Growing up in a family with six kids, including two brothers with developmental disabilities, John Coffield is no stranger to the challenges of having loved ones with disabilities.
As long as John can remember, his mother Helen was actively involved with the developmental disabilities community in order to provide a better life for her two sons, Tom and Larry.
When the family first moved to Sidney, Ohio, in Shelby County in 1967, there were few, if any, resources to support people with developmental disabilities. Helen was instrumental in not only establishing the Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities, but also starting a school for children with disabilities, along with a workshop to provide them employment when they were older.
Helen’s work in the community did not go unnoticed. She was the recipient of many awards including, “Mother of the Year” from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation; “Outstanding Citizen Award” by the Sidney City Council; “Top 10 Women of Miami Valley” by the Dayton Daily News; and the “Distinguished Service Award” by the Kiwanis Club of Sidney.
Today, John and his siblings honor their mother’s legacy by continuing the noble work she started. The family still lives in Sidney or close by to help Tom and Larry, who live in the home they grew up in.
“This is the way we grew up, it was instilled in us by our mom,” says John. “I’m proud of all the work she did in Shelby County and her caring and hard work.”
John is an active member of the Shelby County Board that his mother helped start. Previously a board member, he now volunteers with the board regularly. He is also an active member of the “Aktion Club” with his local Kiwanis group. The club supports adults with developmental disabilities and helps them develop leadership skills and serve in their communities.
As for Tom and Larry, they still receive monthly service plans from the board. Although John and his family feel they are able to care for their brothers now, “It’s nice knowing the county board is there in case anything happens to us,” says John, who appreciates the dedicated volunteers in Shelby County, the place he is happy to call home.