History

Some highlights of our history

A LOOK BACK THROUGH TIME

2010-Present

2023-History

2023

In 2023, OPTIONS celebrated 50 years of providing premier services to individuals with disabilities and built the Oscar J. Tolmas Wellness Plaza. The Plaza increases opportunities for health and fitness with wheelchair accessible exercise equipment.

2022

Sylvia's heart of service and steadfast and deep commitment to OPTIONS is unchanging. For 43 years, she has advocated alongside Mary Pirosko for people with disabilities to be valued and respected in our community. OPTIONS Board of Directors designated Sylvia Bush as President Emeritus of OPTIONS

2021

Carrie Mercke became OPTIONS President/CEO.

2021

During Hurricane Ida, OPTIONS responded to the needs of people with disabilities by utilizing 4 of its locations as storm shelters. For two weeks OPTIONS provided natural gas generators, food and hands on care to ensure approximately 80 people (54 people with disabilities and 26 staff) were safe, health and content.

2020

OPTIONS keeps people with disabilities safe and socially distant and develops new and creative ways to meet their needs during all of the COVID-19 restrictions. Innovative activities included: a virtual day program, Virtual Legislative & Business Appreciation Event, to drive by Employee Appreciation opportunities and Movin’ & Grovin’ 4 OPTIONS. The purpose of Movin’ & Groovin’ 4 OPTIONS was to promote health and wellness and physical activity while adhering to social distancing guidelines. In November, OPTIONS hosted 20 physical activity sessions to encourage participants to get up, get moving, and have fun!

2018

Good Morning America Co-Host and OPTIONS Advocate/Supporter, Robin Roberts, comes to visit OPTIONS Program Participants.

2017

In August, OPTIONS established a satellite enrichment day program location at First Christian Church in Downtown Hammond.

2017

OPTIONS partners with Spoga to hold the 1st Ballin’ 4 OPTIONS Charity Basketball game. With the leadership of Jeff Day, co-owner of Spoga, this event was created to promote health and wellness. OPTIONS participants practice to form two basketball teams the Orange Rockets and the Purple Knights. After many weeks of practice they demonstrated their skills at the Ballin’ 4 OPTIONS Charity Basketball game.

2015

On November 12, 2015 OPTIONS held its 1st Be the Key Breakfast fundraiser. The OPTIONS Be the Key Breakfast purpose is to raise funds to fill the gap in funding for the agency.

2015

Thanks to the vision and passion of Karen Pfiefer, OPTIONS Weaving Studio opens for business on OPTIONS main campus.

2014

On March 17, 2014 the OPTIONS Enrichment Program was started. This program encourages people with disabilities to enjoy self-growth, friendship, recreation and arts through community partnerships.

2014

C’est Tres Bon!, a HUD housing apartment program with 6 handicapped accessible apartment units, opens.

2011 - 2012

OPTIONS creates a new business in Ponchatoula, Fabulous Finds, a resale store, to provide additional employment for people with disabilities.

2011 – 2012

OPTIONS Safe Haven had its grand opening and began operating as a vocational day program. It was used as a hurricane shelter for Hurricane Isaac on August 28th, 2012.

90's-00's

2005-2006

Land was also donated by Jerry & Sheila Kinchen to a 6 unit handicap accessible HUD apartments (C’est Tres Bon!).

2005-2006

After Hurricane Katrina, OPTIONS gets land donated by Ed and Peggy Hoover to build a 7000 square foot facility (Safe Haven) that will provide additional space for vocational services and a safe location in the event of a hurricane or natural disaster. OPTIONS Safe Haven building was constructed to withstand 110 mph wind load and is fully handicap accessible to meet all of the participants needs.

2003

OPTIONS Capital Campaign raises money to build a new home for six ladies who live at Our House community home and a building for OPTIONS horticulture program.

2003

OPTIONS Capital campaign raises money to build new home for six ladies who live at Our House community home and a building for OPTIONS horticulture program.

1998-1999

OPTIONS 1st TELETHON was held at Hammond Square Mall and was shown on Channel 17. Community leaders and advocates join together to promote awareness of the needs of people with disabilities and to raise money to support OPTIONS mission.

OPTIONS 1st Legislative & Business Appreciation Breakfast was held.

1989-1990

TARC’s board of director decides that two separate non-profit agencies will better serve the growing needs of people with disabilities in the community. OPTIONS was created. TARC will provide early intervention services and advocacy and OPTIONS will provide adult residential and vocational services. TARC transfers 2 community homes, supervised apartment program, and vocational services to OPTIONS.

70's-80's

1985

TARC begins finding individual jobs for people with disabilities in the community

1985

TARC begins the first supervised apartment program in Tangipahoa parish.

1984

As part of TARC, the first community based small residential living home, known as Our House, opened in Tangipahoa parish. Six ladies with developmental disabilities lived together with around the clock staff support.

1982

Parents of people with disabilities personally guaranteed a loan for TARC to build a permanent building for community based Day Program services on Shelton Road.

1979

TARC hires Sylvia Bush as the Chief Executive Officer.

1972

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, there were very few community-based services for people with disabilities and it was parents who advocated for their children to have opportunities for education and to be part of their community. Mary Pirosko moved to Hammond with her husband and children. One of her children, Stephen, had Down syndrome, and she wanted community services for him. She worked with other parents, and in 1972, they started the first community-based Day Program for children of all ages. The parents’ organization had several names over the years, but it is most well known as TARC.

Shannon Trautman

Shannon Trautman

Shannon Trautman: Shannon joined the OPTIONS team in 2019.  She holds a degree in Music Therapy from Loyola University and a Master’s degree in Education Counseling from Southeastern Louisiana University.  She has worked with people with intellectual disabilities since she was in high school in the ’70s!  Shannon loves to help our participants share the gifts they have that add value to others.

Andrea Gousman

Andrea Gousman

Andrea Gousman: Andrea is a graduate from Tulane University where she received a Bachelors of Art in Social Sciences. She has been a part of the OPTIONS team since 2011. She began her career in case management in 2007. Andrea enjoys working with families to help them navigate the complexities of provider and waiver services. Her goal is to ensure every participant is able to receive the premier services that they deserve and desire.

Jamie Guidry

Jamie Guidry

Jamie Guidry: Jamie joined OPTIONS in 2019. She holds a degree in Accounting from Southeastern. She has worked in the non-profit industry serving the elderly and disabled for over seventeen years. Jamie’s focus is to continue to serve this community and assure that these citizens are provided the best services available by striving to improve the financial health of our agency.

Jennifer Carona

Jennifer Carona

Jennifer Carona: Jennifer joined the OPTIONS team in 2021. She is a native of Independence, Louisiana. Jennifer received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2004 and a Master of Science in Nursing with a concentration in Family Nurse Practitioner in 2020 from Herzing University. She is a Licensed Registered Nurse, Licensed Advanced Practice Registered Nurse and a Certified Family Nurse Practitioner. Jennifer’s focus is to ensure that OPTIONS participants receive high quality healthcare so that they may live and flourish in their community to the best of their abilities.

Sharon Jacob

Sharon Jacob

Sharon Jacob: Sharon Jacob is a graduate of Coastal College where she studied Business Management in 1990.  She is a native of Hammond, LA. with over 30 years of experience in Business Management.  She has served in her role as the Director of Transportation since 2013. Sharon loves that OPTIONS has granted her the opportunity to do what she loves, transport and support people with disabilities, so they can live their dreams in our community. 

Steve Leon 2

Steve Leon

Steve Leon: Steve joined the OPTIONS team in 2010. He is from Metairie and moved to Hammond in 1974 to attend Southeastern Louisiana University. He graduated with a Master’s degree in 1979 and worked for Southeastern for over 30 years as an administrator in Student and Business services before coming to OPTIONS.  Steve is also a City Councilman for Hammond, La.  Steve has been very active in the community throughout his career. His primary focus at OPTIONS is property management, operations, logistics and whatever else needs to be done!

Michelle Carruthers

Michelle Carruthers

Michelle Carruthers: Michelle received her BA in Psychology from UNC Greensboro and her M.Ed. in Counseling from Southeastern Louisiana University.  For over a decade, Michelle has provided services to individuals with disabilities and their families. She joined the OPTIONS team in 2021 and continues her passion for empowering people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She is committed to helping OPTIONS participants lead fulfilling lives and accomplish their goals, whether it’s participating in their community, living independently, or finding meaningful work.

Dione Branch

Dione Branch

Dione Branch:Joining in 2020, Dione found OPTIONS’s dynamic culture to be a welcoming and supportive environment. As a credentialed SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP), she actively engages at both the national level with SHRM and locally with NSHRM. An alumna of the University of New Orleans, Dione holds a Bachelor’s in Business Management specializing in Human Resources and an MBA with a focus on Healthcare Management. Within our HR department, our core commitment is to ensure that every employee receives the same level of support as the individuals we serve, fostering a culture of unity and shared purpose.

Alexis Sterling

Alexis Sterling

Alexis Sterling: Alexis is a graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University. She holds a degree in Family and Consumer Science with a concentration in Family Studies. Alexis began working at OPTIONS in 2016 and she enjoys coordinating fun activities for the participants year round. She shares her passion for OPTIONS by inspiring community members to get involved, volunteer, and make a difference in their community.

Casey Rudolph

Casey Rudolph

Casey Rudolph: Casey is a graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University where she studied Psychology. She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, a graduate of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s Development Fellowship Class of 2022, and is a member of Leadership Tangipahoa’s Class of 2024.  Casey began working with people with disabilities in 2014 and joined the OPTIONS family in 2020. She loves highlighting the stories of OPTIONS participants, fundraising to ensure the sustainability of our organization, and inspiring others to support our mission.

Sylvia Easter 2020

Sylvia Bush

Sylvia Bush: For over 40 years, Sylvia has been advocating and helping create quality community services for people with disabilities.  She served as OPTIONS President and CEO from 1979 until 2021. She was appointed President Emeritus by the Board of Directors in 2022. She continues to demonstrate her heart of service and her steadfast commitment by volunteering at OPTIONS on a weekly basis. 

Carrie Mercke

Carrie Mercke

Carrie Mercke: Carrie joined the OPTIONS team in 2009.  She is a Ponchatoula native, and holds a degree in Psychology from Southeastern and a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Louisville.  She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Board Approved Clinical Supervisor.  Carrie’s focus is to build upon the legacy of our founding families through advocating for a more inclusive community for people with disabilities. 

Download our employee handbook 2020