Mike Mushett guiding Turnstone into national future

April 12th, 2018

By Blake Sebring | News-Sentinel

When he took over as Turnstone’s CEO in January 2015, Mike Mushett saw it as an opportunity to put everything on his resume together into one spot. Three years later, his next goal is to help everyone understand what Turnstone is, what it offers and what it can become in the future — putting everything together in one spot.

A few years ago, Turnstone dropped the use of “Children and Adults with Disabilities” from its title, in part because the organization’s mission is to focus on enhancing abilities and because Turnstone works to prove that disabilities do not have to limit a person’s potential. The new tagline is “Creating Possibilities,” but the organization has lost identification from some within the community. Turnstone has to define itself again.

The mission statement probably says it best, “Empowering people to achieve their highest potential.” And a pamphlet includes, “Turnstone empowers people with disabilities to reach for their full potential in every aspect of life. We are guided by the vision that one day, all people will live, work, learn and play in a community based on abilities, not disabilities.”

But still, there are people who walk into the building every week who are unsure what the organization is all about.

“We need to get more strategic and aggressive in our marketing,” Mushett said. “I think it’s fair to say that most people in the community have heard of Turnstone, but a much lower percentage could tell you what Turnstone is or what we do. We need to be much more strategic in educating the community.”

And Turnstone is continuing to grow. Since the $14 million Plassman Athletic Center opened in 2015, the organization has had explosive growth, serving 25 percent more clients in each of the first two years. Staffing continues to increase to meet the need of 675 more clients over the past year.

“That’s been exciting but still know we’re scratching the tip of the iceberg out in the community,” Mushett said. “There are so many people who could benefit from our services who don’t know what we do or don’t know that we exist.”

Part of the marketing revitalization is continuing to grow with the sports teams which have served as a way of promoting the facility’s programs and services. Every year, Turnstone teams in sled hockey, power soccer and wheelchair basketball compete for national titles, and there are individuals working their way toward Paralympics participation.

Equally as important are the every-day services such as therapeutic, adult day services, early learning center and the health and wellness facility. The Plassman Center also serves as a training site for Indiana Tech, Saint Francis and club track and field, basketball and volleyball teams.

“Because the sports gets so much attention, that may give a distorted view of what do do, whereas the therapy, early learning center and adult day services don’t get as much attention,” Mushett said. “Once we get people in the building, we can be educating them on our other programs.”

That’s another important reason why Turnstone encourages outside groups to use the facility. It brings the organization more money, but it also allows further education of what the facility is all about.”

Part of that includes earning a gold medal designation from the United State Olympic Committee in 2015 and becoming the official training facility for the U.S. National Goalball teams in 2015. Thanks in part to Fort Wayne’s central location, Mushett said there are plans exploring becoming the training site for more teams and offering other programs.

Sometimes during such fast-moving transition, staffs can implode and move onto new career options, but Turnstone has been able to keep key people, though many have shifted responsibilities.

“We have a staff that has been here through numerous transitions and growth phases and adaptations of Turnstone, and they have just rolled with it,” said new Marketing CEO Stasha Carrasquillo. “Part of that is the mission at hand is always the same, providing opportunities for people with disabilities and giving them hope and determination, watching their lives be changed. That never changes no matter what.”

That’s part of what Turnstone is.

Despite all the growth over the last 75 years, Turnstone officials can still dream of further growth to fulfill the needs of the community.

“As we continue to spread our wings more regionally and nationally, we still have not been able to find another Turnstone in the United States,” Mushett said. “There are agencies that do pieces of what we do, but to have a comprehensive set of services and programs under one roof, we’ve not been able to find it, and that really should be a great source of pride for the community.”