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Interhab’s Mark Elmore Award for Distinguished Leadership went to Shelia Nelson-Stout, President/CEO of OCCK, Inc.  The Mark Elmore Award for Distinguished Leadership has been awarded to Leaders within the Kansas I/DD Services system annually since 1996.  The award is a tribute to recipient’s personal and professional integrity as well as their statewide contributions to progressive excellence on behalf of Kansans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The award is named in honor of Mark Elmore, who was first to receive the award in 1996.

Interhab is the state association for providers of community services to Kansans with developmental disabilities. They serve their members through support, technical assistance, and advocacy. Through their members, they provide leadership at the local, state, and federal level in support of persons with disabilities.

Throughout her career, Shelia has been a visionary for people with disabilities.  When she helped start the Independent Living Program at OCCK, people didn’t own or rent their own homes in communities.  She helped bring that forward in North Central Kansas. Her career spans the gamete and this helps her understand some of what people go through in our system, and that is a unique characteristic that not many people can relate to, and that is one of the reasons she is a distinguished leader and sets her apart from others.” said Mieke Hoeffner, Disability Planning Organization of Kansas.

“Shelia exemplifies the word advocacy when it comes to people with disabilities.  She’s been in the industry all of her career, and is such a positive influential individual.  Folks with disabilities aren’t just people that Shelia provides services to, these are her friends, these are her family, these are her co-workers.  She has such a respect for everyone, whether it is a person with a disability or not.  Having known Mark Elmore, and also knowing Shelia, you see the same kind of passion they have for people we provide services to.  You see the same drive that is coming from that internal heartfelt concern of what is going to be the best that we can do for people; and also the creativity and innovation of looking outside of the normal realm and really seeing the possibilities that are out there for people.  They didn’t ever forget how to have fun while you are also doing your job, and making sure that the people you are providing services to are also enjoying the journey of their life”, said Brenda Maxey, Tech, Inc.

“She was a good touch stone for information about how things work in the real world of disability services.  She has been invaluable to our advocacy efforts.  You have to have someone looking from the core, at the whole picture, trying to moderate our worse impulses and encourage our best impulses, and that is who Shelia has always been”, said Tom Laing, former Director of Interhab.

Nelson-Stout, a native of Courtland Kansas, graduated from Marymount College with degrees in Sociology and Psychology.  She was hired in 1981 by OCCK to establish Independent Living Services. She has been a trainer, supervisor, coordinator, and director of various services for OCCK.  In 2003, she was appointed Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, and in 2011, Shelia was selected as the President and Chief Executive Officer.

Nelson-Stout serves on the Kansas Commission on Disability Concerns Employment First Oversight Commission, and is on the Executive Committee for lnterhab.  She has also served as a Chairperson for the Kansas Disability Caucus starting in 1989.

Throughout her career, Nelson­Stout has been very active in the promotion of the rights of people with disabilities. In 1987, she served on the SRS Committee that developed home and community based services for people with traumatic brain injuries. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Brain Injury Association of Kansas and was president of the board for the Kansas Association of Centers for Independent Living. She has been appointed by three Governors to serve on disability related Boards or Committees.

Nelson-Stout lives with her family in rural Ottawa County.

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