News and Tribune

Lifestyles

May 5, 2013

THE EXTRA MILER: Making people better

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — There are likely no words better to describe how Extra Milers make others feel than the following quote from an interview with Dana Thomas, YMCA of Southern Indiana housekeeping coordinator and the supervisor of our Extra Miler, Adam Sandifer.  “I'm so happy Adam is part of my life,” she said. “There is no doubt I am a better person because of him.”  

More than eight years ago, Adam started working at the YMCA as a volunteer. Impressed by his work ethics and positive attitude, Dana hired Adam as a part-time employee.  

Adam cleans the men’s locker room, steam room, takes out trash and performs other housekeeping and maintenance work as needed. Dana explained, “Adam takes a lot of pride in his job and he is committed to consistently do it well. Everyone loves Adam … he talks to everyone and asks how they are doing. He is very much embraced by his YMCA family.”  

David Block, community service coordinator/assistant director for the Volunteers of America (VOA), recommended Adam as our Extra Miler. David explained, “It’s great that others get to see Adam making a contribution and giving to others. Our folks have lots of labels and there are many stereotypes surrounding people with disabilities.  However, Adam breaks down those stereotypes by giving of his gifts and talents and by having positive relationships.”

With the help of the VOA, Adam volunteers many hours each week for multiple organizations, such as Perrin Park, Jeffersonville Aquatic Center, Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center and the J.B. Ogle Animal Shelter. He is also a greeter and volunteer at the Henryville United Methodist church.

The VOA staff member who primarily works with and guides Adam is Kevin Hostettler. They have worked together for two years. Kevin described Adam as an amazing individual and stated, “Adam enjoys life and likes challenges … new things; he has this positive influence on the people he works with and meets.”  

Nikki Dillon, director of aquatics and programs for the Jeffersonville Parks Department, has worked with Adam for several summers. She described him as, “one of the happiest people I’ve ever met; always helpful and courteous.”  She continued, “Actually, we would miss him terribly if he didn’t show up. He does his job well and people who swim at the center are able to see that our city and facilities are welcoming of everyone when they see Adam working.”  

All who have benefited from Adam’s volunteer time had similar positive comments regarding our Extra Miler. Travis Jackson, animal control officer for the J. B. Ogle Animal Shelter, described Adam as being, “very gentle and caring for the animals and those who come into the shelter.”  Travis indicated Adam is kind hearted and funny; making him a pleasure to have as a volunteer.  

Connie Farmer, naturalist and volunteer coordinator for the Falls of the Ohio State Park, said Adam helps the Falls with several chores such as vacuuming, washing windows, and collecting drift wood. She said, “He has a lot of enthusiasm and enjoys interacting with visitors and staff. He makes people smile and laugh and we wish we could have even more of his time.”  

Adam loves to work with anything that has a motor and that was clear when interviewing him. His favorite quote is, “Nothing runs like a Deere.” Adam looks forward to any opportunity to use motorized equipment, including the steam cleaner at the YMCA.  

Extremely fit and strong, our Extra Miler has been participating in the Special Olympics since he was 8 years old — competing in basketball, bowling, horseshoes, volleyball, track and the sport he loves best, swimming. He is also a participant in the Polar Bear Plunge, which is a Special Olympics fundraising event. The YMCA staff members have a team, affectionately called, “Team Adam.”    

When asked which of the organizations he enjoyed volunteering for the most, Adam responded, “All of them!”  His mother, Mary Sandifer, said Adam’s favorite job is the job he is working on at that time. She explains his strong work ethic. “Adam’s father and I taught him that he has to work, even if the majority of his time is spent as a volunteer.” She laughed as she recited how they emphasized work to Adam as he was growing up, “No work — no food.”  

Mary indicated that Adam loves contributing to our community and he particularly enjoys the social aspects of being active and involved.”  

As I interviewed Adam on a sunny day at Perrin Park, he stopped talking to call out to each person on the trail, “Hi, what are you doing … have a good day!” Adam was asked to describe the type of worker he is, and he replied, “Nice … I try to be nice and I’m a hard worker — I never miss work unless I am sick.”  

Mary describes her son as a, “beautiful person,” and recalls a time when he helped a woman select and adopt a puppy at the animal shelter. “The woman later wrote a letter to the Director, complimenting Adam on his caring attitude and personal touch.”  Mary concluded, “You know, this is just who Adam is — he cannot be defined by his disability.”  

In our frazzled, fast paced world that is often full of fear and anxiety, Adam is a bright light. He teaches us to slow down, appreciate what we have in front of us, be conscientious and respectful, and to greet each day and each person with a smile.    

Adam, thank you for being an Extra Miler. Keep making us smile and teaching us that we all have something we can offer of ourselves to make a positive difference …  and continue to make us better people.   

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