The Ability Center updates commissioners

Ash Lemons, left, assistant director of The Ability Center, and Angie Burton, The Ability Center’s rural coordinator, recently updated the Williams County Commissioners on their organization and broached the subject of expanding its presence in the county.

For more than 100 years, The Ability Center has been advocating, educating, partnering and providing programs and services that support people with disabilities and enable them to thrive within their community.

The nonprofit serves Williams, Lucas, Ottawa, Wood, Fulton, Henry and Defiance counties with a staff of about 55 employees and a $5 million annual budget, Ash Lemons, assistant director of The Ability Center, told Williams County Commissioners during an organization update at the commissioners’ regular meeting last Monday.

The Toledo-based organization coordinates a variety of programs such as help for age- and disability-related mobility issues, and coordinates the Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence program, which includes the school therapy dog program that has provided therapy dogs to 22 area school districts, including Bryan City Schools.

Two local school districts — North Central and Stryker — currently are on a waiting list to receive trained therapy dogs, Lemons said.

He also commented on a report from the Scripps Gerontology Center with statistics showing that by 2030, 25% of the population of Williams County will be 65 and older.

“This leads to more medical concerns and more mobility concerns” among an aging population, which dovetails into one of The Ability Center’s missions — “to provide incentives for independent living.”

Lemons, who was joined in his update Monday by Angie Burton, The Ability Center’s rural coordinator, also noted his organization recently hired a new executive director, Stewart James.

James, said Lemons, is particularly interested in expanding service to rural areas, such as Williams County.

“Our goal now is to do more than we have,” Lemons said, adding he was seeking “collaboration” and also funding support from the county to expand The Ability Center’s services to the county, in the range of $50,000 for a local presence and program funding.

Commissioners Lew Hilkert and Terry Rummel (Brian Davis was absent from this meeting) said they would take the suggestion on advisement, with Hilkert suggesting The Ability Center explore possible grant funding through the Bryan Area Foundation.

Rummel said that lack of reliable public transportation is an issue the county is facing, noting that discussions are ongoing about a possible partnership between the county and Henry County Transportation Network.

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