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Dinner Speaker, Awards Announced - Deadline Extended

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May 08, 2013

Ann Arbor, MI--Community Alliance will hold its 27th Anniversary Dinner and Community Alliance Star Awards (CASA Awards) on Thursday, May 30, 2013 from 6-9pm at Weber’s Inn in Ann Arbor.  Community Alliance announces its CASA Award recipients and keynote speaker, Jerry Wolffe.

This year’s CASA Award recipients, to be recognized at the dinner, are as follows:

Joanne Magee, recently retired Fiscal Intermediary Services Coordinator, Community Living Network

David Mulcahy, 25-year staff member for Community Residence Corporation

Penny Yohn, Community Alliance Board Secretary, volunteer, and mother of a consumer with a developmental disability

Chris Aikens, Flagstar Bank CRA Officer and Vice President, Community Development

The Keynote Speaker, Jerry Wolffe, worked many years for the Oakland Press before recently taking an advocacy role with Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. Here’s what another writer had to say about Jerry:

Some people looking at Jerry Wolffe see a 65-year-old, wheelchair-user with cerebral palsy. I see a professional newspaper reporter, editorial writer, and columnist, civil rights activist, and family man. In a telephone interview from his Oakland (Mich.) Press newspaper office, Wolffe said, “When I was two years old, the doctor told my dad it would be best to put me in an institution. My dad picked me up and told the doctor he was full of (it). He was going to raise his child normal, he said. My dad said there was no such thing as 'I can't,' and he was going to help me.”

Brain damage at birth caused Wolffe's cerebral palsy, which affected his ability to control muscle movement. As a child, he wore leg braces up to his hips. Though he had near genius-level IQ, the school district forced him to attend a special needs school. In ninth grade at a public school in 1960, he began refusing to attend “handicapped” classes and “may have been the first mainstreamed kid in the country,” he said.

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While in college, Wolffe worked for six weeks at the Associated Press Detroit office without pay to prove he could be a teletype setter. Two years later, he caught on with United Press International and eventually became a reporter and assistant financial editor over a 26-year career. Wolffe said, “My wire service training made me fast, accurate, and thorough. I'm also a good human interest writer because I've seen so much in life.” Over that span, Wolffe has had 31 surgeries. He lost his ability to walk at age 50 and now uses a wheelchair.

“I told one editor my ability to walk had nothing to do with my ability to write,” he said, “I always had to prove I was a little better than the next guy to keep my job.”

In 1990, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice chose Wolffe and others to learn about the Americans with Disabilities Act and educate the public. Over time, he began writing the newspaper column “Voices of Disability” to advocate for people with disabilities who often face isolation, discrimination, and lack of opportunity. (Daniel J. Vance MS, LPC, NCC)

Tickets to this annual event are $50, including a reception, cash bar, silent auction, dinner and keynote speaker, with RSVPs requested by May 20. Ticket information can be obtained by visiting the Community Alliance website,, or calling (734) 482-3300, extension 207. The annual dinner is a major fundraiser to meet the needs of the operational budget and programs at Community Alliance. Approximately 150 guests will be treated to an enjoyable evening featuring keynote speaker Jerry Wolffe. Guests will also have the opportunity to bid on silent auction items, including automobile oil changes, massage, gift cards to area merchants, and entertaining activities like water park passes.

This year the dinner’s theme is “Investing in People, Building Community.” Initial Corporate sponsors include Greektown Casino; Susan Davis, Attorney; and The Salus Group, an employee benefits/ consulting firm. Additional corporate supporters are invited to donate sponsorships, seats at the dinner, and/or auction gifts.

Community Alliance is a nonprofit 501(c)3 agency serving Southeastern Michigan, with a focus in Washtenaw County, whose mission is to provide persons with disabilities living options, life choices and control of their futures. Community Alliance helps people participate in the larger community through support services, fiscal intermediary services, housing and home ownership options — all allowing for independence and self-sufficiency. Community Alliance consists of three initiatives: Community Residence Corporation, Community Living Network, and Community Housing Alternatives.

For more information on this event, contact Sharon Pedersen, Director of Business Development and Marketing, at (734) 482-3300, extension 207.

Sharon Pedersen, Director of Business Development and Marketing
(734) 482-3300, x. 207


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