ODM Welcomes Individuals of All Abilities

By Nicole Zaccaria

In July of 1990, George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law, prohibiting discrimination against persons with disabilities. 

Since then, cities throughout the nation have celebrated July as Disability Pride Month.

One definition of pride is a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements.  

I write this after participating in this year’s Side x Side Mission in June. This was my first year doing so. I had heard stories of the magic of Side x Side — the witness of God’s love as adults and youth work side-by-side, building relationships as they build structures and work as the hands and feet of Jesus.  

This year, I had the pleasure of bringing Open Doors Ministry (ODM) to Side x Side. There, I bore witness to the love of true inclusion. There was no intention of molding individuals into the expectation of Side x Side; rather, Side x Side met each person exactly where they were.  It was God’s love in action and the epitome of “deep pleasure and satisfaction.”

ODM is a ministry dedicated to supporting individuals with differing abilities so that they can participate fully in the life of Grace. It started in 2009 when two parents recognized the obstacles faced by many families seeking a church with loved ones with disabilities.  

The position of ODM coordinator was created in 2014. Since then, this ministry has grown and is now supporting individuals of all ages. 

We’ve expanded beyond Sunday School to supporting within worship, Vacation Bible School, choir, and mission work. 

We are now involved in a national network of churches that provide similar ministries, but it may come as a surprise that we are often the example they aim to emulate. Our supports are varied, individualized, and focused on inclusion.  Some supports are minimal, and some are extensive.

Reflecting on ODM and this year’s Side x Side experience seems perfect timing for a month set aside for pride.  I am so proud of Grace for having ODM. I am so proud of the committee members and buddies who have committed their time and care to ODM.  I am so proud of the families who have trusted ODM to support their loved ones.  Most of all, I am so proud of the ODM participants for sharing their humor, energy, character, and love with us at Grace. We are so very blessed!

If you would like more information about ODM, please contact Nicole Zaccaria at odm@peopleofgrace.org.