Tom Maloney is a great example of what a person can achieve with dedication and determination.
Maloney has overcome many challenges he's faced because of a slight intellectual disability. He lives independently, works full-time, drives, grocery shops, paints beautiful pictures and contributes to his community in many ways.
Maloney was recently chosen as a "Famous Arkansan" as part of Arkansas' Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. On March 6, he visited the state capitol and was recognized by Gov. Asa Hutchison and other elected officials.
He was pleased by the honor and a chance to meet the governor.
"It was nice. I liked meeting the governor. Not very many people are able to meet him personally like that. It made me happy," Maloney said.
Maloney works at St. Edward Catholic Church, where he's been for the past 12 years.
"I just like to be with the people. It's my church, so I'm doing something for my church, and they're helping me out, too," Maloney said.
One of his proudest accomplishments is learning to read.
"When I moved here, I couldn't read at all. I could read enough to drive, but that was all," he said.
He started going to the Literacy Council of Bowie & Miller Counties Inc. and working with a tutor there. His dedication paid off.
"I'm really happy to be able to read. If I couldn't read, I wouldn't be able to do what I'm doing now," Maloney said.
He moved to Texarkana in the 1980s and became a client of Opportunities, Inc., the organization that nominated him for the Famous Arkansan honor.
"He's so independent, and he's able to integrate and contribute to his community in ways that in years past, people never would've thought possible," said Jennifer Teeters, grant writer and media specialist at Opportunities, Inc. "It's inspiring to see how much he's been able to grow living here, but it's also inspiring to see how people's view of those with intellectual disabilities has changed."
"I think Tom really embodies all the aspects of our adult-services program and the disability services the state of Arkansas has to offer. He's really just a living example of how much disability services can enhance somebody's life, and that's what it's all about," Teeters said.
Patricia Gunter, Opportunities program manager for home and community-based services, said Maloney was very deserving of the recognition.
"I'm not surprised. We're very proud of him. He's the goal we have for all the people we serve. They come into training homes and learn life skills, and it just goes from there to as much independence as they can achieve," Gunter said.