by Jennifer LB Leese
"I'm here!" says Jan, enthusiastically. "Time to get to work!"
Jan is a resident at Spectrum Support, a day habilitation center in Hagerstown, Maryland. Her happy, go-get-um attitude is contagious and her spirited mood spreads from co-worker to co-worker at the Pony Mailbox. Jan, and her daytime aide Corey of three years, arrive around 8:30 just about every morning to perform office clean-up duties. "I love every day at my job," says Corey, "I get the chance to provide new experiences and convey new ideas to open minds." When Corey was asked what she gets out of her job, she simply said, "The satisfaction of a hug from Jan."
As Jan moves about the office emptying trashcans, vacuuming, and sweeping, she constantly encourages herself, no doubt from what she has heard from her friend, Corey.
"Way to Go!" or "You did a great job!" are two of several favorite praises Jan likes to utter as she goes about her business.
When Jan has completed her "help around the office"; she knows she has a drink and donut waiting for her.
"We enjoy it when Jan comes in. She really brightens up the place with her laughter and expressions, not to mention the hysterics when she's arm-wrestling the workers. She has that child innocence that we all should keep," says Sharon Cramer at Pony Mailbox.
Jan and Corey's days usually consist of arts and crafts, horseback riding, walks, biking, exercises, and community outings.
Spectrum Support, currently serving 200 individuals, is a non-profit agency helping people with developmental disabilities such as mental retardation, autism, seizure disorders or cerebal palsy to live, learn, work and play in supportive communities. Spectrum Support recognizes that all people should have the right to live in their community with the support they need. Adults with developmental disabilities should have the opportunity to lifestyles and opportunities just as other members of their community. They provide services to people with developmental disabilities who reside in state psychiatric hospitals. Many of the individuals they support have a dual diagnosis such as bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia or depression. Spectrum Support provides support, primarily to adults, in a work setting, from their own homes, or to children who live with their families.
Spectrum Support began in 1989 by Ron and Dena Ward Clayton with the goal of providing life skills programming for individuals who were inappropriately housed.
Their message statement is clear: "Transitioning, training, and promoting personal growth with individuals who have developmental, psychiatric, behavioral, and physical disabilities by building upon their individual strengths. Individuals will be encouraged to reach their potential at school, at work, in the place of residence, and in the community; thereby, enhancing self-esteem as well as value and position in society."
Just recently Spectrum Support has begun a residential program where people can live in a home with 2 other housemates in regular community apartments or homes. Other people they support may choose to live with a family (similar to adult foster homes) and be full participants in the family's routines.
From watching Jan at the Pony Mailbox, and keeping an eye on her favorite sprinkle donut, it is apparent that she thrives and needs consistency and routine.
The process of change comes about because of their unwavering belief in the inherent good in people. "When we accept someone into our program, we accept them unconditionally. We'll find a way for that person to be successful."
Spectrum Support believes that the individuals they accept into their program want to be accepted and that they like to help others, have money, and realize working is a good way to receive it. They wish to be treated normally, and want to have friends, nice clothes, vacations, and regular lives. As a result, Spectrum Support talks about "supporting" individuals rather than "serving" them. Staff members state repeatedly that they "like working with the individuals because they learn from each other."..."Mutual discovery of a person's strengths and abilities is exciting. The more we can help people discover what it is they like about themselves, the more they can develop new horizons, new dreams and goals, and the more the community grows and benefits as well."
Maylon Campher, director of Washington, Frederick, & Carroll counties, "I enjoy helping people. It allows me the opportunity to work with a diverse group of individuals and hopefully change their lives for the better."..."[I get] the satisfaction of knowing that I can make a difference in other peoples lives."
He goes on to say that "The ultimate achievement will have been reached when each individual enjoys total community acceptance, gives and receives natural support, and realizes all that goes with the full rights of citizenship."
Mark your calendar! On Monday, June 13, 2005, Spectrum Support, Inc. and Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association will co-host a celebrity golf tournament and silent/live auction. The event will be held at turf Valley Resort in Ellicott City, Maryland and will feature a great number of former and current baseball stars. They will also be holding a mixer the evening before, presenting an early opportunity to meet the stars, and talk to them one-on-one, not to mention having photo and autograph opportunities. Proceeds from this event will benefit the programs and supports provided for people with developmental disabilities by Spectrum Support, Inc., and the MLBPAA. If you are interested in sponsorship or volunteer opportunities, want to place a foursome, or simply want to know more about this great event, contact Lee Conlon of Spectrum Support at 410-795-6543; Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up online at www.spectrum-support.org/golf.html/.
The community Spectrum Support strives to offer its consumers is made up of many parts; volunteers, employees, and employers. Volunteers are needed to assist in providing supports to individuals, telephone fundraising and solicitation, handiwork at individual homes, and to assist with special events, etc. Call today!
Spectrum Support, Inc. has three locations in Hagerstown, Baltimore, and Cresaptown, as well as the home office in Eldersburg, Maryland. If you're looking to "support" Spectrum Support residents by having them come to your place of business for an hour or so, call the Hagerstown office at 301-791-1242 or fax them at 301-791-4841 or visit the Spectrum Support website at www.spectrum-support.org.