July 14, 2014; Delmarva Now

There are many organizations that are still suffering in the aftermath of the recession. Countless of these groups have gone under or are in uncomfortable financial straits, but some have been able to reorganize through a combination of opportunity and persistence.

According to this article in Delmarva Now, the forty-year-old Holly Community ran deficits was in rough shape from 2009 through 2013, running yearly deficits. The nonprofit, which was incorporated separately from a local state-run residential program named the Holly Center, helped people with disabilities work toward independent living, but its own survival was threatened during the recession by declining contributions, which caused the repeated deficits. This is often cause to consider closure, but instead the group decided to grow and, while it was at it, change its name to the Bay Area Center for Independent Living.

The restructure was was made possible by the fact that a federal grant opportunity opened up when Eastern Shore Center for Independent Living went under earlier this year. Bay Area was previously a subcontractor to Eastern Shore, so it knew the work and had an existing cadre of 150 volunteers. But the contract required it to grow to serve more people in the five counties previously served by Eastern.

Pattie Tingle, the executive director, says the $400,000 contract finally gave the group a respite from financial worry. “It’s so much better,” she said. “The little dark cloud that once followed us has gone away.”

This article states that at its lowest point, the group had four employees and was sited in a donated basement of a VFW post. Now it has its own offices, and it employs thirty people. Contractually, 51 percent of those workers must, themselves, have a disability. One of those employees is Zulekha Jones, who is both a receptionist and a peer counselor, using her experience with cerebral palsy to help those graduating from high school with disabilities think about next steps.

“I can show other young people that it is possible,” said Jones. “There is hope.”

The emphasis on independent living for people with disabilities, and indeed many other populations that might previously have been institutionalized, makes sense financially for government. It is estimated that an institutionalization costs about $188,000 for someone with disabilities, while home- and community-based services cost Medicaid about $43,000 annually.

As you may note by reading our feature today, some are worried that the process of deinstitutionalization will go too far, putting some at risk and neglecting to insure the proper investment in a community-based system.—Ruth McCambridge