The Gathering Place Update

Board Membersthe Gathering Place logo
Jerry South
Bob Bighouse
Randell Resneder
Mark Bailey
Joyce Page
Rebecca Page

Date 5/7/15
About the Gathering Place:
The main purpose of the Gathering Place is to outreach, educate and advocate for vulnerable adults and children, and their families in the Big Bend Area. We specialize in people with disabilities (intellectual and physical) which includes children and adults. We are unable to support mental health disabilities at this time. Our organization is not only for people with disabilities, but run by them on a volunteer basis. Disabilities represented on our board are: hearing impairment, Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, Lou Gehrigs Disease, and Down syndrome. Our goal is to support vulnerable people to advocate for themselves and support each other. We provide 3 core services: Information and Referral, Advocacy, and Peer Support.
Our board is currently made up of 7 members. 6 out of 7 have a disability (our quota is 50% of our board has a disability). Many of our board members have been struggling with health issues, so we are looking for some new board members to help out.
Joyce Page, and Randell Resneder are the board members who provide the most information, referral and advocacy services. We do not provide any direct care, but we can support families or individuals to find the services they need. This also includes, but is not limited to serving on local and regional committees to help the community at large.
Peer support is generally provided through support organizations such as Special Olympics or Big Bend Down Syndrome Association. We provide some administrative and fundraising support to both of these groups. We also have a social group called Amazing Amigos for families and individuals with disabilities.
Current Activities:
The need for our services has continued to be minimal. We have been privileged to continue to help a few people who need information about services, and to advocate for some adults with disabilities but the demand continues to be low. In 2013, we decided there was not enough demand for an actual staffed location, so we gave up our “center”. We have continued to put most of our effort and man power into supporting Special Olympics and the Benevolence Fund.
Big Bend Independent Special Olympics Team is now into its second year. They have 5 active athletes and several others who have expressed interest, but do not show up. The 5 athletes who have participated have enjoyed it immensely. They have 4 Class A volunteers who are certified coaches. Due to lack of interest from athletes, families and volunteers, they are keeping a minimum schedule of events and activities. Learning all the procedures related to Special Olympics Texas has kept the volunteers busy. The team has done minimal fundraising due to the rigid SOTX rules related to team fundraising.
The Gathering Place board has agreed to help with fundraising for the “special athletes” who make up the Big Bend Independent Special Olympics Team. We have paid mainly for travel expenses to train coaches in El Paso, attend competitions in El Paso and to get equipment for our athletes. We have kept records of income and expenses for the special athletes.
We met the Special Olympics team in Ft Stockton and learned about the way they are operating. They are serving people with disabilities of all ages as an independent team just like BBISO. They are taking donations for their “special athletes” and using the money for their team without sending anything to Special Olympics Texas. This keeps all the donation money local. They also have the support of their schools and have free use of buses, drivers and donated gas! BBISO would like to get to that point if possible. They have contacted the last school superintendent about getting the kids involved, but we just heard that we have a new superintendent.
Another group we have been affiliated with us the Big Bend Down Syndrome Association which has not been active for a couple of years. They had a meeting last December with four families from Alpine represented. We hope to see the group continue to grow.
Ginger Hillary has continued to work with St. James Episcopal church to put on dances for our social group, the Amazing Amigos.
We set up the Benevolence fund originally for Eddie Leyva. This last November, we took donations for the benevolence fund for Rebecca’s eye surgery. We raised about $4000. total for her eye surgery. Anyone with a disability, who has a need, can request that the Gathering Place help them with fundraising. The request has to be brought to the board and fit criteria.
Transportation is one of our biggest needs in the area. People with disabilities just can not get out especially in the bad weather. Most of them walk where they need to go. We have had to advocate for them at TRAX several times because TRAX has been hard to work with when requesting “public transportation”. I believe we would be able to recruit more athletes for Special Olympics and more attendees to events if we had transportation. Bob Schwartz of the Transportation Department had mentioned a grant for rural areas for transportation. I think now that we have our 501-3C, I would like to look into this grant. Joyce has recently been asked to participate in a Far West Texas/El Paso Regional Transportation Coordination Committee (WTEP) for public transportation coordination planning.
What are our needs?
Peer Support Needs: Social Event coordinator.
Over the last few years, the movement in society has been to integrate people with disabilities with people without disabilities, starting with the school children. This has been a positive step toward acceptance of people with disabilities, however, people with disabilities still have needs that can not be met in the regular community. Many relationships between disabled and non-disabled made in schools or in the community are based on benevolence. Well-meaning people befriend those with disabilities, but the relationships that result are not always real bonds of friendship.
Parents of children and adult children with disabilities greatly benefit from peer support as well. Coming together to share common successes and frustrations can be very healthy.
One of the goals of Peer Support is to facilitate opportunities for friendships to develop among people with disabilities. Many of the adults with disabilities who live in our area are isolated and lonely. They may have jobs and family activities, but they do not know the joy of a good friend to go to the movies with. Unfortunately, these people often are unable to initiate these social events, so we need to help them by planning and facilitating the events for them. Just planning a movie night and transportation is beyond their ability.
Special Olympics has attempted to meet this need. It is a good program, but we could do more. Unfortunately, many people with disabilities and their families in this area do not know or understand the need for peer support.
Needs for Special Olympics: Class A Volunteers needed which includes: Fundraising man power, transportation to practices for our athletes, coaches and assistants, administrative tasks such as finances. Continued funding for transportation to competitions, bowling practices, uniforms and equipment.
Transportation Needs: Transportation coordinator. Direct transportation of people to our events. Grant writer to be able to get our own transportation.
Marketing Needs: In April of 2013, we participated in a Disability Awareness Week. We did a major push in advertising and community awareness events. We would like to do this again but we do not have the man power.
The Avalanche has been terrific at covering our events. We need to continue to get the word out this way.

Amazing Amigo Events

February had two more wonderful Amazing Amigo events!  Amazing Amigos is a group started in Idaho, but now has an unofficial “chapter” here in Alpine, TX.  Amazing Amigos is a social group that loves AmazingCowboyPoets2015to have fun!


These Cowboy Poets gave us a special performance one night!


IMG_3877 IMG_3878















Valentines Day 2015

Special Athletes!

The Gathering Place is proud to announce that they are supporting the Big Bend Independent Special Olympics team!  The team recently came back from El Paso where they competed in the Regional Games Bowling competition.

DSC_0210February 5-8, 2015, the team will be traveling to Austin to attend the State Winter Games.

The Gathering Place is helping with transportation costs and new uniforms.  If you would like to donate to the Gathering Place, you will be helping our special athletes!


Big Bend Special Olympics Team Update

We are off and running… or should I say… off and swimming, dribbling and driving!

Golfing with Layla and Rebecca

Golfing with Layla and Rebecca

Aquatics with Rachel and Rebecca

Aquatics with Rachel and Rebecca

Basketball with Rachel, Rebecca, Layla and Elijah

Basketball with Rachel, Rebecca, Layla and Elijah

A newly formed Special Olympics team is now available for adults in the Big Bend area. The Big Bend Independent Special Olympics Team provides opportunities for young adults with disabilities to continue competing in Special Olympic events after they leave high school. The new team is open to those who are no longer eligible for the ISD team, and also to home schoolers or anyone else who would like to participate.

Athletes are already in training to compete in aquatics, golf and basketball skills.

The aquatics competition will be held at the William Cowan Pool on Sat. April 5 in El Paso. Athletes are currently training at the Sul Ross Pool, Fridays at 5pm.

Special Olympics athletes will also compete in golf. The tournament will be held at the Underwood Golf Course, Sat. April 26, from 9am – 3pm. at Fort Bliss in El Paso. Athletes train on Tuesdays, at 1pm, at the Alpine Country Club.

Athletes will compete in basketball skills, and will be working on 3-on-3, half court matches. The Basketball Individual Skills Competition will be held at the Montwood High School Gym in El Paso.

Special Olympics provides an opportunity for athletes to make friends, stay healthy and learn more about their favorite sports.

Rachel and Becky are two of the participating athletes who are training in the basketball program.

“I’m living my dreams” said Becky. “If I can do it, you can too! I love it! I’ve made new friends,” she said.

“Win State! We can do it,” Rachel said emphatically.

These feelings are not limited to the athletes. Coach Josh Hinojosa loves to see the joy and excitement on athlete’s faces. Coach Steph Bohanna agrees, “I love working with the kids,” she said. “I love their heart and dedication.”

The head of the delegation for the Special Olympic Team is Joyce Page, a local businesswoman who founded The Gathering Place and spear-headed this new effort.

“I hope we provide a lifelong community event,” she said. “We are off to a good start. Our athletes are part of our community and it is heartwarming to see the community of Alpine step up and be a part of the lives of our Special Olympic athletes.

Volunteer coaches for all the events include Jim Hector, Julie Obbink, John Maxwell, Rocky Feliciano, Francisco Atkinson, Josh Hinojosa, Steph Bohanna, Sandra Chambers and many Sul Ross University student athletes.

Sul Ross and the Alpine Country Club were eager to help the new team get started. They provided practice space for athletes and volunteer coaches.

Donations for the new team can be made to Special Olympics FBO, The Big Bend Independent Special Olympics Team.  Drop off, or mail donations to, 301 W. Holland Ave. Alpine Tx. 79830. (Livin My Dreams locked mail box)

To volunteer with the Special Olympics Team, contact Joyce Page at 432-294-4028.


Sign Language Classes!

signlanguageimageWe are very excited to start offering some fun Sign Language Classes!  Sign Language is a fun language to learn and hopefully you will make a new friend some day when you are able to communicate to a person who is deaf.

If your job keeps you involved with the public, you are bound to run into someone with a hearing impairment sooner or later.  Wouldn’t you like to be able to communicate the basics with them??

The Gathering Place is offering 2 week long sessions of basic sign language vocabulary.  All ages and abilities are welcome to come learn a few basic words.  Come every day, or just when you can – you will pick up a few new words each day.  The sessions are:

Monday – Friday July 1-5, 2013 at 10 am

Monday – Friday August 1-5 at 10 am

$5.00 donation is suggested

Our teacher, Kandra Brazell will also be teaching Sign Language for Odessa College Community Ed in July.  This will also be a basic class, but it will be a 6 week class that meets 2 days a week.  CCUs are available to people who need them for nursing certificates, teaching certificates, etc.  For more information about that class… go to:

Summer Fun!

The summer events have been a great success so far!  Everyone had a great time at the Summer Kickoff.. we added three new families that week!

Great time playing games!

Great time playing games!

Danielle - We are so proud of you!

Danielle – We are so proud of you!















We had our first Art Class with Jerry!  We had a great turnout and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves!

Jerry was a great teacher!

Jerry was a great teacher!

Great turn out!!

Great turn out!!














The adults have had more fun this month too!  Rachel, Crystal and Hope have all enjoyed their time in the art studio, gone out to lunch and to the movies.   Eddy was seen at the Chamber Mixer with Becky!

An Awesome Week!

This week has been amazing!  We have reached over 100 people face to face, and more through the radio and tv!   Here are some of the highlights: