Tag Archives: assembly

Taking the “Special” Out of Special Needs

February 24, 2014 by

VODEC began in 1968 when a group of parents, educators, and others sought to implement a paradigm shift in how people with disabilities are perceived and, more vitally, how they interact with society. Loved ones with disabilities were too commonly all but invisible throughout the larger community. Many went to special schools. Some lived in special housing arrangements. The emphasis, it seemed, invariably centered on the concept of “special.”

“We serve people first and foremost as members of society,” says Daryn Richardson, the local nonprofit’s services development director. “Only secondarily do we see them as persons with disabilities, as persons with special needs.”

VODEC provides day programs, employment programs, and residential programs that are designed to meet most every need in helping individuals and communities reach their full potential through inclusion.

Originally known as the Vocational Development Center, VODEC today serves over 500 individuals with intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities.

“The core of our mission is to recognize each and every person’s full potential as just that—a person with unlimited potential,” says Richardson. “It’s the most basic of starting points in our thinking, and we want the community to think the same way. After all, these are our sons, our daughters, our neighbors, our friends.”

The nonprofit offers a robust slate of programs. The business services unit offers packaging, assembly, shrink-wrapping, and other services staffed by VODEC’s people. Activities programs include dining out and trips to parks, museums, and other places of interest. Additional initiatives are aimed squarely at the idea that we are all social beings. Such topics as how to meet new friends, strategic thinking and problem solving skills, stranger danger, and understanding boundaries help open doors to a broader, richer world for all.

Creativity was the buzzword the day Omaha Magazine visited VODEC.

“WhyArts is here today (see related story on page 111) so they encountered a room full of artists,” says Richardson. “Sure, they also happen to be persons with disabilities, but today they are artists. We want to give them every opportunity to be themselves and experience life in new and rewarding ways. Tomorrow and next week and next month they will be something else, but today they are artists.”

VODEC's Pam Wyzykowksi with Greg Foster

Visit vodec.org for additional information.

Polishing a Legacy

December 10, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

America’s long love affair with the automobile is perhaps best told in stories of fathers and sons. The 1932 Chevrolet Cabriolet convertible featured in this installment of “How I Roll’ has for a half century been at the center of one such father/son vignette.

“My dad collected and restored many, many cars,” says Mark Chickinelli, “but he always said that this would be the very last car he would ever do. It was that special to him. He was willing to wait for decades to fulfill that promise. Sadly, he was only half right on his prediction.”

20131017_bs_6809

A debilitating stroke three years ago ended the hands-on stage of Val Chickinelli’s restoration hobby. Known for leading Omaha Plating Co. for 50 years on the corner of 24th and Leavenworth streets, Val had purchased the vehicle known as a “Baby Cadillac” in the early ’60s. Punctuating the point that he was a patient man, restoration began only in 1999. A fire later destroyed many of the car’s key components as fate did its best to thwart what would become a son’s race against time in fulfilling a father’s wish.

After his dad’s stroke, Mark stepped in and also enlisted his father’s longtime collaborator, Bob Chalek, perhaps the area’s foremost authority when it comes to work on classic Chevrolets, Pontiacs, and Oldsmobiles. Chalek had more than a craftsman’s love for the iconic car for he had once, oddly enough, owned this very same beauty back in the 1950s.

20131017_bs_6785

“I grew up in my dad’s businesses,” says Mark. “Ever since I was 8, he had me doing odd jobs, and that often meant moving any number of his 100 vintage cars. We moved this car more times than I can remember. It was disassembled and in boxes, and we moved it from storage place to storage place, but it was like it was always there waiting for us.”

Restoring automobiles, to the Chickinelli family, is an endeavor elevated to high art, something that is second nature to Mark. He is a fine art painter who has done work for such clients as Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

Val passed away in August, only shortly after the restoration was complete.

“He only got to see it in pictures before he died,” Mark says, caressing the graceful curve of the car’s fender. “My dad will never ride in this car, but I think he’d be very pleased. It’s everything he ever dreamed it could be. It’s now a part of his legacy.”

Macquariums

November 25, 2012 by
Photography by Capture Photography and Videography

If Jake Harms knew then what he knows now, would he still have ventured down this entrepreneurial path? Yes, he says, but “If I divided out the time I had into it [by] the money that I’ve made, I would probably cry,” he chuckles.

Harms’ stumbled onto his labor of love a few years ago when, at work, he was asked to discard an old Apple iMac computer. “I’m the kind of guy who likes to tinker with things…tear them apart and see how they work,” he says. “So, instead of throwing it in the trash can, I brought it home.” He recalls that the computer sat in his garage for a few weeks, until one day he saw a picture on the internet of a fish tank made out of the same iMac computer. “The Apple iMac had a really neat design…the transparent case…They looked really cool and they were all different colors. I decided, I can make one of those.”

For fun, Harms set out to design a tank and researched which filters and lights would best suit his project. He made a few more, each time tweaking here and there until he perfected his design. “I had a buddy who thought it was pretty cool, so I made one for him. Then I made one for another buddy. I thought, ‘Oh, I could probably sell about 50 of these in a year.’ That’s kind of how it all started.”Portraits 1 copy

Little did he know just how popular his little project would become. Since creating his first aquarium in late 2007, Harms has created a website and has sold close to 400 units. The units, which go for $299, can be ordered via his website and come built-to-order, with computer color and decorative details as options. With requests coming in from all over the world, Harms’ future looks pretty busy. “I get a lot of orders from the UK, Australia…I’ve shipped them to every corner of the world,” he says. “I don’t know how some people find out about them…I guess that’s the magic power of the internet.” Harms has even sold one of his creations to an Apple executive. “I asked him if I should be worried about building and selling these [aquariums from iMac computers]. He pretty much said no because it’s not giving Apple a bad name. But if I was making a million on them, then there might be an issue.”

With profiles in magazines and newspapers, a website, and Facebook page, this “little hobby” has become more of a side business. In fact, there’s a waiting list for his creations. In addition to working full-time in carpentry and construction, Harms and his wife also have a wedding photography and videography business.

When he does sit down, he is usually working on his aquariums, either buffing them free of scratches and signs of wear, or mass-assembling them. “I never really build one at a time,” he says. “I always take apart, like, 10 or 20 at a time and modify them assembly-line style.” He has the creation process pretty much down to a science, so the building goes relatively quickly. It’s tracking down the monitors and getting them that can be the most time-consuming part. “It can be kind of a hassle getting them,” he says.

In addition to creating aquariums, Harms offers aquarium-building kits, for those who may have an iMac of their own and are handy enough to take on their own project.

With orders coming in faster than Harms can make them, he is beginning to consider future projects. “My plan is to start making other things out of computers. I’ll start to do that as soon as I can’t find any more of the iMacs,” he shares. But for the foreseeable future, he’s happy to stay busy doing what he loves. “There’s a lot of time involved, but I enjoy it a lot.”