By Gregory Miller
President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services
Wonderful things have happened in the past year at Penn-Mar making the last 12-months like no other in our organization’s history in terms of programming and fundraising.
Driving all of our decision-making is how each project and activity will support our mission to transform lives in an integrated community setting. Our Board clearly understands that which allows us to dream more and achieve more.
And achieve we did.
Several major milestones differentiated Penn-Mar from other human services organizations and spoke volumes about our responsible stewardship and visionary leadership.
DSP Credentialing Program
Twenty-six of our Dedicated Support Professionals (DSPs) were chosen to participate in a national credentialing program. When we graduate our first class in the fall, Penn-Mar will increase the current national presence of less than 250 credentialed DSPs by 10 percent! We took this concept and created a structure and reality around it that affirmed the professional status of DSPs. The whole process is geared toward helping them to master skills that will help the individuals they support transform their lives in ways once never thought possible.
Everything that went into this unique credentialing program was significant.
We funded the first class with $150,000 of outside money; no government support at all. This private effort speaks to the fact that our supporters understand the importance of what we are trying to do and want to be a part of it. That’s what is most exciting to me.
This year we also received an extraordinary endowment gift of $1.5 million from the Pitts family in honor of their son, Michael James Pitts, a resident at Penn-Mar. This fund will serve as a continual income source to support DSP professional training and compensation and our goal is to grow this endowment to $15-$20 million by the year 2027.
State-of-the-Art Learning Center
Just last week we purchased a building in Shrewsbury, Pa. that will affirm our future strategy of giving the individuals we support more of a community presence and give us the physical space to catch-up with our ever-expanding capabilities. We were able to avoid a capital campaign to fund this purchase because of the disciplined oversight of our finances.
The building will include a state-of-the-art design with individual training rooms, computer labs and customized settings for the individuals we support that will be conducive to concentrated learning. We will begin the renovations at the end of the summer with a completion goal of Q1 2018. Initially all our day programming and staff supporting this will occur out of our new facility. Our training and administrative staff will eventually be moving into this facility when the timing is right in the future.
Concurrently we are conducting a full evaluation of our space at the Freeland, MD facility where we will be making significant changes to accommodate our growth.
A good deal of my time this year was spent advocating for funding, rewriting regulations and looking at best practices for the nurturing of people with intellectual disabilities. Believe me, it was time well spent.
While the Pennsylvania budget is not yet approved, the recommendations and funding levels included are like nothing we’ve seen before. And in Maryland, Penn-Mar and other organizations collaborated to get funding restored from the reduced rate of 2% to the mandated 3.5% wage increase for staff serving individuals with developmental disabilities. On this issue there can be no compromise.
Penn-Mar was given a voice at many tables during these discussions because lawmakers recognized that our organization chose to go down the visionary road before legions of others. We had a unique perspective and track record to offer which has contributed to so much of the success we’ve experienced this year.
My heartfelt thanks to our staff and supporters who have made this such a memorable and extraordinary year.