140|Jo Ann Simmons - Podcast Interview
In those first few days of his life, I realized that I wasn’t going to change anything about Jonathan, but I was going to change the world for him. - Jo Ann Simons
She remembers everything getting really quiet in the delivery room just moments after her son Jonathan was born. It was May, 1979 and Jo Ann Simons was 26 years old. Her pregnancy had been textbook… no surprises, until this moment. About 4 hours later, she and her husband heard the words: “your baby has Down syndrome.” At that time, services for families with disabled children were either minimal, or non-existent so Jo Ann Simons decided to change all that. Armed with a Masters in Social Work, she did not see a world that she wanted for her son, so she set out to build one for him and for others with developmental disabilities. If you ask her, she’ll tell you: “I didn’t choose this career, it chose me”. Now the President & CEO of Northeast Arc, Jo Ann is considered both a trailblazer and a champion to the 15,000 people in 190 communities her organization serves. Northeast Arc is leading the way in innovative ideas designed to help people with developmental disabilities become part of the communities where they live including the creation of a coffee shop called “Breaking Grounds” which serves as a training ground for people with disabilities who are interested in working in the food service industry. A few years ago, Jo Ann launched “Arc Tank” with a 1 million dollar donation and in 2020, she spearheaded her largest project to date: negotiating a lease for 26,000 square feet of highly visible space in the heart of the Liberty Tree Mall which will become the new home of The Linking Lives Center and Northeast Arc. A member of the Massachusetts Governor’s Commission on People with Developmental & Intellectual Disabilities and the Autism Commission, Jo Ann lives by the credo: “I want to leave this world a little better than I found it.” Download this inspiring story for a gigantic dose of grit, gratitude and wisdom. #storybehindhersuccess #northeastarc #disabilities
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