BREVARD COUNTY — A local nonprofit working to better the lives of people with disabilities through coaching and empowerment celebrated a momentous occasion earlier this week.
Palm Bay Mayor William Capote declared a proclamation to mark Oct. 13 as Just Right Living Day.
Just Right Living Founder Joe Luther coaches a powerlifting team at his Anytime Fitness gym in Palm Bay. He is also working to provide job-training opportunities through Agency of Life Transformations.
“It’s already hard enough when you have a disability to get a job somewhere – 70% are unemployed right now,” Coach Joe said. “There’s so much they can offer, and we want people to look at these guys with what they can bring to the table; seeing them not as disabled but abled.”
The proclamation states that census data from July 2019 shows that 10.3% or 11,900 of Palm Bay’s population are made up of people with disabilities.
The proclamation also states that, “People with disabilities have untapped value to add to society as reflected by a 2018 study in partnership with the American Association of People with Disabilities, showing that businesses that employ people with disabilities outperform businesses that do not with revenues 28% higher.”
Just Right Living aims to work with people with disabilities to inspire community-focused projects, create a supportive environment and give them more opportunities to enjoy a better quality of life.
“It’s really been a pleasure to watch Just Right Living transform this year,” said Amberlee Jaskulski, marketing director for the nonprofit. “Despite all of the impacts and repercussions of Covid, our team has stayed strong and has continued to progress in a positive way, not only in the community but within ourselves.”
The city of Palm Bay jumped right on board with the idea of this proclamation, Coach Joe said, adding that he was happy to see how responsive the city was to empowering these individuals.
“When Just Right Living approached the city about proclaiming a ‘Just Right Living Day’ we were glad to support this initiative,” said Suzanne Sherman, Palm Bay city manager. “This organization is providing opportunities for special needs members of our community to grow and improve their quality of life. We appreciate the positive work they are doing in our city.”
For Just Right Living members Timothy Duquette, John Riley and Josh White, the nonprofit has brought them such joy and a family-like atmosphere.
When state orders temporarily closed Anytime Fitness due to Covid-19, Mr. Duquette said he was really sad to not be able to see his friends.
“Coach Joe and Coach Chris [Hollyfield] made me feel up again,” Mr. Duquette said. “I’m so glad I can go back to Anytime Fitness. [Just Right Living] makes me feel like a whole new human being.”
Through the nonprofit, Coach Joe visited Mr. Duquette at his house three times a week to work on his fitness. His goal is to prepare for the next Special Olympics tournament.
Mr. Duquette won a gold medal at last year's Special Olympics Florida Fall Classic at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, beating his personal record by lifting 127.5-pounds.
Coach Hollyfield mentors Mr. Riley through Just Right Living by speaking with him on the phone 10 times a day.
“I will never give up, I won’t quit,” Mr. Riley said.
Mr. Riley received a gold medal in the Special Olympics for powerlifting 220-pounds. He moved to Merritt Island a year ago from Michigan and wants to get a job in the healthcare field.
Co-captain Josh "The Hulk" White added that Just Right Living is helping prepare him to be strong and eat healthy foods.
“Just Right Living has changed my life and it will change your life when you get to meet these people, too,” Coach Joe said. “They have made me into a better person.”
To learn more about Just Right Living, visit www.justrightlivingbrevard.com.