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Liz-TooneLiz Toone
Executive Director

In 1993, having moved to a Northeastern state, I was unable to find work in my field as a map draftsman in the small community to which I had relocated. Desperate, I answered an advertisement for a Respite Provider, a position that provides relief for families that care for an individual with a severe disability. I got the job, which proved to be a pivotal point in my life. A new world opened up to me, intriguing, challenging and fulfilling. I soon found myself back in school, eventually earning a degree in Human Potential. I have worked with folks with disabilities ever since that life-changing day in 1993.

Beyond the formal education I felt compelled to obtain, rests the irrefutable wisdom imparted to me by the individuals with disabilities I have gotten to know these many years past, wisdom that has proven to be of exceedingly great value. I have learned great respect for people with other than average abilities. I have learned that awareness of individual capabilities, interests, resources and social connections are essential to optimize quality of life for each distinct person. I have learned the stigma of being a devalued person and the terrible oppression of bearing a negative label. Perhaps the most profound lesson I learned is that being different (that is: not average or ordinary) is incontrovertibly acceptable.

A disability can strike anyone at any time. We at NHILC endeavor to impart the idea that a disability should not be considered a flaw in the human condition, but rather a distinction in the human condition; an element that makes an individual unique. Some people see through brown eyes, some people see through blue eyes, others don’t see with their eyes but rely on other senses. Some people mobilize with legs, others in a chair; the list of things that makes an individual a unique entity goes on an on. People with disabilities, like all other people, are deserving of equal treatment and full integration within Arizona communities, and everywhere else for that matter. I am pleased to be part of New Horizons Independent Living Center and the vital work we do.

Gail-KennyGail Kenny
Community Work Incentives Coordinator

If you believe that your past jobs, opportunities, challenges and volunteer service prepare you for what is to come, join the crowd. I’ve done a variety of things, and foresee using many of them here at New Horizons Independent Living Center.

I grew up middle of seven children in a rural community in Wisconsin. After studying journalism at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh, my husband, Mike, and I moved to Arizona, where I embarked on a 15-year career as a newspaper reporter. Our son, Michael, was born in 1990.

But other interests intervened, and I left the media world looking for something different. Already having helped built Prescott Valley’s Boys and Girls Club as a steering committee member, then board member, I looked at non-profit possibilities. I worked for United Blood Services for 3 ½ years, then the American Red Cross for another 2 ½ years.

Some people might say I let work and personal life mix too much, but I take my work to heart. I gave blood at every possible opportunity at United Blood Services, and become an instructor in most Red Cross health and safety classes outside of aquatics. When I considered New Horizons, I did so knowing that while I don’t consider myself disabled, my husband and other family and friends deal with issues that will bring focus to my work here.

At New Horizons ILC, I counsel people all over Northern Arizona about their Social Security benefits, their health care benefits and other programs, and what will happen when they start working. Many people don’t realize that the Social Security Administration built in many safety nets, called work incentives, to help Social Security beneficiaries with disabilities go back to work successfully.

Outside of work, I enjoy hiking and photography, and expect to complete my bachelor’s degree online through Ashford University in spring 2011.

Melissa Larson
Community Work Incentives Coordinator

Life’s journeys can be surprising, amazing, and challenging. My journey has brought me to New Horizons and I am blessed to be here. Having grown up in GA, the youngest of three daughters of Midwestern parents, I proudly call myself a Southerner, but consider many places and people Home. I have been in the Prescott area for 9 years and am mother to Sammy, my 3 year old son, who is by far the biggest blessing I’ve ever received. In 2002 I got thrown from a horse, and got a Traumatic Brain Injury in return. That definitely changed the path I was on. Along the road to recovery I got a Master’s Degree in Education from NAU. Seven years later my life has changed in too many ways to count. I wouldn’t have chosen to get thrown from the horse that day if you’d asked me then. But I’m not sorry it happened now. The people I’ve met, and the experiences I’ve had, have made my life richer and I’m a better person for it. And being here at New Horizons, helping other people with disabilities, gives me a chance to pay forward all of the help that I’ve received along the way

JeanLJean Lasher
Community Information
Coordinator / Outreach
Horizons News Editor

As a person with a disability who has been involved as a consumer, volunteer and staff member, I appreciate and am thankful for the independent living services provided at New Horizons Independent Living Center. My activities include being a group leader for the CFIDS / FM support group (Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome and Fibromyalgia), providing outreach services for individuals with EI (Environmental Illness) and MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivities), and community outreach, education and resources. Coping skills that have helped me are a strong faith, therapeutic laughter, and a comprehensive support system including a best furry animal friend. Because of my disability, I found purpose and hope, and my life has been truly enriched by all the incredible people, mentors and friends I have met as a result of my illness.

DeborahHDeborah Henderson
Administrative Assistant

Born and raised in Memphis, TN., I was a 19 year old newlywed when we left to move to Las Vegas. We hit a coyote on the interstate just west of Tucson and I woke up days later in a hospital in Casa Grande suffering from a severe concussion that left me with some memory loss.

I am a victim of child and spousal abuse and have been through quite a few depressions. During a few incidents in my life I found an inner strength I never thought I had and it helps me get over the memories to this day.

During the next 25 years, I made Casa Grande my home. For almost 23 years I held the position of Office Manager for two different companies. But, as the city grew and the heat finally got to me, I had to move somewhere where they had four seasons! So, north I went to the Chino Valley/Paulden area. I was lucky enough to make one of my dreams come true when I met a well-known cowboy from the area and ended up working with him on a cattle ranch in Globe, AZ and on one outside of Ely, NV.

When I was about 13 years old our family had to move when the duplex we shared was sold to make way for a new shopping center. That’s when I wanted to become an advocate! Accepting the fact that I survived the abuse I endured made me an advocate.

Now, I am an advocate for those with disabilities and I am very proud to work with such a wonderful group of people, who in my eyes and heart, are my heroes!

MaryHMary Hesselschwerdt
Outreach Coordinator

Hi, I’m Mary Hesselschwerdt and when I was 21 my life was changed dramatically. It was May 11, 1975 and I was 5 months pregnant with my first child when I was involved in an automobile accident. This put me into an instant coma where I remained for four months. My son was born when I was in a semi-coma. He is 29 now, is married and has blessed me with two grandsons. I had to retrain a new part of my brain to do what the damaged part did. The damaged part was the motor control part which allows you to sit up, walk, write and a lot of other functions.

The retraining took five years, but I made it. I started college to learn a way to support myself. I graduated from Glendale College with an AGS degree and Maricopa Tech with a Central Service Certificate. After graduating I worked at St. Joseph Hospital finding out I could not produce fast enough. I married 9 years later and moved to Prescott where I returned to school again at Prescott College , where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in human services.

I was hired by New Horizons Independent Living Center 6 months later as their Outreach Coordinator. As an “OC” I sign new consumers, and help them in anyway I can with whatever they need, and I keep their files up to date. I also distribute flyers and NH info to the community. Speaking and helping the disabled find adequate housing is my passion.

KayeTKaye Tarnow
Transportation Coordinator

I’m Kaye Tarnow the Transportation Coordinator for New Horizons.   I have lived in Prescott Valley for the past 4 years.  I’m a Phoenix convert to the cooler temps.  I began my career in transportation by being a courier of lab specimens to National Health Labs in Phoenix, and Bradshaw Mt. Labs in Prescott.  I guess you could say I moved up from parts of people to the whole person.

I am battling a disability but with the assistance of New Horizons I am living with it and doing it successfully.  I am Bi-Polar.    Know me as a person, not by my disability.

ZenaTZena Taylor
Financial Manager

After suffering work related injuries in 1999 my everyday life and my future turned into a disaster. I was paralyzed with the idea that I would never be able to work again. That meant not to be able to provide for my family and myself any longer and not being able to be a productive element of society. I felt my life was over and I plunged into a depression.

Having a strong instinct for a survival I was driven into a confusing world of medical and social services of errors and trials. Nothing was working so I went back to school.

With prior experience working in a financial/administrative fields and attending Yavapai College classes I got lucky and start working for New Horizons Independent Living Center.

Working here at NHILC with wonderful co-workers and being in touch with our consumers is a joy. The awareness of our agency in this community is growing and the impact on individual lives in immense. I wish I knew about it in 1999.

Our Drivers

Linda-ServetnickLinda  Servetnick: Transportation Asst. / Driver

 Lynn-GoodnightLynn Goodnight: Driver

Mark-NelsonMark Nelson: Driver

MatthewBMatthew Brooke: Driver

Al-DudauwAl Dudauw: Driver

Craig-DouglasCraig Douglas: Driver


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jill Bigler permalink
    January 4, 2010 11:03 pm

    I am Melissa (Bigler) Larson’s mother. (Don’t tell her I’m writing to you.) After she has suffered many setbacks in her growing up years, she has picked herself up each time and gone on to conquer many “worlds.” We are SO PROUD of her for what she’s accomplished in the professional field. We feared that the horseback accident might leave her permanently disabled, but she worked her way back from that, even though it’s taken a lot of time. For her to find a position with your organization that meets both her qualifications and needs may have been the most fortunate event she’s ever had in her adult life. We thank you for your concern, generosity, and help in re-establishing herself as a human services professional. When she was born, she wasn’t expected to live, so you can tell she’s one heck of a fighter/survivor and consequently, compassionate person. Jill and Dick Bigler

  2. Liz permalink
    January 15, 2010 9:07 pm

    Dear Mr. and Mrs. Bigler,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to write. We at NHILC are immensely pleased to have Melissa as part of our remarkably gifted staff. She is an outstanding individual, has worked really hard to learn the complex Work Incentives Planning and Assistance program, and has become a wealth of resources for our consumers.
    Best regards,
    Liz Toone
    Executive Director

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