Meeting The Needs
Volunteer focuses her resourcefulness and passion on helping
those with multiple sclerosis.
Special to the Jewish News
or Jody Burton Slowins, taking charge of
her life and helping others take charge of
theirs is a top priority Slowins, an Ann
Arbor resident, was honored earlier this
month by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society
Michigan Chapter for her dedication to the people
with MS in her community.
Selected from a pool of candidates nominated from
many of the state's 83 counties, Slowins was chosen to
receive the Richard Ennis Award because of her role as
a key volunteer and a leader, said Rose Taylor, vice-
president of programs for the Michigan Chapter of the
National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Having lived with MS for 30 years, Slowins said she
recognizes the importance of knowing how to navigate
the medical system and the need for advocates to help
ensure that people's needs are met.
She said a common thread in her various volunteer
efforts is an emphasis on helping individuals reach
their optimal potential through realizing the options
available to them.
"Any way I could make life more manageable for
myself or other people, that excited me," she said. "I
guess it's the same answer to why I went into social
work. Even though I have a disease that's beyond my
control, there are many things that I can control and I
can have an influence over."
Among her volunteer efforts, Slowins is involved
with the local transportation advisory committee,
which deals with services to disabled and elderly per-
sons. She also facilitates a weekly MS support group
that has met once a week since its inception 19 years
ago. Most support groups in the state meet once or
twice a month.
"It's very important for me to do this for myself as
well as for others," Slowins said. "When I began 19
years ago, I was of the mind that often people do not
have the resources to get any kind of professional help
once they're diagnosed, I mean emotionally and social-
ly, and so I began facilitating the group once a week
and I continued."
She also helped develop the program Partners in
Personal Assistance, a non-profit cooperative that
matches people with disabilities with personal assistants,
giving them more control over the help they receive.
Volunteer Jody Burton Slowins, right, is congratulated by Beth Gotthelf; a board member of the National
Multiple Sclerosis Society Michigan Chapter.
The venture, which began as an idea in 1996 and
opened its doors in 1999, takes up a large portion of
her volunteer time, Slowins said.
She added that it is valuable because it puts the
process in the hands of the clients, allowing. them to
choose whom they work with, how many hours they
will receive assistance, and what those hours will be,
instead of leaving the decisions in the hands of an
'As you can see from all of the things she's involved
in, she's making a large contribution, not only to the
MS community, but to people with disabilities in gen-
eral," Taylor said.
She added that Slowins has stood out in the way she
lives her life and the exceptional things she does despite
"I'm passionate about my work. I myself have a dis-
ability and I need the resources," Slowins said. 'Ann
Arbor is a great place to live if you have a disability.
And I will tell you, thinking about this award I got,
there is nothing that makes me happier than knowing
I've made somebody's life a little bit easier, and that's
why I do it."
Ann Arbor resident Lena Ricks, Slowins' friend and
former supervisor, said she is struck by the way Slowins
approaches her responsibilities and tasks.
"She goes about her work in a very determined way
but with a gentle, giving approach. She knows how to
get things done," Ricks said.
Ricks added that Slowins' ability with people and
resourcefulness make her "a real asset to the disability
community in Ann Arbor."
Slowins said receiving the Richard Ennis Award was
especially meaningful because she knew Ennis, who
passed away several years ago and is remembered for
his work in providing services to improve the quality of
life for people with MS.
"I feel really honored," Slowins said, "because I had
known this person and he was really a spectacular indi-