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Staff Spotlight

Debbie Fink Makes Powerful Moments

Debbie Fink smiling in front of a buildingRockville, Maryland, June 28 – Known for her multidisciplinary approach and exemplary soft and hard skills, Debbie Fink is the Director of Community Outreach and Impact for RespectAbility. Maximizing this approach and dual skillset, she efficiently and effectively crafts trainings, programs and events that elevate purpose, deepen understanding, broaden community and quantify impact.

What does that mean, and how does she do it? A keen observer of all people around her, Fink elicits personal stories, cultivates connectivity and garners buy-in. Fink then identifies common threads among individuals and groups, pinpoints gaps and weaves together programming that promotes powerful change – change that is woven with earned trust, mutual respect and common goals.

After any such event, Fink assesses impact through ongoing surveys, data collection and analysis. At RespectAbility, Fink’s trainings, programs and events advance opportunities and fight stigmas for—and with—people with disabilities. Several best practices have emerged from her diligent work. [continue reading…]

Ben Spangenberg – Mentor to Young Leaders

headshot of Ben Spangenberg

Ben Spangenberg

Rockville, Maryland, June 20 – When Ben Spangenberg was young, he saw a news article reporting that people like him – who used wheelchairs – had few employment opportunities. He set out to prove them wrong for himself and to create a better future for others with disabilities. For the last 13 years, he has worked professionally on employment for people with disabilities.

“I want young people in the disability community to know they are loved and appreciated for their unique dreams, talents, and skills,” Spangenberg said. “Our community needs the opportunity to share and be recognized for our talents.” [continue reading…]

From Unsolved Mysteries to Renowned Public Policy Leader

Philip Pauli as a child on an episode of Unsolved MysteriesRockville, Maryland, June 13 – If you watched the 90s TV show “Unsolved Mysteries,” then you might have seen a profile of a young boy named Philip Pauli. That episode profiled Philip for his high IQ, his reputation as a “boy genius” and his wide range of talents at a young age. Indeed, at six months of age, Philip began to talk. By eighteen months he was reading and by age three, he began to play the violin and study astronomy. The episode features Philip at his chosen playground of the Denver Museum of Natural History and working at an archeological dig.

Since that time, Philip continued his extraordinary journey. While an honors student at the University of Denver, he was chosen to spend a year studying at Oxford University. Ten years ago, he moved to Washington, D.C., to pursue a master’s degree in social policy from The George Washington University.

Philip chose a career in public policy because these are deeply personal issues for him. He achieved and experienced so much because of the support of a single mother with significant chronic health disabilities who taught him compassion and kindled in him a deep commitment to justice. [continue reading…]

Tonya Koslo – Cancer Survivor Who is Helping Others in Need

“There is something everyone can do to be a helper, even just a simple text to connect with others can be so uplifting! During this crisis it is so nice to be helping others.”

– Tonya Koslo

Tonya Koslo is the Director of Finance and Administration at RespectAbility. An experienced administrator whose skills include database management, state charitable registrations, computers, billing, legal requirements of human resource administration, websites and support services, she has helped RespectAbility since day 1 of our organization. This includes welcoming and onboarding each member of our staff and all of our National Leadership Fellows, a team of leaders with disabilities and strong allies who are working to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities.

Prior to joining RespectAbility, Koslo worked for Laszlo and Associates as the Executive Assistant and Office Manager and for eleven years in various capacities for the Mayor, Town Board and Town Administrator Biltmore Forest, North Carolina. In her free time, she volunteers at her church, is the president of her homeowner’s association and is active in local adoption groups. A cancer survivor, she knows the stress and risk that the COVID-19 crisis puts on people with underlying medical conditions.

With the recent COVID-19 crisis, Koslo spent day and night learning about how RespectAbility can stay afloat financially as demands for our work increased and fundraising could dry up. This included applying for the SBA PPP loan. She not only completed our paperwork; she has helped several other nonprofits get on the right track so they could also apply for the loans.  While no groups have gotten a response yet to their loan applications, success in this project can mean eight weeks of free payroll for a nonprofit organization. Given the significant increase in demands for the work of groups that serve at-risk populations during this economic and public health crisis, funding like this can be a game-changer.

Tonya Koslo and her husband Tim making masks in her houseIn addition to helping RespectAbility and other nonprofits, during her spare time, Koslo is making masks in conjunction with her husband Tim and one of his co-workers.  Tim works for Defense Intelligence Agency and uses a computer program to cut materials.  His coworker, Doug, has a 3-D printer at his home and makes the plastic head-straps for them. Koslo sews the materials together.  They are all using different skills to help as best as they can during this crisis.  Meanwhile, their fabulous two teen daughters are keeping up with their studies online and are assisting others online.  One of them is an award-winning artist and the other is an award-winning student architect. Additionally, as helping people runs in the family, their youngest is tutoring middle school Algebra for neighborhood kids.

RespectAbility loves all our staff, board and volunteers! We hope this short piece helps you get to know just one of our team members. We hope that you and yours are safe and healthy at this time.

Respect Ability - Fighting Stigmas. Advancing Opportunities.

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RespectAbility
HQ: 11333 Woodglen Drive, #102, Rockville, MD 20852
West Coast: 350 S Bixel Street
Los Angeles CA 90017

Office Number: 202-517-6272
info@respectability.org

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