Agency marks 25 years helping disabled adults

May 23, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

There's a beautiful new building at Change Inc., an agency that on Friday celebrated 25 years of serving mentally handicapped adults.

But the staff works hard so that the clients don't spend too much time inside the rooms on Bishop Street in Westminster.

The point is to get them into the community as workers, volunteers and citizens, said Richard Glaser, executive director.

That's why the agency changed its name two years ago, from Carroll Haven.

"We wanted a name that reflected what we are doing and gave us a more positive image," Mr. Glaser said. "Carroll Haven gave the image that people with disabilities need to be protected and kept from society. We're trying to do the opposite."

Change helps 130 clients and their families with a variety of services. Adults with mental disabilities go there daily to learn the self-help skills that drive the agency's core philosophy.

Nineteen clients work at businesses throughout the county, some earning payas much as $250 a week.

Others are employed inside the building. Change has contracts with McCormick and Co. to package spice racks in boxes and with A&A Parkway Machine Corp. to put small toys into plastic capsules that are sold in vending machines.

Those who aren't ready to work in a paying job are volunteers. With staff supervision, they help deliver food for Meals on Wheels, recycle aluminum cans and perform other community services.

A family support program for parents of mentally disabled children and adults that was started two years ago includes respite care. Parents can get a trained person to stay with their children so that they can run errands or relax at dinner in a restaurant.

Although Change has expanded from 40 clients and one program 25 years ago to 130 clients and a much broader reach, its philosophy seems to be the same, said Theresa Norris, a retired instructor who still substitutes regularly.

"It has to stay the same," she said. "I think the main goal is training these guys to be independent, as independent as they can be."

Ms. Norris, of Sykesville, is the only staff member at Change who has been there since its inception. She retired two years ago.

Before she joined the agency as a bus aide, she said, she had never seen people with disabilities.

On days when they needed extra help, teachers would ask her to come off the bus and stay for the day in the classrooms.

"I got hooked," she said. She had little training, but she knew how to help the young clients learn simple tasks such as washing their faces.

"I just used my common sense," she said. She went on to receive training at the University of Maryland and became a full-time instructor.

Four clients at Change have been there since it was founded in 1969 by their parents and others. The clients, Dan Selby, Margaret Shifler, Gregg Albright and Bill Hollinger, were honored at an anniversary dinner Friday for their growth over the past 25 years,

Originally called Carroll Haven, Change was founded by a group that had helped found the Carroll County Association for Retarded Citizens. The group started ARC in 1954, when the public schools had no special education programs.

By 1969, schools had more services for disabled children, but Carroll Haven was launched to provide more help for adults.

Parents such as Miriam Hollinger of Westminster were looking for a recreation or training program in which to enroll their children. There was nothing in schools in 1954 and little for adults by 1969, said Ms. Hollinger, the mother of Bill Hollinger, 46.

Ina Langdon of Westminster, one of the charter members of ARC, said Carroll Haven was an outgrowth of ARC established to provide more services focused on self-help skills.

On May 1, Change began its newest service, an assisted-living program, when client Greg Prater moved into his own apartment at the Greens.

Two staff members take turns visiting him Monday through Friday, to help with cooking, cleaning, managing money and shopping.

Until then, Greg, 28, had been living in a nursing home while he recovered from a head injury sustained in an auto accident several years ago.

During the day, Greg works at the Change building putting the spice racks into boxes for McCormick.

Asked whether he liked his new apartment better than the nursing home, Greg answered enthusiastically: "I do, I do."

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