SANDWICH – One can learn a lot by picking up an issue of the Oddo Gazette. Do you want to know more about the importance of April in the Civil War? Or maybe you can use tips on how to avoid phone scams?
The first two Oddo Gazette issues have all of that and more thanks to the newsletter’s 12-person staff who have been hard at work generating ideas and writing for the Open Door Rehabilitation Center’s first client-run newsletter. The Open Door Rehabilitation Center, 405 S. Wells St., serves adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“We’re just giving them the opportunity to get their voice heard and really just say what they want, and whatever they want to put in they can put in,” said Daniel Wehrli, a case worker for Open Door.
Wehrli said he came up with the idea for a client-run newsletter in February to combine two of his passions: journalism and providing care for adults with disabilities. Wehrli graduated in 2010 from North Central College in Naperville, where he wrote for the North Central Chronicle, and currently writes and designs Open Door’s newsletter, “The Voice.”
“I had a degree in journalism, wrote for the student newspaper, and that was something really important to me, but I couldn’t make a living on it, so I went back to school to help people with disabilities,” Wehrli said. “I thought, you know what would be really cool is if the clients made their own paper.”
Clients have produced two newsletters since February. Wehrli fact checks and lays out each paper. The next issue is slated to arrive in the middle of July, Wehrli said.
The “Oddo” in the Oddo Gazette is an octopus that serves as Open Door’s mascot. Wehrli said Oddo’s tentacles represent different facets of one’s life.
“It’s really important to keep the tentacles balanced so you’re not focusing on just eating or you may just want to go, go, go, but may be neglecting other aspects,” he said.
Jessica Ekey, an Open Door case worker who works alongside Wehrli on the newsletters, said all ideas are pitched by the clients, who are very anxious to turn their articles in and see their bylines.
“They beat to the tune of their own drum,” Ekey said. “For me it goes back to really seeing them enjoying it and hearing their voices heard and learning about how much they know about certain topics.”
Contributing writer Susan Way wrote about phone scams and warned her readers to not give away their social security numbers. Another article by columnist David Schoeffler points out that major events during and after the Civil War, such as the beginning, end and U.S. President Abraham Lincoln's death, occurred in April.
Other articles include reviews on local restaurants such as Subway and the history of dragons.
One client recently wrote an article about the Fourth of July, and Ekey said he knows more about the holiday than anyone she has ever met.
Wehrli said the best part about working with the writers is seeing their faces when the issues come out.
“They’re becoming journalists and studying how to do investigative work,” Wehrli said. “It’s really turned into something that’s fantastic to manage.”