Hillary Sirmon is a graduate of ULM and the University of South Alabama. She worked full time as a pediatric physical therapist for seven years before having her son Benjamin. Benjamin was born with a rare genetic disorder and required intense medical care. Hillary left her career and spent three years caring for Benjamin and her three other children, Lennon, Isla, and Rush. All the while, Hillary and her husband, Dr. Kristopher Sirmon, were advocates for children and adults with special needs. Hillary's primary focus, however, was on accessible playgrounds. After completing an inclusive playground in Destrehan, Louisiana, she was relocated to Monroe, Louisiana, where she continues her work. Right now she is helping to bring an inclusive playground to Ouachita Parish.
Mrs. Betty Brown is a Winnsboro native who has called Monroe home for many years. A graduate of the University of Louisiana at Monroe, she worked for GB Cooley for 18 years as a Trainer and Early Interventionist and for OCDD for 17 years as a Community Services Specialist. After her retirement, she has continued lead a life of service by becoming a licensed missionary for the Church of Christ (Holiness) and sharing her wisdom and experiences with single mothers. In her spare time, she enjoys tending her garden (okra and jalapenos are her specialties), spending time with her children and grandchildren, and serving as a licensed Notary Public for her community.
Peggy livies in Monroe, LA with her husband, Biff. Thier family is a menmber of Lea Joyner United Methodist Church in Monroe. Peggy has two beautiful grandsons that she loves beyond measure who lives in Lewisville, Texas. Peggy is an Occupational Therapist and serves as the Program Director for the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Her interest in Families Helping Families comes from the children and adults who have blessed her professional and personal life.
Michelle Bass is a graduate of ULM with a MA in History. While in college she was Who's Who, SGA president and was on the 1994 Homecoming court and served on numerous committees. She worked for FHF as the LaCAN leader and taught high school as well for a short time. Michelle has two daughters, Hannah who is fifteen and Aaron-Sophia who is seven. In 2011, Hannah was diagnosed with Aspbergers--which is on the Autism spectrum. In 2013, Michelle was chosen to be a part of Partners In Policy Making (A state program held in Baton Rouge that teaches parents with children with developmental disabilities how to advocate better for not only their child but other children as well) and graduated from that program in the summer of 2013. Michelle is a stay at home mother that home schools both her children and loves to travel. Her husband Whit is a minister as well and will graduate in May 2015 with his Masters of Divinity from New Orleans Theological Seminary. He served at First Baptist Calhoun, First Baptist West Monroe and First Baptist Mangham. He also serves as a chaplain for Hospice TLC and he has started a ministry involving the entire family, called HE STILL RESCUES at www.hestillrescues.com . Michelle is Whit's assistant and writes weekly blogs. Michelle and her family live in Baskin, Louisiana.
John Eugene Thompson was born in England, Arkansas on August 5, 1959. He has been married to Darlene Guidry Thompson for thirty years and they have one son, John Aaron Thompson, one daughter, Natalie Thompson Carr (married to Justin Carr), one grandson, Layton Carr and one granddaughter, Emerson Carr.
John graduated from Ouachita Parish High School in 1977 after which he attended University of Louisiana in Monroe receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in geology.
John took a three year course with Rhema Bible School and has served on many leadership teams; he was Interim Pastor and board member of Northgate Church in Monroe, Youth Pastor and vital member of El Shaddai Christian Center, and currently serves as one of the Associates on the Pastoral Team at Grace Pointe.
I’m a graduate of ULM. I’m married to Dr. Ronnie Harrison Sr. and we have 2 children, Shantae and RJ. Shantae lives and works in Mandeville, La and is studying to get her Master Degree from Belhaven University. RJ is studying to get his Bachelor Degree from ULM. I have worked for 10 years with the Welfare and Food Stamp Program where I was able to work closely with Families Helping Families to help many of my clients.
Now I am employed with the Ouachita Parish Public Library where I teach Computer Classes to adults and plan all the Adult Programs.
I am a member of Lea Joyner Memorial United Methodist Church where I am the Nursery Coordinator, President of Circle of Faith women’s group and am involved in many other church activities.
I am a native of Concordia parish, but now reside in Alto, LA with Marshall, my husband of 42 years. I am a 1975 graduate of LA Tech University, where I earned degrees in Special Education and Elementary Education. I taught special education in the Union and Lincoln Parish school systems for twelve years. I also worked for a time as an infant instructor at what was at that time The Margaret Roane Center (an ARC center) in Ruston. During my years as a teacher, I worked primarily with preschool aged children who had multiple disabilities. This is my passion.
In the late 80’s, my husband and I, along with our two children, began fostering children with disabilities in our home. At that time I ended my teaching career to stay at home and be a full-time foster mom. Our family maintained our foster home license until 2006, when our last foster child, Michael, turned 18. He had been with us since age six. At this point, my husband and I obtained legal custody of Michael and he is still a permanent, vital, loving member of our family.
Earning my special education degrees provided me with some insight into life with a disability; teaching and working with parents provided some additional insight; but the most thorough, valid, life-changing insight has come from daily parenting a child with multiple disabilities. This by far has been the richest and most rewarding endeavor of my life. Learning to advocate for Michael in so many arenas, helping him find ways to tackle challenges head-on, seeing life from different angles and learning to enjoy those differences…I wouldn’t trade any of this for a lesser life and thank God for allowing me to be his mom.
After Michael began receiving waiver services and my caregiver role was not so all-consuming, I took the valuable lessons I had learned as the parent of a child with disabilities back into the community to share with other mothers who were just beginning this unique journey. I returned to work, first for Families Helping Families for two years and then for Early Childhood Supports and Services. Those seven years of pouring back into others the skills and passions I had lived myself were a wonderful gift. I retired in 2010, and enjoy spending time with my four grandchildren and volunteering with various faith-based, non-profit organizations.
Bio to come.
Laura Gordon has been married for 44 years and is a mother of 3. Two of the three children were special education students and she also adopted two children with special needs this year. She is the grandmother of nine beautiful children. She is a retired school teacher after 29 ½ years of service at Calhoun Middle School. The last 13 years of her career were focused on special education, both resource and self- contained. She has worked with children and families with disabilities for many years and has found her passion there. She found her home here at Families Helping Families as her passion matched that of the organization.
Bio to come.
Henry currently works for LATAN. He completed a bachelor’s degree in Finance/Economics at Northeast Louisiana University. Henry has 10 years experience in the non-profit field (disability resources/Assistive technology) and has given many presentations on topics such as Assistive Technology in the Classroom and Reduced Interest Loan Programs. He has also written newspaper articles about the Americans with Disabilities Act and Universal Design/Universal Access and developed multi-million dollar programs. Henry has presented college classroom lectures at the University of Louisiana Monroe on the general subjects of Assistive Technology and the Emotional Impact of Disabilities, and also conducted radio and television interviews on subjects related to Assistive technology. He has worked untiringly to disseminate important information about services and supports available to people with disabilities in Louisiana. He currently serves on The Statewide Independent Living Council, Twin Cities Mayor’s Committee for the Disabled, Families Helping Families of Northeast Louisiana Board, and participates in several other disability related councils, committees and boards.
John is retired from the United States Army and Rayville High School. He served in various positions in the Army. A Louisiana Native, he began his career by enlisting in the Regular Army in June 1964 after graduating from the Franklin Parish Training School in Winnsboro, LA. He also attended the University of Texas at El Paso and the University of Maryland. During his active military career, he has served mainly in Vietnam, Alaska, Germany, and the United States Virgin Islands. After his retirement from active duty, he was a JROTC Instructor at Rayville High School.He is married to Angie Jackson-Wilson, and their youngest son Justin has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. He is a member of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, where he serves as co-chair of the Hospitality Committee. In addition he is involved with other civic organizations including the American Legion, Veteran of Foreign Wars, and Disabled American Veterans.
Dr. Trejo graduated from the Univ Auto De Nuevo Leon, Fac De Med, Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico in 1994. He works in West Monroe, LA and 1 other location and specializes in Family Medicine. Dr. Trejo is affiliated with Morehouse General Hospital. As a KidMed doctor, Dr. Trejo found that the goals of Families Helping Families were something that was very important to him as well and became involved.
Chris is a native of Monroe and a graduate of St. Frederick High School and LSU-Shreveport with a degree in Elementary Education. Chris taught at Cope Middle School in Bossier City before moving back to Monroe, and now teaches part-time at River Oaks School. She has been married to Gary DeWitt for over 20 years and they have 3 sons: Cole, Tucker and Cooper. The DeWitts became connected with Families Helping Families in 2000 after the birth of Tucker, who has Down Syndrome. She and her family are members of First United Methodist Church in Monroe. Chris spends her time being a wife, mommy, teacher and volunteer. In her spare time (sitting in the mini-van or the bleachers), she enjoys reading.
I was born in New Delhi, India. I grew up with a balanced mix of eastern and western values and education. I obtained a baccalaureate degree in English Literature and, later, decided to follow into my mother’s footsteps to become a social worker. I obtained my first Master’s degree in Social Work in 1986 with a specialization in Medical and Psychiatric social work. While doing a year-long internship during my first year in the Master’s program, I received my first opportunity to work with children diagnosed with developmental disabilities. It was an eye-opening experience for me. Not only did I gain knowledge in the field, I also learned appropriate values and skills to be able to work with the children and their parents. That experience changed my outlook towards life and also made me determined to get further education and training in the field of developmental disabilities.
For a few years, I worked as a social worker in the slums of Bombay City in India and then decided to pursue further education in the field of developmental disabilities. I joined my family in the United States and came to Tallahassee, Florida. I obtained my second Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Social Work from Florida State University. My doctoral dissertation addressed the issue of burnout among respite care workers who provide services to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.
I came to Monroe in 1992 as a faculty in the Social Work Department at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. I have been here since then. As a professor of Social Work, I developed a course called “social and emotional aspects of disabilities” that allows me to raise awareness and disseminate information about various types of disabilities. The other areas of my specialization include family violence, gerontology, and clinical social work.
Patti lives is Rayville, LA. Patti and her husband, Mike, have a beautiful, precious daughter, Anna-Michael. Their family is a member of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Rayville. Patti is very active in her church and community. Anna-Michael has multiple disabilities and a smile that shows Jesus’ love shining through her. “Snuggling with Anna-Michael is one of the greatest joys I get to experience every day.” Patti is an Occupational Therapist and serves as the Occupational Therapy Department Head at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. My primary goal is to serve as God would have me to serve.
Deanne Groves would like to see all persons treated with dignity, respect and person centeredness. In her prior career as a social services professional, she learned from individuals she met to appreciate and not be afraid of differences between us. She also learned that all persons want to receive affection, feel useful, and be respected. Through interactions with persons with disabilities, Deanne has gained a richer, deeper gratitude of life and the little successes a day can bring.
Deanne grew up in Monroe and now makes her home in West Monroe with her husband and two yappy Doxies. She is in her second career encouraging persons to record and save their life stories. She loves spending time playing tennis, attending church activities and playing with her grandson.
Suzanne Barrios Riggs, a native of Delhi and a graduate of Baylor University, is a long-time resident of West Monroe where she and her late husband, Donny, made their home and became parents of two sons, Donald, Jr., (Chip) and Jordan Riggs. Chip, his wife, Emily, and their three children, Jackson, TJ and Lilly, currently reside in Atlanta, GA. Jackson was born with Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome (a developmental disorder caused by a deletion of the short arm of the 4th chromosome) which has inspired Suzanne’s special interest in children with disabilities and Families Helping Families. She has seen personally how families have to fight for the rights of their children with special needs especially in the areas of specialized medical care and educational opportunities. Suzanne’s younger son, Jordy, lives in Ruston, LA, with his three children, Jordan, Josh, and Julianne. He recently married, Julie, who brings three more delightful grandchildren into the Riggs family. Suzanne currently serves as vice president of Trenton Society, and is a former member of the Cancer Foundation League, a member of First Baptist Church of West Monroe and the Vota Vita L.I.F.E Group. Suzanne also volunteers in several ministries of the church. Reading, traveling and enjoying her grandchildren are her favorite activities.
Lynn Wilson is a native of LaSalle Parish but has been a resident of West Monroe since 1988. He and his wife, Donna, have three sons Josh, Justin and Jacob. He graduated from the University of Louisiana at Monroe with a degree in Clinical Laboratory Science and also obtained a Master’s Degree in Health Sciences Management from LSU. Lynn has been employed at E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe since 1988, both in the clinical laboratory and for the past 6 years as the Assistant Hospital Administrator. Other community activities that Lynn is or has been involved with include serving on G.B. Cooley’s Human Rights Board, mentor in the Ouachita Parish Juvenile Drug Court program, West Monroe Dixie Youth baseball and football programs, United Way Heart Walk, Susan Komen Race for the Cure among others. The Wilson family have been members of Cedar Crest Southern Baptist Church since moving to West Monroe where Lynn has served as deacon, Sunday School leader, and on various committees. Since 2009, Lynn has spent at least one week each year participating in pastor and church leader training in the European country of Bulgaria. He is an avid sports fan of all types, loves to read and work in his yard. “FHF is a tremendous community resource. They have assisted my family directly in the past by providing some special playground equipment for my son with special needs. Any way that I may assist the mission of this organization is my pleasure. I am honored to be associated with FHF”.