Hansler Award Recipients

The 2021 Hansler Award awarded to Patti Substelny

Steve Hansler presenting the Stephen P. Hansler Award to Patti Substelny

In the fall of 2021, while presenting the 2021 Stephen P. Hansler award, Steve had this to say about award recipient, Patti Substelny:

In about 2010, I started hearing about someone named Patti. Some board members had met her and been to her house and told me about how she had renovated it to make it wheelchair accessible. Then Beth and some other staff and many other Board members met Patti, most of them also seeing her house.

They all began to say we should get Patti to join the MAHO Board. I wondered if she could really be as incredible as they were all making her out to be. Finally, I got an audience with Patti (because anybody who knows Patti realizes that meeting with her is akin to meeting royalty) and discovered that everyone was right- Patti Substelny is amazing in an amazing number of ways.

Patti’s resume and volunteer experience are dotted with some interesting things:

  • She studied at Cambridge (the one in England)
  • She had a minor in existential philosophy at John Carroll
  • She spent a lot of her paid career deciding who, at some very large companies, got raises and how much they received
  • She has been a judge . . .  in Lego league tournaments
  • I learned from a friend of mine who lives near Patti that she is known in the neighborhood as the lady who gives out full size candy bars on Halloween
  • She taught economics at Lorain County Community College

Being a well-rounded person, with a touch of quirkiness, have helped Patti become one of the most effective advocates for people with disabilities and the values that MAHO espouses that I have ever met.  She truly lives her beliefs.

Outside of her work with MAHO, Patti has done enough to merit receiving this award. Like many people with disabilities, she spends more time than she would like being a medical patient. She uses that experience to advocate for better understanding by medical professionals of the patient experience. She serves on numerous patient advisory councils, has written on the topic, and has presented to many audiences. Her insight is respected and valued.

Through her biking team for the MS Society, known as Patti’s Paladins, she has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars since 2006.  She is a Board member for the Ohio Chapter of the National MS Society.

She is also involved in community organizations. She has been a Board member for the Home Repair Resource Center, We Can Code it, and the Cleveland Heights Community Advisory Committee.

Most importantly for me, Patti has been a huge asset for Maximum Accessible Housing of Ohio. Almost exactly a  decade ago, Patti became a member of the MAHO Board of Directors. That was at the time that staff leadership realized that we needed to make some changes in the culture of MAHO to move to the next level. Patti was a huge part of that change.

I am going to read an excerpt from the remarks made by Board member Andra Robertson when Patti was term-limited off the Board a year ago.

“Patti has had a transformative effect on the board, and there’s two qualities that explain how: The first is that Patti cares deeply about the mission of MAHO. And the second is that Patti is someone who gets things done. She’s not content to just have good ideas, she’s not satisfied until those ideas move into action and real change gets accomplished. Her leadership skills mean that she can leverage her own energy, as well as the efforts of people around her, and she won’t stop until her goals are met.”

Andra said that very well.

In her time on the Board, including three years as the Board Chairperson, that cultural change happened. The Anderson Center for Accessible Living was established, and it is flourishing. Patti has been an invaluable resource to Beth in making that happen.  While it took longer than planned, we restructured MAHO staffing. Patti was a big part of tons of sticky notes stuck on the community room walls in that process.  Patti challenged us to think bigger for our events, starting with the 35th anniversary event in 2016.   She was right again.

Finally, Patti challenged me. I appreciated that she pushed me out of my comfort zone to make things better.

The Hansler Award was created in 2014. Patti could have been a worthy recipient in any of the years it has been awarded. Her continued commitment to the values of MAHO in her time since she went off the Board last year have made it clear that we could put it off no longer.

I am very pleased to present the 2021 Stephen Hansler award to Patti Substelny.

The 2019 Hansler Award awarded to Jan Hollinger Jones

Steve Hansler presenting the award to Jan Hollinger Jones at the 2019 Birthday Bash.

Conscientious and Committed. These words describe Jan Hollinger Jones as a long-time member of the MAHO Board of Directors and her dedication to independent living for people with disabilities.

Jan has been on the Board since 2006 and has served as Secretary since 2013. Jan majored in biology at the College of Wooster and studied physical therapy at Case Western Reserve University. As a physical therapist, she has always been interested in accessibility issues; when the opportunity arose to join the Board, she accepted the invitation. Jan volunteered at Muscular Dystrophy Camp, where she first met fellow Board member, Kathy Cotman. Jan worked at Sunbeam School, MetroHealth Medical Center, Cleveland State University, and Spain Rehabilitation Center

Jan is committed to the mission of MAHO. When she joined the MAHO Board, her experience as a physical therapist was important to our organizational understanding of accessibility.  What was much more impactful was that Jan grasped, way earlier than most people, the importance of independent living for people with disabilities.  This was because the people she worked with professionally were not just clients but people who became friends, people who directly benefited from the accessibility that MAHO helps create. When we would interview prospective tenants, she would comment on how much of a difference it would make to them to get an accessible apartment.

For many years, she lent her professional expertise to the Admissions Screening Committee and is currently the Chair of the Vistas Committee, ensuring that the Vistas tenants have a wonderful place to live.

Jan is unassuming and never seeks attention or glory for her work with MAHO and her other volunteer efforts. But Jan’s willingness to help with anything and everything for these many years has made her an invaluable asset in furthering MAHO’s mission. While she is seldom the first one to speak, her contributions are well thought-out and helpful. Jan leads by example. She helps us understand that the more we can make people literally thoughtful about accessibility, the more accessible and inclusive our communities will be.

Jan will be missed when she is term limited off the Board at the end of this year. She is currently retired and will stay involved in her many volunteer activities, her travels with Peter, visiting her daughter at med school, rooting for the Browns, and in advocating for accessibility. 

It is an honor to recognize Jan Hollinger Jones with the 2019 Stephen P. Hansler Award.

The 2018 Hansler Award Recipient: Fred Cortright!

Steve Hansler and Thomas Meyer presented the 2018 Hansler Award posthumously to Fred Cortright, which was accepted by his wife, Beth Armstrong.

At MAHO’s annual meeting on December 5, 2018, Steve Hansler presented the 2018 Hansler Award posthumously to Fred Cortright. His wife, Beth Armstrong, accepted the award.

Fred was a lifelong advocate for sustainability, accessible housing, and social justice in many forms; in addition to serving on the MAHO Board, he volunteered with Lakewood Alive, Home Repair Resource Center, and Lutheran Metro Ministry. Fred passed away in March of 2018.

Thomas Meyer, an Anderson Center committee member and longtime friend of Fred, spoke about Fred’s passion for accessibility: Accessible design, and sustainable, efficient design too, are not yet the rule. They are not necessarily sexy. They are a matter of social justice, however, and that was what made Fred such a forceful advocate for better design, especially for lower income residents. For him it was not just a good idea, but an imperative. He studied the history of housing, looking for ways to steer it in the right direction as he saw it. He went out into the community, engaging and teaching people about simple ways to improve how their homes functioned. He embraced and embodied the concepts of healthy, efficient and accessible homes, and was adamant that anything less was not only poor, but unjust design.

Fred worked toward a mainstream approach in a realm that was continually relegated to the margins, and for people who are routinely relegated to the margins as well. The irony that this marginalized population is huge and growing steadily was not lost on Fred. The irony that simple and easy to achieve design choices could truly impact the world we live in if replicated on a mass scale, yet are considered fringe concepts even in this day and age, was not lost on Fred. Perhaps the most significant bond we shared was an underlying anger at the injustice of our society and culture. He chose to deal with that via sardonic humor and a refusal to accommodate injustice; to accept the status quo. He understood that change happens one person, one changed mind, one well-built structure at a time. He believed that smart ideas and good design could one day become the mainstream, and I have no doubt he is correct about that. How long that will take is anyone’s guess, but this is what makes the mission here at MAHO so important to continuously, relentlessly promote. Do that in Fred’s honor. 

Patti Substelny and Fred Cortright at MAHO’s 35th anniversary celebration.

In his presentation, Steve noted that the Hansler Award recognizes those who not only support the mission, vision and values of MAHO, but have also made an outstanding contribution to furthering them. Fred not only contributed to furthering MAHO’s mission, he actually helped write our current mission, vision, and values in 2017. This was very typical of Fred’s involvement with MAHO: in his four years on the Board, he served on every ad hoc committee, attended resource fairs, gave presentations, and helped develop our Anderson Center program. In his closing, Steve shared this anecdote about Fred:
On his prospective Board member questionnaire for MAHO, Fred wrote, “I am told that this is a Board that “does things,” which I find attractive in that I try to live so as to be of use.”  There is no doubt that Fred was of use to MAHO and many others. He is missed greatly.

The 2017 Hansler Award Recipient: Chris Garr!

At MAHO’s annual meeting on December 6, 2017, Steve Hansler presented the 2017 Hansler Award to Chris Garr. For the last several years, Chris has worked with MAHO staff on the ADA Cleveland coalition. Through his work at Youth Challenge, Chris has referred several young people to the Vistas Apartment Communities. All who know him speak of Chris’s commitment, passion, and outstanding sense of humor.

Youth Challenge (YC) brings together young people with physical disabilities and teen volunteers through adapted sports. Chris began volunteering at YC when he was 12 years old and now serves as Director of Program Services. He serves as co-chair of the ADA Cleveland executive committee, where he works diligently and enthusiastically to eliminate barriers and increase accessibility in Cleveland. Chris also co-teaches a course on Adapted Physical Education at Baldwin Wallace University.

When accepting the Hansler Award, Chris shared that his goal is to “make sure every person is living life to their potential.” It is clear that he goes above and beyond in his work, serving as coach, mentor, big brother, and teacher to the participants at YC. Perhaps more telling than his lengthy resume are the words shared by YC participant and Vistas tenant Sean Walker:

“I met Chris through Youth Challenge when he was a 12 year old volunteer and I was a 4 year old participant.  I was one of his first partners and although my speech has never been easy to understand, from the very start Chris did everything he could to make sure he understood me. 

Chris has brought many improvements to the programs at YC; one of which is a focus on what happens to people with disabilities after high school. His first step was to implement an internship so participants of YC could see what happens behind the scenes in how YC operates.  As I’ve gotten to know him more over the years I’ve seen how Chris seems to pull the best out of every person he meets. I am so thankful he thought enough to take a chance on me and give me my first job in a professional setting.

Without Chris I would not have just celebrated two years of living independently in my own apartment in Pine Tree Vistas.  He encouraged me and showed me I could do more than I thought.  I can go to him with any problem and know I will get an honest opinion, even if it might be something I may not want to hear.  To Chris, there are no disabilities when he looks at someone. He sees a person and a friend.”  

The 2016 Hansler Award Recipient: Ann Russell!


We are delighted to announce that Ann Russell has received the 2016 Stephen P. Hansler Award. Ann joined the Maximum Accessible Housing of Ohio Board of Directors in the 1990s and served two terms as Board President. In addition to her work on the Board, Ann assists the MAHO staff in the office as a clerical volunteer.

Ann initially studied Zoology at Ohio Wesleyan University, then went to graduate school at Case Western Reserve University to get a master’s degree in Physical Therapy. After several years of clinical work in Cleveland and Boston, Ann joined the faculty at Cleveland State University in the Physical Therapy Program. With an increased interest in research, she attended the University of Iowa, graduating with a PhD in Exercise Science. Over the years she has had varied experiences: she volunteered at a camp for children with muscular dystrophy and held a post-doctoral research position at the University of Washington in Seattle and other faculty positions at Cleveland State, Gannon University, and Walsh University. She is presently retired from clinical work.

With a vocation in physical therapy, Ann’s interest in MAHO’s mission is obvious.  Before joining the Board, she was well aware of the housing issues of many of the people she worked with and was glad Kathy Cotman introduced her to MAHO.  Ann has been a strong advocate of the organization and encouraged others to share their time, talent and treasure with MAHO.

As a Board member, Ann thoroughly analyzes issues to arrive at correct decisions.  As an individual, she almost always puts the needs of others before her own. She has served eleven years on the Executive Committee, where she has shared her knowledge of MAHO’s history and combined it with a passion for the mission, vision and values of MAHO.  Ann has been a steady influence, guide and mentor to many of its Board members, both past and present, and she ranks among the top Board members in service to MAHO.

We are very appreciative of Ann’s dedication to increasing and improving accessible housing options for everyone. We are proud to honor her with the Hansler Award.

The 2015 Hansler Award Recipient: Mary Ann Gehringer!

Hansler Award (4)

We are delighted to announce that Mary Ann Gehringer has received the 2015 Stephen P. Hansler Award. Since meeting Steve 31 years ago, Mary Ann has supported Maximum Accessible Housing of Ohio (MAHO) as our auditor and friend. As our auditor, Mary Ann helped create accounting systems that worked as MAHO grew into the organization it is today. Mary Ann consistently went above and beyond her role, informing others of MAHO’s accessibility experience and taking part in MAHO events.

When Mary Ann’s husband, Mike, was diagnosed with a brain tumor that caused limited eyesight, speech difficulties, and mobility issues, Mary Ann knew that Mike was going to need accessible housing. She sought all the information she could to make her home accessible including, of course, consulting with Steve to utilize his expertise. Mary Ann renovated all living areas that Mike would be using and even bought a completely accessible motor home, complete with a chairlift.

With her expanded accessibility knowledge, Mary Ann has become a resource for numerous others dealing with new disabilities and became a fierce advocate for accessibility. Now, despite battling her own personal health issues, Mary Ann has never stopped being a source of positive council and has been a blessing to everyone that she has touched.

We are appreciative of Mary Ann’s support for many years and her continued advocacy for accessibility and are proud to honor her with the Hansler Award.


The 2014 Hansler Award Recipient: MaryLou Lamb!

SH Award 2014 - MaryLou Lamb

We are very excited to announce that MaryLou Lamb received the inaugural Stephen P. Hansler Award. MaryLou has been a part of MAHO since its beginning: she helped found the organization in 1981, served as a Board member for over 25 years, and is currently an Emeritus Director. She has made outstanding contributions to furthering the mission, vision and values of MAHO.

MaryLou graduated from Ashland Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree. She has spent over 30 years working in Cleveland and the surrounding areas as a teacher, program director, consultant and Pastoral Disability Specialist. MaryLou was part of the Outreach Ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland for 15 years and served as the Program Coordinator and Director of the Task Force for Persons with Disabilities at Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry for seven years. MaryLou also authored the book A Star and a Rainbow for Benji, which was inspired by two boys she knew through her work at the Outreach Ministry.

MaryLou received the ARC Cuyahoga County Award in 1973 for advocacy and innovative new programs and the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Service in 1998. MaryLou has been a tireless advocate for people with disabilities and has made significant contributions to improving their lives. MaryLou considers it an honor to receive the Hansler Award and is happy to have remained a part of MAHO for over three decades.

We are very grateful for MaryLou’s excellent work and proud to honor her with the Hansler Award.