Harbor House of Louisville: Helping Empower Adults with Disabilities is a Win-Win

On April 30, 2016, the Ohio River will turn yellow, as more than 20,000 rubber duckies are dumped to compete in a “float to the finish line” in the 13th Annual Ken-Ducky Derby to benefit Harbor House of Louisville. For the first time ever, the duck race is an official part of the Kentucky Derby festivities.

Our team at C.I.Agent Solutions, named Dave’s Secret Agent Quackers, has made us proud so far. Initially, our goal was set at 500 ducks, which seemed lofty at the time. However, through much rallying of the troops on behalf of Dave Jett, our CFO, we easily reached and surpassed 500, with more than a month to spare before the contest. So, we decided to up the ante, and raised our goal to 1000. A few weeks later, we met that goal as well – but we’re still going strong. Anyone who wants to join our team or buy a few ducks to support Harbor House are encouraged to do so. First prize is a brand new car, courtesy of Sam Swope Nissan!

While our company supports many worthy causes and non-profits, Harbor House of Louisville holds a special place in our hearts. It is especially important to Dave Jett, who has been a member of their board of directors for several years. Here is his story.

Picture of Dave
Dave Jett, CFO at C.I.Agent Solutions, is captain of Dave’s Secret Agent Quackers for the 13th Annual Ken-Ducky Derby race on April 30. Be sure to adopt a duck to support the Harbor House!

On January 21, 2002, Dave and his wife Dorothy went through the most horrifying event a parent can ever face – the death of a child. Their warm, sweet, funny daughter, Katie Jett, was taken from them suddenly and tragically, leaving a void of indescribable sadness. While time eventually helps numb the pain after losing a loved one, there is no timetable for grieving, and figuring out how to continue on can become an overwhelming chore in itself.

Finding a sense of purpose through the devastation of loss won’t make the pain stop, but it can help ease the process. And for Dave, that sense of purpose came from an organization called Harbor House of Louisville.

Picture of Katie
Katie Jett

“In the hours and days after losing Katie, I had this feeling that I needed to escape the stresses of the known workforce and devote time to a non-profit organization,” says Dave, an executive at Republic Bank at the time, though he didn’t initially have one in mind. Several years passed, and while time had helped him cope, the yearning to become involved in something purposeful persisted in his soul. He heard about Harbor House during a business meeting; not long after, one of his customers asked him to consider joining the board of directors. Could it possibly be the meaningful opportunity he had been seeking for so long?

He wasn’t sure. He was hesitant, and even a little afraid. Dave, like many others, had never been around people with disabilities, and had difficulty comprehending the struggles they endure on a daily basis. Often, we allow fear to dictate our actions or to influence our decisions, but as Marie Curie so eloquently stated, “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” Determined NOT to give fear the power of defining his sense of purpose, Dave decided to take a tour of the facility. What he encountered was overwhelming, humbling and remarkably enlightening.

Maria Posing
Maria Smith, CEO of Harbor House of Louisville, posing with one of the program participants

“Ultimately, what I saw there was folks who I thought had so little, burdened with different disabilities, and surprisingly were so happy just to be spoken to, or given a hug,” Dave explains. “There are too many people in this community who have so much and are so miserable; in contrast, Harbor House participants seem so disadvantaged, yet are so happy.”

So he joined the board.


A Win-Win

Founded in 1992, the Harbor House of Louisville is built on a win-win model that has a special ability to empower adults with disabilities, foster relationships and make a difference with all participants involved. For those unaware, disabled children can attend public school until the age of 21; once they turn 21, however, the bus stops coming, causing many parents and caretakers to face a difficult dilemma. While no longer technically children, many disabled adults lack certain developmental skills to obtain steady employment, and need a safe and supportive environment to truly thrive. Unfortunately, parents and guardians still must attend to their daily duties, oftentimes leaving their adult children home alone.

We can agree, no matter our circumstance, we all strive for and enjoy independence. Success, happiness and other life achievements are often the result of accomplishing things on our own. Helen Keller once said, “One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar.” This statement summarizes the human desire of empowerment – after all, though stricken blind and deaf in early childhood, she refused to be dumb and mute, and overcame her disabilities to leave a lasting legacy. From the time we are born, our parents teach us how to care for ourselves until we reach adulthood. But what if achieving the goal of independence doesn’t fit nice and neat within the first 21 years of life?

How would you feel if the bus that has for years and years, day after day, picked you up to learn, socialize and leave your house … stops coming?
How would you feel if the bus that has for years and years, day after day, picked you up to learn, socialize and leave your house … stops coming?

For those that need the continued support, to be able to experience employment and live a life of purpose, Harbor House is the missing link. In a secure, safe and uplifting environment, participants receive the help and support they need to grow and develop and become contributing members of society. Harbor House provides the right tools and the mindset of empowerment to achieve their own kind of independence and purpose. In addition, the win-win program model also offers their families peace of mind in knowing their children and loved ones are safe and developing in a positive way.

Full Mail Room View
Full Mail Room View

Over the years, Harbor House of Louisville has continued to grow and expand. They offer a number of employment programs for participants, including Bulk Mail Services, Employment Development, and Home Sweet Home, among others. (Feel free to read about those programs in more detail below.) The best part about this organization is that it is based off love, and is focused on facilitating a hand up… not a hand out. It is driven by the love of fellow human beings, but even more important, it provides a beacon of light in a cold world, to participants and supporters alike.

Dan Parker, President of C.I.Agent Solutions, poses with Kitty, a Harbor House participant
Dan Parker, President of C.I.Agent Solutions, poses with Kitty, a Harbor House participant

“It is an incredible feeling to see and experience the joy expressed by the participants as they go about their everyday work routine,” says Dave. In many ways, it’s an enlightened mindset … instead of complaining about going to work, like so many of us do, imagine being desperate to go to work, but not having the opportunity. Harbor House achieves this for adults with disabilities, not by handing them a crutch to lean on, but by giving them a sword and the training to use it.


Dave’s Secret Agent Quackers

Duck In River
Ducks In River

Today, like every day, Dave feels a sadness in his heart that will never go away over the loss of his only daughter. But he also finds some solace in his involvement with Harbor House over the last few years, and is appreciative and humbled to be a part of an organization that positively impacts the local community in so many ways. As a company, we’ve all been excited to rally behind Dave’s Secret Agent Quackers, and can’t wait until the 2016 Ken-Ducky Derby takes place at Waterfront Park on Saturday, April 30. It will be a sight to see if they meet their goal and dump 25,000 ducks into the Ohio!

Mark Twain once said, “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” Why not get the full value of joy by dividing it with the Harbor House? Join us in cheering for Dave’s Secret Agent Quackers duck as they float towards the finish line! Adopting a $5 duck may not seem like a huge contribution, but each duck represents and supports a cause that gives purpose to so many people. It’s a win-win all around!

Support Dave’s Secret Agent Quackers team – click here to adopt now!

Every Oaks Day, we host the Oaks Day Golf Scramble charity event to raise funds for charity. Half of all we raise is donated to Harbor House of Louisville, in memory of Katie Jett and Jack Combs III. Interested in playing or sponsoring this year? Contact C.I.Agent Solutions for more info! [Link to the appropriate flyers]
Every Oaks Day, we host the Oaks Day Golf Scramble charity event to raise funds for charity. Half of all we raise is donated to Harbor House of Louisville, in memory of Katie Jett and Jack Combs III. Interested in playing or sponsoring this year? Contact C.I.Agent Solutions for more info!

To learn more about Harbor House of Louisville, visit their website at www.hhlou.org; for more information about the 2016 Ken-Ducky Derby, visit https://www.duckrace.com/louisville.


A Day in the Life of a Harbor House Participant

Do you have a disabled friend or loved one who’s interested in becoming a Harbor House participant? Here’s what a day spent at Harbor House could be like:

White board

When walking into the main Harbor House facility on Lower Hunters Trace, participants should expect to be greeted with open arms, hugs and smiles. Each day, they offer several activities that facilitate fun and challenging interactions and socialization.

At the front of the activities/craft room, a white board lists all the activities planned for that day, such as group games, dances and movies. They also offer some special days, like “Pajama Day,” that the participants always enjoy, and never fail to celebrate important dates such as birthdays.

win-win lisa and Bud copy

During the spring, summer and fall, many participants choose to work in the 15-bed therapy garden in the Harbor House backyard. Working together to plant, grow, care for and maintain a variety of vegetables, fruits, flowers, herbs and other plants allows participants to build and develop their communication, nurturing and friendship skills. To ensure everyone can enjoy the patio area around the garden, the Harbor House even has a special swing designed for wheelchair accessibility!

Garden copy

hug in mailroom

While the community room is always the hub of fun activities, many of the participants spend their time in the mail room, where they can earn a pay check!

All these win-win departments and activities are made possible because of the love, volunteers and community that supports and surrounds the Harbor House of Louisville.



Click to Continue Reading Next Section: Bulk Mail and Fulfillment Services

Bulk Mail and Fulfillment Services

Pic of mail room

The Harbor House bulk mail and fulfillment services offer participants an in-house opportunity to learn multiple vocational skills and earn an income. The mail room’s five-step operations process guarantees mailings meet all postal standards and regulations. The participants also do jobs like mail list maintenance, sorting, collating, stamp affixing and packaging. A complete “one-stop” shop, Harbor House can handle mailings of all sizes, from holiday cards, to monthly newsletters, to specialty marketing packages. And the best part? The bulk mail and fulfillment department not only provides an income source for participants, it also financially supports the organization.

To learn more about mail services contact Celena Olliges at colliges@hhlou.org

Supported Employment Department

Corey Anthony, Employment Coordinator
Corey Anthony, Employment Coordinator

Through community partners and volunteers over the years, Harbor House has expanded the available work opportunities by designing a Supported Employment department. A win-win approach that benefits both the participants and business owners, the Supported Employment Department of Harbor House matches individuals that have disabilities with meaningful employment opportunities based on their character traits, interest and abilities, through working with them one-on-one. They also participate in job fairs, donned in professional apparel donated by local non-profits like Dress for Success, and if needed, can receive on-site job coaching from the department. “Supported Employment opens the eyes of business owners within the community,” says Supported Employment Specialist, Kaye Dalton. “We introduce them to a workforce that is ready, willing and able to work.” This win-win combination fills positions such as receptionists, bakers, teachers and warehouse workers, among others, with a number of local employers, including but not limited to UPS, Sondergeld Plumbing, Hikes Point Day Care and Kroger.

Home Sweet Home


There’s nothing more satisfying to one’s soul than a tidy, well-kept home – it is our pride and joy. However, for an aging senior, the burden of even light housekeeping can become overwhelming, causing some who once took great pride in the state of their home to face unfamiliar, and uncomfortable, feelings of embarrassment or shame. However, Harbor House has a win-win solution that benefits both the aging as well as the disabled communities, called Home Sweet Home (HSH). Officially launched in 2015, this program integrates individuals with disabilities with senior citizens, allowing both participants to foster new relationships and enjoy the benefits of independence, hard work and friendship. HSH is a service based program offering stay-at-home seniors in the local community in-home services such as light cleaning, laundry and grocery shopping.

To learn more about Home Sweet Home contact Karen Fallon at kfallon@hhlou.org

Donate Your Time – Volunteer Today

Katie McWhorter, Volunteer Coordinator, poses with Angie, a Harbor House participant. Contact Katie for information about volunteering.
Katie McWhorter, Volunteer Coordinator, poses with Angie, a Harbor House participant. Contact Katie for information about volunteering.


Have your own ideas about a possible win-win addition to the Harbor House offerings and programs? Why not get involved? The great news is that it’s so easy to help the Harbor House of Louisville expand their win-win capabilities. Throughout the year, they’re active in a number of different community events and activities, from softball leagues to movies to luncheons and more. There are all kinds of ways to discover joy and purpose through this great non-profit, and they couldn’t do what they do without the support of so many dedicated volunteers. Click here for upcoming volunteer opportunities.




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