By Juhi Varma
Nonprofit organization Triangle, Inc. held its annual Spirit of Triangle Cookout on Friday, September 7 at Triangle’s Pearl Street headquarters. Nine Spirit Awards were given this year to honor special achievements, exceptional contributions, and outstanding service to the organization. The otherwise ordinary parking lot of 420 Pearl Street was transformed into a colorful carnival with games, face painting, music, and delicious food.
“Our mission is to empower people with disabilities and their families and enable them to live rich and fulfilling lives, and to help the world recognize that we’re all people with ability,” explained Michael Rodrigues, CEO of Triangle.
Triangle was founded in 1971 to serve people with developmental disabilities. Over the next few years Triangle started providing these individuals with employment training and eventually opened two community residences in Malden. Today, Triangle aids over three thousand people from 170 communities throughout southern New England. It runs six employment service centers and ten residences in Malden, Danvers, Beverly, Braintree, Brockton, Lynn, Reading, and Waltham.
This year’s Spirit Award winners are a mix of participants, volunteers, and staff members. They were as follows: Paula Kitty for her work at the Fulfillment Center and Ablevision television program; Shawn Downs for his contribution to Ablevision; Staff Member Michelle Finneran-Korn; Supervisors Heidi Fischer and Julie Terode; Community Outreach Coordinator Karen Hayes of the mayor’s office; and participants Amanda Lendingham, Lloyd Clarke, and Boris Ayala.
“Working here has surpassed being simply a job, it has surpassed being a good fit,” said Finneran-Korn when she received her award. “Working here has melted my heart, it has been a blessing and a calling and God bless all [of] you. As you learn from me, I, in turn, learn from you.” Finneran-Korn was nominated by all the men from the Franklin Street residence home as well as all of her staff colleagues.
The event was sponsored by Mayor Gary Christenson, Anthony’s of Malden, Commonwealth Financial Group, Kayem, Verizon Pioneers, and State Street Bank. Volunteers in blue T-shirts weaved in and out of the crowd, setting up stalls and helping participant in wheelchairs. “They are from State Street Bank,” explained Rodrigues about the volunteers. “The bank has been not just a financial supporter, but it always gets involved.”
“These are people who have faced adverse conditions,” said Mayor Gary Christenson. “They have found the strength to overcome them and become productive members of our society. And it’s thanks to Triangle.”
“We all have ability, we all can do something. Unless I’m speaking with someone outside the organization, I rarely use the word disability,” Rodrigues said. “A lot of the folks who come to us have been socialized to focus on what they can’t do, so the first thing we do is to help them recognize that they have abilities, and they can use that as a springboard—ask themselves ‘what do I want to do with these abilities?’ It’s not just about finding work; we support them in developing 360 degrees worth of life goals.”