BCDC links helpers to charities

Published 2:24 pm Sunday, April 12, 2009

By Staff
Participants given chances to discover their communities
Staff Writer
Beaufort County Developmental Center’s Day Activity/Community Inclusion Program has people who often need help themselves returning the favor by providing help to others.
The program gives mentally handicapped individuals an opportunity to get out and volunteer at nonprofit organizations in the county on a weekly basis.
Participants in the program meet at BCDC’s headquarters in Washington before each community-service outing. Program coordinator Mark Batton, as well as community inclusion technicians, or “chaperones,” brief the participants about what they will be doing on the outing before sending them on their way.
Some outings are strictly for fun and enjoyment, like the program’s recent trip to East Carolina University’s Mendenhall Student Center for bowling, while others provide community-integration opportunities like serving food at the Interchurch Shelter and Kitchen, located in the basement of the Metropolitan AME Zion Church. All outings are designed as a learning experience for program participants.
Planning for the program began last spring after BCDC brought some brainstorming ideas before the East Carolina Behavioral Health board.
ECBH agreed to fund a program provided by the BCDC that would get mentally disabled individuals interacting with the community on a daily basis.
The Day Activity/Community Inclusion Program started in fall 2008, and it found some cohesion when Batton was hired to oversee the service several weeks ago.
The program is open to individuals who have participated in other programs at the BCDC, including the Adult Developmental Vocational Program.
Participants are being slowly assimilated into the program over an 18-month period, Kiricoples said.
Kiricoples said he wants the program to serve as a “stepping stone” toward employment for participants.
In his short time at the helm of the program, Batton has seen participants develop something more than job skills — a larger social network.
Most BCDC clients have a limited number of friends and family members they can count on, Batton said.
Those mentally disabled individuals become reliant on the center’s staff in the day-to-day trials of life, he said. The new program helps these people make new friends and become less dependent on BCDC and its staff, Batton said.
Program participants have expressed how important the program is to their social lives.
For some, it just gives them the opportunity to get out of the house and work in the community.
Batton said he hopes to one day see participants in the program volunteering, on their own, at their local churches or helping coach a youth soccer team.
As far as the program goes, he said, “It really is an untapped resource.”
Cutline for corresponding photo: Annie Adams, a participant in Beaufort County Developmental Center’s Day Activity/Community Inclusion program, helps an Eagle’s Wings client load groceries into a car. Program participants did volunteer work at the food pantry Tuesday morning. (WDN Photo/Greg Katski)