Carroll agency helps disabled clients find, keep jobs in community TARGET also offers living and recreational options

November 30, 1997|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

George M. Andrews Sr., director of vocational services at TARGET Inc., has a very simple philosophy.

"I'll do anything to meet someone's needs at their level," he says. "I believe it's the person's responsibility to work if they're at all able, and we do whatever is necessary to help the person get and keep a job."

That philosophy may have something to do with TARGET's success. The rehabilitation program, which provides services to the developmentally disabled, recently earned an Organization of the Year award from the Maryland Rehabilitation Association for its vocational program.

TARGET, founded in 1983, is one of several state-licensed and -funded community rehabilitation programs in Carroll County. TARGET's goals are to provide vocational, residential living and recreational opportunities to its clients.

"Last fiscal year, through June, we placed 32 people in competitive jobs," Andrews says. "We've placed an additional 21 people since then."

One client, Shelley Turner, recently celebrated her fifth year working in the laundry at the Fairhaven retirement community in Sykesville.

Turner, 27, is mildly mentally disabled, cannot read and lives in one of TARGET's houses with two other clients and a counselor who takes her to and from work.

She started at Fairhaven on a contractual basis and was hired as a regular employee, receiving full benefits. She no longer receives government assistance.

"A lot of stuff," Turner says when asked what she does.

She sounded like most employees at holiday time when she said early last week, "I'm off Wednesday and Thursday. I'm going home for Thanksgiving. At 4 o'clock, I'm out of here."

Gail Angell, housekeeping director, says Turner is "doing great. She's really worked out well. She's really nice and interacts with the other employees, even outside of work."

TARGET's clients range in age from 21 to 57. Many are young adults who have gone through the public school system and began working with the agency two years before graduation. Other referrals come from Springfield Hospital Center or the county Department of Human Services.

TARGET prepares clients for work with a one-week assessment of their abilities, two-week vocational evaluation and 13 weeks of work-adjustment training.

When clients begin a job, TARGET staff members work with them during the transition, gradually decreasing the time spent with them.

"The key is to do whatever we have to that leads to community-based employment starting at least at minimum wage," Andrews says. "The large majority of these people want to work, but need a kick-start to get a job. People with disabilities have every right to work like the rest of us."

TARGET works closely with businesses that hire its clients, making sure the client can do the job and that both sides are

satisfied. TARGET makes sure clients have dependable transportation, and it does annual follow-ups.

The organization also works with agencies that provide benefits to the disabled, handling paperwork and assisting employers with tax forms for the state and federal tax credit for which they qualify.

TARGET has a cooperative educational program with Carroll County public schools and Carroll Community College to teach clients residential living skills. Part of that program is a week at the Winchester Country Inn, a bed-and-breakfast operated by TARGET.

For those wishing to live independently, TARGET's Community Living Services program offers space to 28 individuals in 10 houses, and nine people in three apartments in Carroll and Montgomery counties.

Helping with the program are graduate students from Western Maryland College, who fill full-time paid positions at TARGET during the two years spent studying for their master's degree in human service management in special education.

All of TARGET's services are free to clients because TARGET receives funds from the state Division of Rehabilitation Services. The only service TARGET charges clients for is a nominal fee for private transportation.

Families of some clients who live in TARGET homes may help with room and board, depending on the client's benefits, Andrews says.

One reason for the program's success is that Andrews and his staff work for the individuals, not the system.

"We work with what the person wants to do and not fit them in a specific program," Andrews says. "I talk to the person to get their personality rather than education and background."

Marada Industries Inc. of Westminster has hired TARGET clients for seven years, earning TARGET's Employer of the Year Award in the early 1990s.

Jack Spangler, the human resources manager, says the plant has four TARGET clients who work as a team preassembling a nut-and-bolt part for Honda automobiles.

Last month, a TARGET client was hired to work in the Lowe's home-improvement store in Westminster. Ladonna Vaughn-Crowl, personnel training coordinator, says, "It's nice to get someone who really wants to work. He does whatever he is asked."

Pub Date: 11/30/97

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