Hi, I am Lida Merrill I have worked in the field of developmental/intellectual disabilities since the 1970s, when I started volunteering with a self-contained classroom in junior high school. I studied special education and have a Master of Arts in Theology degree from Northeastern Seminary at Roberts Wesleyan College. Most of my professional career has been invested in residential and day support services for adults with disabilities.

The AbleFaith community excites me as it is a vehicle to bring together a diverse global network of people united behind the belief that all people are created by God and gifted to make a difference in the world. We all are able to contribute and make a difference.

When I am not advocating for full inclusion of people with disabilities (especially in local faith communities) I enjoy spending time with my high school sweetheart and our family. I love to do anything outside- run, bicycle, cross country ski, snow shoe, kayak, hike, camp, garden, swing in a hammock. I participate in annual trips to Guatemala as part of a dynamic team to work alongside marginalized people to make a difference in the world.

Greetings, I am Diane Sturmer. I have had the honor of working in this field since 1975.

I have learned so much about my own faith from the people I have worked with over the years. AbleFaith is an incredible vehicle to share ideas. I have had the honor of building connections and then stepping back to watch relationships grow as individuals work and share life in their faith communities. I have led retreats in the Adirondacks (hiking and outrigger canoe), always being mindful of connecting friends from the community with similar interests. I have also encouraged individuals to attend retreats in their own faith communities, and led trips to Ireland with the purpose of people sharing their faith, gifts and joy with others.

My husband and family bring much joy. I love being outdoors, hiking, writing devotional materials and being the Artistic Director of Heart of Dance. Inspired by a friend with physical challenges, my dream has come true in creating a dance troupe of people of all abilities, ages and ethnic backgrounds. This tapestry of beauty has performed in Ireland and continues to perform annually at Nazareth College.

Hello, I’m Joe Starling. I’ve worked in the field of intellectual/developmental disabilities since 2001. My passion began when I met five awesome men with developmental disabilities at church. I’ve had the opportunity to work in the areas of day and residential support services. I’ve also have had the wonderful opportunity of doing missions in Chimaltenango, Guatemala on four occasions.

Other areas that give me great joy are spending quality time with my beautiful wife of over 21 years, and my four lovely children. Other great interest that I truly enjoy with a passion are photography, poetry, word puzzles and games, martial arts, running, hiking, music, riding roller coasters, indoor plants, and physical exercising. I also enjoy being the youth leader in my local faith community.

We welcome as an occasional guest blogger on AbleFaith the Reverend Catherine Y. Patterson from NYS Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, Program Coordinator-6 1/2 yrs and Faith Inclusion Specialist/Trainer/Speaker. Reverend Patterson was ordained 23 years ago and is affiliated with National Baptist Convention USA, American Baptist. She has served as Interim Pastor Friendship Baptist Church in Schenectady, New York 3 1/2 years and as as Associate Minister at Friendship Baptist Church for 24 years where she serves as the Director of Christian Education, Preacher, Teacher and Lecturer. Reverend Patterson has a B.A. English/Communication from Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio.


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