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For the first 20 years on our organizational trail, our Executive Director, Sharone Lee, completed a long course of study in support of our Autism mission goals. When her family first founded this organization, she provided the benefits of hundreds of hours of training in human relations, parenting, and best developmental Autism practices. That work and her innovative design of thematic Autism educational materials arose from her B.F.A. in Visual Communication Design and well-served the visual thinking preschoolers at our Step Up™ Foundational Program and young students at Open Door™ School Cooperative. We then shared those goods in local provider workshops and with other PNW region organizations (1992-1997). Building on those mission outcomes and fieldwork, she then completed a Post-Bach B.S. in Developmental Research Psychology with a focus on the vocational training of and best organizational niches for people with Autism (1997-1999). Altogether, that work generated the launch of Our Windows of Opportunity™ vocational and recreational skills training program for our teen alum with more severe Autism who needed alternatives to or augmentation of public school placements. Again, we shared our best developmental Autism practices model approach with hundreds of adult service providers to our local community of life-long institutionalized adults as they were being transitioned back into community. (1998-2012) In this way, just one volunteer's critical course of studies was shared with hundreds of colleagues on the ground, who then served thousands of Autism community members. This meant that Sharone built others' career paths and not hers. This is often a necessary sacrifice of women in volunteer service to those in loss and poverty.

Along the way, Sharone had experienced and witnessed the dire struggles of mothers at-risk due to Autism and other profound loss impacts on our families. So, she went on to complete an M.A. in Human Development with a specialization on Leadership in Parent Education and a thesis on models of biosocial justice work through adaptive parenting education for all of us who must live, work, survive, and cope with the mutual impacts of Autism (1998-2003). Her own healing on this journey spread to her professional colleagues and parent peers open to models of deeper process work. That course of study yielded new family development resources and participatory Autism research opportunities for our parent peer mentoring cohort that ran for 15 years, until our last alum kids became adults. (2000-2015). This group met our charitable mission commitment to all our children and their families to walk with them as long as they needed or wanted our alum community support. (Our last student alum aged out in March of 2017 and his/her mother then joined our next generation volunteer ranks as our Oregon Alum Connect making this year a sad and sweet arrival at our quarter century "mission achieved" finished line, just when we were all truly ready to move on to new mission challenges.)

The possibly even greater value of that family fieldwork effort was that Sharone was able to  translate what we were learning together into a much needed comprehensive online resource. This work led Sharone to finish her Ph.D. in Human and Organizational Development with a focus on dimensional information systems of knowledge organizations that serve communities in loss. Her goal was to develop ways to more authentically include the realities of the Autism community in public discourse (2003-2013). Her applied research in information systems let us attempt new and greater global outreach through our comprehensive dimensional map in an Autism information website that was posted at this URL from 2005 to 2015. It answered questions gathered from ten years of providing a live 24/7 support line globally and local trainings and support groups. However, by 2015, better and worse changes in answers to that huge information base, other organizations and nations appreciating and appropriating on our work, the explosion of social media, and most of all the end of use permissions from key Autism training institutions that were terminated for all their previous training graduates, required that we take that web site down permanently. At this point in 2018, after our moves being completed in 2016 and 2017, our future mission vision has shifted to ways to develop a more radical alternative online information resource access for Autism professionals and parent home program providers in a way that could transcend, by mapping, informational barriers and openings that we are still witnessing and encountering.

Through these ways of providing alternative options to Oregon's Autism community locally and then sharing those resources globally online, Sharone's studies were pursued as part of her volunteer service to our organization. Through that mission work, families in financial need and their providers in difficult binds were granted access to optimum programs, services, training, and consultation resources at no or lower cost from 1992 to 2017. Through Dr. Lee's academic pursuits past she has mapped out her life spanning volunteer commitment to our organizational mission path to come. Her wish is to have a life well-lived in service to others, just as her family had envisioned at the time of our founding. Now, the sum of Sharone's studies and fieldwork will continue to support our future global mission goals online as she designs and relaunch a new website that links into the launch of our Understanding Autism social media campaign.
Yet, just as we hoped to celebrate her important academic milestone of becoming Dr. Sharone Lee in 2013, Sharone and most of our Understanding Autism Organization community began to experience the combination of other profound life losses that must fall upon our survivorship of the mutual impacts of Autism. At that point, we all worked together to adapt to the stress of dealing with multiples, illnesses, deaths of beloved friends and family, and other big life event impacts like natural disasters, job instability, denial of healthcare access, and divorce. In this way, we were all empathically reminded of the sober importance of our mission to cooperatively work to help those of us in profound loss find ways to be safer and freer from risks of harm. Gratefully, all of our long term organizational experts and a number of new highly skilled professionals joined in our all volunteer efforts so that we could continue on with that, our mission vision. We thank you all for all that you have given to our mission work past, present and future. Your dedication and support has helped us meet many of our our ten year goals timely, including successfully expanding our operations into Washington state by the early spring of 2016 and to find new offices for our online work with technical training peers in Portland, Oregon in 2017 just as our old site was sold. This was truly a miracle to behold--but we did it.

One small unexpected mission light, in the depths of the dark of new loss, appeared when Sharone tragically lost five beloved members in the midst of her launching our move into Washington. Quite suddenly and late one night in June of 2014, she inherited an aging and ill service dog "Buddy" who was now homeless and so, would most likely be put down if she could not take him in immediately. When she saw "Call Sharone" scrawled across an unpaid vet bill in the handwriting of a most beloved Gramma now gone, she was all in. Since this rescue service dog owner role was far beyond her current resources as an Autism mission volunteer moving her home and offices across two states in new loss and at-risk, we all embraced Buddy as our organizational mascot in loss too. Dear Buddy, a lovely 7 year old cockapoo, began to recover his health and showed remarkable capacities working in service to our alum with Autism and our parents and volunteers in loss. So, because everyone on our team needed to work to support our mission, we gave Buddy a job as emotional support dog to parent volunteers and mobility dog in community training to alum with Autism. He picked up the role and ran with his new job of co-researcher figuring out with us how cognitive-developmental dog training methods (that Sharone and her now grown son with more severe Autism had been studying together so that he might earn a dog after working as a volunteer helper on the move) might mesh with the cognitive developmental models of Autism program design that we use to help our adult volunteers with Autism work at our site and on the move--literally. Buddy and "his boy" thrived together in our travels across Oregon and Washington. In the process of learning how to manage this unexpected model program research challenge, Sharone designed and field-tested new Autism service dog team training apparatus and methods that we will be posting with that story on our new facebook site as an open source resource for our community at large and with a fund-raising link so you all might be able help us with Buddy's many medical and care costs by helping us feed two birds with one hand again--with some left over for a small and very special dog with a big heart that turned out to need special vet care for his remaining years.
By the end of our 25th Anniversary in 2017, Sharone had relocated our main online mission activities from our model site in Salem to offices in Portland, Oregon and relocated our model site development project to the Bellingham, Washington area--hoping to meet our final ten year mission goals asap. While she encountered very significant obstacles and truly sorrow-full disappointments along our way of pursuing those outcomes, our organizational family of volunteers has helped her reach 2018 all together ready, able and willing to complete our 2010 ten-year plan by 2020--all of us saddened and much wiser.