at Road to Responsibility, Inc.
~ By Christopher T. White, Ed.D., President/CEO
Road To Responsibility, Inc. (RTR) has been making lives better for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities since 1988. A lot has changed over the past 24 years. With change inevitably come opportunities and challenges. It is my pleasure to share some of those with all of you.
This is a time of tremendous energy and excitement for those of us in the human services world. There is a synergy at play involving heightened expectations (from individuals receiving services, their families and funding sources) and greater acceptance and valuing of persons with developmental disabilities in society. These fruits of literally decades of education and shared experiences have translated into a service evolution, which places a premium on community-based integration and independence. Services at RTR are crackling with energized change!
These shifts are nowhere more evident than in our Employment Services. We have had remarkable success in placing people into community-based jobs over the past year despite the sluggish job market. During that time, we have placed 42 people into new jobs (either individually or in small groups). In addition, we provide ongoing support to over 100 people working in community-based jobs. This follow-up support has been so successful that no one we support has involuntarily lost a job in over two years. Skilled, reliable workers combined with excellent support make a winning combination for local businesses and the people we serve.
Just like everyone else, the adults with disabilities at RTR have wide personal interests and goals, many of which do not match the businesses where we have traditionally had the greatest success finding jobs (retail, restaurant/food service and cleaning/housekeeping). To help those people we realized we would need to create some opportunities that do not seem to otherwise exist in our area. Towards this end, I reached out to our incredible employees and asked them to share their passions: vocations, hobbies and personal career aspirations in the hopes we might be able to create something together to make everyone’s dreams come true. Sure enough, two ideas emerged over the past year, which have been translated into real opportunities:
The Dream Gallery: Located in our Ocean Village Book Store in Marshfield, the “Dream Gallery” has found a business home for people with a more artistic bent. This eclectic mix of gift items, home décor and fine art is amongst the best anywhere on the South Shore. Items are sold on a consignment basis with the proceeds directly going to the individual artisan while also supporting the store. This has created jobs for people working in the store while also generating opportunities for individuals to be paid for their art.
The Cobblestone Farm: Many people at RTR have a desire to work with animals and be engaged in farming activities but there are very few opportunities of this kind available, even on a volunteer basis. The Cobblestone Farm was a small, existing horse farm in Marshfield whose owner happens to also be an RTR employee.
Together, we have ‘re-envisioned’ the property as an organic farm. Individuals from our employment programs learn landscaping, soil preparation/planting and other farming skills along with basic animal care under the supervision of our employee/owner. The produce we grow will be sold at local Farmer’s Markets. An environmental-enrichment program is also being developed there and we plan to add a therapeutic riding service next year, which will be available to the general public.
All work and no play is no fun, though. To add more enjoyment to people’s lives we started our “We Love To Fish” program. We have a professional sport-fisherman (who happens to be an employee in our IT department) taking individuals out fishing on his bass boat on local ponds on a weekly basis. This ‘catch and release’ program provides new leisure skills to people in our programs at no cost to them and builds environmental awareness, camaraderie and self-confidence for all involved and everyone has caught multiple fish!
Finally, home is the center of life for all of us. To meet shifting needs we have expanded our co-op apartment program where we provide ‘as-needed’ support to people who have many independent skills but may need help with specific life tasks in order to successfully live on their own. Our latest such program just opened in Quincy last month.
While there is much to be excited about, there are also many challenges facing us. People are living longer than ever. Thus, houses which were “perfect” for residents in their 20’s and 30’s no longer “fit” the needs of older people with increased medical/mobility problems. We project needing to replace up to 40% of our houses over the next 5-years to meet these shifting needs. This will require a lot of capital we do not have at this time.
You can help our Mission by participating in our annual fundraiser being held on November 2, 2012 at the Indian Pond Country Club in Kingston. Our “Evening with the Stars” will feature guest emcee Lauren Beckham Falcone from 105.7 WROR FM, guest auctioneer Jim Wells, a dazzling Live and Silent Auction, an exciting $10,000 Raffle and visits from surprise “Stars!”
For tickets and more information on how you can help or become involved in our Mission, please call 781.536.3219 and ask for Denise Harding or visit our website www.roadtoresponsibility.org