"Nothing makes me happier than when I hear someone say I've inspired them," said Michelle Bathras. "I think we all want to touch people's lives."
Bathras, chief operating officer of Bello Machre in Annapolis, an organization providing services for people with developmental disabilities, felt the appreciation of many recently as she was given the 2013 Disability Awareness Award by the Anne Arundel County Commission on Disability Issues.
The honor came at the Disability Awareness Day, held Oct. 26 at Westfield Annapolis Mall. The annual event focuses on information regarding disability issues, with interactive exhibits and live entertainment.
Bathras, who has worked at Bello Machre for nearly 30 years, started as an administrative assistant and has also worked as a live-in house counselor. She's credited with creating one of only two developmental disabilities certified nursing assistant certification programs in the state.
She has also led efforts to focus on quality assurance, a role that has placed her in touch with many care organizations in Anne Arundel.
"Quality is a big part of my responsibility at Bello Machre, and it's really important," she said.
She noted the support she's received from Dr. Robert T. Ireland, CEO and president of Bello Machre. In a summary he wrote for the DAD award, Ireland returned the favor.
"Touching the lives of hundreds of children, adults and families, she has played a critical role in leading the coordination of the quality assurance process among organizations in Anne Arundel County," Ireland wrote. "Her demand for transparency in all aspects of the operation of Bello Machre and other organizations has inspired others to follow her lead."
Ireland also noted that Bathras has faced another battle — breast cancer — for more than eight years.
"In typical fashion, she used her personal challenges to inspire others to action," he said. "Joining the breast cancer awareness and fundraising activities of the Ride Across Maryland, she inspired others."
Bathras said of her battle against cancer, "I have nothing to complain about, nothing to hide. I'm very blessed."
In addition to the award from the Commission on Disability Issues, Bathras also received awards from County Executive Laura Neuman, the city of Annapolis, the Annapolis city council and the Anne Arundel County Council, presented by Councilman Chris Trumbauer.
Neuman also thanked businesses and organizations that provide employment or accommodations for individuals with disabilities, saying, "These organizations play a vital role in enhancing opportunities and services for residents of Anne Arundel County with disabilities."
At Disability Awareness Day, residents could visit some 35 exhibitors who provide services to individuals with disabilities. The Opportunity Builders Inc. Bell Choir and Hands of Harmony provided entertainment, and Canine Companions for Independence performed a demonstration.
For information on the Anne Arundel County Commission on Disability Issues, call 410-222-4464.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun