Community Connections Help Individuals with Disabilities Live a Good Life

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(Greenville, Ohio) – October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). This is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. The theme for 2014 is “Expect. Employ. Empower.”  The Darke County Board of Developmental Disabilities operates under two philosophies, Employment First and Community First.  When working with individuals to find work and ways to socialize and participate in activities of their interest, we will always look to the community first.  This month, we will be highlighting individuals who are contributing to their communities either through competitive employment, volunteering or both.

Sam Ploch is a 22 year old young man with Asperger’s Syndrome which is on the Autism Spectrum. Sam is a 2010 graduate from Greenville High School where he studied Interactive Media (IMTV) through Greenville’s Career Tech Center.  This continues to be an area of interest to him as his goal is to become a videographer.

After graduation, Sam began working at Wayne Industries where his skills were immediately utilized.  He was asked to video-record various events and trainings, a job previously done by staff.  After being trained on the equipment, Sam was responsible for setting-up, recording, tearing down, copying and cataloging the dvds for future use.  Sam was afraid that when he came to Wayne Industries he wouldn’t be able to use his skills from IMTV, he said “It is so great to continue to use my talents that I learned in Interactive Media, thankfully Jeff [Jeff Miller, Director of Wayne Industries] saw my potential, and he has helped me continue to do audio/video work.”  Sam is realizing his dream as he is currently contracted to work with two neighboring agencies as a videographer where he is earning well above minimum wage.

While Sam is securing some work as a videographer, not all opportunities and experiences are paid work. He has many other interests that he wants to pursue.  Sam enjoys connecting with the community through volunteering and club memberships.  It is a great way for him to learn more about his interests as well as to meet people who share his same passions.  Sam’s many interests include history, public speaking, acting, photography, trains, collecting, and art.

Because of his interest in history Sam met with Linda Newbauer, volunteer coordinator at The Garst Museum, to discuss ways he may be able to volunteer.  After touring the museum, he was most interested in the cataloging/accessioning division.  Sam now volunteers at the museum every Tuesday from 10am-2pm where he works alongside other volunteers to document, measure, and photograph the artifacts.  Linda had this to say when asked about having Sam at the museum, “We are very happy to have Sam volunteering for us. He is so qualified, responsible, energetic, punctual and congenial. He also has a great deal of attention to detail which makes him a perfect fit for this position. The day I met Sam I knew he would be a good fit for Garst Museum!

Don Kilgallon, who has been training Sam, feels the same way, “Sam has been a big help to me as we have been accessioning the tools, many of which need two people to handle them.  Sam has a great memory and his attention to detail is important in the work we do.”

Sue Huston, Community First Transition Coordinator for the Darke County Board of Developmental Disabilities said, “The success for making positive connections in the community depends greatly on the willingness of people to look past someone’s disability and focus on their talents, abilities and what they can offer.  It has been wonderful to see the community embrace Sam as he becomes more actively involved in his interests.”  Dr. Clay Johnson, Executive Director of The Garst Museum added, “Sam’s presence at the Garst Museum has been wonderful. Working with our volunteer Don Kilgallon, Sam is a great asset for the museum. I also feel it is important to note that Don’s dedication in assisting Sam has made a positive impact in providing a great atmosphere for him. Darke County is fortunate to have people like Don that volunteer their time and are dedicated in helping others.”

Sam assists Don in accessioning a jack plane at Garst Museum.

Sam assists Don in accessioning a jack plane at Garst Museum.



Continuing with his interest in history, Sam wanted to learn more about the Log House at Shawnee Prairie Preserve.  Roger Van Frank, Director of Darke County Parks and Laura Schwieterman, Volunteer Coordinator of Darke County Parks, were very excited to meet with Sam and discuss ways that Sam could volunteer.  Because of Sam’s interest in the Log House, the skills he possesses and the desire for the Park District to increase the visitation hours, they offered Sam an opportunity to train for the position of hosting the Log House.  Sam is in the process of training which includes learning the history of the time period as well as being fitted for period clothing and learning the skills of the day such as using a loom and a spinning wheel and what it would have taken to live in this period 200 years ago on the frontier.   Through this collaboration, Sam is able to gain experience and actively engage in what is most interesting to him…history, acting, public speaking and photography (they may utilize him to take photos of groups and classes for marketing purposes).

Roger had this to say about having Sam volunteer at Shawnee Prairie, “We are excited to have Sam become a part of our team at the Log House.  We believe he will bring many positive aspects to the visitors and volunteers alike. We are hoping to expand our hours of operation for the Log House. Our house is very unique and is our center piece for Historical Interpretation at Shawnee prairie.  We are encouraged by Sam’s enthusiasm; it is contagious.  We already have a great working relationship with Garst Museum, and many of Sam’s skills and knowledge may lead to future collaborations.  Anytime we can work with local agencies such as The Darke County Board of Developmental Disabilities it is a win-win situation.”  Sam will begin volunteering two days a week at Shawnee Prairie beginning in October with the hopes of increasing his days over the next few months.



Sam and Roger Van Frank, Director of Darke County Parks, at Shawnee Prairie Preserve.

Sam is continuing to create a full and rewarding life by pursuing additional interests, some of which include: railroading, model trains, art, and photography.  Sam has several goals that he is working toward. One goal is to purchase the Adobe Premier Elements photo/video editing software to use with his new camera.  This will allow him to experiment and improve his camera and video skills.  When asked about how his life has changed in the past few months, he said “It has been a very good experience working with everyone, my life is about to be transformed into something extraordinary.”

If you would like additional information about Employment First and Community First services through the Darke County Board of Developmental Disabilities, please contact Rodney Willis, Community First Director at or 937-548-9057

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