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Recognizing locals

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PICTURE PERFECT:Those involved with yesterday's proclamation pose with the document after the reading.
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HEAR YE:Peru Mayor Gabe Greer reads off the document that proclaimed March Disability Awareness Month in Peru. From left: Harvesting Capabilities Board member Cheryl Lee, Greer, HC Special Needs Kids Division Director Dani Miller and HC Thrift Store Manager Ashley McPherson.
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FRIENDLY FACES:Lee and Greer shake hands after the ceremony.
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ALL SMILES:From left: Harvesting Capabilities Board member Cheryl Lee, Peru Mayor Gabe Greer, HC Special Needs Kids Division Director Dani Miller and HC Thrift Store Manager Ashley McPherson share a laugh after Greer proclaimed March as Disability Awareness Month

Brian Powers - bpowers@perutribune.com

Peru Mayor Gabe Greer deemed March Disability Awareness month during a proclamation ceremony at City Hall yesterday with members of the nonprofit agency Harvesting Capabilities.

During the small gathering, Greer encouraged the citizens of Peru to take part in recognizing and celebrating those with disabilities.

Greer also discussed the way the community has affected the local special needs and disabled communities.

“We have a strong presence of people with disabilities who are active,” he said. “We’re so fortunate for them as well as the large presence of advocacy in the community.”

According to Director of Harvesting Capabilities Special Needs Kids Division Dani Miller, the recognition and awareness of those with disabilities will continue into April.

“We’re Disability Awareness Month into April since it’s so late in the month,” she said. “It also works because April is Autism Awareness Month.”

In recognition of the next two months, Miller said the Harvesting Capabilities thrift store will be selling autism awareness pins.

“We want the whole community wearing these pins so we can create a dialogue,” she said.

Miller said there aren’t a lot of options for disability services in Peru and what is established can be difficult to discover.

“We’re trying to bring more services to Peru,” she said. “But we’re also trying to bring awareness to the services that are already here.”

Ashley McPherson, manager of the HC thrift store, said there is a lot going on for the organization, but the all-inclusive playground remains at the forefront.

One of the things they want to do at the playground is to make a way for those involved in its coming to fruition to be remembered.

“We’re trying to find a way for kids and adults to put their imprints on it,” she said.

McPherson mentioned having people put their handprint and name in the wet cement as an option.

According to HC Board member Cheryl Lee, another way community members can be recognized is to purchase a personalized brick.

“The bricks are $50 each,” she said. “Those who buy one can either bring the application to the store, or fill it out online and bring us a check.”

Miller said the playground has exceeded its $120,000 fundraising goal, but more items keep being added to the park and making it bigger than anticipated.

According to Lee, the members of Harvesting Capabilities are hoping to break ground on the park in May and have an opening ceremony on July 4.

Also upcoming for HC is a convocation and reading day at Maconaquah Elementary School on April 15. The event will feature volunteers reading books centered on disability and autism awareness to kids in the school library. There will also be a convocation with child advocate Richard Propes, who was in Peru last September during his Tenderness Tour, in which he travels around 1,000 miles in wheelchair every year.

Miller said the event could use more help, however.

“We’re looking for more volunteers to read,” she said. “We need a few more people.”

Miller said those interested may contact her at either 472-1902, or on her cell phone at 469-9704.

The organization has also created a support group for families with children and adults with special needs or disabilities. The group, which meets every third Thursday of the month at the Old Firehouse on Main Street, gives those who attend a chance to discuss their situation with others who have similar experiences.