Jenell Putnam, Business Leadership Network

My name is Jenell Putnam and I am an AmeriCorps volunteer serving with the Business Leadership Network and its Director Cindy Keele. A year ago I spent the majority of my days staying at home isolated from the rest of the world, only dreaming of being able to get out into the community, being productive and making a difference. In the fall of last year, I eagerly participated in the Business Leadership Network's annual Festival of Trees. I was determined to enjoy the time given to get out of my home, be productive and help out for such a wonderful cause. However, it was always in the back of my mind that this volunteer opportunity was only temporary and soon, I would be back where I started: secluded, depressed and alone. In the meantime, I experienced such joy rising in the morning to "get ready for work", meeting new people but mostly feeling useful. I can recall a few times I had been at the armory for an entire day decorating and running errands, the signs of fatigue clearly showing, Cindy would have to "force" me to go home for the day.

It was near the end of the event I expressed my concerns of wanting more volunteer opportunities or some endeavor to keep me active and involved. That is when the opportunity for the AmeriCorps came about. It literally changed my life as now I'm doing activities such as interviewing local businesses in the community, planning and participating in the annual Central Wyoming College Employment Expo, attending the Conoco Phillips Awards Luncheon, Youth Mentoring Day and "Mock-Interviews" for MentorAbility and being part of a panel at the Governor's Summit on Workforce Solutions, discussing employers who hired an individual with a disability and the positive attributes of it. I helped organize a work shop called "Lunch and Learn" and I am currently helping to plan the Mayor's Leadership Awards and the upcoming 2011 Fremont County Festival of Trees.

Since joining the AmeriCorps and working with the Business Leadership Network, I no longer have the desire to return to those former days of isolation and feeling hopeless. I'm finding myself anxious to begin my day getting up and preparing to go to work, learning valuable skills, meeting friendly and supportive people, happily completing tasks Cindy assigns me, enjoying the camaraderie of my co-AmeriCorps volunteer and anxiously calling my parents at the end of the day to tell them the news of what exciting things I have done. I feel that every day is an "adventure" just waiting to happen. I see a bright and productive future, and for the first time I realize while I have a DisAbility, it DOES not have me.

As a result, in taking everything I've learned in accomplishing tasks, being productive and living out my dreams, I know that I did not do this alone. The love of my parents, the support of the AmeriCorps, Cindy Keele and the entire Business Leadership Network, I hope my story will reach out to others with or even without a DisAbility to inspire them. Just take the first step, join an organization like the AmeriCorps, it can open doors you never knew existed, just like it did for me. If ever there was a motto, to encourage those with a DisAbility to follow their dreams and achieve their goals, it would be:

"IT'S OUR TIME TO SHINE"