GREENFIELD — There’s always at least one every year.
A parent, up to their gills in stress and confusion, juggling conflicting information about their child’s disability. They come to the FUSE Inspiring Abilities Expo, and when they see so many people in one place, here to help them and their child, their relief is palpable.
The 12th-annual Families United for Support and Encouragement Inspiring Abilities Expo was no exception, said leaders of the organization, whose goal is to provide information, resources and support to families and individuals with disabilities or mental health needs. Conducted Saturday at J.B. Stephens Elementary School, the event brought together more than 50 booths featuring businesses and organizations catering to people with disabilities. Two educational sessions were held in classrooms nearby.
Meaningful connections were being made throughout the event, said Sara Cummins, FUSE development director.
For parents raising a child with a disability, it’s easy to feel isolated. The thank-yous throughout the event are always a highlight for organizers.
“I’m always amazed at the sense of relief on parents’ faces — it’s overwhelming,” she said. “That’s why I do what I do.”
The speaker sessions were full, and foot traffic was heavy throughout the event, said FUSE executive director Denise Arland. The booths featured longstanding community organizations like Shares Inc., which provides employment and education assistance to adults with disabilities, but also had some newcomers.
InvestABLE Indiana, which has been established for about six months in the state, provides investment and savings accounts to people with disabilities who want to save money but don’t want to lose their Medicaid benefits.
The specialized savings accounts can also be used to crowdfund for items like wheelchair-accessible vans or other mobility needs, said executive director Amy Corbin.
She said those who attended on Saturday seemed to be interested in the investment plans.
“There has been an incredible turnout,” she said. “We’re very happy to be a part of this.”
The event is usually conducted at Greenfield Intermediate School, but construction at that site meant the expo needed to find another home this year.
The elementary school was able to accommodate each part of the annual expo, from the speaker sessions to the childcare provided by the Greenfield-Central High School student leadership academy, Arland said.
Adult mentors Sharon Lime and Kendra Leary said the leadership training group has made providing childcare to parents attending the expo its yearly service project for some 10 years, allowing parents to focus on finding the resources they need during the event.
It’s a fun way to help out the community, Leary said.
“The kids always get more out of it than they know they’re going to get,” she said. “One student is here for her second year because she enjoyed it so much.”
One of the best parts of the event is seeing the networking that takes place, not only between parents and organizations but also between the businesses and organizations themselves, Arland said.
“It’s all about relationships; this is where people meet,” she said, adding that those meetings often turn into friendships. “I just met a new mom who told me, ‘I just want you to know that what you do matters.'”
Families United for Support and Encouragement Inc.
1133 W. Main St., Suite E
Greenfield, Indiana 46140