tremendously. It’s been an opening up for Jeff…He has been more social now than he has been in 30 years…He’s really blossoming because of Noah’s Ark and doing things now that he never did in many, many years.”

“He participates in almost all of the Noah’s Ark activities,” said Kosik. “He recently organized a guitar jam and cookout at his home.”

The event planner also happens to be a champion golfer. Jeff placed second in the Florida State Special Olympics golf tournament and took home the gold medal in last week’s invitational at First Tee. Through discovering his talents and forming loving relationships, Jeff has evolved into a new person.

“He smiles now,” said Agnes Albro. “Actually, he smiles a lot.”

For more information on Noah’s Ark of Central Florida check out the FAQ Presentation or the official website.

(Photo Courtesy of Chelsey Lynn)

My First Liveblogging Experience

7 Nov

Topic of the Week #12 
For my first liveblogging assignment, I chose to follow the SEU Lady Fire volleyball team as they took on Coastal College of Georgia on October 15, 2011. If you couldn’t be at the Sportsplex, check out my Cover It Live feed for stats and scores!
Click Here to open the Viewer in a Pop-up Box

“Massive” Publicity Stunt?

26 Oct

Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels cars, Little People. These were some of my favorite toys while growing up. However, nothing gave me more joy than my Legos. With my little building blocks I would create cars, houses, and castles. I even constructed a school complete with desks, a chalkboard, and a playground.

I lost a lot of Legos during my childhood. Some were sucked up by the vacuum cleaner. Others got lost somewhere in my huge toy box and were found months later. These incidents happened mostly because Legos are tiny pieces and can easily fit into little nooks and crannies.

Never would I see the day when someone would lose their 8-foot tall Lego piece. However, on October 25 in Siesta Key, Florida, an 8-foot tall Lego man, named Ego Leonard, washed up onto the shore in the early morning.

Was this a publicity scheme thought up by the public relations department at Lego? Doesn’t look like it. According to a BoingBoing blog post by Rob Beschizza, Ego Leonard has appeared on beaches on beach in Zandvoort, Holland and Brighton, England three years ago.

Ego Leonard even has a personal Web site discussing his background and experiences in his “virtual world,” a world that has “been flooded with fortune-hunters and people drunk with power.” Ego Leonard has escaped his homeland in hopes of discovering more about the “beautiful meadows, words, sounds, and gestures” of our world.

So what is this Lego man here to tell us? I’m not exactly sure, but I’m pretty curious to what this all means. And slightly creeped out. Check out this video about beached Ego Leonard or check out his Twitter feed. Yes, he Tweets. He’s legit.

Now Featuring: Shonali Burke!!

13 Oct

Be My Guest!

Topic of the Week #8
This week, I invited Shonali Burke to be a guest blogger on Sideline Chatter. Why am I excited? Well, not only is she my first guest blogger ever, but according to PRWeek, Burke, who owns a consulting firm in Washington D.C., is considered one of the “Top 40 Under 40” public relations professionals in the nation. In other words, she’s legit.

While browsing though her Waxing Unlyrical blog for the first time, I was immediately struck by her recent post “The Difference Between Experts and Expertise,” which discusses how the goal of  becoming an expert may not be what we should be aiming our careers toward:

“To me, though, “being an expert” is a completely different thing. An expert is defined not by one’s opinion of himself or herself, but by the opinions and perceptions of others.”
“You are considered an expert when you know more about your industry and business than the majority of your peers do.”
“You are considered an expert when people start turning to you for advice.”

However, what we should be striving for expertise in our workplace?

“For me, it’s continuing to hone my craft of public relations, which includes learning as much as I can about social media, networks and how new technologies impact the way we communicate with each other. And then putting what I learn into practice, not just for myself, but for my clients…”

“Expertise is a journey. It possibly has a defined starting point – the day, minute, moment you knew this was what you wanted to learn more about and make your life’s work. But it doesn’t have an end point.”

For Burke, expertise is about…

“…continuing to hone my craft of public relations, which includes learning as much as I can about social media, networks and how new technologies impact the way we communicate with each other. And then putting what I learn into practice, not just for myself, but for my clients. “

And she’s right. When we humble ourselves, admitting we can never stop learning and we will never learn it all, we become most effective in our craft. Because public relations is always, always, ALWAYS changing due to the constant growth in technology and social media, we, honestly, can never become “experts,” but must always be willing to learn new communication strategies that can help our clients in the greatest ways.

In my opinion,  you should read the rest of Burke’s post, “The Difference Between Experts and Expertise.” Whether you are a PR professional or PR student, or even if you are not, this is something we all need to understand!

And thanks to Shonali Burke to being my guest blogger and enriching the life of a poor college student 🙂

Thank Goodness for The Knot

11 Oct

When it comes to schoolwork, this has been my busiest semester yet. However, in addition to homework, volunteering at a local church, designing the school newspaper, and maintaining a healthy social life, I am planning my own wedding. Although I am excited about the latter responsibility, I was nervous at first because I had no idea where to begin. First of all, I’m not a girly-girl. Therefore, unlike most of my friends, I didn’t plan out every detail of my wedding at age 7. Furthermore, I’m the first-born child, so my family doesn’t have much wedding planning experience.

Luckily, there is hope for recently engaged girls like me who have no idea what they are getting themselves into, but have a need to always be organized–The Knot.

The Knot is a bride’s dream. It’s website where you can personalized your wedding and gain inspiration for every detail from the dress to the guestbook. One  feature of The Knot is the extensive checklist that guides you through each step of the wedding planning process starting with selecting a ceremony site and ending with writing thank-you notes.

My favorite feature of The Knot is the Inspiration section. This area allows brides-to-be to create a collage of inspiring photographs. Because I have no idea where to begin, I’m able to see examples of escort cards, flower arrangements,  table decorations, and much, much more that have been used in past weddings.

Being a member of The Knot also allows me access to its sister site, The Nest. Through this website, I was able to decide on what colors each room in my house will be. This really helped make registry planning much easier and more personalized. The Knot has another sister site, the Bump, a site dedicated to new moms-to-be. I don’t plan on needing this site soon, but it’s just another great feature The Knot provides.

The Knot has made wedding planning not only less stressful, but more fun. With only 249 more days to go until my big day, I may get stressed out from time to time, but thanks to The Knot I will be organized and on task.

Moneyball Transforms Sport into Meaningful Art

4 Oct

Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) strolls boldly into the crowded room and sits at the head of the conference table. After concluding the 2001 season with a heartbreaking playoff loss to the New York Yankees and surrendering his top three superstars to free agency, Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, must enter the 2002 Major League Baseball season with a new game plan—“adapt or die.” Exhausting millions of dollars for high-profile players is no longer an option for Beane’s low-income team. He can no longer trust the experienced scouts surrounding him at the table,  shifting his confidence toward a newcomer, a rookie—a nobody in the scouting world. He summons Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a computer nerd and Yale economics graduate, to be his sidekick. Together Beane and Brand must try something new, something radical. They must change the face of a broken game.

Conceived from Michael Lewis’s bestselling nonfiction novel, Moneyball focuses on Beane’s unprecedented venture of fielding a team based solely on objective statistics. With the help of Brand’s complex player-value calculations, Beane creates a competitive lineup consisting of the most statistically-efficient, cost-effective players—players most professional scouts neglect and reject in their talent reports due to what the general manger considers subjective reasons.

With Beane the movie’s main character, manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) serves as the antagonist, refusing to yield to Beane’s innovative strategy. Instead of playing Beane’s recruits, Howe sticks to his old lineup. Ironically, as the team stumbles out the gates, the misguided media places the blame on Beane’s “foolish” business endeavors, unaware of Howe’s stubborn refusal to change. Through he speaks few words, Hoffman’s brilliant portrayal of the prideful Howe clashes perfectly with Beane’s heroic persona.

Moneyball isn’t the typical baseball film. It lacks the mystic romanticism of Field of Dreams and The Natural. It leaves playful nostalgia to The Sandlot and Rookie of the Year. Director Bennett Miller (Capote) along with screenwriters Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List, Gangs of New York) and Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) produced a baseball film from a different league, one that relies on intelligent dialogue and subtle emotion to captivate audiences. Although the plot serves an important purpose, the relationships between Beane and the supporting characters are the film’s driving force, the reason why Moneyball is easy to respect and admire.

Like Sorkin’s script for The Social Network, Moneyball is full of sarcastic one-liners; however, none of which are intended to be overtly funny. Yet it’s easy to find humor throughout the film because audiences can connect with the characters and their flaws. They can appreciate the writers’ awareness of the reality of human nature. The fact that the audience is able to identify with the characters serves as a testament to the outstanding acting abilities of Pitt and Hill. In fact, it’s highly likely Pitt will be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.

America’s film preference is changing. High-profile sequels and popular celebrities no longer attract audiences. For example, Knight and Day starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz failed at the box office as did Julia Roberts’ emotionless Eat, Love, Pray. In addition, critics responded poorly to Iron Man 2 and the third installment of Chronicles of Narnia. Therefore, instead of supporting plot-driven films that are created solely for the purpose of making millions of dollars, moviegoers are beginning to prefer movies centered on challenges and conflicts that reflect real life. Moneyball may be just want today’s audiences are looking for—real art full of meaning, truth, and emotion.

They Got Me…

15 Sep

Since we are on the topic of writing digital copy, I thought I’d share a relevant experience I had last night. So here’s the story:

Yahoo! is my homepage. It always has been and probably always will be unless it gets bought out by Google. I know Google is considered the better search engine, but I’m not comfortable with change. I’m so familiar withYahoo! and know how to navigate around it with ease. Plus, once I figure something out, I don’t really like to learn a totally different way of doing things. Humans are creatures of habit. I’m one of them.

Anyways, one of the reasons I like Yahoo! is because the homepage provides me with the latest news updates from around the country. It also imports stories from local news outlets. So, I’m browsing around the news headlines, wondering if there’s an interesting story out there, and I find this: 

 Note Figure One:
Do you see it? The highlighted box that reads “Parents: Casey Anthony knew where child…”?

Well, I see the link and immediately try to complete the headline, which happened to be: “Parents: Casey Anthony knew where child…WAS BURIED!!” Now I’m thinking “Oh my goodness, I have to click on this link so I can find out the details!”

So I do, and instead I find this:

Note Figure Two:
Do you see the actual headline? It reads “Casey Anthony’s parents have differing theories on how Caylee died.” I’m pretty sure a “theory” or “idea” is different from a proven fact backed by evidence, which is what the link in Figure One was portraying, at least to me.

So because I clicked on the misleading link, the Tampa Tribune is making money from advertisers.

And because I clicked on the misleading link, I think the Tampa Tribune’s credibility went down a bit in my book.

So if you are writing for an online publication, what will be more important to you–the money or your reputation as a trusted news source?

Personally, I feel cheated.