ALBANY, GA (WALB) - An Albany Woman has dedicated her life to helping people with disabilities find work and live happy lives. She's worked for decades at an Albany non-profit group dedicated to helping people overcome their disabilities.
Hundreds of awards fill Annette Bowling's office commemorating her forty years helping people with disabilities at Albany ARC. But it was her own personal battle that jump started her career.
"I was a single mom and my son had open heart surgery back in the early sixties," said Albany ARC Executive Director Annette Bowling.
Annette's son was the first child in the state of Florida to undergo open heart surgery.
"I could not have really faced this without the community that I lived in," said Bowling.
So that's when Annette decided to work in a profession where she could make a difference in the lives of others and began working at the Albany ARC in 1974.
"When I came to work here there were no services for people in the community for people with disabilities," said Bowling. "If you had a child with a significant disability that you could not care for as a parent your choice was that you would send them to a state institution."
Annette Bowling says that was no place for someone with disabilities. Annette worked with other non profits and state officials to help thousands of people with physical or mental disabilities gain employment and to provide social outlets for children with disabilities.
"If you just give them the opportunity to work," said Bowling. "They all want to work. They all want the same things you and I do."
Thirty percent of Annette's employees have disabilities which is why her co-workers say she practices what she preaches.
"Her passion is contagious," said Albany ARC Development Director Laura Calhoun.
Annette says she's glad to see that her work and accomplishments are being recognized by others but she gives much of the credit to her staff.
"All of us working together with one commitment and that is keeping our eyes on who we are all about and that's that person with disability," said Bowling.
A commitment that she hopes will last another forty years.
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