There is a unique organization in South Florida that helps the disabled adults to socialize in the Miami area. The non-profit organization is called GOAL which was founded 32 years ago by John Winters, a Cerebral Palsy man, who realized that one of the basic fundamental human needs was not being met, socialization. The whole purpose of GOAL is to encourage those who feel lonely, isolated and depressed, to Get Out And Live.
In the early stages of GOAL the focus was on obtaining home job contracts for the severely physically disabled to find some meaning to life other than wasting away watching TV all day because the governmental agencies deemed them to be “too handicapped and there was nothing they can do for them”. This was a phrase that John cringed at every time he heard from one of his many friends. Being fed-up with the DVR system, and not happy doing minuet tasks for two years at a filter company; John met the approval of his boss, Bill Smith, to venture out into the business world with a few Miami Shores Kiwanians. With the Kiwanians behind him, he started a remarkable organization that began turning around attitudinal barriers, acceptability, and restoration of pride and dignity towards the handicapped. It was a time for growth and being recognized in the community for what they could contribute to society and for being productive and useful citizens.
John started making rounds speaking to all of the Kiwanis Clubs in the Miami area for job contracts and sponsoring of a client for a month, 6 months or a year which was $720. Then some of the clubs engaged in helping the clients to go to various attractions. One of the first bi-monthly activities was the North Dade Coffee House which the Miami Shores Optimist Club sponsored for over 22 years. This gave the disabled an opportunity to meet regularly and to socialize.
There was one thing that John was very concern with, “breaking down barriers that kept us from loving each other” through ignorance, prejudice and stereotyping. To undertake this monumental task, it was necessary to reach the young children in the elementary schools first. What better way to educate the public than have one explaining and demonstrating his disability and answering their questions. So the derivation of the Handicapped Education Program (HEP) began. Curious minds were put to rest as a general acceptance was won by all. Yes, attitudes are being changed ignorance is being replaced with understanding.
There are dozen of activities that one can get involved with: Shake-A-Leg (sailing and water sports), County and local city parks and recreation programs for persons with disabilities, and there is GOAL which has monthly coffee houses, outings and special events with other civic or church groups.
Today, the main focus of GOAL is on getting the homebound and shut-ins out of their sterile environment and in public where interaction can transpire.
For further information on GOAL and to receive its monthly Newsletter contact John Winters at 305.895.6377, or visit the website at www.goalinc.org.