Concord-Carlisle Community Chest: Enriching lives for those with mental, physical disabilities

November 5, 2015 | CONCORD

By Trish Siefer

This article is one in a series about the organizations supported by the Concord-Carlisle Community Chest.

Each weekday, my morning begins with the beeping sound of a van backing up in my neighbor’s driveway. When I first moved to my home in West Concord, I wondered what the van’s arrival was for each day? I came to find out it was from Minute Man Arc, a 57-year-old organization that is committed to enhancing the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities of all ages. The van transports my neighbors and others in the community to Minute Man Arc’s location on Forest Ridge Road, where participants learn new skills and receive therapeutic services. It also takes many of these residents to various jobs in Concord and the surrounding area. These individuals are performing important work in our community at places like Emerson Hospital, Crosby’s Market and Corporate Chefs.

My neighbors are a special group – 8 adult men with disabilities who live at “Emerson House,” which is run by Minute Man Arc. My children now know our neighbors well; they exchange happy greetings on the sidewalk while our neighbors get in and out of their van, on my kids’ daily walk to and from school. Interacting with these neighbors has become part of our family’s daily routine. We see them walking to church, socializing in their yard, and getting in and out of their van each day.

I am grateful that my children get to interact with our neighbors. It is important for them to know that there are all different types of neighbors in our community and some neighbors need special care. It is also important for my children to know how lucky they are to live in a community that supports people no matter what their challenges may be. In Concord, we have several well established non-profit organizations that enhance and change the lives of those with mental or physical challenges. These special organizations help to heal, teach, create joy, and provide opportunities and meaningful social interaction for those with mental or physical disabilities.

As mentioned earlier, Minute Man Arc for Human Services, Inc. supports people with developmental and intellectual disabilities throughout their lives. This organization is committed to enhancing the quality of life for people with mental or physical challenges by increasing inclusion in the community, maximizing personal choice and decision making, and supporting people to achieve full potential in all areas of their lives. As Chief Executive Officer Jean Goldsberry states, “Our overall goal is to help people have lives just like anyone else…to be part of the Community. Everything we do is aimed to help people achieve their goals and to have a better life every day.”

Another well established organization that supports Concord residents is The Eliot Center. Eliot began in the early 1960’s, when it was founded by Abigail Eliot, a Concord resident and well known innovator in early childhood education, who founded Walden Clinic, a child guidance clinic. Today, Eliot provides a wide range of community- based services for individuals and families of all ages, including crisis intervention, diagnostic evaluation, individual, couple, family and group therapy, psychopharmacological services, information and referral, consultation and case management services, school-based services and 24-hour emergency coverage. “Eliot strives to make the process of accessing mental health services as easy as possible,” states Deborah Garfield, Director of Clinical Services. “The support we receive from the Concord-Carlisle Community Chest ensures that services are available regardless of a person’s financial situation or the complexity of their problems. As a community based center, we believe strongly in supporting our clients in all areas of their lives. This is what makes our services unique and it’s how we know we’ve made a difference. “ About 150 Concord and Carlisle residents were served last year. Eliot is committed to serving the most vulnerable of populations, those who are most at risk and have limited or no resources to access help. They provide a continuum of care to a varied population.

In addition, The Nature Connection, based in Concord, has a unique program that brings the power of nature to people with limited or no access to the outside world. Since 1983, the Nature Connection has brought educational and therapeutic nature programs to hospitals, residential schools, at-risk youth programs, special needs facilities, nursing home and Alzheimer’s care programs. Each visit combines seasonal natural materials, live animals, and hands-on activities that engage participants and expands the boundaries of their lives. It connects individuals with nature’s capacity to heal, teach and create joy. “Our Concord and Carlisle landscapes are among the most beautiful in the country,” said Sophie Wadsworth, Executive Director of The Nature Connection. “And yet in mental health and rehab settings, residents have few opportunities to connect with the natural world. A girl with profound anxiety connects with a therapy rabbit, then her peers: taking first steps toward healing. A wheelchair-bound elder reaches to smell a rosemary plant: advancing in his occupational therapy goals, he also feels renewed joy. We are thankful to the Concord-Carlisle Community Chest and all of its donors for support of this program.”

Finally, the Friday Night Fun Club has been providing social activities for those who face a variety of developmental disabilities since 1974. This program was started by parents who were eager to form a social network for their kids who had developmental disabilities and lived at home. Today, the club has 45 active members (men and women ages 18-65) at its monthly events, such as the “Sneaker Prom.” This club does not focus on what its members cannot do; rather, it focuses on providing meaningful social interaction for them.

I feel so fortunate to live in a community that supports all of our neighbors, no matter who they are or what their life challenges may be. It makes our community a stronger place for all of us to live. I look forward to that beeping sound of the van in my neighbor’s driveway each day as it is a constant reminder of the engaged, supportive community in which we live.

Please visit the Community Chest website at cccommunitychest.org/who-we-help/ for more information about each organization and how you can connect with them.
The Eliot Center
Friday Night Fun Club
Minute Man Arc for Human Services, Inc.
The Nature Connection

Trish Siefer has lived in Concord for over 15 years. Trish is a member of the Board of Directors of the Concord-Carlisle Community Chest.