Volunteer Spotlight: Ginger – Building Participants’ Toolkits for Success

Shining the Volunteer Spotlight on Ginger Houston-Ludlam!

Ginger is a woman on a mission! She is an energizer bunny, full of creative ideas, a jack of all trades and someone who loves to make dreams come to life. When asked why she gives so much of her heart, talent and effort to GiGi’s Playhouse Annapolis she shared; ” I love the leadership opportunities for participants that GiGi’s offers, and I want to make sure people with Down syndrome have the tools they need to have control and choices over their lives!”

A very big thank you to Ginger Houston-Ludlam who not only piloted GiGi’s Kitchen in person with teens and adults prior to the pandemic, but led it virtually, along with her awesome team of Chefs Diane and Kristin, for coming up to 68 weeks on the GiGi’s At Home platform! Ginger’s role includes selecting and organizing healthy recipes, providing hands-on skill building opportunities such as kitchen safety, knife handling, food safety, food preparation, healthy eating and importantly friendship during an isolating time. The program offers a wonderful routine for friends across the country to come together virtually and check in with each other… despite hurricanes, floods, people relocating, etc. The group loves coming together and sharing about their new jobs, talents (link to song writing) or exciting news like being selected as a maid of honor! We know where Ginger is every Wednesday at 5pm… in her kitchen with Carmen!

Currently Ginger is also piloting the GiGi Prep program with gusto! After planning for about a year, it was so exciting to launch the pilot this fall with a small cohort of adult participants and an awesome crew of volunteers. They work on money math with 1:1 tutors, have fitness work-outs (thank you Janet, Ann, and Robert!), learn career skills, listening and communication skills, and cook gaining independent living skills! Amazing growth is already being seen among our cohort who meet twice a week from 2-7:30pm at the Playhouse.  Ginger knows how to motivate adults and help them to reach for their #BestOfAll twice a week. She believes employment is important for people with Down syndrome, just like everyone else. “My daughter has a job she loves and I would like to have other people have that same opportunity.” A parent of one participant in the pilot program shares:

“Our daughter is through her second week of GiGi Prep, or GiGi’s College Prep, as we like to call it, and things are going very well. As it seems clear she will be moving to a group home in early October, this wonderful program couldn’t come too soon. She has enjoyed the cooking. Another valuable skill as she and her housemates will be integral during meal prep in their home. Whereas she expressed great nervousness as her Big Move approaches, I do feel that the lessons and habits reinforced by GiGi Prep have given her more confidence to strike out on her own.” GiGi’s parent

As if that’s not enough, Ginger agreed to team up to take on the GiGi’s – USNA Stadium Concessions Stand #7 for four games this fall. This entails many hours of organizing behind the scenes, getting to the stadium early to count all items, prepare for the day, as well as stay late closing the stand in the evening. Why does she do it, because adult participants are gaining hands-on life and employment skills at the pretzel machine, hotdog grill, popcorn maker, pizza oven, as well as running the beverages and more to the cashiers. It is fast-paced work environment where everyone is on their feet all day… does Ginger mind? Nope, she is well aware of the value these experiences offer her daughter and other GiGi’s friends with Down syndrome. They are building their resumes and references, not to mention the camaraderie and relationship building that comes along with Team GiGi’s! She shares, ” It saddens me that there is such a low level of job opportunities for people with Down syndrome. I want to make sure people with Down syndrome have tools to get jobs and having a job is a real source of self-esteem and offers them resources.”

Oh did we mention she serves as the “Floor Director” for the What’s Happening GiGi’s Playhouse Annapolis video blog? Cueing GiGi’s talented host and making any adjustments as needed during the video shoot. Andre says; “Ginger is prolific! She is such a great help with the production.”

Last but not least, Ginger was also the genius behind the Virtual Mixology FUNdraiser. She had attended a similar event and knew how much fun it was… she thought this would be a great experience for GiGi’s participants and their families. She organized a sewing class where participants created the GiGi’s coasters ironing, cutting and sewing. They are so cute and the adults were proud of their work. During the session participants followed a recipe, skewered cherries, squeezed limes, mixed and stirred, building small muscles and following directions, reading, doing math, listening and socializing… great skills to boost all for good cause, more GiGi free programming! A great time was had by all who joined in!

 

By the way, Ginger is a Microbiologist by trade, is employed as a college-level Biology instructor at UMD and enjoys spending time taking care of her emus on their farm! WOW! You Rock Ginger!!!

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