Life on Whidbey: Don’t demean people with disabilities


By Eileen Brown

Ever notice how some people, maybe you yourself, feel uncomfortable around those with disabilities? Do we help them or not? What about disabilities one cannot see? What is the correct way to address them?

RHEA NELSON is more than director of NEW LEAF. She is the organization’s faithful banner waver and a wonderful advocate. She demands that everyone with disabilities get the dignity and respect they deserve.

“People with a disability hate the word ‘handicapped.’ We should be saying ‘people with disabilities’ or ‘employees with disabilities,’” she said.

Nelson spoke at the Oct. 18 Chamber of Commerce meeting and took guests through the organization’s last 38 years of service to the community. She took pride in saying they are recognized internationally as holders of the oldest, active federal service contract, their grounds maintenance contract at NAS Whidbey Island.

“The only difference with the way we perform our contract is that we carry them out with 75 percent of all direct labor hours being performed by people who are certified as severely disabled,” she explained. “The word ‘disabled’ is nowhere in the contracts. But the word ‘disabled’ is cited in the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act law under which we are granted our contracts. It allows us to take tasks we feel we can perform off the federal procurement list for goods and services and perform them with employees with disabilities.” New Leaf complies with the laws and provisions of 43 different agencies and entities.

“Willingly and happily,” she added.

Guests then heard a fascinating but sad story about the origins of the word “handicapped.” During the Crimean War, English war veterans who were lucky enough to have returned from the battlefield, who were amputees or worse, were given the sole “veterans benefit” from the English government: being allowed to beg. To ensure that these men were legitimate veterans of the war, the government issued caps that would identify them and legitimize their begging.

The veterans would tip their hat and proffer it to passersby for coins, hence the term “hand to cap” or “handicap.” People with disabilities are not beggars.

If you interested in New Leaf’s mission, consider becoming a board member. If you are simply an enlightened friend, there are other ways you can serve. Call Nelson at 675-1989.

Save room for pie

JACK STILTZ and KC POHTILLA are in the thick of planning for Thanksgiving dinner. Not their own. The one prepared for the entire community.

Jack, owner of Bay Printing, confirms that SCOTT FRASER of Frasers Gourmet Hideaway on Dock Street will serve as head chef again this year. The Elks Lodge will swell to capacity from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 22.

This incredible feast costs you nothing and all are welcome, folks of every age and circumstance. If you are alone, don’t stay alone. You’ll make new friends over a delightful meal.

Volunteers are needed to welcome people, help in the serving line and cut pies. Call KC at 679-2425 and leave your name and number. She’ll get back to you and assign a time for workers. No transportation? No problem. Just tell KC.

Thanks to the WHIDBEY CRUZERS, meals will be delivered to shut-ins again this year.

Your donations are appreciated.

From turkeys to wild birds

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife advised people earlier this year to stop backyard feeding after receiving dozens of reports of sick or dead birds at feeders and a laboratory analysis confirmed salmonellosis disease in bird carcasses.

“It’s been several weeks since we’ve received any reports consistent with salmonellosis, so from a disease-prevention standpoint, it appears to be safe to start feeding birds again,” said Kristin Mansfield, WDFW veterinarian. Keep feeders clean by disinfecting them on a regular basis with chlorine bleach solutions, one part bleach to 10 parts water.

Finches, grosbeaks and pine siskins flock together in large numbers and transmit the disease through droppings. Check out

A spandex holiday

I feel I can relax and enjoy the holidays now that I know what to wear. I have a perfect evening suit that will fit nicely as long as I stick to four tortilla chips and just one diet Coke. My favorite black velour outfit has bling and stretch — my choice for Thanksgiving at the Elks Lodge. A flowing kimono and velvet pants are reserved for those occasions where, at least in the past, I’ve been wedged against a wall for hours. Dressing up next year will be a no-brainer. I’ve got my holiday uniform ready to go.

See you next week. Call me at 675-6611 or write