TAMPA, Fla. — A Bay area mother’s love and concern for her son led to the creation of a new organization.
It's designed to not only help him, but also hundreds of other sons and daughters.
Tonya Whitlock is the founder of The Inclusive Hive.
“We are a non-profit that has a vision of creating inclusive spaces for individuals with disabilities where they can grow, find purpose and thrive,” Whitlock said.
At Tampa’s Bayshore Baptist Church, an event called “Developing and Supporting Entrepreneurs with Disabilities” was held on Saturday.
“We have five entrepreneurs who all have ... disabilities, and they’re going to come in and share about how they started their business, and they’re also going to share any kind of areas they they had problems with,” Whitlock said.
The many challenges they face is something that hits close to home.
“I have a 29-year-old son, Tres, who has cerebral palsy, and he uses a wheelchair for mobility, and he’s non-speaking and uses an iPad to communicate," Whitlock said.
Her son, like so many others with disabilities, often faces something that leads to depression known as “the cliff.”
“Once they’ve graduated or gone through some transitional programs, they begin to become segregated from their community and feel like they don’t belong, like they don’t have a purpose,” she said.
The organization offers support groups, social activities, and several classes.
“In the next four years we’re wanting a housing development that is truly inclusive,” Whitlock said. “Fifty percent of the rooms for individuals with disabilities and the other 50 percent for other high risk populations.’’
That includes domestic violence survivors, veterans and the elderly.
Along with fundraisers, the organization always needs community financial support and volunteers.
One of the speakers at the church event was clothing and jewelry designer Aarushi Pratap, who is on the autism spectrum.
“I create many dresses this year and it was a start of my journey as a fashion designer-seamstress," Pratap said.
Young people, working to find their place, Pratap added.