Monarch launches Support Inclusion Saturday in March to bring awareness to businesses, organizations that support inclusion

Josh Walker personifies the value of community leadership and inclusion. Many local residents know Walker, a Stanly County resident, from his volunteer work at the Stanly Community Christian Ministry’s Community Table, a Norwood food pantry, or through his job at Oakboro Nursery where he happily tends to the plants year round.

“I love working. Helping people makes my day,” said Walker, who was once very shy and withdrawn.

Like Walker, many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities welcome the opportunity to contribute to their community – either by volunteering or employment – so long as they’re given the chance to participate.

That is why on March 1, Monarch invites businesses and organizations across North Carolina – and in all of the state’s 100 counties – to join the Support Inclusion Saturday campaign in observance of National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. The campaign is a new, grassroots initiative that aims to celebrate stories like Walker’s and the companies that provide inclusion opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

On March 25, residents are encouraged to shop or support brands, organizations and businesses that offer inclusive opportunities, especially inclusive hiring practices, to individuals with I/DD.

Approximately 11 percent of persons with I/DD are unemployed in the U.S., despite their willingness and ability to work in the community. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) regularly monitors and reports the percentage of working-age people with disabilities in the labor force is about one-third that of persons with no disability.

“Similar to initiatives like Small Business Saturday, the goal of Monarch’s Support Inclusion Saturday is to harness our collective power to foster understanding and dispel myths about developmental disabilities. Going out on March 25 and supporting participating businesses or programs will help raise awareness, generate conversations and ultimately create new volunteer or employment opportunities for people with disabilities,” said Dr. Peggy Terhune, president and chief executive officer at Monarch.

At the moment, organizations in more than 14 North Carolina counties have already signed up to participate in Inclusion Saturday, and the list is growing every day. For a current and complete list – and to read Josh’s entire story and stories about others – visit

Among the list of organizations included on the Inclusion Saturday registry is the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, which were among the first to join the campaign. The theatre will offer a sensory friendly performance and the museum will host two guided tactile tours on March 25.

“Children’s Theatre of Charlotte is committed to making our programs accessible to everyone in our community, including people with special needs. Our Sensory Friendly Performances are an example of that commitment, and we will continue to look at ways to include – and celebrate – diversity of all types as we create and market our productions and classroom experiences,” said Rob Odum, associate director of marketing – audience development and partnerships.

Interested organizations that provide services or support inclusion opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through employment, volunteering, or programming, can register at throughout the month of March.

Posted on: Wednesday March 1, 2017