Fortunately, Holley, the executive director of Multiple Choices, redefines himself every day and has created a self-made person who many now call a success, innovator, and most importantly, “differently abled.”
Holley has endured 70 years of racial, health and governmental hardships, but persevered as a shining light by creating innovative solutions for people with disabilities.
From the start of his career training, Holley knew that he wanted to serve the disabled community, which the rest of the world seemed to neglect. His position as diversity coordinator in the family and consumer sciences department at the University of Georgia was the first place Holley worked with people who have disabilities.
“I have a passion for people who are underestimated,” said Holley. “It’s about people with a lot of potential but (who) don’t have the opportunities because of what people think disabled people can and cannot do.”
Holley’s faith in humanity was restored because of the young minorities recruited by UGA who had the objectives and heart to work with people who suffered from disabilities.
This position allowed Holley to develop numerous friendships with people who have significant disabilities; which led to his position with the National Family for the Advancement of Minorities with Disabilities.
“Mr. Holley has changed my life,” Charles Schrauth Multiple Choices board member said. “I have an adult child with disabilities and Mr. Holley has shown me how to better understand my son and to better meet his needs.”
Holley’s health deteriorated along with vision loss, which led him to overcoming new challenges.
“I refer to people like me as differently abled,” said Holley. “My becoming blind did not stop me from doing those things, but I do them better because I have a sense of consciousness.”
Instead of living his life in shambles and questioning why God served him a dish that was hard to digest, Holley became a self-advocate. He underwent training at Louisiana Tech School for the Blind. In training he was sought out by Multiple Choices in Athens to serve as the nonprofit’s executive director.
“All the work I did nationally cannot compete with all the things that I have done here in Athens,” said Holley.
With memories of his past experiences as a Georgia resident, Holley hesitantly accepted the position.
“I originally didn’t want to work this position,” said Holley. “I didn’t want to return to Georgia because it’s the worst in the country for helping people with disabilities.”
Together, Holley and Multiple Choices focus on rehabilitating people who endure life with disabilities by providing them with necessary tools to live a successful life independently from a nursing home.
“His most valuable attribute is his persistence,” a co-worker who wished to remain anonymous said. “He does not allow the word ‘no’ to deter him from his goal.”
Holley believes that if given opportunities anyone can accomplish anything. He served as the first black and blind district governor in Georgia and president of the Georgia Council of the Blind.
Holley spoke of how the government restricts the capabilities of those who are differently abled. He worked hard in the late 1970s to pass the Rehabilitation Act, which governs all disabilities and removes numerous restrictions.
With the body of a 70-year-old, but heart and soul of a 21-year-old college student. Holley does not plan on retiring until the organization has enough resources to ensure that everyone who wants help can get it.
Holley’s selflessness exhibits that he is not an executive director of a nonprofit to collect a check. He came across many higher paying opportunities while serving as the executive director, but remains humble by returning his paycheck to better the center and to help more people.
“I would rather give it away than keep it, the more you give, the more you get,” said Holley.