A Legacy of Courage and Compassion: Penn-Mar Human Services Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Posted on March 26, 2021

Since opening in 1981, Penn-Mar Human Services (Penn-Mar) has evolved to become the region’s leading provider of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), committed to helping people with IDD live their best lives, filled with courage and bravery. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Penn-Mar’s ongoing mission to create transformative opportunities for people with IDD, while also paying homage to the hundreds of visionaries, risk-takers, and leaders who have each done their part to contribute.

In the last 40 years, Penn-Mar has grown exponentially, adding new and innovative programs to further support the people they serve. But the nationally renowned organization began from fairly modest beginnings when 12 families teamed up to help their adult children unlock new opportunities for independence, with a focus on community inclusion. Meeting on weekdays at the Maryland Line United Methodist Church, the initial budget in 1981 was just $2,000. Today, Penn-Mar supports nearly 2,000 people a year with an operating budget of over $40 million, and three dedicated locations across Maryland and Pennsylvania. Some of today’s newest program offerings include virtual supports, entrepreneurial and self-employment assistance, transitioning youth programs, and personal assistance.

“It didn’t happen overnight, but when those brave families began this endeavor, I don’t think they ever imagined Penn-Mar would become what it is today,” says Penn-Mar CEO and 32-year employee Greg Miller. “The reason we’ve been able to grow so consistently is that our goal has never wavered: give people with IDD the chance to live their best life, filled with as much independence, opportunity, and fulfillment as everyone else. That focus has helped us arrive to where we are and propels us into each new day.”

Today, some of Penn-Mar’s most significant figures include:

  • 600 full and part-time employees
  • More than 125 people with IDD employed though the Customized Employment program
  • $750,000 raised every year from the annual Gala, which began in 1992
  • Operate 56 residential homes, each with one to four residents with IDD
  • Three day-learning locations centers in Maryland Line, MD, Glen Rock, PA and Westminster, MD

In 2019, Penn-Mar completed a merger with Westminster, MD-based Change, INC., allowing Penn-Mar to further expand its reach in Maryland and fulfill an ongoing promise to provide support to as many people with IDD as possible. That promise has never faltered, even during the Covid-19 pandemic. When the virus began in early 2020, Penn-Mar immediately devised unique ways to maintain its support system, social interaction, and various programs, while working within the confines of social distancing, safety, and government regulations. That level of commitment is the biggest reason for Penn-Mar’s continued success.

But as Miller sees it, the success doesn’t rest solely with Penn-Mar, but with the communities, businesses, volunteers, and donors who have been a part of the organization’s steady progress.

“Penn-Mar cannot exist in a vacuum. It takes an entire community to fuel the diverse and inclusive opportunities we’re seeing today and Penn-Mar wouldn’t be what it is today without the courage and vision of hundreds of people. We’re immensely proud of each milestone, accomplishment, and success story from the past 40 years, but we’re not done. Each day, we start by asking the same question we’ve been asking since 1981: what else can we do?”

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About Penn-Mar Human Services Penn-Mar Human Services’ mission is to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) live courageous lives full of self-determination, independence, and equity. Founded in 1981, Penn-Mar serves nearly 2000 adults with IDD each year through its community living, day learning, customized employment, family and peer supports, and respite programs in Carroll, Harford, Frederick, Howard, and Baltimore counties in Maryland, and in southern York county in Pennsylvania. Penn-Mar’s approach is innovative, person-centered, and successful, and through meaningful employment, community inclusion, and residential choice, the people Penn-Mar supports are empowered to live their best lives. www.penn-mar.org.