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F A A S T A C C E S S • F A L L 0 4 1
T h e O f f i c i a l P u b l i c a t i o n o f T h e F l o r i d a A l l i a n c e f o r A s s i s t i v e S e r v i c e s a n d T e c h n o l o g y
f a l l 0 4 V o l u m e 2 , I s s u e 1
Great Minds Making It Work with Muscular Dystrophy
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Meet the designer of FAAST Access magazine, Deborah “Debbie” Dewell, 36. Debbie is a native Floridian who excels as a graphic designer and mother of two despite living with muscular dystrophy and an adaptive lifestyle. Born and raised in Miami, she has six siblings: Jimmy, 54; Larry, 53; David, 53; Danny, 50; Diane, 44; and Bobby, 35. They are a close-knit family and frequently vacation together. Her father, Don Best, 80, lives next door.
She met her husband David while they were both attending Thomas Junior College in Thomasville, Georgia. They married in 1992 and settled in Tallahassee. David’s family also lives near Tallahassee, just over the state line in the surrounding Georgia communities.
Debbie and David are seasoned small business own-ers. They recently sold his landscape company to focus their attention on raising their children (Isabella, 6, and Samuel, 18 months), building a greater client base for Great Minds and volunteering with their church and daughter’s school. In December 2002, the Dewells moved the Great Minds office into their home prior to the birth of Samuel on February 7, 2003. “Everything changed at that point,” Debbie said.
“My doctors advised against having kids,” she ex-plained, “and that’s when we stepped out in faith with a lot of prayer. I have muscular dystrophy, which can complicate a pregnancy.”
When asked about the onset of muscular dystrophy and how it affected her life, she explained, “Because my older brother Danny also has muscular dystrophy, my parents recognized the early warning signs in me when I was five years old. I tiptoed instead of walking flat footed,” Debbie continued, “It did not impact anything until I was 11. Then I had surgery to have my heel cords lengthened.”
“By 11th grade, classes were too far apart for me to walk—I was barely making it from class to class—and my lifestyle was very limited,” she said. “That’s when I got
By Lytha Page BelroseEditor
16 F A A S T A C C E S S • F A L L 0 4
The Basics for Great Minds and Great Design
The Basics for Great Minds and Great Design
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my first scooter, which completely changed my life. I came out of my shell! I could go where my friends went and participate in social activities.”
“That first scooter,” she added, “was pretty basic without many features but I thought it was wonderful. This is my fourth scooter and has lots of features that make it possible for me to enjoy an active lifestyle.” While in high school, Debbie was one of “Jerry’s Kids,” volunteering with her girlfriends to answer phones during the local broadcast of the “Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon.”
“I am so grateful to MDA,” said Debbie, “for providing scooter funds. With their help, I was able to get four scooters over the years.”
Today, Debbie’s scooter is an iridescent purple with a light grey seat that swivels. (It’s obvious with one look at the scooter and her home office that purple is Debbie’s favorite color.) It has a basket on the han-dlebars that sports a stylish handbag, a hol-ster for a cellular phone with push-to-talk nationwide radio (which she uses to keep in touch with her business partners, clients and family), a horn and a headlight.
An active lifestyle for Debbie and David includes volunteering to read to their daughter’s class, school event plan-ning, graphic design to support school and church events, children’s ministries and vacation bible school.
Although Debbie keeps a valid driver’s license, which she first got at the age of 15, she said, “I choose not to drive now because other drivers are so unpredictable and I don’t trust my reflexes to deal with that.”
Now she leaves the driving to David. However, both children and the family dog prefer “riding with Mom” and hitch a ride on the scooter whenever possible. “Our toy poodle Annie, that’s short for Annabelle, is neurotic,” explained Debbie, “She loves to ride on my chair and climbs into my lap on her own. In fact, Annie is so little that she can squeeze onto the floorboard with both kids.”
Prior to opening her own marketing and design firm, Great Minds, Inc., in 1998, she was a partner for six years with Rapido Design where she specialized in graphic design, marketing, public relation cam-
paign development, and management. In addition to designing FAAST Access, Debbie designs other statewide and regional maga-zines, specialty publications like research books and novellas, brochures and a full array of marketing and public relations support materials. Recently, she authored her first children’s book that features her children and little Annabelle.
As vice president and secretary of the corporation, David’s duties—since mov-ing the office into their home—include childcare and transportation for daughter Isabella to first grade and extra-curricular activities like ballet and the Young Ac-tors Studio. “David is the glue that holds our family and our business together,” Debbie said.
The Dewells employ an office manager, Amanda “Mandy” Johnson, 19, who came to work for them while earning high school credits through the (Diversified Career Technology) DCT program at Chiles High School in Tallahassee. Now a sophomore in business finance at Tallahassee Community College, Johnson’s duties include book keeping, managing the corporate billings and collections, scanning images and us-ing Photoshop to prepare them for graphic production, watching the children during meetings and running errands.
During our interview, Debbie designed support materials for a client’s upcoming annual conference and trade show, while, the children ran to her, asking for atten-tion or approval to do something. Isabella showed her a newly created picture. With a pouting look, she voiced concern that the creation was not good enough. Even though Debbie replied, “I love that one,” Isabella ran off to draw it again.
The atmosphere was charged with child-ish excitement as Isabella’s sixth birthday party was being planned. Patiently, Debbie replied to the children’s questions and referred their need for attention “while Mommy works, go ask Mandy.”
Johnson refereed sibling squabbles
concerning toys, paper and pens, deftly averting pint-sized meltdowns. During the interview, David was out getting building permits for a home-office extension and buying party supplies.
“When David is busy, I cook, clean, answer the phone, and do whatever is needed to keep everything organized and running smoothly,” Johnson said. “Also, I do tons of shopping from office supplies to groceries.”
“By this time, Mandy is family,” Deb-bie commented. “The kids expect her to be here and they love her. Samuel runs to greet her at the door everyday!”
Johnson has worked for Great Minds for more than two years although not contigu-ously. “For a short time, Mandy left us to work as a leasing agent for an apartment complex,” explained Debbie.
“That was a lot of long hours and not as much fun,” Johnson explained. “This job is fun! That’s what makes coming to work easier.”
“Yes, work is fun,” Debbie agreed. “But there are pros and cons to working at home. It is easier to be at home with the kids because we don’t have to worry about transportation issues and the overhead is a lot less. It’s interesting that many of my clients arrange meetings when my kids are at home or awake in order to see them.”
When asked what advice she would give others regarding life or telework, Deb-bie said, “First, make sure you know your priorities and stick to them. I keep mine on a little note in front of my keyboard: God, Family, Great Minds and Friends.”
“Most importantly,” she explained, “is to keep your determination and to know who is in charge; that everyone has a purpose in this life. My ‘purpose’ and my priorities are the same. People say that I have a positive attitude and I do...with God’s help.”
Great Minds currently has clients from Miami to Chicago, three contracted part-ners and one part time employee. “I have one client who moved her home office closer to facilitate meetings,” she said. “It’s almost like we have a cottage industry of people who put their families first, but there has to be a good synergy to make it all work.”
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Often, a business is born from a creative idea or hobby that family and friends may label as “crazy.” Such is the case for David Bryson, Sr., 59, who began the hobby of duck farming four years ago, not long after undergoing cataract surgery.
Recently, Bryson applied to the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technol-ogy (FAAST) Access to Telework, a loan program for individuals with disabilities who are seeking an alternative to tradi-tional employment. He hopes to break the barriers of blindness and entrepreneurship by turning his hobby into a business: Duck Haven Farm.
Since his home-based farm is located just outside of Ocala in the rural com-munity of Citra, Bryson knew to batten down the hatches after the path of Hur-ricane Charley.
“We’re preparing for Hurricane Frances the best we can,” he said. “I have 450 babies in the brooders right now; I have barricaded
the area as best as I can right now to keep debris from flying in and hurting them. Most of my ducks are in the wooded areas not in cages or pens. There are lots of ditches to get in and they love it when it rains, so they’ll probably swim around in the ditches or hunker down in the brush.”
Bryson was kind enough to take some time out of his preparations for Hurricane Frances to shed some light on this imagina-tive business endeavor.
“I got this idea when I sent my daughter to the store one day to buy what I needed,” he explained. “An hour later, she showed up with seven baby ducks but not what was on my list. So I sent her back out again to get what I needed. She came back with 10 more ducks and I never did get the items on my shopping list that day.”
“We started raising ducks,” Bryson continued, “when a guy out of Tampa, a poultry processor, called and asked me to raise Muscovy ducks for him. I did not
know one thing about ducks, except that I had 17 babies. So I started doing Internet research—about 400 hours altogether. The more I learned about Muscovy ducks, the more I liked them.”
“I called the man back, bought 200 ducks and they produced 800 ducks,” he said. “I sold everything they produced. That was 18 months ago. Since then, I have about 2,000 ducks. I figure by next sum-mer, I will have 10,000 to 15,000 ducks that will be my breeder ducks and the ducks I sell,” he concluded.
Bryson’s brood includes Muscovy, Mal-lard, Rouen, Indian Runner, Pekin and Crested ducks. He enjoys operating as natural a farm as possible, including recy-cling items used on the farm to help the environment. Most of his customers are individuals who are looking for a naturally produced poultry product, pets or a natural means to control mosquito populations on their properties.
TeleworkBy Lytha Page Belrose
THAT QUACKS THE BARRIERS
Duck Haven Farm sustained damage from Hurricane Frances and, at press time, Bryson was preparing for the possible onslaught of Hurricane Ivan.
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According to Bryson, Duck Haven Farm will be able to produce ducks in a natural environment with no hormones, chemi-cals, additives or other unnatural factors. The combined ease in raising ducks and the desire for naturally produced products, pets and mosquito control create an ideal situation for a small farm.
Sadly, Duck Haven Farm lost more than 1000 ducks—more than 50 percent of its inventory—to Hurricane Frances. Bryson’s home office also sustained damage from a fallen tree. The operation lost power and telephone service for more than a week. At press time, he was making damage re-pairs and shoring up again to face off with Hurricane Ivan. Setbacks like these would cause some to throw in the towel and give up on a great idea.
“Life defeats you really quick if you don’t have a good attitude,” he said. “My nature is not to sit around and think about what I could have done or should have done.”
Bryson had cataract surgery in 1999. In 2002, he was declared legally blind. “I fell into that one-percent of the people whose surgery does not work,” he explained. “It’s hard to go blind. It’s harder to get your sight back and then go blind again.”
“I am gradually losing what sight I do have,” Bryson continued. “The eye special-ists cannot guarantee recovery of my sight, even with a $25,000 laser surgery. You can’t allow things to get in the way. Life has to go on. I was active in the Jaycees for a long time and they taught me that when you get knocked down in life, you get back up, dust yourself off and go on.”
In fact, Bryson twice served as president of the local Jaycees, formally known as the Junior Chamber International, a worldwide federation of young leaders and entrepre-neurs. He served on eight state boards and was president of the JCI Senate in Nebraska. “Only one out of every 10,000 Jaycees is honored to become a JCI Sena-tor,” he explained, “and I happened to be that one in 10,000.”
“The Jaycees also taught me that every-thing is an opportunity, not a problem,” he said. “This is the kind of business anyone with a disability can do. I spend an hour or two with my ducks taking them out of their
pens in the morning and putting them back in the evening. I am in the start up of the business. It will take another eight to 10 months to get it going. I am not able to support my family on this yet but I hope to do that soon,” Bryson explained during our interview before the damage done by Hurricane Frances.
By estimation, it may be more than a year now before Duck Haven Farm is a productive business endeavor. According to Bryson, one female duck will produce a minimum of 60 babies a year that will survive. They are not monogamous and they do not require water to mate like most other ducks. A Muscovy duck will live an average of 18 to 20 years. The first and last year of its life, the female has no babies. An adult duck is 20 weeks old and ready to process; at 40 weeks, they are mature enough to start breeding. A 20-week-old duck weighs between five and seven
pounds and at 40 weeks old a Muscovy may weigh between nine and 15 pounds.
“A full-grown Muscovy duck will feed a family of four,” explained Bryson. “I have approximately 400 recipes for cooking duck that, hopefully, will soon be available on my Web site (www.duckhavenfarm.biz). A Muscovy is leaner than chicken and tur-key, with only 12 to 18 percent total body fat. Other ducks available for consumption [including the ones that can be hunted] are 30 percent body fat,” he said.
“I chose to raise Muscovy ducks be-cause of all these factors. Plus, they are very disease resistant and they do not carry the diseases that other poultry may have,” said Bryson. “Baby ducks cannot tolerate medicated feeds. The only feed I give is a game-starter feed for the babies, which is 20 percent protein. They are not 100 percent organic but I do not use any pesticides!”
“What’s even more interesting,” Bryson exclaimed, “Is that they are a form of natu-ral pest control themselves!”
According to his account, Muscovy ducks control mosquitoes and were brought to Florida from South America in the 1970s by the Florida Game & Fish Commission for mosquito control. They are “dabbler ducks” which means that they eat mosquito larvae off the top of standing water, keeping the mosquito from maturing.
Bryson explained, “They snatch them out of the air, too. Even a three-day old chick will snatch a mosquito out of the air.”
“We can walk outside right now,” he said, “at almost any time of the day, in the area where the ducks are and there are no mosquitoes. We are in a part of the county that is the worst for West Nile Virus. If we go out into the swamp, then the mosquitoes are a problem. I think the reason we are having so many problems with West Nile Virus in parts of the US is that they no longer have nature’s way of taking care of the excess mosquitoes and bugs. Our homes [have encroached on] the animal habitat that is needed for a natural balance.”
M u s c o v y d u c k ( C a i r i n a moschata), also called the musk duck, is a large, neotropical domestic duck with dark plumage, blue eyes and white wing patches. Males and some females have red facial knobs. It is a greenish-black, gooselike duck found wild from Mexico to northern Argentina but widely domesticated around the world for its succulent flesh.
Shown here is a brooder, which protects baby Muscovy ducks, with several dozen chicks nestled together.
continued on page 31
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There is a substantial decrease in the natural duck population in Florida, driven out by suburban developments. Duck Ha-ven Farm offers a viable alternative for ho-meowners who live in an area that allows wild animals: own one female Muscovy duck. “One duck would control the mos-quitoes in a small backyard,” Bryson said.
“These ducks are very quiet and do not quack. If they are in a backyard, clip the wings by trimming off the outer feathers of the wings [to keep her from flying away],” he explained. “Muscovy ducks are ex-tremely friendly; they are like puppy dogs and they like treats such as cracked corn. You can train a duck by using treats. When you ignore them, they will eventually turn around and go about their business. They don’t tear the grass up like chickens. They will eat roaches, ants—they love fire ants and think that’s a perfect meal. They also eat field mice and frogs. They are scaven-gers and are omnivorous.”
“There are about 10,000 pounds of bugs per acre of land in Florida so the ducks never run out of something to eat,” he explained. “Problem is that [nobody real-ized back in the 1970s] how prolific these ducks would be.”
Owning one female Muscovy duck would mean having 20 eggs to harvest every few weeks. The eggs are very desir-able, Bryson reported. “They make the best pound cake in the world.”
Actually, there is quite a demand for the Muscovy duck eggs. A dozen fresh eggs retail for $3 and 17-day old eggs are a culinary delicacy, with a dozen retailing at $10. “Many Asian cultures enjoy this delicacy. I have Chinese clients who want us to incubate the eggs for 17 days. They boil and eat them,” he said.
However, Bryson cautioned that having water for the lone duck is imperative for its survival. If a mating pair of ducks is desired, Bryson said, “We will buy back any excess ducks. We do not want to create an environmental problem. They are a great tasting duck!”
Duck Farmcontinued from page 21